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IMMAGINE: Hokke-dō (Fukūkensaku Kannon) - Sangatsudō
The Hokke-dō (also known as Sangatsudō) is the oldest structure at Tōdai-ji, said to have been built between 740 and 747. Because the main image is a statue of Fukūkensaku Kannon, in the past the hall was known as the Kensaku-dō, however, since the Hokke-e (Lotus Sutra) ceremony was held in the hall in the third month of every year, it later came to be known as the Hokke-dō (Lotus Hall). The hall is made up of two parts, a rear section known as the image hall (shōdō), and a front section known as the worship hall (raidō). Originally these were two independent parallel structures. The present worship hall was rebuilt by Chōgen in 1199 and is attached to the image hall. The Hokke-dō was an important element in the complex of Kinshō-ji, the predecessor of Tōdai-ji. It is said that the first lectures on Avatam.saka Sutra in Japan were held inside. The statues housed inside call to mind the splendors of the Nara period.
Inside the Hokke-dō stand ten statues crowded around the main image of Fukūkensaku Kannon. The statues are the quintessence of the sculpture of the Nara period.The atmosphere evoked by these images eventually leads those who view them to the solemn “world of the Buddhas.” The imposing image of Fukūkensaku Kannon, a deity that was believed to be willing to go to whatever length necessary to save those who were suffering, stands with a composed expression. The two Kongō Rikishi with their angry faces and menacing postures and the Four Divine Kings with their varied expressions guard the world of the Buddhas. At the rear of the hall is the secret image (an image rarely on public view) of Shukongō-jin (on view on December 16th), who with the vajra in his raised hand and angry expression protects people from enemies of the Buddhist faith. Opinions differ as to which of these statues were originally housed in the Hokke-dō. In all likelihood, first enshrined in the hall were the lacquer statue of Fukūkensaku Kannon and the clay image of Shukongō-jin which were joined at a slightly later date by eight more images in lacquer–Bon-ten and Taishaku-ten, the two Kongō Rikishi and the Four Divine Kings.