The chaos of the bustling Worli Naka, one of the busiest commercial hubs of Mumbai, fades away in the background as soon as you enter the city’s oldest Buddhist temple. This ultimate place of serenity is called the Nipponzan Myohoji Temple. It is possibly the only surviving Japanese temple in Mumbai and serves as a refuge of peace and tranquility from the outside world.
Built in 1956, this temple is spread over an area of approximately 820 square meters. Nipponzan Myohoji’s origins are linked directly to an almost 700 year old prophecy made in the 13th century by a Japanese monk called Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren, who said that the ultimate salvation of humanity, contaminated by all that was evil and impure, lay in the western haven of India, and that Buddhism would spread to the rest of the world from there. Many centuries later, another Japanese monk named Nichidatsu Fujii came to India in 1931 with a group of disciples, with the intention of fulfilling that prophecy by communicating the Lotus Sutra in India and also to repay boundless debt of gratitude to the Buddha in his original land of dharma. He remained in India until 1938, and during this period Fujii built a small temple in Worli Naka. In 1956, the temple underwent a makeover which was funded by philanthropist Seth Raja Baldeo Das Birla and is maintained today by his family’s charitable trust.
This Japanese Buddhist order temple is open to all Buddhists and people of other ethnicities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Chinese, Japanese and Tibetans who come to participate in the daily worship and satsang (prayers) in mutual harmony and goodwill.
Today, the Nipponzan Myohoji temple is looked after by Bhikshu T Morita, a resident Japanese monk who has been taking care of the temple and its premises for about 41 years. The structure of the temple is really beautiful. There is a main hall where everyone gathers to pray, with two wooden drums in the corner. The walls adorn paintings on Buddha’s life, and a six and a half feet marble statue of Buddha is placed in the sanctum sanctorum. Prayers are held twice during the day with a soothing chant, “Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo”, the central mantra of Nichiren Buddhism, accompanied by rhythmic drum beats, every morning from 6–7am and evening from 6–7:30pm.
This temple, where one can experience absolute calm and peace, is a monument almost forgotten in the hustle bustle of this busy city. It is a rare example where history and modernity go side by side. One must surely visit this temple if you want to detach yourself from the hectic city life and spent a few quiet and peaceful moments.