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Todaiji Temple

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Daibutsuden - Main Worship Hall - Todaiji Temple
Todaiji Temple Main Worship Hall (Daibutsu-den)

Todaiji Temple is located in the Central Nara City area of the Nara Prefecture in the Kansai Region.  Todaiji Temple is famous for the "Daibutsu of Nara" or "Great Buddha of Nara" Statue, it is considered as the largest seated Buddha Statue in Japan.  The main worship hall (seen above) is called as Daibutsu-den.

Todaiji Temple is located in the central Nara City and in the precincts of the Nara Park.  From the JR Nara Station, Todaiji Temple is about thirty minute walk. 

Todaiji Temple SealTodaiji Temple belongs to the Kegon Sect of the Buddhism and originated in China and brought to Japan in the sixth century.  This sect predates all the current popular sects of Japanese Buddhism (most of them started in the eight century by Japanese Buddhist Monks trained in China and Korea) and Todaiji is the main temple that still remains which follows the teachings of this Kegon sect.

Todaiji Temple Seal

The Todaiji Temple was built at the behest of Emperor Shomu (early eighth century) who was a follower of Kegon Sect.  He wanted to develop a group of temples called Kokubunji Temples in every province to promote Kegon Sect.  Todaiji Temple was built as the central (or Headquarters) of this group of temples and a great statue of Vairochana Buddha (The Sun Buddha) as the main object of worship.  He assigned this work to Monk Ryoben, who was not only a Buddhist Scholar but also a great architect.  Thus the temple's construction started in 728 AD and finished in 749 AD.  Special efforts were needed to cast the Daibutsu of Nara (Vairochana Buddha) and the Hall to house this great statue.  Thus construction for this started in 749 AD and completed in 752 AD.  The inauguration ceremony for this great temple was done in 752 AD by Monk Ryoben under the guidance of Emperor Shomu.

The original precincts of Todaiji Temple contained two tall pagodas which reached about three hundred feet each.  Unfortunately most of the original structures were repeatedly destroyed in fires.  Current structures still standing is the Daibutsuden, which was re-constructed in the twelfth century AD is the largest wooden structure in the World.  It's measurements of 57 by 50 meters in area and the roof at highest point is 47 meters.

Daibutsu of Nara - Todaiji Temple
Daibutsu of Nara - Vairochana Buddha

The Great Buddha of Nara (Daibutsu of Nara) seen above, which is housed in the Daibutsuden is the tallest and largest seated Buddha image in the entire Japan.  The Kamakura Daibutsu, comes second but unlike the Kamakura Daibutsu, the Nara Daibutsu is housed inside the hall.  This great bronze statue took about three years to complete.  The statue is 18 meters high including the pedestal and weighs about 480,000 kilograms. 

The Daibutsu sits on a pedestal made of 56 lotus petals made of bronze.  These petals are incised in hairline engraving with designs, dating from the Nara Period (8th century), and depict the "Lotus-Matrix World-System" (In Sanskrit known as Padma-garbha-loka-dhatu and in Japanese known as Rengezo Sekai).  The petals provide a complex design that may be described as a pictorial representation of the religious world view set forth in the Avtamsaka-sutra (Kegon-kyo).  The Kegon-kyo is the heart of the Kegon faith of Buddhism.

Outside the main temple precincts there is a great Asoka Pillar, a monument built in commemoration of the "Thousand-Priest's Service on the occasion of the Hana Matsuri (Buddha's Birthday).  King Asoka the Great is a king of India (304 - 232 BCE) and a great patron of Buddhism in his times.  During his rule King Asoka is known to erect stone pillars on which the Royal edit was carved for the construction of the ideal Buddhist society. 

Here is a video of Daibutsu of Nara and the Todaiji Temple:

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