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  • Writer's pictureAkiko Murakami

Todaiji is not a temple, it is THE temple!

Many people visit Nara as a day trip from either Osaka or Kyoto.

Almost all the people enjoy seeing, feeding, or taking photos with cute deers and visit Todaiji Temple (東大寺)as their only or first destination.

It is just a Buddhist temple, but this the Buddhist temple. Buddhism spread all over Japan to the people thanks to Todaiji temple. It is not like any other temples in Japan. It has great significance when we pay attention to its origin and its spiritual aspect.

Todaiji Temple

In the early 8th century, during Nara period, Japan was going through many difficulties.

Due to a long drought, farmers were suffering and many people were dying from smallpox etc. etc...

Back in the time, both natural and political troubles were considered as the sign that kami, or Shinto deities are angry and unhappy.

Therefore, within a short period of time, Emperor Shomu moves the capital city from Nara to Kyoto, Osaka, and Shiga prefecture seeking for an auspicious location to avoid such troubles.

Finally, the Emperor came back to Nara, and decided to stabilize the nation through the power of Buddhist faith. With a great cooperation with a well respected monk, Gyoki, he issued an imperial order to construct a state temple for monks and a state nunnery for nuns, in every one of the 66 provinces of the country. It was to establish Buddhism as the state religion and to help bring peace and order to the nation. ⚫️Buddhism was founded in India in 500 B.C. and brought to Japan through China, Korea in the 6th century. It seeks to attain enlightenment, by awakening to the of the truth of universe and human being.

Todaiji temple was founded in 752 as the State Temple in the capital city of Nara. It was the center for the priests to pray for the peace and prosperity of the nation. It was also served as a training school where student monks studies Buddhist doctrine.

This is the origin of the Buddhist faith among the Japanese! (Before this, it was limited teachings for the high-class people.)

Later in the history, many schools and sects of Buddhism, both domestic and foreign origin spread all over Japan, such as Shingon, Pure land, Zen, etc.

(Reference :"Nara, A Hisotical Walking Guide" p61 )

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