Buddhists recognize many different incarnations of the Buddha – different manifestations, often worshipped and respected as separate deities – that serve different functions and represent different aspects of Buddha’s character.
Among the most popular is Jizō Bosatsu – a bodhisattva sometimes called “the excuse Buddha.”
Jizō serves many functions, primarily related to easing suffering, delivering people to paradise, and shortening the time that souls must suffer in the Buddhist hells. He is one of the jusanbutsu, the thirteen Buddhas and bodhisattvas who judge the soul after death in Buddhist theology–and in that context, his role is to argue on behalf of the deceased, asking the other judges to show mercy.
Japan is filled with statues of Jizō–you see them everywhere, from temples to roadside shrines, and often sitting alongside hiking trails in the wilderness.
The Jizō in the photograph below sits near the start of the preserved section of the Tokaidō (a 17th century coastal travel road between Kyoto and Tokyo) in Hakone.
If you look closely, you’ll see the dove approaching the Buddha statue. As I watched, the dove walked up, stood staring at Jizō for a moment, and then walked back the way it came.
Apparently, Jizō really will listen to any and every prayer.