Friday, October 15, 2010

One of a kind

Todai-ji Buddha Hall
I went to Todaiji Otobutai, an evening concert featuring Sarah Brightman, Sirque du Soleil Zed, and HY, last Saturday. It was held in front of the Buddha Hall of Todai-ji, the largest wooden structure in the world. Although I have been there many times, it was my first music experience at Todai-ji.  Sara Brightman's performance was great, but I'm not going into the details about the concert.  Instead, I'll write something I remember about the message of Todai-ji.  (You'll be able to see its broadcast on MBS or TBS, 9:55-10.50 a.m. on Nov.3 if you're in Japan. )

In the 8th century, Todai-ji was built as a headquarter of all Japanese temples. It was not only a center for rituals of the nation but also a center for scholar monks to learn Buddhism beyond different schools. After Meiji Restoration, temples had to choose one school and Todai-ji chose Kegon.

Pictorical representation of the world of enlightenment

According to the Kegon text, "Each individual is not an isolated existence, but all phenomena have limitless connections and dimensions and the entire universe is enveloped in the light of Vairocana's (Buddha's proper name) wisdom."   I'm interested that this can be explained by modern physics theoretically, but for now I'll stay away from it.  In my daily life, I take the notion like this; all living beings are connected by our consideration for one another.

When I'm asked about Kegon Buddhism, I introduce what I was once told by one of the monks regarding "ke" (which means flower) of "ke-gon" : "Each of human beings has a seed within us. Buddha is the one who has grown the seed to flower beautifully. What we are supposed to do is to do our best to make a seed grow into a flower. " He added, "It's just like the message of a song 'Sekai ni Hitotudake no Hana.'"

"Sekai ni Hitotudake no Hana"  or "The Only Flower in the World" is a J-pop song by Smap, written by Noriyuki Makihara. The following is a summary of lyrics:
Look at the flowers at the flower shop
Each is so beautiful that makes your heart stop                     

Flowers stand tall and proud blooming
without competing which one is the best                       
Why can't we people live like flowers?
Why do people always want to compare and compete?
Each of us hold different seed within us
We are all unique, we are all different
You don't have to be number one cause you're already only one
You should do your best to make a seed grow into a flower

Further by assoiation, I remember a poem titled "Watashi to Kotori to Suzu to," or "Me, a Songbird, and a Bell" by Kaneko Misuzu, my favorite Japanese writer of poetry for children.

Spread my arms though I may
I'll never fly up in the sky.
Songbirds fly but they can't run
Fast on the ground like I do.

Shake myself though I may
No pretty sound comes out.
Bells jingle but they don't know
Lots of songs like I do.
         Bell, songbird, and me
        All different, all just right.         (translated by D.P.Dutcher)

This is original Japanese.


  1. If all followed the knowledge in "Ke", we would have a wonderful world, with all aspiring to live as beautiful flowers, each as special as the other and treated so. Such a simple way to live.

    "Love thy neighbor as thyself" and "No man is an island" are 2 quotes that come to mind. I too, think we are all of the same cloth, like linking threads.

  2. Wanda speaks what's also in my heart. I like the flower imagery, because it tells of the uniqueness of a single bloom blending to create beautiful harmony in a bouquet. The Buddha Hall is an imposing wooden structure - a night of music and acrobatics on the lawn must have been magical.

  3. Hello Stardust. I like your flower and seed analogy illustrating both our uniqueness and our interdependency.

    We each bloom in our own way and time.

    I have seen the great Temple, in the beautiful deer park at Nara twice. Your post reminded me of Issa's haiku:

    “From the nostril
    of the Great Buddha
    comes a swallow”

    - Issa

    The Buddha's in the Todai-ji are magnificent.

    Happy days

  4. My deceased mother loved the song,"Sekai ni Hitotudake no Hana",
    notably the phrase"You don't have to be number one cause you 're already only one."
    And Kaneko Misuzu was favourite poet of my senior associate on tanka poem who passed away four years ago suffering from breast cancer.
    I read this blog remembering the days when they were alive and sound.

  5. Thanks Friends for the profound comments.
    Each of you look blooming uniquely where you are planted. I hope I'd be a late bloomer: it's better than never to bloom.

    Wanda, Barb, and Delwin, thanks to the blogging I could get connected to each of you!

    Haricot, I'd like to post something about Misuzu Kaneko someday soon. I really got inspired!


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