Filming a sacred, hidden ritual that has continued without a break for almost 1,300 years

Prayers for the Pandemic: 1,300 Years of Ritual at Todaiji

  • Since ancient times people have prayed to the Great Buddha of Todaiji Temple to ward off epidemics and usher in peace
  • For fourteen days the monks devote themselves to prayer
  • The sparks of the flames and beauty of the chants draw us into the world of Buddhism

Every early spring since the 8th century, Buddhist monks at Nara Prefecture's Todaiji have practiced the Shuni-e ceremony. A series of esoteric rituals, including prayers to Kannon to protect humankind from disaster and disease, it also offers a window into Tang dynasty China. But in 2021, the COVID pandemic threatened to bring a halt to this uninterrupted tradition. Aided by an infectious disease specialist, the monks go to great lengths to hold this ancient practice for the 1,270th time.

Program Outline