The Great Buddha of Kamakura

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The Great Buddha of Kamakura

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

I am writing a series of articles on various holy sites such as Mount Wutai in China, the Temple of the Tooth in the city of Kandi, Sri Lanka and several holy places in India such as Bodhgaya, Lumbini, Varanasi and Kushinagar. The objective of writing these articles is to provide information and inspire readers to visit those important religious sites which are well known places of pilgrimage.

A particular place can be considered holy when at least one of the following criteria is met:

  1. Someone had engaged in intensive meditation to generate higher insight and state of mind (e.g., love, compassion and bodhicitta) in the area and therefore infused positive energy into the place.
  2. Someone had a pure vision of a holy being (for example, a Buddha, a Mahasiddha, daka or dakini) and/or received teachings from the holy being(s) in the area. This would have imbued the place with the energy and blessings of the holy beings and/or teachings.
  3. A place where holy beings abide or where supernatural beings engaged in virtuous activities, which blessed the place with positive energies.
  4. The place was blessed or consecrated by a highly realised being who invited the enlightened beings to reside there.

When visiting places that have been blessed, visitors can feel a sense of peace, happiness, healing and well-being from the blessed energies of that environment. It can also leave a spiritual imprint or open up an existing positive imprint in the minds of visitors or pilgrims, which can help spur them on their spiritual path.

During the process of writing this article, I learnt about the sincere determination of the people who built the Great Buddha of Kamakura in Japan, such as the Lady Inada and the Priest Joko of Totomi. They beat all odds to fulfil Lady Inada’s promise to the late Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo of the Kamakura Shogunate. Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi faced many challenges such as natural disasters and a lack of funding but they persevered and never gave up. I am truly inspired by their effort and determination to achieve their noble goal despite many difficulties.

I hope you will find this instalment of the series on holy places enjoyable and informative. May it serve as an inspiration for you on your spiritual journey.

Valentina

 


 

Overview

Kamakura is located south of Tokyo, Japan

Kamakura is located south of Tokyo, Japan

Kamakura Daibutsu, or The Great Buddha of Kamakura, is a beautiful and graceful bronze statue of Buddha Amitabha, located within the grounds of Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Kotoku-in Temple’s official name is Daii-san Kotoku-In Shojosen-ji. This Buddha image has survived several natural disasters including a powerful storm in 1335, an earthquake and tsunami in 1495 and the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Nevertheless, through extensive maintenance and repair efforts, this beautiful Buddha statue is still standing today. The statue is approximately 13.35 metres tall and weighs around 121 tons.

Priest Honen, the founder of the Jodo Sect of Buddhism

Priest Honen, the founder of the Jodo Sect of Buddhism

According to the Kotoku-in temple records, the original Great Buddha of Kamakura was made of wood. It was completed in 1243 during the Kamakura Shogunate period. It took approximately ten years to build the original statue with funds raised by Inada-no-Tsubone, also known as Lady Inada and the Buddhist priest, Joko of Totomi.

Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi were the followers of the Jodo Sect of Buddhism, which was established by Priest Honen (1133 – 1212 CE). Followers of the Jodo sect focus their devotion towards the Buddha Amitabha because they believe that this Buddha will help to liberate all beings regardless of position, age or gender. According to this tradition, one needs to chant, “I take refuge in Buddha Amitabha” or “nenbutsu” in order to receive his protection and be reborn in his paradise.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura inspired Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936 CE), a famous English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist, to write a famous poem called ‘Buddha at Kamakura’ in 1892 following his visit to Japan in 1889-1892.

 

Buddha at Kamakura (1892)

‘And there is a Japanese idol at Kamakura’

O ye who tread the Narrow Way
By Tophet-flare to Judgement Day,
Be gentle when ‘the heathen’ pray
To Buddha at Kamakura!

To Him the Way, the Law, apart,
Whom Maya held beneath her heart,
Ananda’s Lord, the Bodhisat,
The Buddha of Kamakura.

For though He neither burns nor sees,
Nor hears ye thank your Deities,
Ye have not sinned with such as these,
His children at Kamakura,

Yet spare us still the Western joke
When joss-sticks turn to scented smoke
The little sins of little folk
That worship at Kamakura—

The grey-robed, gay-sashed butterflies
That flit beneath the Master’s eyes.
He is beyond the Mysteries
But loves them at Kamakura.

And whoso will, from Pride released,
Contemning neither creed nor priest,
May feel the Soul of all the East
About him at Kamakura.

Yea, every tale Ananda heard,
Of birth as fish or beast or bird,
While yet in lives the Master stirred,
The warm wind brings Kamakura.

Till drowsy eyelids seem to see
A-flower ’neath her golden htee
The Shwe-Dagon flare easterly
From Burma to Kamakura,

And down the loaded air there comes
The thunder of Thibetan drums,
And droned—‘Om mane padme hum’s’
A world’s-width from Kamakura.

Yet Brahmans rule Benares still,
Buddh-Gaya’s ruins pit the hill,
And beef-fed zealots threaten ill
To Buddha and Kamakura.

A tourist-show, a legend told,
A rusting bulk of bronze and gold,
So much, and scarce so much, ye hold
The meaning of Kamakura?

But when the morning prayer is prayed,
Think, ere ye pass to strife and trade,
Is God in human image made
No nearer than Kamakura

Rudyard Kipling (1892)

 

History

In 1195, Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo (1147 – 1199 CE), the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate (1185 – 1333 CE), and his wife, Hojo Masako (1156 – 1225 CE) participated in the reconstruction of the Great Buddha Statue of Todaiji. Upon seeing the monumental Buddha statue, Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo developed a wish to build an equally colossal Buddha statue to promote his region, Kamakura. Unfortunately, he passed away four years later in 1199 before he had the opportunity to fulfil his ambition.

Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo

Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo

The tomb of Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo

The tomb of Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo

After Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo’s passing, one of his court ladies by the name of Inada no Tsubone (Lady Inada) made the pledge to fulfil Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo’s wishes to build a monumental Buddha statue in Kamakura. Upon obtaining authorisation from the Shogun’s widow, Hojo Masako, Lady Inada and a Buddhist Priest by the name of Joko of Totomi embarked on the project to build the Buddha Amitabha statue. Unfortunately, in terms of funding, Lady Inada did not get much support from the Shogunate because at that time, the Kamakura Shogunate was controlled by the Hojo regents. During this period in history, the Buddha Amitabha was associated with the Jodo Sect. As the regents preferred the Zen tradition, they did not give her aid in this project. In addition, the fifth Hojo Regent at the time, Hojo Tokiyori (1227 – 1263 CE), had pledged to build Kenchoji, a Zen temple. Kenchoji temple survives to this day and is considered the oldest Zen training monasteries in Japan.

Hojo Masako by Kikuchi Yosai

Hojo Masako by Kikuchi Yosai

The failure to receive donations from the Kamakura Shogunate did not cause Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi to abandon their wish to build the Great Buddha of Kamakura. Priest Joko of Totomi, at the request of Lady Inada, then embarked on a challenging fund-raising journey as a mendicant priest and was successful in gathering sufficient funds to build the statue.

Kotoku-in Temple

Kotoku-in Temple

Priest Joko of Totomi and Lady Inada strategically selected the western part of Kamakura, on Kotoku-in Temple grounds, to build the Buddha statue, thereby embracing the Jodo Sect’s belief that Buddha Amitabha resides in a western pure land. The name of this pure land is Sukhavati, or the Land of Pure Joy.

The first Great Buddha of Kamakura was made of wood, not bronze like the current day statue. Nevertheless it was still colossal as the diameter of its head was approximately 24 metres long. The construction of the first Great Buddha of Kamakura and a prayer hall were completed in 1243.

In 1247, four years after its completion, the wooden statue of the Great Buddha of Kamakura was destroyed by a powerful storm. Fortunately, in 1252, Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi managed to raise the necessary funding to construct a new Buddha Amitabha statue. Learning from past experience, Priest Joko of Totomi and Lady Inada decided to build the new Great Buddha of Kamakura using bronze instead of wood. Their decision has proven to be the correct one, as the bronze Buddha they built at that time still stands today. The artists, Hisatomo Tanji and Goro-emon, took more than twelve years to complete the project. The Great Buddha of Kamakura’s construction was fully funded by donations from the Jodo Sect’s adherents and benefactors.

Ashikaga Takauji

Ashikaga Takauji

The Great Buddha of Kamakura was initially located inside a large wooden building. However, in 1333, the Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura became a combat zone between Ashikaga Takauji’s troops and remnants of the Regent Hojo Takatoki’s troops. Originally a general under the Kamakura Shogunate, Ashikaga Takauji had become disillusioned with the leadership of the regents and sought to over throw them instead. During the events at Kotoku-in, nearly 500 of the Regent Hojo’s samurais sought refuge inside the Great Buddha of Kamakura’s wooden hall to protect themselves from a big typhoon in 1335. Unfortunately, the building collapsed and none of the samurais survived.

During his many military campaigns, Ashikaga Takauji conquered Kamakura. It was then that Regent Hojo Takatoki and his clansman committed suicide. This marked the end of the Kamakura Shogunate, and as Ashikaga Takauji took the title of shogun for himself, began the Ashikaga Shogunate period of Japanese history.

The battle between Ashikaga and Hojo troops

The battle between Ashikaga and Hojo troops

In 1495, Kamakura was hit by an earthquake which was followed by a tsunami. The newly reconstructed hall was once again destroyed. Miraculously, the statue of the Great Buddha of Kamakura remained unscathed. The government at the time did not help with the repairs, as the administration had been moved from Kamakura to Kyoto by the newly established Ashikaga Shogunate. As a result, the Great Buddha of Kamakura has been sitting in the open air ever since. It has even endured harsh weather for almost 700 years now.

Over the years the temple grounds became a place where gamblers and the destitute would live. Upon witnessing the neglect and the deterioration of the once grand statue, Priest Yuten Ken’yo (1637 – 1718 CE) from Zojoji, Tokyo, attempted to restore the statue to its former glory. He belonged to one of the seven main temples of the Jodo Sect and devised a grand plan to build a new hall to cover the statue in order to protect it from harsh weather conditions and unwelcome visitors. Unfortunately, the donations he collected in 1712 was only enough to repair the Great Buddha statue, but not enough to build a new hall. However, without his effort, the Great Buddha of Kamakura would not have been preserved to this day. To honour Priest Yuten Ken’yo and the sponsors’ contributions, four round bronze plates, in the shape of lotus petals, with the sponsors’ names carved on them, were constructed behind the Great Buddha of Kamakura.

Bronze lotus petals with the names of sponsors

Bronze lotus petals with the names of sponsors

After the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, the base of the Great Buddha statue was damaged, but it was repaired immediately. In 1960, effort was made to reinforce the neck and the base of the statue in an attempt to toughen the statue in anticipation of another big earthquake. From January – March 2016, further maintenance and restoration work was done to preserve the statue.

Recent renovation work on the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Recent renovation work on the Great Buddha of Kamakura

 

About The Great Buddha of Kamakura

The back of the Great Buddha of Kamakura

The back of the Great Buddha of Kamakura

 

Measurements

The Great Buddha of Kamakura is 13.35 metres (43.8 feet) tall and weighs around 121 tons (267,000 pounds). The detailed dimensions of the statue’s features are as follows:

  • Face: 2.35 metres (7ft. 9in.) across
  • Eyes: 1 metre (3ft. 3in.) wide each
  • Mouth: 0.82 metre (2ft. 8in.) wide
  • Ears: 1.90 metres (6ft. 3in.) wide each

The circumference of the knee is 9.10 metres (29.9 ft.) and that of the thumb is 0.85 metre (2ft. 9in.).

 

Style

The Great Buddha of Kamakura’s style was heavily influenced by the Kei School. This was a popular Japanese Buddhist style of sculpture which flourished during the Kamakura Shogunate period (1192 – 1333 CE). There are also some stylised elements from the Chinese Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 CE).

 

Iconography of the Great Buddha of Kamakura

The Great Buddha of Kamakura was thoughtfully built to include attributes of an enlightened being.

Byakugo

Byakugo of the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Byakugo of the Great Buddha of Kamakura

The Great Buddha of Kamakura possesses a byakugo, also known as an urna in Sanskrit. In stylised forms, such as paintings and statues, this is presented as a round protuberance. In actual fact this a is spiral of clockwise-curled hair located between the eyebrows. Considered auspicious, it is one of the 32 major physical attributes of an enlightened being. It symbolises the third eye, which in itself symbolises divine sight, into the past, present, and future. It is believe that the Buddha Amitabha shines light to all sentient beings from the byakugo in order to bless them.

Blue Compassionate Eyes

The eyes of the Great Buddha of Kamakura are dark blue in colour, a glimpse of which can be seen from below the eyelids. The eyelids themselves are half-closed in peaceful meditation. Referring to the 32 major marks of a Buddha’s physical body, we find that the colour of a Buddha’s eyes (both the iris and the white portions) are clear, bright and distinct. They have no red or yellow marks, but are clean and radiant. This comes about from striving tirelessly to help others overcome their suffering, having generated equanimity for all sentient beings and looking at them with nothing but compassion.

Cheeks

Traces of gold on the Great Buddha of Kamakura’s cheek

Traces of gold on the Great Buddha of Kamakura’s cheek

When it was first built, the statue was gilt with gold. Traces of gold can still be seen on the cheeks even today. According to the characteristics of a Buddha’s body, his skin gives out an illuminating golden light as a result of selflessness. Therefore his beautiful and golden skin represents his compassionate nature of never turning away those in need.

Nose

The Great Buddha of Kamakura’s straight nose

The magnificent face of the Buddha

The statue’s high and straight nose with inconspicuous nostrils follows the 80 minor marks of Buddha’s body. This represents the realisation of emptiness coupled with the mind of compassionate enlightenment, also known as bodhicitta. The Buddhas are always ready to bestow their help on others, especially in terms of purifying their minds and bodies. This is represented by their noses being clean from all impurities such as mucus.

Mouth

The Great Buddha of Kamakura’s gentle smile is reminiscent of the loving-kindness and compassion of all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas and highly realised beings. Lafcadio Hearn (1850 – 1904 CE), an international writer known for his books on Japan called the Buddha’s smile the “enchanting smile of the East.” There is also a slight moustache that is typically found in Greek sculpture.

Ears

The statue has long ears, equal in length and they are pierced. According to the 80 minor physical characteristics of a Buddha’s body, the ear represent the victory over negative and afflictive emotions. As a Buddha is always ready to help the mind streams of sentient beings, this is represented in a Buddha’s body as perfect hearing, no matter this distance.

Hands and Arms

The Great Buddha of Kamakura’s hand mudra

The Great Buddha of Kamakura’s hand mudra

The statue’s hand gesture, or mudra in Sankrit, is in the meditation position. Compared to the traditional meditation posture, this mudra is slightly different. In the traditional meditation mudra, as in the case of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni who founded Buddhism, one hand rests on top of the other with thumbs touching. This statue’s hands are different, with the backs of the figures pressed together, but the thumbs touching nonetheless. Although it looks different, it is in fact the same meditation mudra commonly found in statues and images of other Buddhas. In this stylised form, it has come to identify the Buddha Amitabha from other Buddhas in the Buddhist pantheon, and is known as ‘Jobon-josho-in’.

According to the physical characteristics of a Buddha, the fingers and toes shine with light. This light even connects each figure or toe with a web of light. This light is the result of speaking kindly to others, helping others to understand the finer points of the Dharma, being generous, and setting a good example to others by following the methods of practising the Dharma.

 

Interior of the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Inside the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Inside the Great Buddha of Kamakura

The inside of the statue clearly shows the advanced technique employed to cast it. The framework design of the Great Buddha’s interior wall was constructed in a sequence of 40 individual castings. This was followed with three variants of the ikarakuri welding method, used to attach the statues parts onto the correct plate of the statue.

 

The Kotoku-in Temple

In addition to the Great Buddha of Kamakura, there are other things at Kotoku-in Temple that are interesting to view due to their significance and historical value.

Kotoku-in Temple

Kotoku-In Temple

The garden at Kotoku-in Temple

The garden at Kotoku-In Temple

 

Nio-mon Gate

The Nio–mon Gate

The Nio–mon Gate

The temple guardians at Nio-mon Gate

The temple guardians at Nio-mon Gate

Nio-mon Gate is the entrance to the temple and is graced with a pair of temple guardian, or Nio, statues. These wrathful warriors are considered to be emanations of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani, who accompanied and guarded the historical Buddha Shakyamuni from harm. The statue on the right has his mouth open as he speaks the Buddhist syllable ‘A’, while the statue on the left has his mouth closed as he has just finished speaking the syllable ‘Hung’. Together, the pair represent the birth and death of all sentient beings, as the syllable ‘A’ is the first sound in the Sanskrit Devanagari script, while the syllable ‘Hung’ is its last.

 

Cornerstones

The cornerstones on Kotoku-In Temple grounds

The cornerstones in Kotoku-in Temple grounds

Around the Great Buddha of Kamakura, there are cornerstones, which are the remains of the hall that used to enshrine the statue. Originally, there were 60 cornerstones, but today, only 56 cornerstones remain on the temple grounds. All of the cornerstones were made from a type of volcanic rock called pyroxene andesite from Nebukawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. Several of the cornerstones are now used as garden decorations or water basins.

 

Bronze Lotus Petals

There are four bronze lotus petals which were made during the Edo period (1603 – 1867 CE) with the names of sponsors inscribed on them. Originally, the plan was to make 32 lotus petals to honour the sponsors, but only four petals were ever completed.

 

Kangetsu-do Hall

Kangetsu-do Hall was originally part of a Korean royal palace

Kangetsu-do Hall that originally part of a Korean royal palace

The Kangetsu-do Hall is believed to have been transported from Seoul, South Korea. It was part of a Korean royal palace before being acquired by Kisei Sugino (1870 – 1939 CE), the then President of Yamaichi Goshi Kaisha (later Yamaichi Securities Co. Ltd.). Kisei Sugino donated the hall to Kotoku-in Temple in 1924. An image of Chenrezig or Kannon Bosatsu in Japanese, the Buddha of compassion, from the Edo Period is enshrined inside the hall.

 

Stone Tablets inscribed with Haiku

There are several stone tablets inscribed with poems that can be found on Kotoku-in Temple grounds:

One of the stone tables with poem inscribed on it on Kotoku-In Temple ground

One of the stone tables with a poem inscribed on it

Here in Kamakura,
The sublime Buddha is of another world,
But how like a handsome man he seems,
Adorned with the green of summer.

Akiko Yosano (1878–1942)

I face my desk
In soft autumn light
Mountains, rivers!

By Nobuko Yoshiya (1896–1973)

Great Buddha,
The soft light of winter,
Shining on you,
Moves on to the mountains.

By Tatsuko Hoshino (1903–84)

The spring rains,
Melting the Kamakura
snow huts of the north,
Soften even the word,
Kamakura.

By Kensai Iimuro (1883–1928)

How clear the chimes resound
of the temple bells.
The hills of Kamakura,
Filled with autumn winds!

By Kunen Kaneko (1876–1951)

 

Memorial Trees

Memorial trees from the royal family of Thailand

Memorial trees offered by the royal family of Thailand to commemorate their visit to Kotoku-in Temple

There are three black Japanese pine trees that stand on the left of the Great Buddha of Kamakura. The trees were offered by the royal family of the Kingdom of Thailand (previously known as Siam) to commemorate their pilgrimage to Kotoku-in Temple.

Memorial Tree to Honour Crown Prince Vajiravudh’s Visit:

Before becoming King Rama VI, Crown Prince Vajiravudh embarked on a pilgrimage to Kotoku-in on 27th December 1902. It was during the visit that he planted a Japanese pine tree at one of the corners of Kotoku-in Temple. However, by September 2009 the tree had died due to damage caused by insects. The tree that visitors see today at that particular spot is a new tree planted on 3rd July 2010 by the Royal Thai Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul by order of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).

A Memorial Tree by King Prajadhipok:

King Prajadhipok (Rama VII of Siam) and his royal Queen, Rambai Barni, planted a Japanese pine tree to commemorate their Buddhist pilgrimage to the Kotoku-in Temple on 9th April 1931.

A Memorial Tree by Prince Vajiralongkorn:

Prince Vajiralongkorn planted a Japanese pine tree to commemorate his pilgrimage to pay homage to the Great Buddha of Kamakura on 25th September 1987.

 

Warazori (Japanese straw sandals)

The giant Warazori, offerings from Matsuzaka Children Club of Hitachi-Ota City

The giant Warazori, offerings from Matsuzaka Children’s Club of Hitachi-Ota City

A pair of giant warazori, traditional Japanese straw sandals, is displayed on the corridor wall in front of the Great Buddha of Kamakura. The warazori is 1.8 metres long, 0.9 metre wide and weighs around 45 kilo grams. The warazori was donated by the Matsuzaka Children’s Club of Hitachi-Ota City, Ibaraki Prefecture in 1951, after the Japanese were defeated in World War II, as an offering to the Great Buddha of Kamakura for the speedy recovery of Japan. The children donated the warazori with a specific prayer: “the Great Buddha would don them to walk around Japan, bringing happiness to the people.” Starting from 1956, the Matsuzaka Children’s Club have donated giant warazori to Kotoku-in Temple every three years.

 

Temple Shop

The temple shop sells lucky charms, postcards, gifts and souvenirs for visitors to remember their visit to Kotoku-in Temple.

 

Commemorative Seal Service & Administrative Office

Visitors can acquire the Kotoku-in Temple’s memorial red seal, commonly known as goshuin in Japanese, from the Commemorative Seal Service and Administrative Office.

 

How to Get There

By Public Transport

From Hase Station to Kotoku-In Temple

From Hase Station to Kotoku-in Temple

Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden)

  • Starting point: Kamakura – If you start your journey to Kamakura using the Enoshima Electric Railway, please exit the JR Yokosuka Line at Kamakura Station. You then get on the Enoshima Electric Railway heading to Fujisawa and exit at Hase Station. From Hase Station, you can make your way on foot to Kotoku-in Temple, which is a short walk of approximately seven minutes.
  • Starting point: Fujisawa – From Fujisawa, exit the JR Tokaido Line or Odakyu Line at Fujisawa Station before getting on the Enoshima Electric Railway to Kamakura. Exit at Hase Station and travel by foot for seven minutes to reach Kotoku-in Temple.
  • Starting point: Kamakura Station (by bus)
    Map of Kamakura Station East Exit Bus Stops

    Map of Kamakura Station East Exit Bus Stops

    For visitors wanting to travel by bus, please leave Kamakura Station by the East Exit. From there, you can either ride on the Enoshima-dentetsu Bus (referred to on the map above as bus stop number 1) or ride on the Keikyu Bus (referred to on the map above as bus stop number 6) and take the exit at the Daibutsu-mae which is only 10 minutes away from Kamakura Station.

By Private Vehicle

Map of Interchanges from and to Kamakura

Map of Interchanges from and to Kamakura

  • Direction from Asahina Interchange to Kotoku-in – If you travel by private car, after exiting at Asahina Interchange, take Prefectural Road 204 to Kamakura. Once you see the Hachimangu intersection, turn left and go down Wakamiya-oji Avenue towards Yuigahama Beach. After that, you will find yourself driving below the JR Yokosuka Line track. Please turn right at Geba intersection going to Yuigahama-odori Avenue before crossing the Enoden level. From the Enoden level, drive for about 1.5 kilometres and turn right exactly at the Hase-kannon-mae crossing. Kotoku-in Temple will be on your right side after driving on Prefectural Road 32 for 500 metres.
  • Direction from Zushi Interchange – After exiting at Zushi Interchange, continue on the Zuyo-shindo Toll Road by the Nagae and Nagisabashi crossroads on National Road 134 heading to Enoshima. Drive along the Namerigawa crossroads between National Road 134 and Wakamiya-oji Avenue for 700 metres. After that, turn right when you see a traffic light before taking another right turn at the subsequent intersection. This will take you to Enoden Hase Station and junction with Hase-kannon-mae. Kotoku-in Temple will be on your right side after driving on Prefectural Road 32 for 500 metres.
  • Direction from Tokaido by National Road 1 – If you drive from the direction of Tokyo and Yokohama, exit at National Road 1 and immediately turn left at the Fujisawa Bypass Exit crossroad. Continue to drive down Prefectural Road 30 and when you see the Fujisawa-bashi crossroad, turn left. After driving below the JR Tokaido Line, turn left at the Minami-Fujisawa crossroad. You will reach Kotoku-in Temple after continuing your journey on Prefectural Road 32 bound to Kamakura for five kilometres.

 

Japanese Tourist Visa Requirements:

  • A passport with at least six months validity during the visit to Japan.
  • Proper documentation proving the applicant’s financial ability to support the trip to Japan.
  • Providing a clear itinerary of the trip to Japan and return ticket information.
  • Some nationals are exempt from requiring a visa. However, there is a time restriction based on the applicant’s nationality: citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland and the UK can stay up to six months; where as citizens of Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United States can stay up to three months.
  • The citizens of countries not mentioned above will have to check with the respective Japanese Embassies in their countries. Generally, after gathering appropriate documentation to obtain a Japanese tourist visa, the applicant can either apply through a registered visa office, or visit a Japanese Embassy in person.
  • Commonly, tourist visas are granted for between 15-90 days, depending on the applicant’s itinerary.
  • If an applicant has a criminal record, it may be challenging for the application to be approved.

 

The Best Time to Visit

Japan is a beautiful country with four different seasons:

  • Spring: March to May
  • Summer: May to September
  • Autumn: September to November
  • Winter: November to March

Spring is the best time to visit the Great Buddha of Kamakura due to its mild weather. In addition, visitors can enjoy the beautiful cherry blossom trees around this time. Due to Kamakura’s close proximity to the ocean, it is wise not to travel at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn since the area is prone to typhoons during these periods.

Cherry blossoms in Japan

Cherry blossoms in Japan

The Great Buddha of Kamakura in Spring

The Great Buddha of Kamakura in spring

 

Visiting Kotoku-in Temple

  • Visitors who need to use a wheelchair are recommended to bring assistants to help them through the challenging grounds of the Kotoku-in Temple. The temple has only one wheelchair-friendly toilet for both males and females.
  • The only animals permitted to walk freely on the temple grounds are service dogs to assist disabled visitors. Other pets need to be caged or properly confined while inside the temple complex.
  • Smoking is strictly prohibited within the temple facility. However, there are a few designated areas for smokers nearby.
  • Visitors are strongly recommended to have their lunch at appropriate places and are required to clean up after themselves.
  • Visitors who wish to obtain pictures for marketing or business purposes need to get approval from the temple management in advance.
  • Visitors are free to take photos for personal use as they wish. However, flying drones on the temple compounds are prohibited.

 

Opening Hours and Fees

The Kotoku-in Temple is open from 8 am to 5:30 pm every day. The entrance fee is ¥200 for general admission and ¥150 for students between 6 and 12 years old. Prices are cheaper if you come in a group of 30 people or more. The general fee for a large group of visitors is ¥170 per person. A large group of students, aged 13-18, are eligible to pay an entrance fee of ¥150 per person, while a large group of students aged 6-12 will be charged ¥100 per child.

Certain visitors are exempt from paying an entrance fee, these include:

  • Disabled visitors with a certificate of physical disability.
  • Teachers supervising a group of students.
  • Children under six years old.

If you wish to see the interior of the Great Buddha of Kamakura, you can visit between 8 am to 4:30 pm and pay an additional entrance fee of ¥20.

 

What to wear when visiting Kotoku-in or other temples in Japan

There is no specific dress code when visiting temples in Japan including Kotoku-in unless you are attending a formal event. However, visitors are be required to take off their shoes before entering the temple building. Generally, since it is an active temple visitors should dress modestly.

 

Where to stay when visiting Kamakura

Kamakura is 30 minutes from central Yokohama and approximately one hour from Tokyo. Visitors can opt to stay at either of these two cities where there are more options for accommodation. If you choose to stay at Kamakura, there are several places that you can consider as mentioned below. However, we suggest that visitors find accommodation that is suitable for their specific needs.

Kamakura Prince Hotel

Address: 1-2-18 Shichirigahama Higashi, Kamakura 248-0025, Kanagawa Prefecture
Average Price: US$210/night
Phone: +81 3-4510-0626
Website: http://www.princehotels.com/kamakura/

Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kamakura Ofuna

Address: 1-26-5 Ofuna, Kamakura 247-0056, Kanagawa Prefecture
Average Price: US$88/night
Phone: +81-467-42-2031
Website: https://fresa-inn.jp/eng/ofuna/

Kamakura Guesthouse

Address: 273-3 Tokiwa, Kamakura 248-0022, Kanagawa Prefecture
Average Price: $65/night
Phone: +81-467-67-6078
Website: http://www.kamakura-guesthouse.com/

 

What to do in Kamakura

Other than visiting the Great Buddha of Kamakura at Kotoku-in Temple, visitors can also visit the following places in Kamakura:

  • Kamakura Hase-dera Temple – You can visit the temple’s observation trail to view more than 40 types of hydrangea flowers.
  • Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine – Other than being one of the known landmarks in Kamakura, it is famous for its cherry blossoms during spring time.
  • Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine – There is sacred water in this shrine that is believed to be able to multiply coins. People like to wash their coins using the sacred water and use them as good luck charms.
  • Hokokuji Temple – This temple is famous for its beautiful bamboo grove.
  • Inamuragsaki Onsen – At this onsen or hot-spring, visitors can immerse themselves in hydrogen carbonate spring water which is believed help make the skin beautiful.
Hase-dera temple

Hase-dera Temple

Pathway towards the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine

Pathway towards the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku shrine

Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine

Bamboo grove at Hokokuji temple

Bamboo grove at Hokokuji Temple

Inamuragsaki Onsen

Inamuragsaki Onsen

Sources:

  • http://www.buffaloah.com/a/virtual/jap/kamak_buddha/buddha.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dtoku-in
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amit%C4%81bha
  • http://www.kamakuratoday.com/e/sightseeing/daibutsu.html
  • http://www.kotoku-in.jp/en/about/about.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dtoku-in
  • http://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/lam-rim/refuge/the-32-major-marks-of-a-buddha-s-physical-body
  • http://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/lam-rim/refuge/the-80-minor-marks-of-a-buddha-s-physical-body
  • http://www.kotoku-in.jp/en/about/grounds_info.html
  • http://www.kotoku-in.jp/en/visit/access_car.html
  • http://www.worldtravelguide.net/japan/passport-visa
  • http://www.tokico.biz/four_seasons/
  • http://www.danielmcbane.com/travel-guides/east-asia/japan/kamakura/
  • http://www.kotoku-in.jp/en/visit/visit.html

For more interesting information:

 

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Valentina Suhendra
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About Valentina Suhendra

Valentina met H.E. the 25th Tsem Tulku Rinpoche in year 2006 and became his student one year later. Prior to joining Kechara, Valentina was an advisory director at one of the big four accounting firms.

Currently, Valentina is the chairwoman of Yayasan Kechara Indonesia, a foundation working on social community projects to benefit the community. Read more of her writing on her blog: www.valentinasuhendra.com
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14 Responses to The Great Buddha of Kamakura

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  1. wan wai meng on Jan 10, 2017 at 3:30 am

    Kamakura Buddha statue is iconic and one can’t help but associate Japan with it. Japan is not Japan if the Kamakura statue is not there. The Shogun who initiated the aspiration to build the Kamakura statue, obviously has seeds of the dharma in him.

    Japan in the feudal age was ruled either by the Emperors or the Shoguns, Shogun ruled via their military power, and Japan then was always thrown into civil wars, and constant warfare dominated the political scene in Japan. For a shogun to have aspirations to build a statue is certainly rare.

  2. Echeah on Dec 26, 2016 at 12:39 am

    Thank you Valentina for the most comprehensive travelogue on the Kamakura Buddha. I was there last December and must say the place and the Kamakura Buddha are beautiful and serene, definitely a must-visit for anyone going to Japan. You can line up and navigate a very narrow staircase into the interior of the Buddha’s body. It is also not far from Tokyo and easily accessible. Along the road walking towards the temple from the train station are quaint old shops on both sides of the road, lovely atmosphere, still fresh in memory.

  3. Choong on Dec 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    The spirituality of Buddhism is strongly ingrained in Japanese society. The reason for this is during the Kamakura period, Buddhism became for the first time, a religion of the masses.

    Here is an excerpt from “A BRIEF HISTORY OF BUDDHISM IN JAPAN” regarding this development:

    THE KAMAKURA PERIOD (A.D. 1192–1333)

    Changes of the Kamakura Period

    Buddhism was confined to the privileged classes of court nobles, monks, scholars, and artisans who had enough time to master the complicated philosophy and rituals of Buddhism. It was in the Kamakura period that a drastic change took place in the field of religion; Buddhism became for the first time the religion of the masses.

    The old court eventually fell to a new military government which brought about the Kamakura period (1192–1333). The increasing discord and chaos of the times led to disillusionment and a call for the revival of faith. It was during these troubled time that Honen (1133–1212), Shinran (1173–1262), Eisai (1141–1215), Dogen (1200–1253), Nichiren (1222–1282), and other Buddhist leaders appeared and expounded their teachings of salvation for all.

    Source:
    PART I: A BRIEF HISTORY OF BUDDHISM IN JAPAN
    http://www.buddhanet.net/nippon/nippon_partI.html

  4. Pastor Han Nee on Dec 1, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Thank you Valentina for this great article on The Great Buddha of Kamakura.

    The most stirring aspect of this article is the sincere determination of the people who built the Great Buddha of Kamakura in Japan, especially the Lady Inada and the Priest Joko of Totomi. Despite tough challenges, they beat all odds to fulfil Lady Inada’s promise to the late Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo of the Kamakura Shogunate, who had expressed a wish (before he passed away) to build an equally colossal Buddha statue as the Great Buddha Statue of Todaiji, to promote his region Kamakura.

    The Buddha of Kamakura is the Buddha Amitabha. Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi faced many challenges such as natural disasters and a lack of funding but they persevered and never gave up. The main challenge in terms of funding was that the Kamakura Shogunate was controlled by the Hojo regents, whereas during this period in history, the Buddha Amitabha was associated with the Jodo Sect. There was little support of funds from the regents , as the Kamakura Shogunate were followers of the Hojo Sect of Buddhism. Lady Inada and the Priest Joko of Totomi who built the statue were followers of the Jodo Sect of Buddhism , who focus their devotion towards the Buddha Amitabha.

    At first the statue was made of wood. It took ten years to raise the funds to build it. Priest Joko of Totomi, at the request of Lady Inada, had to go on a challenging fund-raising journey as a mendicant priest and only then were they successful in gathering sufficient funds to build the statue. Unfortunately, in 1247, four years after its completion, the wooden statue of the Great Buddha of Kamakura was destroyed by a powerful storm. Undaunted, Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi went on to raise the necessary funds to construct a new Buddha Amitabha statue.

    Fortunately, this time they decided to build the new Great Buddha of Kamakura using bronze instead of wood. Their decision has proven to be the correct one, as the bronze Buddha they built at that time still stands today, despite inclement weather, storms and typhoons hitting the area. It even survived an earthquake and a Tsunami. Of course, this has to be attributed to the blessings of the colossal outdoor Lord Amitabha. Efforts to build a hall over the statue to protect it against harsh weather and undesirable visitors (like vagrants and gamblers, who had previously desecrated the temple grounds) proved unsuccessful.

    Nevertheless, enough funds were collected to restore the statue itself to its former glory! For this, the efforts of Priest Yuten Ken’yo (1637 – 1718 CE) from Zojoji, Tokyo, are to be lauded.

    The maintenance and repair of the great statue have been carried out unfailingly until today. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is 13.35 metres (43.8 feet) tall and weighs around 121 tons (267,000 pounds)!
    Anyone who has a chance to visit this wonderful colossus of a statue, will undoubtedly want to reflect on the fact that without the gallant efforts of people like Lady Inada, Priest Joko of Totomi and Priest Yuten Ken’yo of Zojoji, the great Buddha of Kamakura might not be still standing – tall and seemingly ‘invincible’ to the forces of time and weather.

  5. Samfoonheei on Nov 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Very beautiful …..looking at the pictures above.Very informative and inspiring story of the Great Buddha of Kamakura written by Valentina.
    Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi were the followers of the Jodo Sect of Buddhism,with their determination they embarked on a challenging fund-raising journey to build this Great Buddha of Kamakura.Great to know of the history of this Great Buddha.From what i saw and understand it is a beautiful place to visit.Good sharing Valentina.
    Thank you

  6. Bradley Kassian on Nov 29, 2016 at 1:25 am

    The Kamakura Buddha is famous around the world. I’ve seen pictures of this buddha many times. Thank you Valentina for sharing the background regarding this Buddha & holy site.

  7. Fong on Nov 28, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    A comprehensive and inspiring article of the Kamakura BUddha of Japan. This Buddha is so very iconic and people immediately identify it with Japan.

    It is a testament to the tenacity and commitment of the Lady Inada and the Buddhist priest, Joko of Totomi. They continued building the Buddha image despite the lack of funds. And, in later years, this statue was restored after it was damaged by natural disasters.

    Thank you for such a comprehensive article that should one decided to visit this holy site at the spur of the moment, we can from the history written here to the information on accommodations.

  8. Jason on Nov 28, 2016 at 3:31 am

    This is really a magnificent grand Buddha statue. I did google to know more about this statue. It also named as Daibutsu Buddha which means Great Buddha.

    Lady Inada , Buddhist priest Joko of Totomi and Priest Yuten Ken’yo have strong determination to build up and maintain Daibutsu Buddha for future generation. I salute to them.

    This article post in the right time to me because I will visit Tokyo soon. I wish I can pay homage to this Great Buddha with my family.

    Thanks Valentina sharing this article. It is very informative especially you did provide information on accommodation and transportation access to Kamakura.

    Jason

    • Valentina Suhendra on Nov 28, 2016 at 10:37 pm

      Dear Jason

      Thank you for your kind comment. I am glad that the information in the article is useful to you. Do have a fruitful trip to Japan and I hope that you will enjoy the benefits of visiting holy sites when paying homage to the Great Buddha of Kamakura.

      Valentina

  9. Ron Wong on Nov 27, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Very interesting article. It is inspiring to read about how the struggle & perseverance of Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi spiritual journey in building the Great Buddha of Kamakura. Having been completely rebuilt & refurbished several times, how amazingly the spirit of the statue has survived so many natural disaster & calamity over the last 700 years. Looking at & reading the details of the Buddha’s iconography give a sense of peace to the mind, now I know the distinct hand mudra of Buddha Amitabha the next time I see one.

    I regret that I didn’t visit the site while I was in Tokyo many years back. Will look forward to paying homage to this magnificent Buddha the next time when I am there again.

  10. Tan Soon Huat on Nov 27, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Thank You Rinpoche and Valentina for the great inspiring articleu. There are a lot of beautiful pictures attached with the article which make us understand it better.
    I was from Pure Land sect, I have special feeling to Buddha Amitabha. I wish one day the Buddha statue will be moved to the hall again to protect it from the harshed weather. The body will be pained by full gold so that it can attract more people to pay homage to Him and inspired more people to Dharma path.
    We should learn the persistency and spiritual of Priest Joko of Totomi and Lady Inada when we are building Kechara Forest Retreat. There is always challenge in Dharma path, we need the persistency and stronng Guru Devotion to overcome the challenge and make our Lama’s dream come true to spread Dharma wide and far to benefit more sentient beings.

    • Valentina Suhendra on Nov 28, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      Dear Tan Soon Huat

      Thank you for your comment. I agree with you the persistency of Priest Joko of Totomi and Lady Inada was very inspiring. It helps us to not be disheartened and move on when we are faced with obstacles and try to find an alternative way when plan A does not work.

      I hope that one day very soon, your wishes that the Great Buddha of Kamakura will be restored to its former glory will come true 🙂

      Valentina

      • Tan Soon Huat on Dec 3, 2016 at 1:01 pm

        Thank You Valentina for great article and kind reply. It might take us a few hours to read and learn from article but it took you a few days even a few weeks to compose such a meaningful article for us to learn and improve ourselves in Dharma learning. Thank You with folded hands

  11. Pastor David Lai on Nov 27, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Great article Valentina. The pictures of the Kamakura Buddha are beautiful and the story of its story poignant. All it took were 2 people, Lady Inada and Priest Joko of Totomi to build this magnificent Buddha that withstood the test of time. It is one of the most iconic Buddha statues in the world and perhaps more so than the larger statue in Todaiji.

    It does make me want to visit Kamakura to pay homage to this Buddha one day and visit the other magnificent Buddhist shrines and temples around Japan. For some strange reason, I recall having dreamt of visiting Japan and its not like a big and monumental task but its the only dream I can recall of actually travelling to a foreign country. I rather visit Japan than the Americas and its really not that far. Anyway, thank you Valentina for this wonderful article that inspired wanderlust.

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  • Alice Tay
    Thursday, Mar 30. 2017 10:01 PM
    This is really great news for having SFS campaign to help the stray dogs. Other than to urge and educate the public to treat the stray dogs with compassionately, SFS campaign encourages for all quarters to work together to spay or neuter stray animals which is an effective method to control the amount of stray dogs. Indirectly, this may reduce the suffering of stray dogs from being abused or die because of starvation.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/current-affairs/stray-free-selangor.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Thursday, Mar 30. 2017 10:00 PM
    Good news finally Selangor becaome the first state free from stray dogs. With the support of the royalties and the Selangor Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) organised the campaign to make
    the state free of stray dogs and create the awareness of compassionate love towards stray animals.They are working work towards a radical change,thats a worderful news.
    Well ,do hope more states will follow Selangor to replace the inhumane way of dealing with stray animals too.
    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing this wonderful news.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/current-affairs/stray-free-selangor.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Thursday, Mar 30. 2017 05:29 PM
    These iconographically correct Buddha images set in precious gemstones are one of its kind and unique in every sense of the word. And the designs are versatile to suit any apparels and occasions, redefining the Buddhist sense of fashion in a big way. Thank you, Rinpoche and Louise for this sharing. I hope the pendants will bring protections to the wearer and connections to the Buddha to those who admire it by sight.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/timeless-and-sacred.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Thursday, Mar 30. 2017 03:29 PM
    Very inspiring true story of a monk…Master Xuyun after going through many hardships and illness to pursue what he wanted to be. What he did was amazing travelling in harsh conditions to so many places just to preach chinese buddhism from one country to another. Master Xuyun has spent his entired life devoted to the Dharma,During the war many monasteries and holy sites was destroyed but somehow Master Xuyun managed to restore once again.Because of him ,those monasteries and holy sites were till today. He was a household name at that time and have inspired many modern spiritual seeker to strive along the path towards enlightenment.
    Thank you Pastor Adeline Woon for such an interesting and inspiring article.
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/great-lamas-masters/empty-cloud.html#tabs-7
  • Lin Mun
    Thursday, Mar 30. 2017 11:47 AM
    It is ironic that Dalai Lama would have given a remarks to discourage country such as Germany to accept refugees and that refugees should return to homeland and to build the country. I think this is really a callous statement to be mentioned. Dalai Lama being the Tibetan Buddhist leader should portray compassion and extending help to those in need. All these refugees are running away for their life because their own country is not safe to stay anymore. Just like what Tibetan has encountered in the late 1950s.

    This kind of contrary statement is also very obvious in the Dorje Shugden ban. Dorje Shugden have been practised by many high lamas since 400 years ago and also by Dalai Lama’s Guru but it is ban by Tibetan leadership.

    Dalai Lama is a high lama and is believed to be the emanation of Chenrezig. Although his statements were contrary sometimes but I believe he would have the reason that we may not understand yet. Hopefully all the issues would be resolve in peace.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/current-affairs/dalai-lama-says-too-many-refugees-in-europe.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Thursday, Mar 30. 2017 12:34 AM
    Wonderful good news to learn about this first of its kind progressive campaign to help the stray animals in Malaysia by the Sultan and Permaisuri of Selangor. While stray animals can be a nuisance to the public at large but bear in mind, the strays do not have a choice, and we have a role to play. Neutering strays is a humane and compassionate ways of resolving the program of stray animals in the long run because it largely reduces the numbers of strays on the streets. Neutering and proving proper shelters to strays can prevent thousands of animals from being born, only to suffer and struggle to survive on the streets, be abused by cruel or neglectful people, or be euthanized inhumanely. I have read somewhere that says spaying and neutering makes a big difference: Just one unaltered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in only six years. In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can produce an incredible 370,000 kittens!

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/current-affairs/stray-free-selangor.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Thursday, Mar 30. 2017 12:15 AM
    Humans and animals, as well as other sentient beings within the six realms of samsara, are subjected to the law of cyclic of existence. Karma or generally known as the law of cause and effect will determine where we take our next rebirth. It is extremely rare for sentient beings to take the form of a human body and in perfect condition. Hence we must not let this precious lifetime go to waste by indulging in silly actions and harmful ways. If we are born in the animals realms or lower, there is close to zero way for us to collect merits and get out of that realm.

    From the stories above, I find the story about Dalawong most unusual because he seemed to be able to determine the destination of his next rebirth after he was being killed as a snake. After he had taken rebirth in human form, he continued to remember the incident in his past life. Amazing!

    Thank you, Rinpoche, for sharing these researches with us.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/science-mysteries/do-animals-reincarnate-back-as-humans.html
  • Tsem Rinpoche
    Wednesday, Mar 29. 2017 09:42 PM
    If we are kind, we lose less of ourselves-Tsem Rinpoche
  • Lin Mun
    Wednesday, Mar 29. 2017 03:50 PM
    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing this article about tsa tsa. Didn’t know there are many steps and holy materials used in making a tsa tsa. In addition, the maker of tsa tsa would need to do prayer in the morning depending of what tsa tsa they are making on the day, for example, the maker will do Dorje Shugden practise before making Dorje Shugden tsa tsa.

    Only by knowing the process, we will appreciate the items more. Tsa tsa is a precious item.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/tsa-tsas-are-nice.html
  • Pastor Shin Tan
    Wednesday, Mar 29. 2017 09:28 AM
    Dalawong: A Child Recalls a Past Life as a Cobra in Thailand

    This case was actually researched by the late Francis Story, a British citizen who was fascinated with Buddhism and spent many years in Asia. He was also very interested in the topic of reincarnation and assisted Dr. Stevenson in investigating a number of very important reincarnation cases in Burma and Sri Lanka. Francis interviewed the subject of this case, a Thai boy named Dalowong, along with his father, mother and sister. He also had access to a pamphlet that was previously published regarding the case, which was also summarized in an article in the Bangkok Times.

    Dalawong actually claimed two past animal incarnations. He recalled a past lifetime as a deer, which he said was killed by a hunter. Subsequently, he stated he was reincarnated as a snake, more specifically, as a cobra.

    As the snake, Dalawong remembered that he was in a cave when two dogs entered and attacked him. A ferocious struggle ensued between the cobra and the dogs. The owner of the dogs then entered the cave and killed the snake. Apparently, the snake was able to bite the human invader on the shoulder, prior to succumbing to death.

    The human took the cobra’s body back home, where the snake was cooked for a meal. This man shared the snake meat with an acquaintance, who would become Dalawong’s father in the near future. The man who killed the cobra had the name Mr. Hiew.

    Read more here: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/science-mysteries/do-animals-reincarnate-back-as-humans.html
  • Alice Tay
    Tuesday, Mar 28. 2017 08:40 PM
    谢谢Paul Yap 为我们介绍马来西亚彭亨州文东必定参观的地方之一~克切拉禅修林。就如照片显示,克切拉禅修林的确是一个环境清幽、山明水秀以及令人有宁静舒适的感觉。

    如果有机会到马来西亚游玩,千万不要错过由Paul Yap介绍克切拉禅修林里的几个优美与神圣的地方,包括:
    1. 金泽”财王”
    2. 金刚瑜伽母佛塔
    3. 绿度母石雕像
    4. 药师佛山
    5. 梦幻文殊菩萨
    6. 詹仁波切的货柜屋
    7. 文殊山
    8. 智慧堂(释迦摩尼佛像和多杰雄登像)

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/go-bentong.html
  • Alice Tay
    Tuesday, Mar 28. 2017 08:09 PM
    The sculpture of Kuan Yin in Macau is simple but elegant. Most importantly, this big Kuan Yin in Macau is built to bring peace, harmony and prosperity to the people.

    I remember Rinpoche mentioned before a big Buddha statue will have positive impact on the environment and plant the Buddha’s seeds in all sentient beings that not only humans but also including animals and many others. Therefore, the bigger Buddha statue the more beneficial to all sentient beings where they can see and be blessed by this big Buddha statue from far.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/art-architecture/kuan-yin-of-macau-city.html
  • Lin Mun
    Tuesday, Mar 28. 2017 03:29 PM
    Krishnan’s effort and hard work in contributing to the society is very inspiring. He is willing to let go of his high paying job to Switzerland and staying back in India to operate a soup kitchen for homeless. On top of that he is willing to accept the hardship of financial restraint every month in maintaining his service for the people living in the street. I hope his good work will bring more awareness and sponsors for him especially when CNN showed the video of his work and awarded him with top 10 CNN heroes.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/chef-turned-hero.html
  • Pastor Shin Tan
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 06:42 PM
    According to the Buddhist teachings, we all have a unique blend of karma that determines where we are born, the circumstances of our birth and the quality of our life. Naturally, this is due to the actions that we performed in previous lives. Karma also dictates our characteristics and traits that determine how we act throughout our lives, which in turn leads to certain outcomes in this life and a determination of where we will take rebirth in the future.

    Karma, however, is not set in stone. We can change our circumstances through our own efforts – purification of karma and accumulation of merit. Tibetan astrology, based on these Buddhist principles, provides us the methods to ensure success in this life and a good rebirth in the future. Tibetan astrology can also predict what will happen to us in this life and our next rebirth based on the time of our birth.

    Discover your traits according to the Mewa, or Magical Square system of Tibetan astrology below, and find out how to purify your negative karma to improve your life!

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/tibetan-astrology/tibetan-astrology.html
  • Tsem Rinpoche
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 05:24 PM
    Very interesting:


    Radin explained in his book: “For a Western-trained academic, the mere existence of, say, telepathy would be considered supernormal and thus wildly extraordinary. But for an experienced yogi, it’s just a boringly normal minor siddhi [a Sanskrit term for a meditation attainment, or power]. A skeptical scientist, not having the benefit of thousands of hours of practice in yoga and meditation, would require repeatable, rigorously obtained experimental data showing odds against chance of a gazillion to one. The yogi merely requires his own experience.”


    Very interesting read: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2157904-supernormal-abilities-developed-through-meditation-dr-dean-radin-discusses/?sidebar=morein

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

CREDITS

Concept: Tsem Rinpoche
Technical: Lew Kwan Leng, Justin Ripley, Yong Swee Keong
Design: Justin Ripley, Cynthia Lee
Content: Tsem Rinpoche, Justin Ripley, Pastor Shin Tan, Sarah Yap
Writer: Pastor Loh Seng Piow
Admin: Pastor Loh Seng Piow, Beng Kooi

I must thank my dharma blog team who are great assets to me, Kechara and growth of dharma in this wonderful region. I am honoured and thrilled to work with them. I really am. Maybe I don't say it enough to them, but I am saying it now. I APPRECIATE THESE GUYS VERY MUCH!

Tsem Rinpoche

What Am I Writing Now

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The Unknown

The Known and unknown are both feared,
Known is being comfortable and stagnant,
The unknown may be growth and opportunities,
One shall never know if one fears the unknown more than the known.
Who says the unknown would be worse than the known?
But then again, the unknown is sometimes worse than the known. In the end nothing is known unless we endeavour,
So go pursue all the way with the unknown,
because all unknown with familiarity becomes the known.
~Tsem Rinpoche

Photos On The Go

Click on the images to view the bigger version. And scroll down and click on "View All Photos" to view more images.
If we are kind, we lose less of ourselves-Tsem Rinpoche
yesterday
If we are kind, we lose less of ourselves-Tsem Rinpoche
My Mumu boy didn\'t want to eat. Eating is not one of his favorite activities throughout his life. So I talked to him to let him know why he needs to eat and keep his strength up when this photo was taken. He was listening intently and after my talk with him, he ate. Tsem Rinpoche
yesterday
My Mumu boy didn't want to eat. Eating is not one of his favorite activities throughout his life. So I talked to him to let him know why he needs to eat and keep his strength up when this photo was taken. He was listening intently and after my talk with him, he ate. Tsem Rinpoche
This is so true. Click to enlarge and understand more about unpleasant people.
yesterday
This is so true. Click to enlarge and understand more about unpleasant people.
This mahasiddha Kukkuripa is easy to identify as he is accompanied by a small dog whom he loved very much.
4 days ago
This mahasiddha Kukkuripa is easy to identify as he is accompanied by a small dog whom he loved very much.
Mumu taking a rest in the turquoise room. Over the years, I always feel very satisfied when I see him covered with a blanket, safe and sleeping. I always wanted to make sure he was safe from harm, illness and distress. I wanted him to have a happy and loved life. Tsem Rinpoche
4 days ago
Mumu taking a rest in the turquoise room. Over the years, I always feel very satisfied when I see him covered with a blanket, safe and sleeping. I always wanted to make sure he was safe from harm, illness and distress. I wanted him to have a happy and loved life. Tsem Rinpoche
I wrapped my little Mumu boy up in my blanket and propped him up on my bed. He didn\'t move or wiggle and just looked at me. He is one funny entertaining little guy. Tsem Rinpoche
4 days ago
I wrapped my little Mumu boy up in my blanket and propped him up on my bed. He didn't move or wiggle and just looked at me. He is one funny entertaining little guy. Tsem Rinpoche
March 2017-Coaxing my little Mumu boy to eat his meal. He was not well and therefore not hungry. Tsem Rinpoche
4 days ago
March 2017-Coaxing my little Mumu boy to eat his meal. He was not well and therefore not hungry. Tsem Rinpoche
Click on picture to enlarge and see what Milarepa says. Profound.
2 weeks ago
Click on picture to enlarge and see what Milarepa says. Profound.
We are always trying to get somewhere, try something new, find some friends, get some entertainment and in the end we end up in the same place. Time to really practice Dharma seriously and stop wasting time we don\'t have. ~Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
We are always trying to get somewhere, try something new, find some friends, get some entertainment and in the end we end up in the same place. Time to really practice Dharma seriously and stop wasting time we don't have. ~Tsem Rinpoche
March 20, 2017-Mumu is just so adorable with his bright eyes.
2 weeks ago
March 20, 2017-Mumu is just so adorable with his bright eyes.
More and more people inviting Lord Dorje Shugden home to connect with on their shrines. I am so happy to see this as it will benefit them and their families so much. That is the purpose to be alive which is to benefit others as much as possible. Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
More and more people inviting Lord Dorje Shugden home to connect with on their shrines. I am so happy to see this as it will benefit them and their families so much. That is the purpose to be alive which is to benefit others as much as possible. Tsem Rinpoche
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
2 weeks ago
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
2 weeks ago
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
The Japanese are very innovative. Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
The Japanese are very innovative. Tsem Rinpoche
Read this as it will be interesting
2 weeks ago
Read this as it will be interesting
Recite this before any meal or drinks for blessings of abundance. Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
Recite this before any meal or drinks for blessings of abundance. Tsem Rinpoche
This sacred statue of Buddha is in Nepal brought originally from Tibet and has spoken on many occasions. Very blessed to see this holy image and keep a picture...bless you always. Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
This sacred statue of Buddha is in Nepal brought originally from Tibet and has spoken on many occasions. Very blessed to see this holy image and keep a picture...bless you always. Tsem Rinpoche
I love Mumu boy tremendously. We went through so much together for so many years. You are a great being to be with. Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
I love Mumu boy tremendously. We went through so much together for so many years. You are a great being to be with. Tsem Rinpoche
Dear everyone, I am sharing this beautiful and modern altar to Dorje Shugden in Malaysia. I am glad to see more and more people creating sacred spaces. Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
Dear everyone, I am sharing this beautiful and modern altar to Dorje Shugden in Malaysia. I am glad to see more and more people creating sacred spaces. Tsem Rinpoche
Lhamo Karmo, a female buddha form visualized above the crown of one\'s head at the time of death, to encourage consciousness to leave the body via the crown aperture. From my book \"The Female Buddhas.\"- Glenn Mullin
3 weeks ago
Lhamo Karmo, a female buddha form visualized above the crown of one's head at the time of death, to encourage consciousness to leave the body via the crown aperture. From my book "The Female Buddhas."- Glenn Mullin
The Tibetan female tulku Dorje Pakmo, from a fresco on the wall of the Dorje Pakmo monastery (Samding) in Tibet, near the Turquoise Lake. In Tibet the Dorje Pakmo was ranked with the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Sakya Trizin as the four highest lamas in the country.-from Glenn Mullin
3 weeks ago
The Tibetan female tulku Dorje Pakmo, from a fresco on the wall of the Dorje Pakmo monastery (Samding) in Tibet, near the Turquoise Lake. In Tibet the Dorje Pakmo was ranked with the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Sakya Trizin as the four highest lamas in the country.-from Glenn Mullin
Dharma boy, Mumu boy and Oser girl checking out the scene..cute
1 month ago
Dharma boy, Mumu boy and Oser girl checking out the scene..cute
My Dharma boy has such a cute expression here. He is a good boy!
1 month ago
My Dharma boy has such a cute expression here. He is a good boy!
February 9,2017-My Mumu boy and Oser girl are just relaxing together..super cute
2 months ago
February 9,2017-My Mumu boy and Oser girl are just relaxing together..super cute
Click on the picture to enlarge and see what Suzy from Hawaii commented on the Dorje Shugden issue after much research. She is very candid and honest. Refreshing. Original is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-4lIwxph4
2 months ago
Click on the picture to enlarge and see what Suzy from Hawaii commented on the Dorje Shugden issue after much research. She is very candid and honest. Refreshing. Original is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-4lIwxph4
This is a good one to read
2 months ago
This is a good one to read
Mumu is silly and cute and funny
2 months ago
Mumu is silly and cute and funny
Mumu\'s hair is messy and he looks funny
2 months ago
Mumu's hair is messy and he looks funny
I am in the process of creating beautiful Dorje Shugden and Kechara Forest Retreat watches at this time. So we can take precious protector and Kechara Forest Retreat wherever we go and be blessed everytime we see what time it is. 
I am perfecting the designs with a great team and will update when done but these are just some samples that arrived. 
Feast your eyes! 

Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
I am in the process of creating beautiful Dorje Shugden and Kechara Forest Retreat watches at this time. So we can take precious protector and Kechara Forest Retreat wherever we go and be blessed everytime we see what time it is. I am perfecting the designs with a great team and will update when done but these are just some samples that arrived. Feast your eyes! Tsem Rinpoche
                        Pick the practice, devotion and precepts of Vajra Yogini\'s path over everything and anything in samsara. Samsara has nothing of value and nothing lasting to offer. You are born in suffering, live in suffering, die in suffering and enter bardo and future lives expecting more sufferings. This is not a negative way of looking at things but the truth. If the truth is negative, so it is the truth. Devote oneself to the guru, dharma work, dharma practice and bringing dharma to others compassionately. Choose to practice Vajra Yogini now with the preliminaries. You can start right now: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/starting-on-vajra-yogini-now.html  Much care, Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
Pick the practice, devotion and precepts of Vajra Yogini's path over everything and anything in samsara. Samsara has nothing of value and nothing lasting to offer. You are born in suffering, live in suffering, die in suffering and enter bardo and future lives expecting more sufferings. This is not a negative way of looking at things but the truth. If the truth is negative, so it is the truth. Devote oneself to the guru, dharma work, dharma practice and bringing dharma to others compassionately. Choose to practice Vajra Yogini now with the preliminaries. You can start right now: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/starting-on-vajra-yogini-now.html Much care, Tsem Rinpoche
Message to Tibetans in English
3 months ago
Message to Tibetans in English
Message to the Tibetans
3 months ago
Message to the Tibetans
Left to right: Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal. Great lamas of Gaden Shartse Monastery
3 months ago
Left to right: Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal. Great lamas of Gaden Shartse Monastery
A beautiful Indian rendition of Gyenze Dorje Shugden manifesting in wealth form
3 months ago
A beautiful Indian rendition of Gyenze Dorje Shugden manifesting in wealth form
This is my thoughts and determination to share with you. Please open and read. Thank you for your time. Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
This is my thoughts and determination to share with you. Please open and read. Thank you for your time. Tsem Rinpoche
Nepalese King Birendra receives His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche in Nepal
4 months ago
Nepalese King Birendra receives His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche in Nepal
Guess what Zava Damdin Rinpoche did in Mongolia recently with 7,800 people??? Very interesting and it is a must read:  http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=116206
4 months ago
Guess what Zava Damdin Rinpoche did in Mongolia recently with 7,800 people??? Very interesting and it is a must read:  http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=116206
This huge Buddha in Korea is magnificent
4 months ago
This huge Buddha in Korea is magnificent
The very first oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance statue. I have commissioned this.
4 months ago
The very first oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance statue. I have commissioned this.
Such a old and ancient thangka painting of Dorje Shugden. He has been around in Tibet practiced for hundreds of years.
4 months ago
Such a old and ancient thangka painting of Dorje Shugden. He has been around in Tibet practiced for hundreds of years.
One of the "Four Exalted Brothers" Avalokiteshvara statues, Phagpa Wati of Kyirong, which is now with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
4 months ago
One of the "Four Exalted Brothers" Avalokiteshvara statues, Phagpa Wati of Kyirong, which is now with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
Kyabje Zemey, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche
4 months ago
Kyabje Zemey, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche
My Oser girl and Mumu boy are so adorable
4 months ago
My Oser girl and Mumu boy are so adorable
Wow this meditator in his cave in front of a painting of Yamantaka draped with a white khata of respect. He sits among bones to remind him of impermanence and our future. The bones inspire him strongly to let go of all attachments in this life and focus on dharma, meditation and liberation and he is doing so. Very beautiful and inspirational. Tsem Rinpoche
4 months ago
Wow this meditator in his cave in front of a painting of Yamantaka draped with a white khata of respect. He sits among bones to remind him of impermanence and our future. The bones inspire him strongly to let go of all attachments in this life and focus on dharma, meditation and liberation and he is doing so. Very beautiful and inspirational. Tsem Rinpoche
Tenzing Norgay found this in Nepal. Guess what it is?
5 months ago
Tenzing Norgay found this in Nepal. Guess what it is?
Sir Edmund Hillary
5 months ago
Sir Edmund Hillary
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Wild natural plants and flowers are my favorite offering. Buddha\'s teachings on meditation and Yidam practice bring the ultimate results and happiness. ~Tsem Rinpoche
5 months ago
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Wild natural plants and flowers are my favorite offering. Buddha's teachings on meditation and Yidam practice bring the ultimate results and happiness. ~Tsem Rinpoche
Click on "View All Photos" above to view more images

Videos On The Go

Please click on the images to watch video
  • Japan's greatest modern day artist, Yayoi Kusama
    yesterday
    Japan's greatest modern day artist, Yayoi Kusama
  • Please watch this video, it's heartbreaking to see how people have to suffer.
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    Please watch this video, it's heartbreaking to see how people have to suffer.
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    Lady saves puppy from potential abuser
  • Mr. Denzel Washington is a very intelligent man. Tsem Rinpoche
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    Mr. Denzel Washington is a very intelligent man. Tsem Rinpoche
  • Dear friends, please see this educational video on suffering for the sake of others.
    3 weeks ago
    Dear friends, please see this educational video on suffering for the sake of others.
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    A very neat footage of Bigfoot captured by Patterson-Gimlin.
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu darling is a very good boy.
    2 months ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu darling is a very good boy.
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu wants to go bye bye!
    2 months ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu wants to go bye bye!
  • [11/02/2017] I love you mumu boy
    2 months ago
    [11/02/2017] I love you mumu boy
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu and Oser eating together.
    2 months ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu and Oser eating together.
  • Great spiritual rock carving in Tibet
    2 months ago
    Great spiritual rock carving in Tibet
  • You will Never be Ready
    3 months ago
    You will Never be Ready
    Dear friends, watch this video and ready, if we keep waiting till we are ready, that day will never come. Tsem Rinpoche
  • Stop asking for Easy
    3 months ago
    Stop asking for Easy
    This video is powerful because it's the truth. It applies to anything. It applies to our dharma practice. Watch the video and share it. Tsem Rinpoche
  • Must Watch this Video!
    4 months ago
    Must Watch this Video!
  • Sacred Tibetan Incense - Nyimo County, Lhasa, Tibet
    5 months ago
    Sacred Tibetan Incense - Nyimo County, Lhasa, Tibet

ASK A PASTOR


Ask the Pastors

A section for you to clarify your Dharma questions with Kechara’s esteemed pastors.

Just post your name and your question below and one of our pastors will provide you with an answer.

Scroll down and click on "View All Questions" to view archived questions.

  • March 28, 2017 09:11
    Lia asked: If the ushnisha is actually supposed to be a bump, then do we change the visualization of the top knot and replace it with a bump covered in hair or do we keep the ushnisha as the thangkas show?
    No reply yet
  • March 27, 2017 04:19
    Dongho asked: I have been reading on the tunes of certain sects and would like to ask on this. From what I've read, there are certain tunes to each sect and school of certain chants. Exactly where can I find the sheet music for these percussion and horns with the chants, such as to the one for invoking Kache Marpo or Dorje Shugden? Would it be possible to use school instruments for this?
    pastor answered: Dear Dongho, Thank you for your question, it is good to see you back and asking more questions. Yes you are right, there are differences in the tunes and chants between the lineages. The differences can vary significantly between the traditions, for example the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism is known for its extremely deep throat singing which is very powerful and is characterised by a low, booming voice, in contrast to the other traditions. Even within a particular tradition, there can be slight variations as to the manner in which the chants and tunes are performed. For example those monasteries are which are affiliated with Gyume will have one way of throat singing, where those affiliated with Gyuto will have another. As far as I am aware there is no professional sheet music for the rituals, most probably because the music is actually an integral part of the ritual itself. Therefore the music, tunes, and chants are all taught at the same time the ritual and prayers are. The tunes, and use of the instruments all have specific meanings, because they are considered to be offerings to the deities in the form of sound. The monasteries would not have copies of sheet music either, because sheet music is western practice. The use of ritual music within Tibetan Buddhism is more of one based on memory. In the Kechara organisation, the puja team was trained in such ritual instruments at the same time they learnt the particular ritual from monks from the monastery, such as the puja of Dorje Shugden. From what I saw of the training, the musical tunes, and use of instruments was not written down but taught experientially at the same time as the chanting. I have not come across any other instruments being used in pujas apart from the traditional ritual instruments, because even the instruments themselves have a specific meaning. That is not say that school instruments cannot be used. This is because, as long as the offering is sincere, the Buddhas and enlightened deities will accept it, and in turn you will generate great amounts of merit. Offerings should be made to the best of our ability, therefore if you do not have access to the ritual instruments, or do not know how to play them, but you know how to play other instruments, and use these instruments as offerings to the Buddhas during pujas, the amount of merit you generate will be the same. This is because you are sincere with your offering. I hope this helps. Thank you.
  • March 26, 2017 02:14
    Kunga asked: Does the Gelug have Begtse a protector? If so, could you please provide a sadhana for him here?
    pastor answered: Dear Kunga, Yes the Dharma protector Begtse exists within the Gelug tradition. He is also known as Chamsing. Begtse’s practice stems from India and was introduced to Tibet and therefore Tibetan Buddhism by the translator Nyen Lotsawa. Marpa Lotsawa also practiced Begtse, and so the practice exists in the Kagyu traditions. This practice was eventually transmitted to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the first of the five patriarchs of the Sakya tradition, who were the founding fathers of that tradition. Over time the practice of Begtse was incorporated into the Gelug tradition, founded by Lama Tsongkhapa, and was notably practiced by the 1st and 2nd Dalai Lamas. Over time the practice gained popularity within the lineage, especially when it spread to Mongolia. There the practice became an important one within the lineage as upheld there. Begtse is also affectionately known as the Dharma protector of Mongolia, because his practice is so popular there. If I am not mistaken, there is an oracle of Begtse in Mongolia as well. There is a mistaken account that the practice originated around the time of the 3rd Dalai Lama, with the subjugation of a Mongolian war god, but Begtse was definitely practiced before that time in the Gelug, Kagyu and Sakya traditions. While the practice of Begtse is very effective, I have not come across the practice of Begtse in my personal practice, therefore I do not have access to the Begtse sadhana to provide to you. Instead Begtse is propitiated in prayers that incorporate many other Dharma protectors, and Begtse is also considered one of the nine protectors of the Hayagriva (Tamdrin) cycle of tantric teachings. Therefore Begtse is included in the Dharma protector sections of the Hayagriva tantras. Surrounding Begtse are his sister, Sing Ma, and his main minister, Le Khan Mar Po. His inner retinue comprises of eight butchers who wield copper swords in their right hands and skull-cups full of blood in their left hands. They are portrayed as naked and are very ugly. His outer retinue comprises a further twenty-one butchers, who hold copper swords in their right hands, and this time, the entrails of butchered enemies. They wear the skins humans and oxen as clothes, with ornaments made from human bone. While this may seem violent, Begtse is actually a very powerful and beneficial protector, who helps practitioners clear their obstacles and create conducive conditions for their spiritual evolution. I hope this helps. Thank you.
  • March 24, 2017 20:12
    Azair asked: Venerable Rinpoche, I am doing a study in Kalachakra Tantra and I've heard from most of the lama's too that if you practice the Kalachakra Tantra, you'll be able to take control of your next rebirth. Ofcourse, it has been said that we will get our rebirth according to our Karma and desires but whether those dreams will get fulfilled will depend upon the actions that we take in this life. Thus, practicing the Kalachakra(till the end) after initiation will give you the opportunity to take rebirth anywhere you desire regardless of your Karma. My question is that, is there some truth in this statement.? Does this statement hold true for other tantra practices, such as Vajrayogini Tantra, Ghuyasamaja Tantra, Heruka Tantra, etc. I would really really like to know. Thankyou in anticipation, regards, Azair
    pastor answered: Dear Azair, Thank you for your question. Yes there is truth to this statement, both from a scriptural perspective and also by example, as the great masters have shown us. This is a unique feature of all Anuttarayoga Tantras or Highest Yoga Tantras, which Kalachakra, Vajrayogini, Guhyasama and Heruka are all examples of. This category of tantric practice can actually lead a practitioner to full enlightenment in this very lifetime. Even if enlightenment is not reached, very high levels of attainment can be reached nonetheless. This includes the ability to take control over your next rebirth. This is primarily engaged in so that the practitioner is born in an environment where they can eventually pick up their practice and further their spiritual path to enlightenment, or in order to be born in a place where they can benefit sentient beings the most, as part of the spiritual journey over many lifetimes. One of the reasons such an ability is very necessary on the spiritual path, is that usual death and rebirth occurs at the mercy of ones karma, specifically what is known as the ‘throwing karma’ or the karma that dictates what sort of rebirth a person is going to take. This opens up at the time of ordinary death, which most people have no control over. During the death process, many of our disturbing emotions will arise. Whichever of these is the strongest at the point of death triggers open a latent karmic potential, which becomes the ‘throwing karma’ and dictates where we are going to take rebirth and if that life will generally be full of suffering or not. Within Anuttarayoga Tantra, one of the key points of practice is to prepare for one’s death. This is done by simulating the dying process during one’s meditations, so that one becomes familiar with it. At the most pivotal part of this process, one practices achieving either the rainbow body or great bliss (in the case of the father tantras); or clear light (in the case of mother tantras). The tantras themselves are not defined in terms of the gender of the central deity, but by the method used to gain enlightenment. This is either the rainbow body/great bliss (classified as male, therefore labelled ‘father’) or clear light (classified as female, therefore labelled ‘mother’). Non-dual tantras such as the Kalachakra tantra can employ either of the two methods, a mixture of both, or alternate methods. In the case of superior practitioners, due to the power of their practice, they can achieve either of these two methods in their current body. Since they have familiarised themselves with the dying process, and a particular method of practice, they can also achieve enlightenment during their physical death. The great Lama Tsongkhapa is said to have achieved enlightenment at the moment of physical death, using the second of these. For other practitioners, they may not be able to achieve this either in their meditations while they are alive, or during the death process. However because they have familiarised themselves with the dying process, they remain in complete concentration at the time of death, not allowing any disturbing emotions to arise. Due to this level of concentration, meditation and awareness during the dying process, they are able to control where they next take rebirth. This is evident in the tantric scriptures themselves, and the life stories of many masters, who can state exactly where, when and to whom they will take their next rebirth, as they are in full control of the dying and rebirth process. There is a type of meditation called ‘thukdam’ which has been translated into ‘death meditation’. This is a final meditation some masters choose to engage in. During this meditation, the master themselves consciously begin the physical dying process themselves, engage in the meditation of dissolving the winds into the heart centre and remain in the most pivotal part of the death process, the mind of clear light of death. During this point they engage in meditations, either the methods of the father or mother tantras as mentioned previously, and or consciously choose where they are to next take rebirth. They can remain in this death meditation for long periods of time, days at an end, in which their consciousness has not yet left their body, although for all intents and purposes they are dead according to medical science, e.g. they have no heartbeat. At the end of their meditation, a drop of blood will be emitted from their nostril, and their head will slump over a little. Masters who engage in this meditation usually sit in full meditation posture, and their body remain supple and soft even though they have passed away from a medical point of view. I hope this brief explanation helps. Thank you.
  • March 23, 2017 23:01
    Brad asked: What is the significance of offering the Seven precious emblems of royalty to the Buddhas and enlightened Dharma Protectors? What are we symbolically offering up?
    pastor answered: Dear Brad, Thank you for your question. The ‘saptaratna’ or seven precious emblems represent on the one hand the ultimate state of temporal power, and on the other hand the ultimate spiritual attainments that we can achieve. By offering these to the Buddhas, we are actually creating the causes to achieve what they represent. Therefore it is good to know the meaning of each, so we can understand what we are creating the causes for by offering them up: Please see below for an explanation of the seven royal emblems: 1. The Precious Wheel: a thousand spoked wheel, representing the universal power of the Buddhas, as well as the teachings of the thousand Buddhas of our aeon. It is represented by the Dharmachakra, symbolising the ‘turning of the wheel’ or teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path. It is a symbol of a universal emperor’s spiritual and temporal power. It is also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect mindfulness, especially that of our own mind, thoughts, delusions and afflictions. 2. The Precious Jewel: an eight sided wish-granting gem, which fulfils all the needs of a universal emperor. This jewel has eight special qualities: it illuminates the night sky for hundreds of leagues; it is cooling when the temperature is hot and warming when the temperature is cold; it makes manifest whatever the holder wants; when thirsty it causes a fresh-water spring to appear; it has the ability to control the nagas, and other supernatural beings, as well as preventing natural disasters such as storms, floods, etc.; it gives off multi-coloured lighted which heals the various mental and emotional afflictions; it cures all illnesses; and it ensures that one dies a natural death, not an untimely one. It is a symbol of a universal emperor’s spiritual and temporal power. It is also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect mindfulness, or perfect discrimination, so one knows what to abandon and what to keep in the mindstream during the spiritual journey to enlightenment. 3. The Precious Queen: the most beautiful and virtuous of all women. She is described as a goddess who is the epitome of someone: with devotion; without jealousy; who is the embodiment of fertility; who works for the welfare of all beings; who possess feminine wisdom; speaks the truth; not attract to sensual pleasures or material possessions; and does not have false views. She is adored by all. She also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect effort. This is necessary to keep meditating until one gains spiritual attainments. 4. The Precious Minister: who has sharp intelligence, patience, and the ability to give wise counsel to the emperor. He is so attuned to the emperor that even before the emperor has spoken, the minister is already carrying out his command. He only wishes to support the Dharma, help sentient beings, and is an excellent strategist. He also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect joy. This is also akin to the attainment of the first bodhisattva level, because you have come to an understanding of your own mind, which is like pouring ice-cold water into boiling water. The water stops boiling, as does the thoughts, projections, and delusions in the mind. He represents the path of the bodhisattva. 5. The Precious Elephant: who has the strength of a thousand normal elephants. He is white, with the perfect features that an elephant could have. He is majestic, graceful, and gentle, but in battle is fearsome, fearless and unyielding. He communicates with the emperor through a telepathic link. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect adaptability. This is important, as one needs to be able to adapt to the various mental afflictions as they arise, and suitably counter them. 6. The Precious Horse: who has all the marks of a celestial horse. Known as wind-horse, he is able to travel extremely fast, and can circumambulate the entire universe three time in just a single day. He is never fearful or startled, never makes a sound when galloping, and has extremely soft hairs on his body. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is single-pointed concentration. This is important because without this form of concentration, once cannot engage in the analytical meditations that lead to an understanding of emptiness, and therefore enlightenment. 7. The Precious General: who has mastered the arts of war and always wins in battle. He wears battle armour and holds many different weapons. He tries to avoid battle, but when necessary fights, and never gives up until he has won. He is fearless, and courageous in carrying out the emperors commands and ensures the emperors army carries out their duties. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect equanimity. This is because he overcomes all warfare, which is akin to the battle between things were are attached to and things we have an aversion for in our minds. In short, what you are offering up is the highest of all temporal treasures and abilities, as well as the entire path of the Dharma. Doing so creates the causes for you to receive all of this on your spiritual journey towards enlightenment. I hope this helps. Thank you.
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