Sat, Aug 22, 2020

From Nara: Receiving the divine grace of the Medicine Buddha at Yakushiji temple

SPECIAL FEATURE: Praying for an end to COVID-19

The morning service at the Yakushiji temple in Nara starts in front of the Golden hall before sunrise. The tower seen on the right is the East Pagoda. (Yomiuri Shimbun photo)

The moon still shone at 5 a.m. Choin Kato, 70, the chief steward of Yakushiji (Nara), was inside the Golden Hall (Kondo) quietly facing the seated statue of Yakushi Nyorai, the principal object of worship at the temple and a designated national treasure.

“Free our body and soul.”

The chief steward of the head temple of the Hosso school of Buddhism recited the Yakushikyo (medicine buddha sutra) in his mind, wishing everyone a happy and peaceful life.

Yakushi Nyorai is a healing deity which offers medicine to help relieve the suffering of sick people. A yakko, or herbal medicine pot, was placed before the statue when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) broke out, and it has been there since. The temple hopes the display will help visitors feel the divine grace of the medicine buddha.

An important event scheduled for this year was postponed indefinitely due to the spread of COVID-19. A special ceremony to celebrate the restoration of the East Pagoda — a designated national treasure — was initially scheduled for May. The pagoda had been overhauled for the first time in about 110 years.

Yakushiji was established in 680 by Emperor Tenmu, who wished for the recovery of his consort and later Empress regnant Jito from an illness.

“The emperor’s wishes were not only for the empress, but for the happiness of all the people. Our job is to serve the temple of the medicine buddha built on those wishes,” says the chief steward.

The ancient capital of Nara has been, and always will be a place of prayers.

A yakko (herbal medicine pot) is placed before the statue of Yakushi Nyorai at the Yakushiji temple in Nara, wishing for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yomiuri Shimbun Photo)

From the Aug. 22 evening edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun (Osaka)

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