Goko Shiyui Amida Butsu

Reverend Etsuko Mikame


Because of the recent unprecedented situation, barber shops and hair salons have been all closed since the shelter-in-place order started. So that means many people cannot get their hair cut and must be frustrated. My hair has originally a lot of volume but now it’s getting out of hand!

By the way, have you seen this Buddhist statue?


Some of you must be surprised to see this Afro Buddha.  When I was still in Kyoto, Japan studying Buddhism at school, my friend showed me this picture. I thought this was very cute. I realized that more profound meanings were included in this statue than its cute appearance.

The real name of ‘Afro Budhha is “Goko Shiyui Amida Butsu” in Japanese. It means that a Buddha meditates for 5 kalpas. We can find it in the grave yard of Konkai Komyoji temple in Kyoto.

“Goko” literally means a long period of time. “Go” is five and “ko” is a unit of time in Buddhism. “Ko” used to indicate a long period of time. There are many stories in sutras which tell us what “ko”means.

One sutra defines a Kalpa(ko) as being longer than the time needed to remove all the poppy seeds filling a city 39,000 acres, if one takes away one seed every hundred years. Another sutra says that a kalpa is longer than the time required to wear away a cube of rock forty ri(one ri being about 0.3miles)on each side, by brushing it with a piece of cloth once every hundred years.

Ko means such an endless and countless period of time and it also means eternity. So, “5 Ko” is 5 times longer.

“Shiyui” means “to think about something”and “to meditate”.

Why does Amida Buddha continue to meditate?

When Amida  Buddha was  still the Dharmakara Bodhisattva, Dharmakara had thought about the relief of every living thing for 5 kalpas. So this statue of Afro hair Buddha was actually made to express the state of 5 kalpas-long meditation and to tell us how long Dharmakara continued to meditate for our assurance and how hard Dharmakara worked for the resolution of our sufferings. It took 5 kaplas because Dharmakara didn’t want to leave anyone behind.

Its Afro hair tells us that Dharmakara was so serious that Dharmakara continued to think only about each of us without caring about itself.

After 5 kalpas of contemplation, Dharmakara accomplished perfect practice then to make us attain enlightenment 10 more kaplas and finally became Amida Buddha by finding a way to achieve birth in the Pureland for all. It took 10 kalpas because Dharmakara wanted to fill the benefit with Namo Amida Butsu and reach each of us. If 10 more kalpas had been included, the volume of its Afro would have been very huge!

Now we receive the benefit of Amida Buddha through the resonance of Namo Amida Butsu. This is true result of Amida’s great effort for each of us.