Android bodhisattva to deliver Heart Sutra

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Along the lines of ‘you ain’t seen nothin’ yet’, the Android Kannon Mindar was observed preaching to monks of the Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto on February 23, 2019.

In a widely circulated video, monks are seen bowing down to the android robot and what sounds like a female voice speaks from within (pun intended).

Kodaiji Temple and Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor of intelligent robots, collaborated to create this robotic deity called Mindar, which was built by Tokyo-based A-Lab Co. It’s body is made primarily of aluminum, with silicone covering its hands and face, designed to look like human skin, allowing for a more ‘human’ appearance, especially when it is dressed in robes.

Mindar is programmed to deliver sermons from the Heart Sutra. Reportedly, the cost to build this robotic version of Kannon, deity of mercy in Japan, aka Guan Yin, came to more than US$ 900,000.

To reach also non-Japanese speaking people, translated versions of English and Chinese are projected on a screen. The 1,95-metre-tall robot stands on a base, weighs 60 kilograms and has a camera installed in its left eye. It can also move its head, torso and an arm (or two). It is not quite clear what the camera is supposed to record.

Chief steward Tensho Goto of Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward said during a news conference, “Buddhism saw a phenomenal spread in the world with the emergence of Buddhist images. We are hoping that the Android Kannon will help Buddhist teachings reach the hearts of people today…. We want many people to come to see (the robot) to think about the essence of Buddhism.”

The Kannon deity transforms itself into various forms to help people. According to a temple statement, “This time, Kannon changed into an android.”

Kannon Mindar will be shown to the public between March 8 and May 6, 2019, eagerly anticipated.

BhagawatiBhagawati is a regular contributor

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