Fri

21

Nov

2014

Pond

When you hear the word "pond",  what kind of image would you have?

Then how do you imagine "the pond in the pure land?"

Last time when I visited Byodoin Temple on Oahu, I truly enjoyed walking around the temple ground.

Especially because this temple and its Buddha statue are replica of the Byodo-in Temple(a United Nations World Heritage Site) which was originally built in 11th century,  I enjoying thinking...this was maybe one of the same type of Buddha statues that Master Honen(1133-1212) had seen and prayed.  

At the same time, I imagined this beautiful garden and the pond must have been the typical image or expression of the Pure Land, at that time.  

Most probably, they imagined again and again...what was a pure land like, and they did try to create the world of pure land in this world, according to their understandings of the pure land sutras.

As a result, Byodo-in Temple had such a reputation and the following saying became popular around 12th century.

"If you cannot believe in the existence of Pure Land, you should go to Byodoin Temple to respect."

Since then, Byodo-in Temple has played an important role to evoke "Pond of Pure Land" to Japanese people.   Yes, it has been a tradition to regard "pond in the pure land" as "a pond like Byodo-in one."

However, the original image of the pond in India is so much different from Japanese one.   It was not a pond but a bathing pool, according to Hajime Nakamura.   When I was a student, I was very shocked to know the pond was supposed to be "pool" which was usually rectangle or square.   At the same time, I knew how important the custom of bathing to cleanse the body in India.

Now back to the question,  what kind of pond does Pure Land of Amida Buddha have?

Is it a bathing pool? or a pond?

It was true that  "expression of pond" was meant to be pool originally in India.  But it was also true that Japanese have imagined it as a pond like Byodoin Temple for over 1,000 years. 

Nowadays, scholars tend to translate it "pool" and so academically, to translate it as pond sounds mistake.   But this misunderstanding has formed a fact in Japan.   

So I want to insisit....to translate it as a pond should not be wrong.   With more precision,  it is quite up to you to understand it,  since this is based upon what you can imagine about the pure land.