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The Great Buddha of Kamakura

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

Growing up in Japan, I wasn’t really around any religious practice of any sort except for a few Buddhist customs such funerals and memorials, Shinto rituals like weddings, and of course, Christmas.

As far as Buddhism was concerned, whenever some relatives passed away, I would dread the funerals because it meant we had to sit on our knees and listen to boring sutras seemingly forever.   By the time the service was over, my legs were asleep and I couldn’t walk.

On the other hand, my paternal grandparents lived in Kamakura, where there’s one of the two Great Buddha in Japan (The other one is in Nara).  Their house was a few blocks behind the Kotoku-in Temple around narrow streets.   I don’t know if I actually got to see the Buddha every time we visited my grandparents, but my memory fondly associates them to the Great Buddha.

When I was about 20-years old, I happened to pick up “Siddartha” by Herman Hesse and first had an inkling that I would like to learn about Buddha’s teaching.  Then it was another 15-years or so later, I was actually introduced to Buddhist practice of insight meditation, Vipassana.  Though Vipassana is a Theravada Buddhism, which wasn’t so common in Japan, it felt like finding a home where I belonged.

I’m not an ardent practitioner by any means, but I definitely resonate with Buddha’s teachings, and the image of Great Buddha in Kamakura has a very personal association for my spiritual practice to this day.

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