When my mentor and new friend, Michael Lee, learned that I would be traveling to Japan, he encouraged me to visit Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto. There he recommended I seek out an unmarked entrance to the Tainai-meguri, the womb of the female Bodhisattva Daizuigu Bosatsu, which is located underground, beneath a great hall. When Michael was there, he lined up in a queue, and upon reaching the entrance, removed his shoes, paid the hundred yen admission fee, and then waited about three minutes to provide a separation between himself and the person who had entered ahead of him. As Michael described it, he descended into complete darkness, following a handrail made of large beads, while his awareness sharpened, making up for his lack of sight. I understood that the subterranean pilgrimage was about giving up attachments, and, upon reaching a large rock, making a wish, which the Bodhisattva would grant.
My experience at Tainai-meguri was in some ways very different from Michael’s. However, its essence turned out to be the same. It was crowded when I arrived, but the line moved quickly. Unlike when Michael was there, the attendants provided almost no separation between people as we entered. I descended some stairs and stepped onto an earthen path. It quickly became utterly dark, as my feet inched forward, my right hand following the mala handrail. It didn’t take long for me to become comfortable with the darkness, but every so often the toes of the person behind me would slip under my back heel, and I would hear the soft “oooph” of a man’s voice. I slowed my pace. Behind him, what sounded like three women kept up an excited chatter. I didn’t try to understand their words, but I imagined by their tone that they were saying things, like “it’s so dark!” “it’s scary!” I can’t see anything at all!” Aware of my own annoyance, I decided to release my attachment to wanting to have a certain kind of experience, an experience like Michael had described. I immediately felt attachment melting off of me and my edges softened into a willingness to experience life as it is. I continued going deeper into the earth, now enjoying the occasional soft “oooph” and not minding the women’s chatter. Maybe there were actually only two of them.
I arrived at the stone. It reached a bit higher than my waist and looked like a beautiful egg, lying on its side, emanating a soft white light. A Sanskrit character was carved on its upper surface. Instinctively, I placed my hand on the stone. A short pause, and the man behind me placed his hand on the rock next to mine. The “women” became completely silent as a single female hand reached out and rested on the rock beside the man’s. We three stood in silence for some time, as I felt a warm connection with my fellow pilgrims. I remembered that Michael had made a wish, and I made my wish, “Love,” as the three of us continued to touch the stone with our hands.
I slowly walked back into the light and to a feeling of deep peace. Only later did I realize that my wish had been the same as Michael’s, and I wondered whether everyone’s deepest wish is “love” when they reach the Womb of the Mother.
Anna Noah, C-IAYT, ERYT-500
Anna spent five years of her youth growing up in Japan and recently returned “home” to share this beautiful country with her daughter. Anna was certified as a PRYT Practitioner in 2009 and began an active practice. She also teaches yoga in the San Diego area and can be reached here.