Wed, Aug 19, 2020

From Nara: Offering a prayer to the Kudara Kannon cased in glass at Horyuji temple

SPECIAL FEATURE: Praying for an end to COVID-19 (Part IV)

Anyone can feel the healing effect of that tender look.

Kudara Kannon, a designated national treasure housed at Horyuji (Ikaruga, Nara) — the head temple of the Shotoku school of Buddhism and a UNESCO World Heritage site — was settled in a glass display case this summer. The reflectivity of the glass used is only 1 percent. You can hardly believe you are looking at the wooden statue through it.

The masterwork from ancient times (the Asuka period) was supposed to have been showcased in an exhibition from March to May at the Tokyo National Museum. However, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis prevented that from happening, and the statue was sent back to the temple in July. The glass case was made-to-order for the exhibit.

Delivering the statue to Tokyo was a huge decision for the temple. However, Genmyo Ono, the former superintendent priest who passed away at 71 last October, was heart-stricken by the relentless disasters in the country and made up his mind to go ahead. We are left to wonder how he would react to the COVID-19 crisis.

Horyuji is a popular school trip destination, but not many students have been seen on the premises since springtime. The Summer College at the temple, an annual event to provide participants with a series of lectures on the philosophies of Shotoku Taishi (Prince Shotoku) — the founder of the temple — among other subjects, has been cancelled this year. The premises with its halls and pagodas are wrapped in quietude.

“The kannon listens to what people wish for, including those wishes to repel the plague. Put your palms together in prayer in a quiet atmosphere,” says Shokaku Furuya, the acting superintendent priest.

From the Aug. 19 evening edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun (Osaka)

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