Kyoto: Buddha Descends from Heaven, via Drone

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An operator controls drones carrying Buddhist statues at Ryuganji Temple in Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto.

KYOTO — In the Buddhist view, Amitabha Buddha is said to descend from heaven on a cloud to pick up people nearing death.

Ryuganji Temple in Kyoto has been re-creating the scene in Buddhist services using a drone.

Although some criticized the practice as being disrespectful when it was started four years ago, videos of the floating Buddha are now popular on social media.

Buddha statue sculptor Yozan Miura came up with the idea as a way to arouse young people’s interest during memorial services for the dead, in an era when Japanese people are increasingly turning away from Buddhism.

A wooden statue was too heavy to place on a drone, so a lighter statue was made using a 3D printer.

Miura said he has received positive feedback, with some noting that it was nice to see the gratifying scene.

“We need to make an effort these days to get people to deepen their understanding of Buddhism,” said Ryuho Ikeguchi, the temple’s chief priest.