Kari Grohn's Home Page - Japan - 25-bosatsu Onerikuyo

Nijugo-bosatsu Oneri Kuyo
Sokujoin, Sennyuji, Kyoto




Nijugo Bosatsu Oneri Kuyo, Kyoto – 25 Bodhisattvas Procession

In this unique ceremony at Sennyuji Sokujoin temple children wear gorgeous brocade costumes and masks. They are twenty five enlightened bodhisattvas, who help all beings to find the path to salvation. The children cross the bridge between two temple buildings carrying Amida Buddha on the palanquin into the Pure Land of Happiness. Amida is the god of mercy, tolerance, clemency, generosity, and magnanimity, and it is believed that the most sinful villain will be able to go to the Pure Land by praying in Amida’s name: Namu Amida Butsu (Homage to Amida Butsu). 

Nijugo Bosatsu Oneri Kuyo is a memorable family occasion but in children’s mind the solemn ceremony is just an amusement. Grown-ups plead kids to give flower card amulets, but boys play a skinflint.
































The Heian nobility adopted the belief in Amida’s coming to welcome the newly released spirit with twenty five bodhisattvas to the Pure Land. There is the special ceremony ´mukaeko` to celebrate the central hope of Amida’s coming as one is dying. When a believer faces death it is important to recite ´namu amida butsu` in the hope of birth in the Pure Land. But it is also thought that the rites on deathbed don’t compensate good life, which produces the confidence in Amida. 

In an old Japanese painting the brilliant golden Amida surrounded by twenty five bodhisattvas sits cross legged in the middle while descending on a cloud to a house where a dying person lies inside. Seishi bodhisattva prays and Kannon bodhisattva holds the golden pedestal for the spirit of the deceased. All this is encircled by purple clouds, flowers, perfume, and music. Amida has a five coloured string in her hand and the other end of the string is in the hand of the dying person. Kannon is the female bodhisattva of compassion. 

Another well-known bodhisattva is Jizo, the guardian deity of children. According to a common belief children who die prematurely are sent to the underworld, where they have to pile up small pebbles in a river to climb out of limbo into paradise. The work is hampered by a demon with an iron club. But there is no need to worry, since Jizo comes to the rescue and hides the children in his sleeves and helps them cross the river safely. In Japan we can see little piles of rocks around Jizo statues put by Japanese to help the suffering souls of their deceased children. Most statues of Jizo also wear red bibs or hats made by mothers who want encourage Jizo to take special care of their children's spirits.