I've mentioned before that my life can be a pain in the neck. Literally: an old injury, sustained in a car accident, still causes severe headaches. It's called occipital neuralgia, a fairly rare …
What? You didn’t expect me to go for a dead-ordinary garden-variety problem, did you? Oh ye of little faith.
It's a fairly rare neurological condition in which the occipital nerves – the nerves that run from the top three vertebrae up through the scalp – are inflamed or injured, and the end-result is a headache that's a bit not good. When it gets really bad, you can't see, lose your balance, retch violently. It feels as if you're carrying something very, very, very heavy on your head.
|The baking pan Jizō that protects you against headaches.|
I've learned to manage it with physio and neck exercises, but earlier this year it went to hell in a handbasket, and since then I've been struggling to control it.
I was getting so grumpy that I jumped onto websites that list genze riyaku (現世利益) or goriyaku (ご利益) – “this-wordly benefits” bestowed on the worshiper by the resident deity at a shrine or temple – and checked for headaches. Surely, I thought, there must be at least one god that would take pity on me?
I wôs right: there's a Jizō called the "baking pan Jizō" (焙烙地蔵 Hōroku Jizō) at a temple called Daien-ji (大圓寺) in Hakusan, which is apparently the only Zen temple in Bunkyō-ku. As soon as I discovered that, I took off. It's not far from my apartment; it took about 30 minutes to get there.
Lo and behold, a Jizō with earthenware baking pans known as hōroku (焙烙 or ほうろく) on his head. Some hōroku, especially those used in the tea ceremony, are hollow and have handles; others are flat (link, link). I haven't been able to determine the link between the baking pans and headaches, but, dunno, maybe it's because an intense headache really fries your brains? Mark Schumacher says, "Devotees offer earthenware plates to images of this Jizō when they suffer from headaches or other head ailments. They write their prayers on the earthenware, and present the plates to Jizō, or place it atop the statue's head." Gabi Greve says, "During the ancestor festival O-Bon in August temples provide hōroku that you can place on the graves and make a little fire in them to welcome the ancestors."
I was at Daien-ji on a public holiday, and not a soul could be seen except another enthusiastic photographer. I didn't pray or make an offer or buy a plate. No no no. I'm a cynic, remember, who visits temples to satisfy an intellectual curiosity, not a spiritual need.
I did have a chat with the Jizō. "Yo, bro," I said, "this neck thing is a bummer, if I may mix my metaphors and anatomy. I can't even go on decent hikes anymore because I can't carry a backpack; I've tried twice and both times I spent the next 24 hours curled into a ball; and it's not a good idea to lose your sight and your balance on a mountain. So. Like. You know. If you're getting tired of salarymen with hangover headaches and you want to give a girl a hand, here I am. I haven't contributed financially to your temple, but I've done a bit of free PR for you. I wish I could take all these plates with me because, holy whatsimicallits, I'd love to smash them on my students' heads. However. Compassion, tolerance and all that. Understood. So, umm, this neck. Please? Kbye."
Let's hope I picked up Virtuous Vertebra Vibes at this temple.
PS: I know of more than one person who's waiting for a post about Chiba, local trains and nanohana. I'll get there. Promise.
|The entrance to Daien-ji|
|The main temple|