Daibutsu- The Great Buddha of Kamakura
I’ve had a strong and consistent interest in the famous Buddha of Kamakura or Daibutsu in Japanese. I personally like Japanese culture, landscape and the country very much. It is one of my favorite countries in the world. So many things fascinate me in Japan and would not mind living there. I had a chance to visit Japan for three weeks a few years back and good fortune to visit the Buddha of Kamakura. I was enthralled and amazed at this beautiful Buddha commissioned by a Shogun’s wife in commemoration of her husband.
I’ve been wanting to blog about this Buddha and finally found a older short descriptive brochure publication I am posting here. Some of the spelling from the brochure is ‘different’ and perhaps incorrect, but I left it as it is as there is a quaint flavor and feel to the style. I hope everyone can visit this holy Buddha. Do enjoy the reading.
The Daibutsu of Kamakura
“Daibutsu” is a Japanese word meaning a Great Buddha. The Buddha is variously called in Japanese Butsuda, Bursu, Hotoke or more often with honorifics, Hotoke-sama or Mi-hotoke-sama.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a representation of Buddha Amitabha, the Lord of the Western Pure Land. This Buddha is also called Buddha Amitayus. Amitabha means “Infinite Light,” Amitayus “Infinite Life.”
Buddha Amitabha is worshipped by the great majority of Japanese Buddhists, their expressed adoration of Him being Namu Amida Butsu, or “Adoration Be to Buddha Amitabha!”
A CONNOISSEUR COMMENTS:
- The eyebrow is semi-circular.
- The eyes is horizontal.
- The ridge of the nose starts from the forehead.
- It has a fine and long mustache.
- The mouth expresses an Ionian smile.
- The hair is made of a number of curls winding clockwise. There are 656 curls altogether.
- It has a fleshly excrescence on the head symbolizing wisdom.
- It has a white curl on the forehead that emits rays of light revealing all worlds.
- The ear is large and long.
- There are webs between the fingers symbolizing fulfillment.
- The pose expresses the usual way of meditating on the part of the Indians. The legs are crossed in front and the body is inclined slightly forward. The pose is still adopted for meditation by Japanese Buddhists, especially by the followers of Zen or Meditation School.
- The direction of the eyes is at right angles to the slightly inclined head, facing the ground a little ahead. It has no ugliness usually felt on the straight-looking eyes on a vertical face.
- The upper part of the body is larger in proportion to the lower part, the head being larger in proportion to the body. This was done deliberately, in accordance with the laws of perspective.
- The head is inclined forward, and gives the visitor a feeling of intimacy when approaching it.
- The image is devoid of the ugliness which usually accompanies colossus.
The image is patchwork of pieces of bronze, the surface bring finished up with the file. The maker of the prototype is unknown. The caster is said to have been Ono Goroemon, of whom nothing is known except his name. It is most probable that this image of the Great Buddha was one of the greatest masterpieces of Buddhist art of the time in Japan.
The figure sits in dignified repose with a most placid expression of countenance. From its forehead protrudes a boss representing a jewel from which light is supposed to flow, and which symbolizes an idea similar to that expressed in our Scriptures— “I am the light of the World.”
Dr. C. Dresser’s
Japan— Its Architecture
Date of construction …… 1252 A.D
Weight ………………approx. 121t
Height ……………….approx. 13.4m
Height of the cast …..approx. 11.3m
Knee to knee………….approx. 9.10m
Circumference of thumb…approx. 0.85m
Mr. A.C Maclay, A.M., L.L.B., in A Budget of Letters from Japan, says– “The Daibutsu sits there in the open air, his head looming above the pine-trees, and his face turned toward the peaceful waters of the ocean— typical of the dreamland Nirvana.”
“The Monument dedicated to Daibutsu, that is, the Great Buddha, may be considered as the most complete work of the Japanese genius, in regard both to Art and to the religious sentiment…… a gigantic seated divinity of bronze, with folded hands, and head gently inclined in an attitude of contemplative ecstasy…… There is an irresistible charm in the posture of Daibutsu, in the harmony of his bodily proportions, in the noble simplicity of his drapery, and in the calmness and serenity of the countenance.” – Bayart Taylor’s Japan
HISTORY OF THE DAIBUTSU AT KAMAKURA
A Pious Lady’s Unceasing Efforts
Lady Inadano-Tsubone who was a lady attendant of Shogun Yoritomo (1147-1199) came to cherish the desire to have a Great Image of Buddha. After her master died she left court-service in order to devote herself to raising funds for the construction of the Great Buddha. Her fervent endeavors moved everyone especially Joko, a priest in the Province of Totomi, who willingly cooperated with her in fund-raising by travelling all over the country. Thanks to the Compassion of the Buddha, enough funds were collected to start the work in 1238.
The Wooden Image
The first image, which was completed in 1243 after five years of continuous labor, was a wooden one. It was damaged by a storm in 1248. Then the lady Idanono-Tsubone and priest Joko proposed to make it of bronze, offering the material. However, a vast amount of money was needed to implement this purpose, so they made their last efforts to reconstruct it with the result that a bronze image was completed in 1252. The inaugural ceremony was celebrated on August 17 of that year. This is the image we see now in the precinct of the Kotoku-in Temple at Kamakura after the interval of seven centuries.
A Hall to Enshrine the Buddha
The Great Buddha, who is sitting in the open air, was not always so. Immediately after the wooden image was completed, a big hall to enshrine it was constructed in 1243. But the storm that damaged the image in 1247 brought the hall to the ground. A new hall was built in the same year when the bronze image was completed, but it was again destroyed by a storm in 1344. Again in was reconstructed, but once again it was smashed by a heavy gale in 1369. The fourth reconstruction that ensued served to enshrine the Buddha till 1498, when an unprecedented tidal wave swept the structure away, leaving the image exposed to the sun. Archbishop Yuten (1637- 1718), the 36th abbot of the Great Head Temple Zojoji of the Jodo Sect, did his best to rebuild the lost hall, but the project was discontinued at his death in 1718. Therefore, since 1495 the Buddha has been sitting out-of-doors, come rain or shine.
The big earthquake in Sept. 1923 did not harm the body but destroyed its base and it was repaired in 1925.
The latest repair was done in 1960-61. This repair (1) reinforced the neck of the statue which supports the big head and (2) made it possible for the Buddha’s body to move freely on the base in the event of a strong earthquake.
Mr. Percival Lowell says in The Soul of the Far East— “The Kamakura Buddha……in whose face all that is grand and noble lies sleeping, the living representation of Nirvana.”
From top to bottom:
Top: A photo to show the white curl on the forehead. The Buddha is believed to emit rays of light from here to illuminate all the worlds in the universe. It is made of pure silver, weighing 29.76 pounds. The sutra says:
The light pervades
All the worlds.
Everyone who sees it
Will be saved by the Buddha.
Bottom: The mouth. It has an Ionian smile. Notice the thin and long mustache.
From top to bottom:
Top: The nose. The line of the ridge retains something of Greek art.
Center: The ear. It is longer than a normal one in proportion to the size of the face. A long ear is one of the characteristics of the image of the Buddha.
Bottom: The hands. The position of the fingers signifies meditation. The circle made by the thumb and the index-finger is smaller in proportion than the normal one, because there is a kind of web between the fingers of the Buddha to symbolize fulfillment of the vows.
AN EXTRACT EROM THE DIARY OF
CAPTAIN SARIS FOR SEPT. 12th, 1613, A. D.
(from “The Voyage of Captain John Saris to Japan, 1613.” Edited by Sir Ernest M. Satow G.C.M.G., Haldayt Society, 1900.)
The Countrey betwixt Surnunga1 and Endoo2 is well inhadited. We saw many Fotoquise3 or Temples as we passed, and amongst others one Image of especiall note, called Dabis4, made of Copper, being hollow within, but of a very substantiall thicknesse. It was in height, as wee ghessed, from the ground about one and twentie or two and twentie foot, in the likenesse of a man kneeling upon the ground, with his buttockes resting on his heeles,5 his arms of wonderfull largenesse, and the whole body proportionable. He is fashioned wearing of a Gowne. This Image is much reverenced by Travellers as they passe there. Some of our people went into the bodie of it, and hoope and hallowed, which made an exceeding great noyse. We found many Characters and Marks made upon it by Passengers, whom some of my Followers imitated, and made theirs, in like manner.
- Certainly the mishearing of Suruga, a province of Japan.
- Edo or Yedo, the former name of Tokyo.
- Perhaps the mishearing of Hotokesan, that is literally Our Lord Buddha.
- Certainly the mishearing of Dai-butsu.
- The Dai-butsu does not rest his buttocks on his heels, but sits with his so crossed that the backs of his feet touch on his knees.
From top to bottom:
Top: The old building. It was constructed in the 15th century in Korea and removed to here 50 years ago.
Bottom: They were dedicated about two centuries ago by believers, whose names are inscribed on the surface. There should be 32 of them to complete the gigantic lotus-stand for the Great Buddha.
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