A pilgrim's staff ... In Japan the shakuj usually consists of a wooden handle or pole topped with a metal finial with two sections, each with three rings, for a total of six rings, which represent the Six States of Existence -- the cycle of samsara, of suffering and reincarnation; in Japan, Jizo Bosatsu is often shown holding this staff. In India, the shakujou's metal rings were originally used by traveling priests to alert small creatures to keep them from accidentally being harmed by a priest when walking in the woods. It was also used to frighten away dangerous snakes or beasts that the priest might have encountered. The shakujou could also serve as a cane to help the priest walk. When begging, he rattled this staff to announce his arrival at the door or gate of a household without breaking the vow of silence. In Japan the shakujou is still used by monks, pilgrims, and practitioners of Shugendou ???, a school of Buddhism that teaches ascetic practices in the mountains (see En no gyouja ???). A yamabushi ?? or mountain priest may use it for magic or exorcism. In the Shingon ?? and Tendai ?? sects, the shakujou is used as a ritual object in special ceremonies. Some have short handles and are held when chanting.
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