[Kaiki] Priest Roben
[Location] Zoshi-cho, Nara-shi
[Dedicated To] Rushana-butsu (The Great Buddha)
[Religious Sect] Kegon-shu sect
Todai-ji temple was built by Emperor Shomu's order, and is the main temple of the Kegon-shu sect. In the center of the Daibutsu-den is the Kon-do, and the sacred image of the temple is the Great Buddha. The Great Buddha is the Buddha which shines the light of wisdom and mercy, and tries to rescue all people in the world. Emperor Tenmu wanted to realize the world of Buddhism which Sakyamuni was awakened to, and so with the cooperation of religious sects and even the people from abroad, he completed the Shichido-kan.
Later on, however, in the Heian and Sengoku era, most of the buildings were burned down. The Daibutsu-den we see today was rebuilt in 1708. On that occasion, the size was reduced to only sixty percent of the size before, but it is still the biggest wooden architecture in the world. The Great Buddha, too, has been repaired several times, and is the world's biggest image of Buddha made of gold and copper. The Great Buddha is loved by many people in Japan.
Emperor Shomu came up with the idea of constructing the Great Buddha from a trip he made to Nanba, Osaka in 740. There, Emperor Shomu who went to a temple in Kawachi, was greatly moved by the Birushana-butsu which could control the whole universe, and how it was constructed by the cooperation of many men and women believers. Later on in October 15th, 743, the order to construct the Great Buddha was given.
For this construction, as Emperor Shomu said "All the people in the world where Buddhism is spread abroad are cooperators.", he called out for spontaneous cooperation to the people. This sentence is often quoted in historical books, and many times, they emphasize only the great power the Emperor possessed. However, the main point belongs to the continuing part of this. The point saying, because this construction is an order from the Emperor who owns all the wealth in the world, it is very difficult to appeal to one's hearts, is the important part. This sentence shows that constructing the Great Buddha was not for the purpose of only showing and saving the power of the country. This idea brought sympathy to many Japanese people. In this way, people from abroad who offered the skills, rulers of each region, and priests who gathered under Priest Gyoki, all positively cooperated in this construction.
In 752, the Great Buddha completed. To the Kaigan-shiki ceremony, where the eyes of Buddha are drawn and the completion is celebrated, approximately ten thousand priests read the sutra, and the Emperor and many nobles attended. The construction started from 745, and took seven years to complete. For the Great Buddha, 499 tons of copper, 8.5 tons of tin, 2.5 tons of mercury and 440 kilograms of gold were used. The eyebrow of the Great Buddha is 1.4 meters, the eye is 1 meter, the nose is 1.1 meters, the ear is 2.7 meters, and the palm of the hand is 3 meters. The image is 15 meters high and weighs 450 tons. Many people labored and many lives were lost. For this construction, other than the carpenters and populace who spontaneously cooperated, people who labored instead of paying taxes, and Nuhis became great labor power, leading to the completion of the Buddha.
After only two hundreds years from the introduction of Buddhism to Japan, the technology and passion which completed such a big construction was absolutely wonderful. On the other hand, this construction interfered with the farming and people's everyday life, and finally caused to the atrophy of the nation.
In 1180, in spite of the construction which required seven years, the temples and pagodas were burned down along with Kofuku-ji temple. Though the next year, when the restoration of the Todai-ji temple began, besides the donation from the Imperial Family and Shogunate, it is said that priests holding Kanjin-chos traveled around the country, calling out to the people for cooperation. Under these cooperation, the Todai-ji temple was restored in 1195, and people, such as monk-Emperor Gotoba and Minamoto no Yoritomo with many soldiers attended the ceremony.
Todai-ji temple, which has experienced being burned down and being restored many times. The bright and dark sides of its history is probably what fascinates people all over the world. It is not too much to say that Todai-ji temple is the symbol of the Japanese culture.
Long ago, Enjo-ji temple and Todai-ji temple had a competition of which temple can make it rain faster by praying. Todai-ji temple said, "If, by any chance, Enjo-ji temple prays and starts to rain, the priests in Todai-ji temple will never put up their big umbrellas." First, Todai-ji temple tried praying for seven days, but not even a drop of rain fell from the sky. Next, it was Enjo-ji temple's turn, and while it was praying, at once, big drops of rain came pouring from above and saved the farmers. From then, in Todai-ji temple, no one put up their big umbrellas.
Emperor Shomu was an emperor of the Nara era. Farmers were very poor in this period, but on the contrary, this was a period when the culture of the nobles prospered. The culture here is called Tenpyo-bunka culture. In the Nara era where Buddhism and politics were connected closely, Emperor Shomu especially was strong in faith for Buddhism, and he ordered each region to build a temple. In the capital, he built the Todai-ji temple as the representative temple of the country. In this temple, a great image of Buddha was installed, which took nine years to make. This great image of Buddha was a manifestation of God, and also a symbol of power. In the background of Emperor Shomu, relying on Buddhism to unify the country, probably was a measure not to lose his power as the emperor.