Byodo-In Temple

Byodo-in Temple 400
Byodo-in Temple
Photo by: ajari, Creative Commons

The Byodo-In Temple in Kyoto is just one of the very few temples in Japan that had survived from the Heian era. It was originally constructed on 1502 by Fujiwara Yorimichi to serve as a villa. But on 1503, his regents constructed another feature called the Phoenix Hall or Amida Hall which made it turned into a Buddhist temple. The Phoenix Hall is the sole remaining piece of architecture that can be traced down to the vanished Pure Land sect of Buddhism belief. As seen from the still surviving paintings illustrating the Pure Land, there is a great probability that the Byodo-in serves as the literal representation of the Western Paradise of the Buddhists.

The Pure Land belief is a sector of Buddhism’s Mayahana Branch which believes that people should strive to give enlightenment not only for themselves but for all living beings. People from the Mahayana branch believe on the existence of the Bodhisattvas, beings possessing infinite karma and compassion for others, who have given their vows not to enter the world of Nirvana until all sentient creatures are saved from the dreadful samsara or the world of suffering. One of the most famous Bodhisattvas was Amida in whom the lofty Phoenix Hall was built for. The belief in Amida is concentrated on the faith of an instant death in which he descends to earth and carries the unfortunate soul to the Western Paradise or Buddhist Heaven. This Byodo-in Temple is said to be the replica of this Western Paradise with its kidney-shaped pond and the golden Amida statue.

The Byodo-in Temple is found in Uji that can be accessed through either the Keihan-Uji line or JR Nara line. Travel from Kyoto probably takes 25 minutes by local train and 15 minutes by rapid train. The temple is just a 10 minute walk from the stations then. Being one of the few surviving pieces from the Heian era, the Byodo-in was added by UNESCO on 2004 in their UNESCO World Heritage List.

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