TOKYO >> A statue of the Buddhist monk Kuya, known for having tiny Buddha figures emerging from his mouth, is usually kept in Kyoto. But it was on display in April at the special exhibition, “The Saint Kuya and Rokuharamitsuji Temple,” at the Tokyo National Museum. It marked the first time in half a century that people could see it in Tokyo.
The six tiny Buddha statues represent Amida Buddha. Kuya was known for his tireless efforts to teach Buddhism.
Kuya was active during the mid-Heian period (794 to late 12th century) amid rampant plagues and a series of natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding, as well as political uprisings. The disasters especially afflicted commoners.
The Buddhist monk helped the poor and sick throughout his life, earning him the nickname “Ichi no Hijiri,” a saint living among the ordinary people.
The standing statue, believed to have been created during the early Kamakura period (late 12th century to 1333), is barely 4 feet tall. But Kuya’s muscular, dynamic presence so overwhelms viewers that many find themselves standing just a little bit taller.
The statue is enshrined at Rokuharamitsuji temple in Kyoto.
With conflict and disease again stirring unease, it was timely to see the statue of Kuya, the saint who lived for the sake of others in trying times.