Ramble On

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sitting Down Like the Buddha Sat

My second sightseeing stop in Kamakura was to visit the Daibustu at Kotoku-in temple.  This seated Buddha, formally Amida Nyorai, was constructed out of bronze beginning in 1252.  Most of the historical information that they give you when you visit discusses the construction process, which took ten years; there are even records of the artists involved and the priests who raised the funds.

Over the years, the Buddha has been housed in buildings, but these have been lost to storms.  I recall reading about past earthquake damage to the platform as well, and as you go inside the statue you can see repairs that have been done to strengthen it (second photo is from inside, looking up to the head).

At nearly 35 feet tall (over 40 feet if you count the platform), it's quite a remarkable thing to visit.  My colleague at work recommended Kamakura and the Daibutsu specifically.  That was truly a good tip.

As with Hase-dera, there were quite a few other things to see at this location, although I didn't take a lot of photos of the smaller shrines there. 

As I stopped to rest near the statue, I noticed an incense burner, and paid closer attention to the visitors' rituals - some were there to worship, and it being close to the new year this was an important stop for them.  Here is a photo of one visitor praying near the incense burner - I watched as a few people lit pieces, and then others collected the smoke in cupped hands and passed it over themselves.

At the back of the statue, you can see air vents, since the cavity is open for visitors. Also, the sutras are engraved on large bronze lotus petals at the base in the back.

For the final photo of this visit, there is a little display nearby with a pair of sandals.  The story I heard was that these were made out of straw, in the traditional material and style for buddhist priest, and presented as an offering by Japanese school children.  I was told that the legend on the plaque says something like this:  The offering expressed gratitude for a good harvest, and was accompanied by a message from the children: Buddha must surely be tired after sitting there for some 700 years and they would be pleased if he were to wear the sandals when he takes a walk

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