The starting point, or the first base in the long run just to come up with a dissertation topic that is specific enough to fit into 12 000 words but is also original and interesting enough for me to write about and for the examiners to read. Well, I am hardly done with this brainstorming, but I am a bit closer to the aim. Let me walk you through my mental processing of this issue. You might find it amusing, but it is definitely going to help me to sort out my thoughts and ideas.
So I mentioned before whilst writing about the Japanese Pilgrimage book that it was this particular book that got me interested in the pilgrimage. My initial idea was to write and research about pilgrimage. With questions like “Why do people do pilgrimage apart for religious reasons? Why would they choose a particular one?” However, even I could tell that it was a way too broad topic to fit into 12 000 words. Since then, some 3 months have passed and it is thanks to this amazing article On Pilgrims and today’s compulsory talk at university that I somehow managed to narrow down my idea about what the topic might be, or might become.
You see, I have been wanting to do the Chichibu Pilgrimage which is a pilgrimage of 34 temples devoted to Kannon, the bodhisattva of mercy. I am also in middle of reading a book by Ian Reader on Shikoku Pilgrimage. The inspiration I took from that book is about popularization of pilgrimages and their propagation. But the most recent influence on the topic comes from the two things mentioned above. The article and the talk.
The article raised a good question about how do people stay pilgrims and don’t become tourists. This idea, in my opinion, is something that might have not been looked into yet as the general topic of pilgrimage, especially the ones done in Japan, has not yet been taken seriously enough to be researched in depth and relation to other topics. If I could find out or figure out the factor that makes pilgrims, well, pilgrims and not tourists, maybe it could become one of the crucial parts of my dissertation.
As for the talk, while the lecturers were sharing all the types of different sources and how to do our research, I came up with an idea that maybe pilgrimage doesn’t have to be the main topic but only a part of a different one. Chichibu Pilgrimage is about Kannon, then why wouldn’t I write about Kannon? Maybe about the worship and the changes between past and now. Maybe the varieties of worship. As of yet, I am not sure but this can be called a progress, I think. I’d still do the Chichibu Pilgrimage but instead of look at it as in a general religious act, I can focus more on the reasons such as “Why Kannon?”. I don’t dispute the fact that Shikoku Pilgrimage is done for spiritual purpose that are connected to Kobo Daishi. However, unlike with Kobo Daishi who, as far as I am aware (and I might be wrong), is not a deity of some sorts, Kannon in the Chichibu Pilgrimage might hold an absolutely different meaning.