Buddhism is one the most popular and interesting religions. It can be traced back to 563 B.C.E. Siddhartha Guatama, who is more commonly known as the Buddha, or the Awakened One. The story of Siddhartha Guatama and how he came to be known as the Buddha is very interesting. The religion of Buddhism is one of the oldest and most significant, which is why I chose to visit the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple in the Valley of the Temples on the windward side of the Ko’olau mountain range. When I first arrived at the Buddhist Temple in the Valley of the Temples, the first thing I took notice of was the graveyard. The tombstones were very elegant. Most of the tombstones were black in color and had gold inscriptions. The black color is representing death while the gold color signifies purity. The first experience I had at the temple was ringing the bell. The bell alone was amazing. It is a replica of the original temple bell.
It is a five foot, three ton brass Peace Bell. When rung its sound is very low in pitch, and can be heard from a good distance away. The sound sends a message of peace, calamity, and spiritual cleansing. Ringing the bell to announce your arrival is said to bring good fortune, and cleanses the mind of evil and temptation. From the bell, I then toured the main building which is called Phoenix Hall. The structure was designed after the mystical bird with its wings held up by pillars of stone. The Japanese believed that the temple reflects the promise of the mystical bird, and the recreation of spiritual hope and renewal. Inside of the Phoenix Hall was a nine foot two inch tall statue of Amida (the Buddha of the Western Paradise). The statue is the largest wooden Buddha carved in over nine hundred years and is covered in gold and lacquer.
Directly in front of the giant Buddha is a small shrine where visitors can light a stick of incense. After touring Phoenix Hall, I took notice of the detailed landscaping. In front of the main structure is a very large rock garden. The gardens are said to retain the serenity and grace of a Japanese garden and have an added touch of joy and the Hawaiian “spirit of aloha.” The gardens are believed to be the largest outside of Japan. Around the detailed Japanese gardens is a two acre pond. The pond contains several thousand carp. In Japan they are known as koi. The koi are a symbol of order and perseverance in the Buddhist culture. Visitors of the temple are encouraged to feed the koi. The temple also has many peacocks that wander in and around the temple. The temple advises not to interact with the peacocks, because they are wild and untamed. Located behind and to the left of Phoenix Hall is the meditation house.
The house is known to be a place of serenity, private thoughts, and inner peace. To the right of Phoenix Hall is the Tea House. In the Tea House you can purchase souvenirs of the temple. The Byodo-in temple was completed and dedicated in 1968 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese Immigrants to arrive in Hawaii. It was constructed without the use of nails. It is a scale replica of a temple constructed over 900 years ago in Uji Japan, which was the villa of Japanese aristocrat. The structure was part of a larger compound with many more buildings. Years later, after social and political upheaval, the villa was abandoned. It was preserved as a masterpiece of 11th century architecture and is revered today as on of Japan’s national treasures. The Byodo-in Temple was planned with the input and assistance of the Hawaiian Buddhist community. Buddhism is one of the world’s oldest religions.