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The 500 Rakkan at Unpenji

Note: This selection of Words-and-Pictures was made on November 6, 2001, as I visited Japan's Shikoku Pilgrimage.

The 500 Rakkan are located at Unpenji, which is Temple #66 of Shikoku's famous 88 Temple Pilgrimage. You can read more about my visit to Unpenji in my Logbook.

When I was traveling in Japan, I didn't know what a Rakkan was. One of my friends told me they were "disciples of the Buddha," and that was good enough for me.

It wasn't until I began my formal studies in Buddhism that I learned that rakkan was from the Chinese lohan, a variant of a-lo-han, which is the Sinified version of arahant, the Sanskrit form of the Pali arhat. (Got that?)

And the arhats are the disciples of the Buddha, all right, but they're rather special: they have attained Nirvana through their own meditative efforts! In the Mahayana tradition, when the cosmic Buddha speaks ex cathedra, as it were, the 500 arhats are always there.

Here, then, are what must have been at the time Japan's newest set of the 500--so new that some of them were still in their crates! These guys were just being installed at Unpenji, Shikoku temple Number 66.

First, a few group shots.

Next, some individuals.

And a few still in crates. Extra creepy.

And finally: They say if you look at the 500 Rakkan long enough, you'll find one that looks like someone you know.

Look, everyone! It's Dave Letterman!

Posted October 15, 2019

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