Nagano’s Zenkoji Temple is one of the most famous and significant Buddhist temples in Japan. It was founded in the 7th century and has been visited by millions of worshipers looking for luck every year. It is said that in the inner chamber of the temple’s hall is an underground passage where visitors can walk in search for the ‘key to paradise’. This is hidden beneath the temple and can be a challenging experience even for the most avid adventurers.
The underground passage consists of a tunnel. The main objective in the tunnel is to look for the ‘key to paradise’ which is placed on a wall, and anyone who touches it is believed to receive salvation. However, it is very hard to do this due to the total darkness inside the tunnel. There is not a single ray of light passing into the passage. Most people tend to panic when situated in complete darkness especially those who have a fear of the dark.
In order to be granted access into the tunnel, the very first things to do is to purchase a 500 yen ticket and then take off your shoes. Going inside can be a very frightening yet exciting experience for some. The complete darkness and silence can actually calm the mind as if in deep meditation. Some may busily grab onto the walls in search for the key. Remember that you may or may not be able to find the key, but if you do, you are lucky enough to receive salvation.
In Buddhism, nirvana is a transcendent state where there’s no suffering, desire nor sense of self. The tunnel has a beautiful representation of this. It gives you a chance of self-reflection in search for personal enlightenment. Inside there, you can slow things down a bit while you calmly find your way.
Regardless of whether you find the key or not, what matters most is the sense of relief that is felt after making it through the darkness. The sense of liberation is an unforgettable experience.
Many temples across Japan are said to have a tunnel like this. Keep exploring and asking, and you just might have a chance to find the key to paradise.
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