We gather to the temple. Because we are tourists, because we are lonely… Because we believe, we are Buddhist… We gather. Cameras at the ready, shutter speeds set. Prayer hands ready, heads inclined to bow. Look up, or look down – here, here is the temple. From near, and from not-near, familiar faces and foreign, tonight, we’re at Senso-Ji. Tonight, at the temple, we gather.


The moon, if you look, is an etching. The sky like calligraphy ink. The temple, too red – or not red enough – well, let’s say it’s as red as the heart of a samurai. Clichés, sometimes, serve a purpose. Their purpose is to point out a truth. This temple is fierce, a fire-red. But, like the samurai, it was part of a world which is lost.


Temples and churches are shells, these days, harbouring a few against the ocean of truth. The truth is that we are soul-less. The truth is that there’s no god. No Buddha, no angels, no heaven, no hell. No demons, or demi-gods, or holy creatures either. No boddhisatvas. No life after death. No anything, after our own shells are dissolved in the earth’s brown soup. Brown as miso, slurped at every meal. Our bodies consumed, our bones’ meat sucked dry. Nothing left to go elsewhere, or linger – no soul, no spirit, no ghosts. Our bodies die, and we die too; and so, at the temple, in belief or non-belief, on this thin-mooned night, we gather.


Something about the temples’s roof, though, it’s dark expanse edging into space. Something about the lanterns, each ten men high, thirty women round, sitting and swinging in the wind. Like swami, tattooed with wishes. Something about the incense, which smells a little like magic. Something about the flag stones, which carry our feet, forward and forward, as if flying discus, up towards the temple shrine, and expect us, incite us, to pray…


We are gathered on the skin of the world, here. We are gathered, so precariously, and asked by the temple to partake, of what it is offering; what’s needed. God is dead, some men once said – has He been resurrected? As a woman, a cow; perhaps a blade of grass…? Some of us have never believed in belief, but followed the thump of our own heart’s drum and didn’t mind where it took us…


And today, it was to here. Senso-Ji temple, in Tokyo. Beneath a moon like a samurai sword; a sky as black as hair. Because I am following the tourist trail; because I am following my heart. Because this temple, with bones the colour of blood, called it. Mine, and many others’. Because space is vast, and time is short, and this temple will live beyond us: everyone who is on earth right now, everyone and everything – all. And this is why we are gathered tonight. At the temple, together, we gather.

One thought

  1. Senso-Ji. Gathering shapes and words to make raft of thought…..thank you Mab. Almost as good as being there. You will incline your readers to contemplate.


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