Every year, my family and I are Buddhist, but we tend to celebrate the Epiphany every year because we like the King Cakes that our local bakery sells. Because the bakery includes tiny collectable figurines from the Nativity of Jesus in them, we have collected a number of figurines over time which I keep on the bookshelf in the den. It’s not quite a complete set from the Nativity, but it is a good start.
One day, I happened to notice the following scene.
I had the Nativity figurines arranged like normal, but there was also a figurine of a Buddhist ashura coincidentally to the left as if looking down on the scene approvingly. Ashura are a kind of “titan” in Buddhist mythology that were constantly at war with the devas (roughly analogous to the Greek “Olympian” gods). However, this ashura figurine is actually replica of a famous statue, constructed in the year 734, at the temple of Kōfukuji in Nara, Japan which depicts an ashura that has given up warfare and embraced the Buddhist doctrines of peace and goodwill.
Anyhow, I must have moved the ashura statue while cleaning up some of the clutter on the bookshelf, but it was a funny coincidence, and reminds me of my favorite Japanese manga, Saint Young Men (Japanese seinto oniisan 聖☆おにいさん):
I own most of the issues in Japanese and enjoy reading it from time to time, but I also love its peaceful message of co-existence between the Buddha and Jesus who share an apartment in the suburbs of Tokyo. The manga does a good job at poking light-hearted fun at each religion and Japanese society without being crass or offensive (not an easy task!).
Anyhow, seeing my little ashura statue paying homage to the newborn Jesus seemed like happy coincidence on my bookshelf, so I’ve left it as is for the time being.