18 November 2015

The Kamakura Buddha

Peeking through the trees
Do you miss the shade?
And ages and ages pass

The Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura), located in Kotoku-in temple, has many moods. Sit watching the statue for hours. Go behind a building and come back. It's different. Eternally different. Time floats there. Existence is deep beneath the sea of satisfaction.

All day, endless waves of humanity break at the foot of the statue. Plenty of foreigners, but mainly the flower of Japanese youth and the wizened trunk of their aged.

A nice grandma took my photo after I took hers with her friends. Some school boys wanted to practice their English and then took a group photo with me. Ten minutes later one of them came back with a present for me which was very sweet. Five origami cranes on a ribbon.

Many visitors are seeking selfies, if not the self. Buddha doesn't mind. Never mind. No.

Speaking of wizened trunks, everywhere in the grounds the sculptural magnificence of old trees is carefully nurtured and maintained.

What did we do before the camera when visiting such places? The idea we cherished silence and prayed or meditated more is a noble thought, but probably not true.

After around 750 years in the same spot the Buddha is qualified to say, but he is not talking right now.

There are endless stories of existence still to be told, but I can only tell you mine, although, to be honest, my favourite song to sing is someone else's song.

You can even look inside the Buddha, for around just 25 cents, but you will need to look inside yourself to find his heart of silence-trance.

I had many excellent powerful meditation experiences there.

It is the Amitābha Buddha - the Buddha of measureless light.

In the end, I visited this temple three times, including getting there at the 8am opening time on a Saturday! At that time of day, I practically had the place to myself and I was looking forward to some lovely silence, but gardeners and other staff were walking around cleaning: the leaf-blower man taught me sound-world-detachment. The staff had such excellent smiles when I talked to them or said hello.

Every time I visited this temple, I found it quite hard to leave, especially seeing they had matcha soft serve ice cream available for 300 yen at one of their gift shops.

What more can you ask for?

My hint is walk to this temple from Kita Kamakura, which is the stop before Kamakura if you are coming from Tokyo. I get lost quite easily, but this really is a simple thing to do. Get off at Kita-Kamakura (where there are of course at least four lovely temples anyway) cross the train tracks and turn left at the street. About 400 metres down the road is Jochi-ji, where the path to the Daibutsu starts. It's a serious cross country walking track and might take you an hour. It is very steep up and down in parts but mostly quite gentle. I doubt it would be any fun to walk at all if it was really wet or hot.

Please note the following announcement on the Kotoku-in website:
From 13 January to March 10 2016, with a subsidy from the state, a restoration project for the preservation of the Daibutsu will commence. Because of the placement of scaffoldings and temporary roof etc., it will be impossible to view the Daibutsu during this time. We apologize deeply for the inconvenience and ask for your kind understanding.

I took lots of photos of the Daibutsu, quite a few selfies and people kindly took pictures of me too. Until I edit my pictures, this one is a favourite, although it is in Hase-dera, still in Kamakura, but a few hundred metres down the road. That's me on the left.

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