Kamakura Big Buddha
Constructed 1252 AD
Amida Buddha (Nyorai)
Located at Kōtokuin Temple in Kamakura (Japan), this giant bronze statue embodies Amida Nyorai. Roughly 11.3 meters in height (13.35 meters with pedestal) and weighing 125 tons, the Kamakura Daibutsu was financed entirely with donations from devotees and commoners (no aid from the imperial court or the Kamakura shogunate). Cast in 1252, the statue was originally housed in a wooden structure, but that structure was destroyed by a violent storm in 1335, rebuilt, and again destroyed in another storm in 1495. Since then, the statue has sat outdoors unprotected from the elements.
Amida, which means Infinite Light & Life, is one of the loftiest savior figures in Japanese Buddhism, and Amida faith is concerned primarily with the life to come (paradise). Amida is especially important to Japan’s popular Pure Land sects. The key practice for Amida devotees is to chant Amida’s nenbutsu (devotional invocation, formulaic prayer), which is Namu Amida Butsu or All Hail Amida Buddha, for Amida vowed that whoever calls his name with faith shall be reborn in his Western Pure Land. Rebirth in this pure land represents a “quick path” to enlightenment. Indeed, belief in Amida’s western paradise underscores the location of the Kamakura Daibutsu — the statue is located in the western quarter of Kamakura city.
Shot during the New Year’s holidays in 2008, this image of the Kamakura Daibutsu invokes the peaceful feeling and solemn unity that pervades the temple. A group of my friends & I had gone to Tokyo to visit another of our friends who had lived there for some time. As we were shown around the non-tourist-y areas, we were struck with how different Japan is from the States. There’s a balance & a calmness that seems to encompass the land & people as a whole. It was like finding a second home… and I couldn’t even speak the language.
The people & country of Japan are in my thoughts every day since the tragedy – and I am sending strength & energy to give back a fraction of what the country gave me.
May the Infinite Light & Life of Amida be with you.