Lamp : Burn On

Japan Adventures (1) : The 1,200 Year Old Lamp

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Enryakuji is a temple built on Mount Hiei at the end of the 8th century by master Saichō, the founder of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. It is the head temple of representing the Japanese Tendai sect. In its Konpon Chūdō Hall (recognised by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage) burns a special lamp, which is said to had burned continuously for the last 1,200 years till today – to represent the continuation and passing of the ‘light’ of the Dharma. It was the wish of Saichō that this lamp be kept lit eternally… even beyond the coming of the next Buddha (Maitreya) in some 56 billion years’ time. It is called the ‘Fumetsu-no-Hōtō’, which means the ‘Inextinguishable Dharma Lamp’. Though ritualistically ‘simple’, the devoted maintenance of this lamp stands for the diligent transmission of the Dharma and he inspiration to keep it perpetuated in our world to dispel the darkness of delusion. If we miss the significance of the lamp’s meaning, it would just be another ordinary one. It was in this place that we bumped into two friends, of all the places in the world… who happened to be on a free and easy trip here on pilgrimage too. A rare yet exact karmic ‘coincidence’ indeed! Lai remarked that she had came to see the Hōtō Lamp, that the lamp that burnt for 1,200 years had brought us together unexpectedly. I agree. But on second thought, it was the lamp of the Dharma transmitted from the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago that inspired the lighting of the Hōtō Lamp. It was this main invisible ‘lamp’ of wisdom from the Buddha that led us to be Buddhists, to be inspired enough to ascend this mountain to see the Hōtō Lamp!

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