These six statues are Buddhist statues, called “Jizo Bosatsu”. Jizo and Bosatsu refer to the earth and Bodhisattva, respectively. Bodhisattva is one who is on the way to attain enlightenment, while Nyorai or Buddha is one who has reached enlightenment and entered Nirvana which is the final goal in Buddhism. Jizo Bosatsu has been being worshipped by people as a Buddhist divinity who fosters all living things on the earth and saves suffering people with its infinite compassion.
Jizo Bosatsu, Kenchoji Temple, Kamakura
Why an array of six statues?
According to the Buddhist teaching, there is no such thing as the death of a person, because people experience “Rin-ne Tensho” or the reincarnation of never-ending cycle of life and death. If you die, you will be reborn in one of the six posthumous worlds or realms in according with your actions and sins conducted in your previous life. These six include realms of the following:
3 Ever-lasting war
5 Preta or hungry ghosts
Six Jizo Bosatsu are sent to each of the six posthumous realms to provide reliefs to suffering people over there. If you pay attention to the bases of the six Jizo Bosatsu on the photo (below), you will notice two Chinese characters are engraved on each of the bottoms which read, from left to right, the posthumous realm of Heaven, humans, ever-lasting war, beasts, preta, and Hell.
Characters on the bottom to represent each posthumous realm
Save people in Heaven?
The heavenly realm in Buddhism is not equivalent to Heaven in Christianity. In the Buddhist heaven, the heavenly beings reside and enjoy their long lives which are full of pleasures. But their lives are not eternal, not immortal, and eventually they will die. After death they will be judged by Enma (the Master of Hell) into which posthumous realm each of them will be reborn according to their sins and activities during their lives in the Heavenly realm. The heavenly beings are those who have not attained enlightenment, not spared from earthly desires, and Jizo Bosatu is to provide reliefs to them. Those who have fallen into Hell will sure need salvation by Jizo Bosatsu.
Why wearing a red cap and bib?
Jizo Bosatsu has also been worshiped as a guardian divinity of babies and children. People believe that Jizo Bosatsu save and guide dead children and miscarried fetuses to the Buddhist heaven and express their faith by providing red baby caps and bibs to Jizo Bosatsu. On the photo below, small stone statues of Jizo Bosatsu wearing red caps and bibs are placed at a temple; they are Jizo Bosatsu statues donated by parents who lost their children, wishing Jizo Bosatsu lead dead children to the Buddhist Heaven.
“Butsuzo” or Buddhist statues are classified into four types; Nyorai; Bosatsu; Myo-oh;Ten. There are several subcategories in each. I wish you have a chance to learn more about them, which will sure help you enjoy the deep world of “Butsuzo”.
By Jin Shibata