Contemporary Pilgrims’ Understanding of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, with Particular Reference to the Role of Kobo Daishi

Pussel, Ryofu Rolf (2011) Contemporary Pilgrims’ Understanding of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, with Particular Reference to the Role of Kobo Daishi. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

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Abstract

This thesis analyses how contemporary pilgrims understand the 88-temple-Shikoku
pilgrimage, and in particular what role Kōbō Daishi plays in their outlook and
practices. The particular issue that this research addresses is that while Kōbō Daishi
figures large in many of the popular presentations of the pilgrimage (in guidebooks,
TV programmes, and in temple pamphlets), there is a question of what role he
actually plays in the outlook and practices of contemporary pilgrims. The thesis
therefore highlights the ways in which ‘Kōbō Daishi’ figures in the views and
behaviour of pilgrims and those who support them: the various roles ‘Kōbō Daishi’
plays, and how these relate together, and to other themes and aspects of the
pilgrimage, as well as pointing out aspects of the pilgrimage that are not focussed on
Kōbō Daishi. In other words, how contemporary pilgrims make meaning of the
pilgrimage and, in particular, Kōbō Daishi’s place in this. Looking at the position of
Kōbō Daishi and the legendary construction of the pilgrimage in the minds of the
informants, it becomes clear that in their views, the ‘real history’ of the pilgrimage is
not important compared to the legendary one centred on Kōbō Daishi, and this is
seen in their adherence to legends and stories relating to him. Quantitative and
qualitative research was conducted, including brief surveys and in-depth interactions
with pilgrims, pilgrimage guides, those that give out alms, and temple officials to
analyse contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of the ‘sacred’ foci of the pilgrimage:
Kōbō Daishi and his possible role in the Shikoku pilgrimage and its origin, with
related issues of meaning-making, such as the Daishi-faith, Kōbō Daishi-tales, the
various deities whose images are enshrined in the temples, Shinto and Buddhism and
related rituals and the role that Kōbō Daishi is seen to have in pilgrims’ thoughts
about ‘religion’, pilgrimage items and related ritual behaviour, experiential aspects of
the pilgrimage, people’s motives for doing the pilgrimage, their understanding of
Kōbō Daishi’s role in healing, how he is seen as accompanying dead ancestors as
well as the present pilgrims and aiding in communication of the living with the dead,
etc. This research provides a useful window on how contemporary people relate to
the pilgrimage, and a better general understanding of contemporary Japanese cultural
practices and the world they live in, and how they seek to achieve well-being and
happiness. Four appendixes and an extensive glossary round off this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Culture > Religion and Philosophy
Divisions: Collections > Theses
Depositing User: Barry Hall
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2013 15:42
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2017 00:36
URI: http://sure.sunderland.ac.uk/id/eprint/3328

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