Saturday, December 02, 2006

DaiBustu, Todai-ji, and Awesome Buddha stuff!

This is the famous five fier Buddhist pagoda 塔 in Nara city 奈良市, Japan. After our Universal Studios trip Sayaka and I decided to drive the extra hour to Nara to visit one of Japan's most famous historical cite. Nara was initially the first 'Capital City' of Japan, followed by Kyoto, and finally to Tokyo.

This is the Todaiji 東大寺 Temple which houses the largest indoor Buddha statue ever constructed. The Buddha statue sits a whopping 15 meters (53 ft.) tall (and weighs 500 metric tons) in its cross legged meditational stance. Although the Buddha is quite large and quite famous, it is only second in fame to the wooden structure of the Todai temple which surrounds it. The temple is the largest structure ever made out of wood and is catagorized as a World Artifcact along with the Great Wall of China and Egyptian pyramids. At Emperor Shomu's issue in the 8th century, the DaiButsu was established in 745 A.D. and consumed most of Japan's bronze reserve for six years until its completion in 751. Over two-million workers labored to build this massive Buddha.

This is the smaller, 'englightened' form of the Buddha. Notice the rays of light extending from his body.
Here's a close up of the Buddha doing something with his middle finger.

Above you can see the size and contrast of the enormous Buddha statue and the many tourists, many of whom were native Japanese curious about their own historical wonders, all of us were in awe of the mamoth monument. Bellow is one of the largest 'Buddhist' bells I've ever seen. It seems everything in 'Buddhism' is either very larger or very old. Anyway, every Buddhist temple has a bell which traditionally was used as a chime to alert others of the time, season, and special ceremonial events. Now such bells are reserved for only traditional ceremonies, mostly because they are so darn loud that using them all the time would disrupt the tranquil harmony and peace around Japan.

Here Sayaka gets hounded by several deer who were bent on getting an afternoon 'snack'. The deer have no fear of human's, mostly because (again) Japanese culture is peaceful. This reflects Japanese society -everything is about being 'one-big-family' and not causing a ruckus for others. In America I'm afraid you'd have ill-parented rambunctious tweeny-highschoolers running around trying to stick fire-crackers up the deer's hind end, not to mention ride and herrass the poor deer to death.

The main difference in cultures here is obvious -American's lack 'social' grace because they're not worried about what others might think and society as a whole. As such, we Americans' are often more concerned with our own sittuation -not anyone elses. Recently this type of thinking has become an epidemic -because as you maywell know 'America' has an extremely negative world-view at the moment. Thus you get a never ending string of 'desperate for attention do-what-I-wanters' who think its amusing to misbehave at the sake of others. This type of arogant and unsympathetic attitude is definately one of the reasons I think most American's have a poor image and reputation around the world today.

Here I am standing before the huge temple. Walking into the temple I couldn't help but notice the wood pillars supporting it. What amazed me was that the pillars were single logs, unaltered, but aparently cut down from ancient 'gigantic' trees. I doubt such trees exist in the world today, and I was taken aback by the grandure and beauty of this monumental construct.

A begging Monk. They ask for charity, which would seem to go against the main concepts of 'Buddhism' but how else are you going to maintain a multi-million dollar maintenence program on such world artifcacts like the 'Daibustu' and 'Todaiji'? Not to mention a few thousands other such relics, statues, and sacred temples. Also because these monks believe in 'ownership' to a degree, they have constructed a vast amount of artwork to coincide with their beliefs. From the Toba-e scrolls to large idolic statues, magnificent architecture, contemporary 'omamori' お守りgood luck charms sold by professional caligraphy monks, the artistic 'image' of Buddhism has survived and managed to export itself to outside cultures, which otherwise, would never have picked up on the religion. Even to Sumo wrestling, a Buddhist fertility ritual now a major athletic sport, has played a big part in the world-wide recognition of Buddhism and the tradditional customs of Japan.

We were lucky to catch the Autumn folliage as it reached its most vivid colors. Nara is also famous for all the crazy deer they let loose around the part. I had to constantly dodge and shoo away deer who were getting in my pictures as they were begging for food. The smart deer would lay down in front of the entrances of the temples trying to give you their big 'bambi' eyes in hopes of sympathy servings of food. Between the monks and the deer I didn't know who needed more charity, and so I kicked a few of each and sent them on their way. No, just kidding. I wouldn't kick those poor cute deer, but those darn pesky monks, they had a thing or two comming to them! (Thank you folks, I'm here all night!)

Heres is a large temple for prayer, cleansing, and reflection. Even though most Japanese consider themselves 'non-religious', which is true, almost all of them have a keen sense of ancestor worship 'built in' or 'hard-wired' into their daily cultural values. That's why you will see even the most 'non-religious' Japanese folk stopping to pray and cleanse themselves with burning incense. It's not seen as religous, but rather, traditional in a cultural sense. I guess it's nice to have thousands of years of History and Tradition to rely upon. Which is probably a larger reason for Japanese societies over-all pleasantness. Nobody has been too overly concerned with 'religion' for thousands of years -because Buddhism is the staple belief and has led to Era after Era of unwaving peace. Compared to other parts of the world, I'd say this feat is unrivalled by anything in History.

Initially there were two such pagoda temples constructed, each standing over 100 meters high, but sadly they didn't survived a larger Earthquake -which also ruined the first Daibustu Buddha. Although the Buddha got rebuilt several time throughout history, only several slightly smaller 60 ft. tall pagodas remains. At the time, the two pagoda's were the tallest structures in the world, only rivalled by the largest pyramids in Egypt. The pagoda behind me is one of my favorite 'Japan' sights, and definately impressed me.


Anonymous said...

Very beautiful, awsome you got to see that :+). I think charity is part of any spiritual path, money is just part of life and like you say, how else are poeple going to maintan these places, some things just cost money, and it's part of the giving and recieving cicle :+).

Kanji_chan said...

konnichi wa!
sooo interesting! i loove the pictures.u can guarantee me as a life-time fan of ur blog since im #1 japan fan!!
A friend directed me 2 ur blog. plz visit mine too ;)
yoroshiku ne!( ^_')b


Tristan Vick said...

Thanks for being a regular here! It's always nice to knwo that sharing my adventures with others can be beneficial in spreading cultural knowledge.


Thank you. I'm glad to recieve a rave review from a new subscriber. I hope you continue read my adventures and learn more about Japan and Japanese culture. Glad to have you on board!