What’s the Big Buddha in your life?

“You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an image . . . You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . .”  Exodus 20:3-5 NIV

I love Japan and its people.  My feeling comes from visiting it 23 times and spending over a year of my life there.  My favorite place is the city of Nara. the first capital of the country.  Today it still possesses the charm and eloquence of ancient Japan.  During World War II, the USA refused to bomb Nara, since it held such historical, religious, and cultural importance to the Japanese.  This stunning benevolence by our country in this regard is difficult to imagine during wartime.  

My favorite place to stay was a hotel bordering Nara Park, a fascinating place.  Imagine a Vatican City for Japanese Buddhists, and this is it.  The most important structure here is Todaiji Temple, home to Diabutsuden, aka Big Buddha.  It’s the world’s largest building, built in 1692; amazingly, it’s only 2/3 the size of the original built in 752 that had been destroyed in a fire between two warring armies.  

Big Buddha is an imposing figure just under 50 feet tall and weighing many tons, made of gilded bronze with a gold overlay covering its headdress.  The surroundings are surreal and would require considerable explanation to describe adequately.  In Japanese Buddhism, this one is THE Buddha.  On New Year’s Day around 200,000 Japanese wait hours in line to enter Todaiji Temple to pay their respect and receive good luck.  

This area is serene and beautiful.  I’ve visited Big Buddha numerous times, and people are always prostrate at his feet and praying.   Their worship is painful to watch.  One feels powerless to do anything.  You just want to shake some sense into the ones bowing to a STATUE.  

How did the Japanese miss the mark so badly?  As a whole they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever known.  They display behaviors that are Christian–probably more consistently than I see with most Christians.  

Big Buddha exemplifies in living technicolor what is another god to millions of people.  Nonetheless, we may be guilty of doing the same, but in more subtle ways.  ANYTHING we place ahead of God is a false god.  I suggest that ANYTHING covers a broad range of possibilities.  

Do you have any false gods in your life?  If so, what do you need to do to eliminate them?

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for being a great God full of mercy.  Forgive us when we have not placed you first in our lives.  Amen.

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