In the magnificent Byodo—in Temple, beneath the majestic cliffs of the mist shrouded KoolauMountains of Windward Oahu, there is a golden buddha that is unique in all the world.
Towering more than 18 feet, the immense figure is an original work of art carved by the famous Japanese sculptor, Masuzo Inui.
The buddha is thought to be the largest figure carved since ancient times, when the master carver, Jocho, carved a smaller buddha for the original Byodo-in Temple in Uji, Japan.
The Hawaii buddha, like the original, represents Amida, the buddha of the Western paradise. Above it is a screen with carvings of doves, angels and other figures representing the 52 followers of buddha.
The entire assemblage has great historical and religious significance.
Equally significant is the Byodo—in Temple that houses the buddha.
The original is thought by many experts to be one of the most beautiful Japanese buildings ever built. More than two million dollars was spent building the Hawaii replica.
The main hall of the temple, called the ho-o-do or Phoenix Mall, is shaped like a bird about to take flight.
Atop the steeply pitched roof are gold phoenixes, which reinforce the analogy of the mystical Chinese bird.
Around the Hawaii Byodo-in is a classical Japanese garden. and a two acre reflecting pool stocked with more than ten thousand carps.
The sculptor Inui has a lineage that goes back as far as the original Byodo—in itself.
It was in the Kwanji era (1087—1093 A.D.) that the family first emerged when it migrated from Nara to the capital of Kyoto.
The first Inui received his teaching in the art of buddha carving from Chokai, who belonged to the KokeiSchool.
An Inui artisan studio was established in the third year of the Koan era, 1287 A.C. The family founder declared himself the buddha carver of Gojo, the fifth street of the capital.
Eight centuries later, the Inui family members are still Japan’s foremost buddha carvers.
Masuzo Inui was presented with an honorable title Yuzan by Archbishop Ninshin of the HokaikuinTemple in Yamato. He received his training from his father, as had the other generations of carvers before him.
The buddha was carved from wood, which is covered with lacquer, cloth and gold leaf.
BYODO-IN, UJI, JAPAN
"Uji is noted for its green tea and for Byodo-in Temple, in the opinion of many the most beautiful building in the whole Kyoto area. The original main hall, called the Ho-o-do ,or Phoenix Hall (the ho—o is a mythical bird of Chinese origin) is topped by two phoenixes and is itself shaped like a phoenix about to take flight. The wings are raised off the ground on stilts, a device which gives the whole structure an astonishing airiness; the wood is painted vermilion. If you examine any 10 yen piece, you will see this building represented on one side of it. Inside there is an image of Amida, carved by Jocho, a celebrated sculptor of the Fujiwara period, and above it floating images of the 52 followers of Buddha—some playing ancient musical instruments, some dancing on clouds and some holding flags. It is rare in Japan to see images in action this way. On the wooden doors and walls there are some pictures of great antiquity; but unfortunately they have been so badly damaged that it is difficult to make them out."
The Sacred Bell of Byodo—in
By Rev. Iwasaburo Yoshikami, Byodo-in Priest
The bell of Byodo—in is the typical Buddhist bell found in all temples of Japan. It is called "bon—sho" meaning sacred bell, and is always hung in a special structure called the kanetsu-ki-do, which is separated from the other temple buildings. The bon-sho is used in indicating time: time of the beginning of service, time of the hour, etc. Its resonant sound creates an atmosphere of tranquility for meditation. The sound of the bon-sho is referred to by the Japanese as "go—on," and produces the tranquil echo which travels for some distance.
Buddhism teaches that the pealing of the bell cleanses minds of temptation and evil, and leads to an awakened wisdom of Buddha. The echo represents the eternal teaching of the Buddha. Since bon—sho is always in the hanging position, it is commonly called "tsuri-gane."
There are three famous bells or bon-shos in Japan. The bon—sho at Todaiji temple, Nara, known for its hugeness; the bon-sho at Mi—i-dera temple, Ohtsu, for its sound and echo; and the third the bon-sho of Byodo-in temple in Uji, especially famous for its shape and design.
This bon-sho or sacred bell of the Hawaii Byodo-in is the exact copy of the original bell at the Byodo—in temple, Uji. It was made in Osaka, from a mixture of bronze and tin, by the permission of the government of Japan.
It measures 6 feet 8 inches in height and weighs almost 3 tons. The diameter at the bottom is 57 inches.
The design is separated in four sections, depicting the Lands of the Paradise, the Buddhist heaven. In each section there are six bodisattvas sitting on a lotus flower. The bottom two bodisattvas are holding lotus flowers, the middle playing a string instrument. In the upper row, the bodisattva at the left is playing the flute and the one on the right is holding a relic stupa. There are angels in each section with a lion—like animal, called the kara-shishi, below. All figures face toward the right—which indicates the limitlessness of the Lands of the paradise. The kara—shishi (lion-like animal) and the notch at the top of the bell-a figure with two headed heavenly dragon-symbolize the guardians of the Lands of the Paradise.
The upper one—third of the bell is filled with knobs, the size of our thumb. These are said to increase and prolong the sound of the bell. A soft wooden log called the “shu—moku” is used to strike the bell. It must never be struck with metal or iron.