Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kamakura: Daibutsu and Hasedera

It was awe-inspiring. I literally had goose bumps. To be in the presence of the Great Buddha of Kamakura was an experience I will never forget. I count it as one of the great spiritual experiences of my life because of the presence that was there.

To give one a sense of the size of the statute, I am including the picture below. The Kaibutsu sits in a large courtyard at the base of a hill. The Buddha, constructed almost 800 years ago, was at one time in a temple complex, but those buildings were washed away in a typhoon over 500 years ago. Since then, it has sat on its base in the open air.

We were fortunate to get there early in the morning before the tour buses started arriving. As we walked back down the street to the train station, we saw several of them plying their way up the hill. People come from all over the world to see this amazing work of art. Later in the day, we saw three Thai Buddhist monks in their saffron robes who had come to see the Daibutsu and were then seeing other sights in the city.

On the way back down the hill to the station, we decided to take an unplanned side-trip to see the Hase-Dera Temple, which belongs to the Jodo sect of Buddhism. (We have learned that there are a number of sects of Buddhism in Japan.) The temple is most famous for its huge wooden "Kannon," said to be the tallest wooden statue in Japan. We weren't allowed to take pictures, but this is one I picked the one below off the Internet. The legend is that the image is over 1000 years old and washed ashore at Hase, where a temple was subsequently built to house it.

We took dozens of pictures on the temple grounds. The following are a sampling of them:

Small stone images of Jizo. There are said to be 1000 such statues gathered around the statue of the Mizuko Jizo, who looks after still-born and aborted children or children who died at an early age.

A view out over Kamakura and the ocean

The temple's sutras are stored in a rotating drum known as a rinzô, the largest such rotating sutra storehouse in the region. It employs a concept central to Himalayan Buddhism; by turning the wheel, one gains the spiritual benefit as if one had read all the sutras (Buddhist texts). This is not seen nearly as commonly in Japan as in Nepal and Tibet, but the belief and the practice do exist in Japanese Buddhism as well.

The rinzo


It was an amazing morning, and the day was not even half over. We would be meeting our guide at 12:30 and spend the afternoon at three Zen temples and a Jinga shrine - subjects for the next post.

The train we took back and forth between our hotel, Kamakura and Hase

Today's Engrish-ism

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