One of the many Tendai sect Buddhist temples in Ōhara, Raigō-in is somewhat removed from the others and offers a peaceful sanctuary located near the Otonashi no Taki waterfall. Founded as a dōjō at which monks practiced shōmyō Buddhist chanting, a form of musical worship which influenced the development of later Japanese music, Raigō-in practices shōmyō to this day. Though the only remaining building on the property is the main hall, it contains a trio of statues classified as Important Cultural Properties that includes the Medicine Buddha, as well as boasts an interesting painted ceiling featuring Buddhist angels.
Raigō-in offers a peaceful sanctuary located near the Otonashi no Taki waterfall.
The one hall remaining for visitors to enter, Raigō-in’s main hall is home to three statues in a triad: the Medicine Buddha Yakushi Nyorai, Amida Buddha and Gautama Buddha (Shakyamuni). These wooden statues were made in the Fujiwara period (894 – 1185), making them almost 1,000 years old. Decorating the ceiling above the altar are two painted depictions of Buddhist angels from the Pure Land, surrounded by musical instruments in the sky. The hall also contains wooden statues of monks related to the temple’s founding, including Ennin and Ryōnin.
As a former training hall for monks learning shōmyō, Raigō-in still hosts services that include this characteristic Tendai sect form of the Buddhist chanting. Those who visit the temple on Sundays at 13:00 can give shōmyō a listen for themselves when a service is held at the main hall. Shōmyō is said to be the origin of Japanese music, and is often compared to styles of music such as Gregorian chanting.
Grave of Ryōnin
Located behind the main hall and across a small river is an unassuming stone pagoda encased in a stone “fence” of sorts. Though it may seem plain, this is the grave of the man who revitalized the temple in the 12th century, Ryōnin.
Ryōnin revitalized the temple and later served as the founder of the yuzu nenbutsu tradition of “circulating nenbutsu”. Nenbutsu was first propagated by Hōnen, and promised salvation and rebirth into the Pure Land after death by calling on Amida Buddha to save the speaker.
Ryōnin’s yuzu nenbutsu, on the other hand, implemented the phrase as a prayer for the whole world rather than the individual.
The 3rd head of the Tendai sect, Ennin (also known as Jikaku Daishi), brought the practice of shōmyō Tendai Buddhist chanting from China in the mid-800’s, and founded Raigō-in to serve as a training hall in Ōhara where the tradition was fostered in Japan. Naming the area after the temple he studied at in China, it came to be known as Gyōzan.
After the temple fell into disrepair it was revitalized in 1109 by the monk Ryōnin, who went on to found the practice of yuzu nenbutsu, (“circulating nenbutsu”, calling upon Amida Buddha for the sake of the whole world as opposed to for one’s own rebirth).
Though the buildings were occasionally razed by fire, the current construction can be dated to the Tenbun era (1532-1555). Raigō-in’s principle image is that of the Medicine Buddha, Yakushi Nyorai, in triad with Amida Buddha and Gautama Buddha (Shakyamuni).
Each Sunday, 13:00