Clouds were rolling over the heads of the dozens of tourists flocking around Todaiji, playing with the deers of Nara Park and taking selfies without noticing there was more people around them. Same clouds were rolling over my mind, changing my mood as I was standing in front of Todaiji for the second time in a year. All of a sudden, a far away presence made my head turn right. I glimpsed a monk going uphill into the forest next to Todaiji, then decided to follow his tracks. The places I visited after that moment changed completely into a deep experience visit of Nara Park.
Nigatsu-do (Hall of the Second Month)
At the time I arrived to the top of the uphill path, there was no sign of the monk. I was distracted on my way by a deer staring at me. The deers of Nara park are a symbol of the city, and believed to be messengers of the gods in Shinto religion. At the top, read the signs on a board and turned left, to Nigatsu-do and Sangatsu-do temple halls. The Nigatsu-do is known in Nara by the water drawing ceremony, the Omizutori. It takes place in March but is recommended to check the exact days every year at the tourist office. Unlucky for me, it was June when I discovered that information. The fact I couldn’t be at the dates of the ceremony didn’t bother me anymore, once I stood in the terrace of Nigatsu-do and took a deep breath while observing the views from there. I could see the rooftop of Todaiji, and it’s said on clear days one can see all the way to Mount Ikoma. The present building of Nigatsu-do dates from 1669, and is one of the National Treasures of Japan. An old man on my right was as concentrated as me, observing every detail of the scenery from there. A few steps on the left, kids from a Japanese school were laughing and paying more attention to the deers below us.
Sangatsu-do (Hall of the Third Month)
The sound of a bell took me back from the far away scenery. Took a few steps around the Hall, and followed the mumbling sound of a monk reciting mantras. At the back of the Hall there was a secret opening, where I saw a woman being blessed by a monk in the Hall. Trying to be as quiet as the deers of the park I passed next to them and headed for the entrance of Sangatsu-do. Still had more than thirty minutes until I had to meet my group back at Todaiji. Those thirty minutes went by in a flash once I stepped inside Sangatsu-do, also known as Hokke-do. At the entry, a couple of old friendly receptionist were staring at me surprised. Not many tourists made it as far as me, and even less tourists pay the 500¥ fee to enter inside Hokke-do and see their hidden National Treasures. I gladly did pay the fee, took off my shoes and entered the worship hall with the only sound of my heavy steps on the wood floor. Also, I switched off my camera and put it into the bag, as photos were strictly forbidden inside. (take a look of the sculptures). I was the only “human” in the hall. Alone but contemplating the nine god large statues, all staring back at me. The ambience of the place was certainly out of this World. The central piece of the hall, an sculpture of Fukûkensaku Kannon, that with her many arms reaches out to all directions to save all of those who are suffering. Protecting the central Kannon, The Four Kings and warrior-like sculpture with their menacing faces seemed to be judging my presence. A few hundred meters down in Todaiji, crowds of loud tourists were lining up to enter the temple. Others playing with the deers of the park, or being a nuisance with their selfie sticks to other passers on the way. Me, I made a trip to the World of Buddhas, as one of the old man told me when I left the hall. And that probably the gods saved me from all my suffering.