Fire Ceremony for the Pilgrimage Prayers

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This fire ceremony was for the final offering of all the prayers that were taken on the pilgrimage to the thirty-three sacred places of Kannon (Kuan Yin) in Japan. I continued to offer the prayers that I had carried on the pilgrimage after I returned to Australia for another one hundred days. June 20th marked the end of the long journey that the prayers had taken and were now ready for their final offering by being burned in the ritual fire.

The ritual fire is an ancient ceremony that is common to all the spiritual traditions of the world. The form that I used comes primarily from the Esoteric Buddhist tradition of Japan (which is rooted in the Vedic “homa” fire rituals of India and the Aryan people) and also included aspects of the Australian indigenous tradition of the Bindjareb Boodja tribes of this area. I was greatly honoured by George Walley, a tribal elder, who instructed me on how to prepare the fire and the Noongar words for invoking and welcoming the spirits of the land. I was accompanied in the fire ritual by my husband Russell Bian Pearce.

The fire ceremony actually commenced a week beforehand when rituals were performed to sanctify the grounds of the temple and where the fire was to be burned. Those who attended had also started their own preparation long ago when they first wrote out their prayer on the back of the Heart of Wisdom Sutra.

June 20th was a wild mid-winter day with thunderstorms and heavy rain, and yet one by one the attendees arrived, coming from as far afield as Singapore and Sydney and many people braving the bad weather to come the hundred kilometres from Perth and Bunbury. It was very cold and wet, but the atmosphere was one of warm and open companionship. This was a journey that we had all shared and now came together to offer up our prayers with one heart.

The visitors were greeted by fellow-pilgrim Hellen, who placed a little powdered incense in their hands, to be rubbed together as an act of purification.

The first part of the ritual enacted a sacred drama using mantras (sacred phrases) and mudras (sacred hand gestures) that created a mandala in order to invite Kannon to be present and witness our offering. The spirits of the land were also invited to bear witness. The mandala identified this place as the centre of the cosmos – a divine palace where spiritual transformation is made possible by the intensified energy that is focussed by the ritual.

At the beginning, the altar and its offerings, as well as the priest and those present, were purified. The offerings were then consecrated: water, grains, flowers, incense, and light.

Next, using ritual gestures, the construction of the divine palace began: a trench was dug and the earth was consecrated, making the earth firm and indestructible. A protective wall of flames now surrounded the sacred space to keep all malicious thoughts and spirits outside of this place. Next, the walls of the palace were erected that were of finest white alabaster with pillars of jewels. At the centre was an altar with a pure white lotus blossom on it, where Kannon would be seated. There was celestial music and fragrant clouds showing flowers. There were silk bejewelled banners and flags fluttering in the fragrant breeze.

A seven-jewelled carriage was sent forth to bring Kannon and her attendants as well as all the spirits of the trees, earth, waterways, rain, and wind. On their arrival there was heavenly music: Kannon took her place on the white lotus and the spirits were seated on silk cushions surrounding her.

Ritual offerings were then made of water, grains, flowers, incense and light.

At this point, the enshrinement of Ishin Kannon was confirmed and we moved outside to offer the prayers in the fire.

The first part of the fire ceremony was the Bindjareb Boodja smoking ceremony where the spirits of this place were invoked and welcomed.

This was followed by the ritual gestures that consecrated the fire. The fire then became a symbol of our own bodies – burning up all negative past karma and purifying us.

The fire was offered grains, flowers, and incense. Now it was time to offer the prayers. As the prayers were being offered, we all chanted the Heart of Wisdom sutra, which was wrapped around each of the thirty-three bundles of prayers. At this time, anyone was welcome to come and add there own private petition stick into the fire.

When all the prayers had been offered, we returned to the inside of Wabi’an. Now the ceremony was almost complete. The Kannon Sutra was recited, followed by the ritual gestures that dismantled the palace and returned us to the mundane world. However, Kannon now remains here always as the sacred presence of Wabi’an.

Finally, we all recited the mantra “OM MANI PADME HUM” one hundred and eight times, in rhythm with a special recorded piece of Aboriginal music by local tribal elder Richard Walley.

At the end of the ceremony each person shared in the prayer offering by having ash from the sacred fire pressed into their forehead at the place of their third eye before departing the temple. The blessing recited offered up all the merit and positive karma received from participating in the ritual to the healing of all beings. The energy and blessings received from this ritual was very powerful and would be carried with all who attended as they returned to their everyday life, radiating out to all those who also need healing.

NAMU DAIJI DAIHI KANZEON BOSATSU


Click here to enjoy some of the wonderful photos taken by Colin Potts