A temple built in the hopes for an Emperor’s recovery from illness
Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple was constructed in 745 by Empress Komyo in the hopes for Emperor’s Shomu’s recovery from illness with 7 statues of the Yakushi Nyorai enshrined within. At the time, more than 100 monks served in the huge grounds, and Kon-do Hall where the Buddhas were enshrined was even larger than the council hall at the Nara Imperial Palace. The temple was almost completely burned down due to a lightning strike in the year 780, and the hall that had been used as the refectory became the current Kon-do main hall. The Kon-do is a valuable building erected in the Nara Era which is simple yet strong, and it has the special characteristic of not having an attic, instead revealing the rafters for an open-ceiling appearance. The name of Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple does not refer to a “New Yakushi-ji Temple” but a “miraculous” temple enshrining the Yakushi Nyorai and has no connection with the Yakushi-ji Temple of Nishi-no-Kyo.
The spectacular protectors, The Twelve Heavenly Generals
In the Nara Era, belief in the Yakushi Nyorai was at a peak as the Buddha overlooking the peoples’ physical and mental health, and the Buddha had in its left hand a medicine vase which contained a panacea of miracle medicines which could heal all disease. Surrounding the placid-faced Yakushi Nyorai are the brave Twelve Heavenly Generals with their steely-eyed expressions to protect the Buddha from all evil demons. Each of the generals is distinct from the others, with his own expression and stance. Challenging any demons who would disturb the penitent Yakushi Nyorai to battle, they are separated along the 12 points of the compass and command a total of 84,000 large armies, and even after chasing away them away, the generals eternally continue to stand vigilant so that the demons don’t come twice. Furthermore, according to current research, it has been discovered that the earth-colored Twelve Heavenly Generals had once been vividly painted in red, blue, green, gold and other colors. The Twelve Heavenly Generals, along with the Yakushi Nyorai, pray for a world without sorrow, and underneath their stern expressions, there is a benevolence to them, something that should not be missed.