There have been many bibles in space. Buzz Aldrin took communion wine and bread to the moon. However, there’s never been an actual church or temple in space. That could change soon when a group of Buddhist monks in Japan launches a temple into space, with a space Buddha onboard to bring happiness and peace and allow people on Earth to “connect with each other through outer space.” Have they figured out a way to burn incense without fire or oxygen?
“In the past, people had a temple in their neighborhood where they could go regularly. However, with many people relocating to other places, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, that has become difficult. We wanted to build a temple people can easily turn to.”
Shouldn’t that be look up to? A spokesperson for Terra Space, a satellite developer, told Japan Times that the company has teamed up with Kyoto’s Daigoji Temple to launch the Jotenin Gounji Temple inside a satellite. The name means “pure heaven” and it will be not only the first Buddhist temple but the first house of worship of any kind in space. The temple will only occupy half of the space on the satellite, but that’s enough room for a mandala (a geometric configuration of deities and symbols) and a statue of Vairocana, a celestial Buddha.
If anyone knows how to run a temple, on Earth or in space, it’s the monks of the Daigoji Temple. Founded in 874, it’s a designated World Heritage Site and home to Kyoto’s oldest verified building – a five-story pagoda built in 951. The monks are just as serious about the Jotenin Gounji space temple.
“On February 8th, the Daigoji will hold its first space prayer ceremony for the projects that have already started. On that day they want to pray for peace and security in space while people continue to stay on earth. The ceremony is said to take place regularly and if the space temple is active it will also contain images from the satellite that it is taking.”
Sumikai.com reports that the plan is for Terra Space to launch the satellite containing the temple in 2023 and place it at an altitude of 450 km (280 miles) where it will orbit Earth every 90 minutes. The monks will remotely hold “space services” from the Jotenin Gounji Temple, sending prayers to the space temple that will be recorded in its digital memory. Since the other side of the satellite will be a working communications satellite, the space temple can access it to monitor other Buddhist temples in mountainous areas during disasters where there is no internet or cell phone access.
While the monks want a temple people can easily turn to, it will be impossible to get into. The entire satellite is the size “of a jewelry box” which we assume to mean a normal jewelry box, not Queen Elizabeth’s jewelry palace wing. The other problem, as is the case with everything else these days, is money. The satellite will cost ¥200 million ($1.9 million), so Terra Space and the Daigoji Temple will be raising funds by selling space-related collectibles, lucky charms and services by the temple.
Jotenin Gounji may mean “pure heaven,” but the monks may find out that that running a space temple is more like business hell.