I alone am the World-Honored One

Taken by me while visiting Japan recently at Ginkakuji temple in Kyoto. This was a small altar to the infant Shakyamuni Buddha traditionally done around the time of the Buddha’s Birthday:

Altar room at Ginkakuji, Togudo Hall

The title comes from the traditional Buddhist story that the Buddha upon birth, took seven steps,1 whereupon lotus flowers bloomed at each step and stated:

“Above heaven and below heaven, I alone am the world-honored one”

As the appearance of a fully-awakened, self-enlightened2 Buddha is said in Buddhism to be unfathomably rare, this statement is fitting. But it also reminds me of a poem by Issa, quoted in Buddha’s Wish for the World (pg. 10):

笋(たけのこ)も takenoko mo
名乗るか nanoru ka
唯我独尊と yui ga dokuson to

“Even the lowly bamboo shoot
proclaims to all the world:
I alone am the World-Honored One”

As the author, the Monshu of the Nishi Honganji explains:

Issa must have noticed its commanding presence and related it to the evenof Shakyamuni Buddha’s birth. He didn’t just plop it down at the market for so many pennies a pound. Issa saw in the bamboo shoot another existence living the same life that we all live. He sensed that the same force that resisded in Shakyamuni Buddha was at work in the bamboo shoot and expressed this significance with the words, “Truly, I alone am the World-Honored One.”

Namu Amida Butsu

1 For the Six Realms of rebirth, plus one more for Nirvana or emancipation.

2 In other words, without the help of someone else to teach them the Dharma.


About Doug

A Buddhist, father and Japanophile / Koreaphile.
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