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Horyu-ji

 

With His second trip to the Kansai area, in the autumn of 1951, Master Jinsai had been to most of the important historical sites in Kyoto, so on His third tour, in the spring of 1952, He went to Nara, where He visited several places of historical interest. He visite the temple Kofuku-ji and Kasuga Shrine, both founded thirteen hundred years ago by members of the powerful Fujiwara clan. He visited Todai-ji, known as the largest wooden building in the world, which was founded at the order of Emperor Shomu (701-56). He visited Toshodai-ji, founded by the Chinese monk Ganjin (688-763), who reached Japan only after attempting the hazardous journey many times. Master Jinsai visited Hokke-ji, established as a nunnery in 747 by Emperor´s Shomu consort, Koomyo. He also visited Horyu-ji, near the village of Ikaruga southwest of Nara, whose late-seventh-century wooden buildings are the world´s oldest.

Horyu-ji (Temple of the Flourishing Law) is a Buddhist temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Its full name is Horyu Gakumonji, or Learning Temple of the Flourishing Law, named as such because the site serves as a seminary as well as a monastery. The temple is widely acknowledged to have some of the oldest wooden buildings existing in the world, and is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. In 1993, Horyu-ji was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Japanese government lists it as a National Treasure.

The temple was originally commissioned by Prince Shotoku; at the time it was called "Ikaruga-dera", a name that is still sometimes used. This first temple is believed to have been completed by 607. Horyu-ji was dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai , the Buddha of healing and in honor of the prince's father. Excavations done in 1939 confirmed that Prince Shotoku's palace, the Ikaruga-no-miya, occupied the eastern part of the current temple complex, where the To-in sits today. Also discovered were the ruins of a temple complex which was southwest of the prince's palace and not completely within the present temple complex. The original temple, named by modern historians and archaeologists Wakakusa-Garan, was lost, probably burned to the ground after being hit by lightning in 670. The temple was reconstructed but slightly reoriented in a northwest position, which is believed to have been completed by around 711. The temple has been repaired and reassembled in the early twelfth century, in 1374, and 1603.

Of the visits made during His seven tours of the Kansai area, Master´s visit to the Yumedono, or Dream Hall, at Horyu-ji, deserves special mention. The original Horyu-ji complex was built between 601 and 607 at the order of Prince-Regent Shotoku (574-622), one of the most remarkable men in Japanese history. About a century after His death, Shotoku´s Ikaruga Palace, adjacent to octagonal Yumedono, was built on the ruins of what was said to have been the private chapel where Shotoku had studied Mahayana Buddhist teachings and scriptures. Thus the Yumedono rests on the site where, according to legend, Shotoku received spiritual instruction from the gods and buddhas.

 

The Yumedono Temple

 

When Master Jinsai visited Horyu-ji on April 29, 1952, the rarely displayed main image in the Yumedono, the Guce Kannon, or Avalokiteshvara of Universal Salvation, was on view, as He had been told it would be. With deep reverence He stood in front of the Yumedono. Through the open main doors of the Yumedono, he were open and in the dim ligh Master Jinsai saw the silent, erect image of Avalokiteshvara that had been carved around 650. This gilded wooden statue is said to be the same height as Prince Shotoku. Regarded as sacred, the image had been kept in silk wrappings and shown to no one untill the American scholar Ernest Fenellosa had it uncovered for examination in 1884. Thus despite the passage of some thirteen centuries, the image still had a lustrous golden glow. The half-open but nonetheless arresting eyes of the image stared into space.

As Meishu-Sama gazed at the image, He gradually felt the distance between them vanish until they merged as one. He later said of the experience: "As I faced the image of Avalokiteshvara, I felt a high spiritual vibration flowing toward me from the image. It was and indescribably exquisite feeling. I felt as if tears would come to my eyes. Avalokiteshvara had been waiting for me a long time. Until the right times come, nothing can be done. That is why Kannon had been waiting for me untill then in the Yumedono at Horyu-ji."

 

 

 

 

Master Jinsai visiting Horyu-ji Temple at April 10, 1953

 

 

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