Miroku's shakujō





Name meaning

Pilgrim's staff

Historical information




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Miroku with his shakujō

Miroku's shakujō (弥勒の錫杖) was a pilgrim's staff (shakujō) that Miroku often carried with him. It was a metal pole topped with a metal finial with two sections, each with three rings, (for a total of six rings), which represent the Six States of Existence—the cycle of samsara, of suffering and reincarnation. Historically, the same staff became one's grave post if one died while traveling. Thus the top of the staff is designed like a Buddhist grave post.

In Japan the shakujō is still used by monks, pilgrims, and practitioners of Shugendou (a school of Buddhism teaching spiritual practices in the mountains). A yamabushi or mountain priest may use it for magic or exorcism, as does Miroku. In the Shingon and Tendai sects, the shakujō is used as a ritual object in special ceremonies, much like the Tibetan Dorje (Lightning Bolt or Thunderbolt).

The shakujō's metal rings were originally used by traveling priests to alert small creatures to keep them from accidentally being harmed by a priest when walking in the woods (this is consistent with the Buddhist teachings to kill no living creature). It was also used to frighten away dangerous snakes or beasts that the priest might have encountered. When begging, a Monk rattled this staff to announce his arrival at the door or gate of a household without breaking his vow of silence.

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