This time let me write about nyorai ranked highest among the four groups of Buddhist statuary.
As I wrote last time, nyorai is the one that has achieved the ultimate state of enlightenment or Buddhahood. Nyorai has two charateristics in appearance which the other three groups do not have. One characteristic is that he has small, tightly-bound, clamshell knots called rahotsu on the head. And the other is that he wears a very simple cloth on the upper body without decorative jewelry or accessories. This simply tells us that nyorai has thrown away all the worldly desires. Below are some of the nyorai statues most commonly known in Japan.
Shaka Nyorai is the origin of all Buddhist statuary. Many Shaka Nyorai statues are holding the palm-up semui-in mudra and the palm-down yogan-in mudra. This hand posture means that everything is alright and a wish will be fulfilled. Shaka triad statues of Horyuji Temple, Nara, sculpted by Buddhist sculptor Tori in the 7th century, are among the oldest nyorai statues.
Yakushi Nyorai is the one that is thought to help in recovering from illness, when worshipped, with yakko ( a medicine jar ) on his left hand. This statue is often flanked by two attendants, Nikko ( sunlight ) Bosatsu and Gakkou ( monlight ) Bosatsu. It is not rare that the statue is surrounded by Juuni-Shinsho ( twelve guardian deities ). One good example is found at Shin-Yakushiji Temple, Nara.
Amida Nyorai is the one that is believed to come to receive the person at death so that he might go and be reborn in Pure Land paradise. People often recite the chant "Namu Amida Butsu" in order that they could enter Pure Land paradise after death. The most famous Amida Nyorai is the statue of Byodo-in Temple, Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, which was made by Jocho, a renowned Buddhist sculptor in the 11th century.
Dainichi Nyorai is the highest manifestation in esoteric Buddhism. He rules the two worlds of truth and wisdom. Esoteric Buddhism considers all buddhas, including Shaka Nyorai, incarnations of Dainichi Nyorai. Unlike other nyorai, Dainichi Nyorai statues have long bound hair with a crown on the head and wear various ornaments.
Next time let's see what bosatsu statues are like. See you soon.