Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Buddha's Army — Part Two: Shirahige Shrine at Lake Biwa

There has always been an instinct in East Asia to clone objects of Buddhist veneration for the purpose of acquiring merit -- for example the endless reproduction of mani stones in Tibet, the ritual copying of the Heart Sutra with ink and brush, the countless stone-carved Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that adorn the temples and cemeteries.

Stonecarved Buddha statues are ubiquitous in Japan, found not only on holy ground but in also quite unexpected places: one can go for a hike in the mountains and stumble upon a little stone shrine next to the trail, a propos apparently of nothing at all.

The little statues can be centuries old, and more often than not the tourist will encounter them in small assemblies, where they have been collected to make use of the land where they were first erected.

There is a particularly nice congregation gathered at the Shirahige Shrine at Lake Biwa. The statues are considerably larger than normal, and the little park integrates a traditional Shinto shrine as well, which is somewhat unusual in Japan since Buddhist and Shinto sites generally maintain a respectful distance.

Each figure retains its own individual personality, in contra-distinction to Southeast Asia,
where standard canonic forms are conventionally reproduced. 

The famous tori-i stands directly opposite the Shirahige Shrine.


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