Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Kannon Statue in Ofuna

Kannon is the Japanese name of the goddess of compassion and mercy. The Chinese characters are written as 観世音, or  "hearing the cries of the world". Kannon is not just a Japanese goddess, but is also well-known throughout eastern Asia. In China she is called Guanyin.

In Ofuna, just next to the train station is a giant bust of Kannon, a beautiful woman wearing a white robe.  Not many foreigners come to Ofuna for sightseeing.  Many of the visitors are locals who come to pray.

As I began to climb the long set of stairs to the top of the hill, I could see the top of her head and she seemed to be peeking down at me. When I reached the top, I found a board with many hanging emas, and in front of me stood the magnificent white statue. The statue overlooked the city of Ofuna and provided an excellent view.  It was as if the statue was indeed looking out over the whole world.

Ironically, it was first erected in 1929 for world peace, but construction was halted in 1934  due to war. At the bottom of the hill there is a memorial to the victims of the nuclear bomb attacks. The memorial contains a thousand paper cranes (千羽鶴 senbadzuru), and rocks that were taken from ground zero of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The most interesting part is a flame kept in a lantern that was lit from the burning rubble of Hiroshima.

Perhaps many people do not know, but there is a famous Buddhist saying is attributed to Kannon.

" 色即是空,空即是色  Shikisokuzeku, kusokuzeshiki
Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form" 

Visiting this statue made me think more about the virtue of compassion. It is a fundamental teaching of both buddhism and Jesus Christ.

There is a Japanese proverb that goes;

" 情けは人の為ならず  Nasake wa hito no tame narazu;  The good you do for others is the good you do for yourself "


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