(Amitabha looking back)
There is a legend. In old days, an old man offered an image of Amitabha to the Emperor Court and it had been worshiped
by people in the Court. At the opening ceremony of Todai-ji, Nara, the image was handed over to Todai-ji from
the Emperor Court. The image had been treasured in a storehouse. Eikan had an opportunity to worship the image and
heard an appeal coming from the deep heart of the image. Eikan deplored that the image was treasured, because he
believed firmly that the original vow of the image was the salvation of all sentient beings. Eikan's grief was caught by
the ex-emperor Shirakawa and he ordered Eikan to retain the image and carry out the services. In later years, Eikan
resigned from the head of stewards of Todai-ji and walked to Kyoto with the image carrying on his back. Near Kibata in
Kyoto, monks of Todai-ji chased Eikan and tried to take the image back, but they had to give up it because it held fast
on the back of Eikan.
In the early morning on February 15, 1082, Eikan was 50 years old and was walking around the platform of the image, praising Nenbutsu (Nam-Amida-butsu) as an ordinary religious service in a temple, where the air was freezing cold. All of a sudden, the image walked down from the platform and begun to lead Eikan. Eikan was so astonished that he could not keep walking. At the moment, the image looked back over its shoulder and said. "Eikan! Follow me." Eikan saw the holy and merciful pose of the image and desired it to keep the merciful pose for future generations. This is a legend why Mikaeri Amida is looking back.
Brief Data about Mikaeri Amida
Period: Late Heian Period - Early Kamakura Period (around 12 century)
This is the principal image of Eikando, Zenrin-ji, Kyoto, Japan and it is one of the important cultural assetts of Japan. The style of the image shows a moderate way in late Heian Period but the decorative wave of clothes shows that this might be made by a sculptor in Kyoto in early Kamakura Period. The sculptor skillfully arranged the pose by catching up the moment from a static pose to a dynamic one.
The pose of Mikaeri Amida can be interpreted as an attitude:
To wait for the people behind,
To think back on his own position,
To show mercy to neighbors,
To watch the people with mercy,
To pay attention to the people, as a leader to step forward together.
The pose also shows the benevolence of the Amida, who is still worrying about the people who can not come to the front, though the Amida has already taken a lot of people in the front.