BBC & Shugendô, Relics of Buddha in France

  BBC Special Shugendo Program & Shugendo

In October 2008, Simon Wichcombe of the BBC, on the recommendation of Professor Gaynor Sekkimori, specialist in Shugendo at Cambridge University contacts Kuban.

He would like to carry out a documentary on the immersion of 5 young English neophytes in the universe of Shugendo in Japan. Returning to Japan in November 2008 for the World Cup Open of Karate organized by the Byakuren school, I benefit from the trip to share the idea with the General Superior Miyagi (of Shogoin Temple) and to meet the person in charge of the BBC project in Japan, Hiroo Sato.

For reasons of convenience, it is decided to make a special pilgrimage for the BBC during the opening of the mountain at the beginning of May…

Everyone makes their way to Japan for filming, from the end of April until May 6, when the project will finish. The program will be: GEZA GYO, the cleaning of the temple in order to appreciate the various characters, then an initiation with seated meditation (soshin meiso), prostrations (raihaigyo), practices under the waterfall of Bunzoo in the south of the Katsuragi mountains, one night on Koya san and then the pilgrimage of the village of Yoshino to the hermitage of Zenki then on to the temple of Kumano…

Ben, Ross, Ruben, Nick & Easton are the English “shinkyaku”. It is Ross who shows the most determination in cleaning, followed by Nick and Ben… I deduce correctly that it is him whose faith is most sincere because does not cheat at any of the tasks… Nevertheless as the practice of the waterfall begin, he confides in the producer that he is a Christian and doesn’t feel he can practice another religion during the show. His wishes are respected and he leaves the team, much to our regret. Shugendo is explained to the neophytes like mountain Buddhism and Buddhism like a practice of improving oneself rather than a philosophy or religion. The characteristic of Shugendo is its practice in the content of the mountains, and the marvellous exchange nature which one regards as sacred.

Once finished with the waterfall, which is closer to a fresh shower for them, as they do not recite mantra or teaching, but instead only let the water hit them for a few seconds, everyone spends the night on Koya san, to have the experience of life in the temple. The majority manage to remain seated on the knees in seiza; But it is an experience which is closer to the hotel trade than that of the monastic life, as it does not have the spiritual practices included…

On the following days, the program continues with the bath under the bridge of Muda and the pilgrimage in the Omine mounts. As the young men do not know the texts to be recited, and not considering them important to learn, this “pilgrimage” has more in common with an ultra-trail hike than a true pilgrimage of Shugendo… Interviews with the men often being carried out, we come to realize very quickly that it will not be documentary but rather a “TV-reality” style show.

The director of the pilgrimage (Ojuku) judges that it will not be useful to take them to the secret places of the pilgrimage, like Sanjo Ura-Gyoba, Byobu Iwa or Zenki. Myself, because of a broken arm, I leave the ‘hike’ in Sanjo, to go the village of Dorogawa with Ruben and to remain with Ross. I benefit from the stay to encourage Nick to stick with it until the end, because his determination is excellent. Ruben and Easton, not understanding the goals of such a pilgrimage, always seek to go very quickly, sometimes more quickly than the yamabushi is formally allowed, as it is not meant to be a race or ultra hike.

Being young people, not reciting mantra or prayers, we hope simply that these 2 athletes will be able nevertheless to feel the particular universe of these mountains… For the Production, it is Ruben who seems the best, whereas for me, Nick showed much determination and proper focus; Ben was more in agreement with the mountain and the most “spiritual” of the five was Ross. Easton spoke only a little with me, so I could not make much of an opinion, he seems to me to be more into the physical than going beyond into the spiritual research which is the focus of the yamabushi in the mountains.

In the small waterfall of the Ryusenji temple in the village of Dorogawa, Ross underneath for nearly 45 minutes by carrying out respiratory exercises that I showed him, however this is not shown in the film...

This Japanese episode of the four month tour of adventures around the world will be released on the BBC3 on October 8… If the BBC is true to form, the images of Japan’s Mountain Buddhism whose tradition goes back to more than 1300 years will have to be exceptional. I succeeded in my goal of showing Shugendo Buddhism through a widely watched BBC TV program.

The end of the pilgrimage finishes in the thermal bath of the village of Yunomine, where the yamabushi recover from their peregrination in the Ominé mounts, but it does not appear inside the program, only inside rushes!













17th of May : Buddha relics’ arrival at the Great Pagoda of Vincennes Park, Paris

15,16 & 17 May, 2009, it was the first time that the city of Paris joined the large celebrations of the Buddhists of Vesak, which commemorate each year the birth, enlightenment and then death of prince Gotama which became the Buddha 2,500 years ago in India. In addition, the head Patriarch of Thailand offered to France, part of the relics of the historical Buddha Sakyamouni held in the large gold temple of Bangkok. All the French Buddhist Communities were there, sharing together a procession & ceremonies under a cold rain with all Great Masters of Buddhist schools in France… It was a marvellous & great moment of Eternity…
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 Video published on TV channel 2 Buddhist program sunday morning        



27 of September: Enshrining the Buddha’s Relics inside the Great Buddha of Vincennes Pagoda, Daumesnil Street, Vincennes' Park, Paris

It is under the aegis of the French Buddhist Union that the various persons in charge for the traditions of many Buddhist schools of all traditions met to celebrate, with the faithful and sympathizers, the enshrining of the relics of the Buddha offered to France.

After a short procession, a quiet meditation all together of about thirty minutes, the various persons in charge for the Buddhist traditions present on the French territory, carried out each in their turn, rites and songs towards the holy relics. All the faithful followed with a great interest the unfolding of these songs during the morning.

After the meal, the UBF answered the questions of the people present concerning the future of these relics and the future of the large pagoda… This day was more convivial than that of last May 7. With less persons in charge present and less of the faithful because of late advertisement, but with good weather, it was one moment of exceptional division nevertheless.

It is strongly hoped that this initiative of common ceremonies towards the relics federating all the Buddhist traditions be renewed each year, and even several times during the year and that with each new time, these ceremonies are filled with the porposed songs, the rituals and their instrumentalisation. It would be even judicious that one or more podiums is built in the pagoda.

The Venerable Nyanadharo Mahathera of the Theravada tradition even underlines that the Large Pagoda of Vincennes, with the presence of the relics of the Buddha for the only country in occident, will become in the years to come an important center from pilgrimage for all the Asian Buddhists who could come to Paris. “Like the Eiffel Tower, the large pagoda of Vincennes will become a place impossible to circumvent! ”

Let us realize this for the profit of all beings