Sign up for my Newsletter & Podcast!

Nara Feature 2: Todaiji

Note: This Feature was made on October 10, 2001, as I visited the Yamato Area of old Japan. (MAP)


Todaiji, home of the Great Buddha, is on the eastern side of the city of Nara. You can read about my visit to Nara in my Logbook.

In 752, the first Great Buddha was consecrated as the centerpiece of Todaiji, which in turn was the centerpiece of a remarkable system of temples instituted by the Emperor Shomu as a step towards national unification. The Kokubunji that I mentioned on September 25th were all part of that system.

The Buddha and the hall we see today are the result of repairs and rebuilding over the centuries. The current hall--magnificent as it is--is said to be a third smaller than the original, and the hands and head of the Buddha were replaced in the Momoyama and Edo periods respectively (1568-1615 and 1615-1867). This detracts not at all from its splendor.

The Gates and Exterior:

The first thing one sees is the Niomon, or "Two Kings Gate." Then there is the gate to the Buddha Hall proper, and the stunning hall itself. Browsing around the grounds--and all over central Nara--are hundreds of tame deer, in honor of the fact that one of the prime teaching sites of the historic Buddha was known as "The Deer Park."

Oh, deer...

The Niomon. The kings are located in two bays facing inward; this is unusual, as they usually face front. It's a bit more intimidating to walk between them as they face you!

Despite the effect of the chicken (or pigeon) wire, I wanted you to see them. The dynamic curves of their figures are often reproduced in miniature and in nearly-full-size.

It is through Joseph Campbell's writing about these two specific figures that I came to be interested in the Nio in general.

The main gate to the Buddha Hall's enclosure.

And the magnificent hall itself. Many find this--said to be the world's largest all-wood structure--to be more impressive than the Guy inside.

The Figures Inside:

The Great Buddha is the central figure of a triad; there are also two more colossal figures in the hall--and one small hole...

Close up of the Buddha's peaceful expression:

The two Generals who help guard the Buddha are located behind him on either side of the hall:

Finally: They say that if you can make it through this small hole in a pillar in the hall, you are guaranteed instant enlightenment. Seems only school kids are going to get it...

Posted October 6, 2019

No comments:

Post a Comment