Thursday, June 21, 2012
Daibutsu Buddha statue
One of the most memorable and spiritual places I visited during my tour with the navy while stationed in Japan from 1978-1981. The energy from this statue was so strong that I could feel it from a good 100 yards as we approached it.
Daibutsu Buddha - 大仏 (cast in 1252)
The Daibutsu (大仏) is an enormous statue of bronze cast in the year 1252. Its name means "Great Buddha" in Japanese. The impetus for this great work dates back to the early years of the 13th century, when the court lady Inadano-Tsubone (an attendant of Shogun Yoritomo) desired to have a Buddha image created as an expression of her faith and piety. When Yoritomo died, she spent her remaining years seeking funds for such a project. Her quest earned the support of the great priest Joko, a native of Totomi province, who aided her by traveling throughout the country in pursuit of funds. Enough funds were collected that by 1238 work was able to begin.
The first Buddha image, taking five years to complete, was a wooden one of unknown dimensions (though probably somewhat comparable to the present image). An enormous wooden hall was constructed around it in 1243. After a storm damaged the image in 1248, Idanono-Tsubone and Joko proposed to cast the image in bronze. Although this was costlier by several orders of magnitude, Idanono-Tsubone and Joko managed to raise the required funds. No doubt they were aided by their reputation for their prior success in constructing an enormous wooden image.
The Daibutsu of today was completed in 1252, with inauguration ceremonies held on August 17th. At that time, the bronze image was sheltered within a wooden hall of immense dimensions, but the hall was subsequently destroyed in 1335 during a large storm. The hall was again reconstructed, only to be blown down during a typhoon in 1368. The fourth and final reconstruction of the hall remained standing until 1495, when an unprecedented tsunami washed away the structure but left the bronze image largely intact. The 26th abbot of the Great Head Temple Zojoji tried to have the lost hall rebuilt during his tenure, but the project was abandoned after his death in 1718. Since then, there have been no efforts at reconstruction of the lost hall.
An earthquake in Sept 1923 destroyed the base of the Buddha but did not damage the body. The base was repaired in 1926, and subsequently in 1960-61, after which it was rebuilt to allow the body of the Buddha to move independently of the base in the event of a future earthquake.