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Shingon Buddhism

The History of Buddhism.

The history of Buddhism is the story of Siddhartha Gautamas spiritual journey
to Enlightenment and of the teachings and ways of living that developed from
Siddhartha Gautama was born into a royal family, 624 BC, in the village of
Lumbini in present day Nepal. His privileged life insulated him from the
sufferings of life; such as sickness, old age and death. One day he went outside
the palace and saw for the first time, an old man, a sick man and a corpse. This
greatly disturbed him, and he learned that sickness, old age and death were
the inevitable fate of human beings. He had also seen a monk who had given
up everything he owned to seek an end to suffering, and Siddhartha decided
this was a sign that he should leave his royal life and find answers to his
questions about why there is suffering. He searched for a way to escape the
inevitability of death, old age and pain by studying with religious men but this
didnt provide him with an answer. He followed a life of extreme self-denial
and discipline, practised meditation but concluded that he still had not
escaped from the world of suffering. One day while sitting under a tree, known
as the Bodhi Tree or Tree of Wisdom, Siddhartha entered into deep
meditation. In this state, he believed himself to have been made aware of the
fact that true happiness or contentment can only be found in a life of
moderation in which one chooses to walk a middle path between extreme
indulgence and self-deprivation. He was led from the pain of suffering and
rebirth towards the path of Enlightenment and became known as the Buddha
or 'awakened one. Now the Buddha ("the Enlightened or Awakened One")
began to teach others these truths out of compassion for their suffering. The
most important doctrines he taught included the Four Noble Truths and the
Eight-Fold Path.
He advised them not to accept his words on blind faith, but to decide for
themselves whether his teachings are right, then follow them. He encouraged
everyone to have compassion for each other and develop their own virtue,
"You should do your own work, for I can teach only the way."

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The Four Noble Truths

The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering (Dukkha). Life as we
normally live it is full of the pleasures and pains of the body and mind;
pleasures, he said, do not represent lasting happiness. They are
inevitably tied in with suffering since we suffer from wanting them,
wanting them to continue, and wanting pain to go so pleasure can come.
The Second Noble Truth is that suffering has a cause.
The Third Noble Truth, however, states that suffering has an end
(remove the cause and you remove the suffering).
The Fourth Noble Truth offers the means to that end: the Eight-Fold
Path and the Middle Way. If one follows this combined path he or she
will attain Enlightenment, an indescribable state of all-knowing, lucid
awareness in which there is only peace and joy.
The Middle Path refers to the correct view of life that the Buddha teaches, and
to the actions or attitudes that will create happiness for oneself and others.

The Eight-Fold Path

Right Views
Right Intention,
Right Speech,
Right Action,
Right Livelihood/Occupation,
Right Endeavour (an attempt to achieve a goal, Buddha- hood is
Right Mindfulness (total concentration in activity)
Right Concentration (meditation).
The two main goals of Buddhism are getting to know ourselves and learning
the Buddha's teachings. To know who we are, we need to understand that we
have two natures. One is called our ordinary nature, which is made up of
unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, and jealousy. The other is our true
nature, the part of us that is pure, wise, and perfect. In Buddhism, it is called
the Buddha nature. The only difference between us and the Buddha is that we
have not awakened to our true nature.

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Buddhism in Japan
Buddhism is considered to have been officially introduced to Japan in 538 AD
when the ruler of a Korean kingdom presented a brilliant image of the Buddha
along with scripture-scrolls and ornaments to The Japanese Emperor Kimmei.

About 40 years later Buddhism was declared the official religion of Japan. In
the beginning, the introduction of Buddhism to Japan was highly motivated by
political and cultural reasons. The court wanted to establish a system in which
the existing clans could be consolidated. The clans were practising Shinto and
the purpose of most Shinto rituals was to keep away evil spirits by purification,
prayers and offerings to the kami (Shinto gods). After a few initial conflicts the
two religions were soon able to co-exist and even complement each other.
Buddhist temples in those days were the centre of culture; they were not only
used as places of prayers, but also as schools, hospitals, orphanages and
refuges for older people. The monks were also school teachers, physicians,
engineers and developers of many construction projects. Therefore, the
Japanese government encouraged and supported the Buddhist Institutions.
In 784 the Japanese capital was transferred from Nara to Kyoto, and became
the Buddhist centre of Japan. Soon after, two new Buddhist schools were
introduced from China, namely Tendai and Shingon.

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History of Shingon Buddhism

Shingon Buddhism is an ancient transmission of Esoteric Buddhist (Mikkyo)
doctrine that began in India; spread to China and Japan. Shingon (True Word) is
the name of this esoteric lineage in Japan, but there are also esoteric schools in
China, Korea, Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong.
Shingon Buddhism maintains that the expounder of the doctrine was originally
the universal Buddha Vairocana (Dainichi Nyorai in Japan).
Lineage of Esoteric Buddhism:
Mahavairocana (Universal Buddha)
Nagarjuna (first human to receive the Mahavairocana sutra from
Vajrasattva inside an iron stupa in southern India)

Kukai also known as Kobo-Daishi (The Grand Master Who Propagated the
Buddhist Teaching), 774835, was a Japanese monk, civil servant, scholar, poet
and calligrapher, and founder of the Shingon or "True Word" school of
Kkai was born in 774 in the present-day Zentsu-ji precincts in the province of
Sanuki (now called Kagawa) on the island of Shikoku. His family were members
of the aristocratic Saeki family, a branch of the ancient tomo clan. Kkai was
born in a period of important political changes with Emperor Kammu (781
806) seeking to consolidate his power and to extend his realm, taking
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measures which included moving the capital of Japan from Nara ultimately to
Around the age of 22, Kkai was introduced to a Buddhist practice known as
Gumonjiho which involves chanting the mantra of the Bodhisattva
Akasagarbha (Kokuzo). During this period Kkai frequently sought out isolated
mountain regions where he chanted the kasagarbha mantra relentlessly. At
age 24 he published his first major literary work, Sango Shiiki (Essentials of the
Three Teachings), in which he quotes from an extensive list of sources,
including the classics of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The Nara
temples, with their extensive libraries, possessed these texts.
During this period of private Buddhist practice, Kkai had a dream, in which a
man appeared and told Kkai that the Mahavairocana Sutra is the scripture
which contained the doctrine Kkai was seeking. Though Kkai soon managed
to obtain a copy of this sutra which had only recently become available in
Japan, he immediately encountered difficulty. Much of the sutra was in untranslated Sanskrit written in the Siddham script. Kkai found the translated
portion of the sutra very cryptic. Because Kkai could find no one who could
explain the text for him, he resolved to go to China to study the text there.
In 804 Kkai took part in a government-sponsored expedition to China in order
to learn more about the Mahavairocana Sutra.
The Tang court in China granted Kkai a place in the Ximingsi temple where his
study of Chinese Buddhism began in earnest as well as studies of Sanskrit.
It was in 805 that Kkai finally met Master Huiguo (746 805) the man who
would initiate him into the Esoteric Buddhism tradition. Huiguo came from an
illustrious lineage of Buddhist masters, famed especially for translating Sanskrit
texts into Chinese, including the Mahavairocana Sutra.
Whereas Kkai had expected to spend 20 years studying in China, in a few
short months he was to receive all the initiations, and become a master of the
esoteric lineage. Huiguo died shortly afterwards, but not before instructing
Kkai to return to Japan and spread the esoteric teachings there, assuring him
that other disciples would carry on his work in China.
Kkai arrived back in Japan in 806 as the eighth Patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism,
having learnt Sanskrit and its Siddham script, studied Indian Buddhism, as well
as having studied the arts of Chinese calligraphy and poetry, all with
recognized masters. He also arrived with a large number of texts, many of
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which were new to Japan and were esoteric in character, as well as several
texts on the Sanskrit language and the Siddham script.
However in Kkai's absence Emperor Kammu had died and was replaced by
Emperor Heizei who exhibited no great enthusiasm for Buddhism.
Little is known about Kkai's movements until 809 when the court finally
responded to Kkai's report on his studies, which also contained an inventory
of the texts and other objects he had brought with him, and a petition for state
support to establish the new esoteric Buddhism in Japan. That document, the
Catalogue of Imported Items, is the first attempt by Kkai to distinguish the
new form of Buddhism from that already practiced in Japan. The court's
response was an order to reside in the Takaosanji (later Jingo-ji) Temple in the
suburbs of Kyoto. This was to be Kkai's headquarters for the next 14 years.
The year 809 also saw the retirement of Heizei due to illness and the
succession of the Emperor Saga, who supported Kkai and exchanged poems
and other gifts.
In 810 Kkai emerged as a public figure when he was appointed administrative
head of Todai-ji, the central temple in Nara, and head of the Sg (Office of
Priestly Affairs).
Shortly after his enthronement Saga became seriously ill, and while he was
recovering, Heizei fomented a rebellion, which had to be put down by force.
Kkai petitioned the Emperor to allow him to carry out certain esoteric rituals
which were said to "enable a king to vanquish the seven calamities, to
maintain the four seasons in harmony, to protect the nation and family, and to
give comfort to him and others". The petition was granted. Prior to this, the
government relied on the monks from the traditional schools in Nara to
perform rituals, such as chanting the Golden Light Sutra to bolster the
government, but this event marked a new reliance on the esoteric tradition to
fulfil this role.
In 813 Kkai outlined his aims and practices in the document called The
admonishments of Konin. It was also during this period that he completed
many of the seminal works of the Shingon School:
Attaining Enlightenment in This Very Existence
The Meaning of Sound, Word, Reality
Meanings of the Word Hm
All of these were written in 817. His popularity at the court only increased, and
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In 816, Emperor Saga accepted Kkai's request to establish a mountain retreat

at Mount Koya as a retreat from worldly affairs. He could not stay, however, as
he had received an imperial order to act as advisor to the secretary of state,
and he therefore entrusted the project to a senior disciple. As many surviving
letters to patrons attest, fund-raising for the project now began to take up
much of Kkai's time, and financial difficulties were a persistent concern;
indeed, the project was not fully realised until after Kkai's death in 835.
Kkai's vision was that Mt. Kya was to become a representation of the two
mandalas that form the basis of Shingon Buddhism: the central plateau as the
Womb Realm mandala, with the peaks surrounding the area as petals of a
lotus; and located in the centre of this would be the Diamond Realm mandala
in the form of a temple which he named Kongobu-ji the Diamond Peak
Temple. At the centre of the temple complex sits an enormous statue of
Mahavairocana Buddha who is the personification of Ultimate Reality.
In 823 the soon-to-retire Emperor Saga asked Kkai, experienced in public
works projects, to take over T-ji Temple and finish the building project. Saga
gave Kkai free reign, enabling him to make T-ji the first Esoteric Buddhist
centre in Kyoto, and also giving him a base much closer to the court, and its
The new emperor, Emperor Junna (r. 823-833) was also well disposed towards
Kkai. In response to a request from the emperor, Kkai, along with other
Japanese Buddhist leaders, submitted a document which set out the beliefs,
practices and important texts of his form of Buddhism. In his imperial decree
granting approval of Kkai's outline of esoteric Buddhism, Junna uses the term
Shingon-sh (True Word School) for the first time. An imperial decree gave
Kkai exclusive use of T-ji Temple for the Shingon School, which set a new
precedent in an environment where previously temples had been open to all
forms of Buddhism. It also allowed him to retain 50 monks at the temple and
train them in Shingon. This was the final step in establishing Shingon as an
independent Buddhist movement, with a solid institutional basis with state
authorization. Shingon had become legitimate.
In 827 Kkai was promoted to be Daiszu (Office of Priestly Affairs as Senior
Director) in which capacity he presided over state rituals, the emperor and the
imperial family.

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Kkai completed his masterpiece: The Jjshinron (Treatise on The Ten Stages
of the Development of Mind) in 830. Because of its great length, it has yet to
have been fully translated into any language. A simplified summary, Hiz
Hyaku (The Precious Key to the Secret Treasury) followed soon after.
Toward the end of 832 Kkai was back on Mt. Kya and spent most of his
remaining life there. In 834 he petitioned the court to establish a Shingon
chapel in the palace for the purpose of conducting rituals that would ensure
the health of the state. This request was granted and Shingon ritual became
incorporated into the official court calendar of events. In 835, just two months
before his death, Kkai was finally granted permission to annually ordain three
Shingon monks at Mt. Kya the number of new ordainees being still strictly
controlled by the state. This meant that Kya had gone from being a private
institution to a state-sponsored one.
In 835 Kukai died at the age of 62. Kkai was not given the traditional
cremation, but instead, in accordance with his will, was entombed on the
eastern peak of Mount Kya.
Legend has it that Kkai has not died but entered into an eternal samadhi and
is still alive on Mount Kya, awaiting the appearance of Maitreya, the future
Buddha. Monks today still bringing food to Kb Daishi on Mount Koya, as they
believe he is not dead but rather meditating. They feed him every day and
change his clothes. No one except the highest monks are allowed to see him.
Kukai left 10 chief disciples of whom the most celebrated was Shinga who
stood high in the favour of the Emperor Seiwa , and in the second generation
from him were the two eminent Yakushin (827-906) and Shobo (832-909).
Yakushin was the head of the Ninna-ji Temple.

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The teachings of Shingon

The teachings of Shingon are based on early Buddhist Tantras (=Buddhist
religious literature written in Sanskrit and concerned with powerful ritual acts
of body, speech, and mind), the Mahavairocana sutra (Japanese. Dainichi-ky),
the Vajrasekhara sutra (Kongch-ky), the Adhyardhasatika Prajnaparamita
sutra (Rishu-ky), and the Susiddhikara sutra (Soshitsuji-ky). These are the
four principal texts of Esoteric Buddhism. The Dainichi-kyo teaches the
fundamental doctrines of Shingon while the Kongocho-kyo teaches the
practical aspects of becoming a Buddha in this body.

The two Mandalas

The mystical Vairocana and Vajraekhara Tantras are expressed in the two
main mandalas of Shingon:
The Womb Realm mandala (Jp Taizkai) and
The Diamond Realm mandala (Jp Kongkai).
These two mandalas and the two sutras express the dual nature of Shingon
teachings. Herein lies the fundamental teaching and practice of Shingon
Buddhism. Our body, speech and mind become the Body, Speech and Mind of
the Mahavairocana Buddha, and thereby we become a Buddha.
The Diamond Realm mandala represents the true nature of Reality from the
standpoint of Wisdom (chi). It represents the path to Enlightenment.
The Womb realm mandala represents Principle (ri), the phenomenal world,
whose true nature can be understood utilizing the wisdom of the Diamond
Realm mandala.
In Shingon temples, these two mandalas are mounted one on each side of the
central altar.
Mahavairocana Buddha (Dainichi Nyorai) is the fundamental deity of Shingon
Buddhism. He is seen as the Ultimate Reality, the life force that is the origin of
everything and that illuminates all. His name means: Great Shining Buddha.
According to Shingon, each of us has a Buddha nature and that nature is part
of the Ultimate Reality that is Mahavairocana.

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The differences between Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism

Exoteric Buddhism is revealed by the historical Buddha.
Esoteric Buddhism is revealed by the Universal Buddha Mahavairocana
who is timeless and eternally present in a state of bliss.
Exoteric Buddhism is taught through the use of textbooks.
Esoteric Buddhism emphasizes that teaching through experience is the
way to attain enlightenment.
Exoteric Buddhism is typically taught in a large group setting
Esoteric Buddhism is taught from master to student.
Exoteric Buddhism holds that the ultimate state of Buddha-hood is too
great or extreme to be expressed or described in words, and that
nothing can be said of it.
Esoteric Buddhism holds that while nothing can be said of it verbally, it is
readily communicated via esoteric rituals which involve the use of
mantras, mudras, and mandalas.
Exoteric Buddhism state that attaining Buddha-hood is possible but
requires a huge amount of time (three aeons) of practice to achieve.
Esoteric Buddhism teaches that Buddha-hood can be attained in this
very lifetime by anyone.

The goal of Shingon Buddhism

The goal of Shingon Buddhist practice is to achieve enlightenment in this very
The essence of Shingon practice is to experience Reality through the
meditative rituals by use of mantra, mudra and visualization, i.e. "The Three
Mysteries" (Jp Sanmitsu).
Shingon places emphasis on the Thirteen Buddhas, a grouping of various
Buddhas and bodhisattvas; however this is purely for lay Buddhist practice and
Shingon priests generally make devotions to not just the Thirteen Buddhas.
Mahavairocana is the Universal Buddha which underlies all Buddhist teachings,
according to Shingon Buddhism, so other Buddhist figures can be thought of as
manifestations with certain roles and attributes. Each Buddhist figure is
symbolized by its own Sanskrit "seed" syllable.

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The present.
Today, there are very few books on Shingon in the West and until the 1940s,
not a single book on Shingon had ever been published anywhere in the world,
not even in Japan. Since this lineage was brought over to Japan from China
over 1,100 years ago, its doctrines have always been closely guarded secrets,
passed down orally.
Throughout the centuries, except for the initiated, most of the Japanese
common folk knew little of its secretive doctrines and of the monks of this
"Mantra School" except that besides performing the usual priestly duties of
prayers, blessings and funeral rites for the public, they practiced only Mikkyo,
literally "secret teachings" in stark contrast to all other Buddhist schools.
Mount Kya is the name of mountains in Wakayama Prefecture to the south of
Osaka. Also, Kya-san is a modifying word for Kongbu-ji. There is no one
mountain officially called Kya-san in Japan. Kongbu-ji is the ecclesiastic head
temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism, located on Mount Kya, Wakayama
prefecture, Japan. Its name means Temple of the Diamond Peak Mountain
In the last 1200 years, the teachings, rituals and traditions in Koyasan have not
changed. Through the efforts of countless people, the community has been
able to preserve its rich heritage and its customs, but there have been some
notable changes that have occurred over time.
Today there are 117 temples in Koyasan, but there used to be many more.
Although many of the ancient buildings have survived for many years, some of
the original buildings have been lost due to fire.
Another significant change occurred in 1872. This was the year that the law
prohibiting women to enter Koyasan was removed. This change not only
brought women to Koyasan, but with them many other common people and
children came to the mountain community. What was once a place only for
male priests gradually transformed into a small town.

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Koyasan World Heritage site.

In 2004, Koyasan was registered through UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The
official title is the Sacred Sites and pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain
Range. Since being registered as a World Heritage site, more and more
visitors from diverse countries have come to Koyasan to appreciate the rich
history and its unique atmosphere. Although the essence of Koyasan has
remained the same, nowadays all walks of life are able to live in peace at the
site where Kobo Daishi founded this sacred place 1,200 years ago.

Introducing the Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF)

According to recent national census conducted in 2003, there are
approximately 96 million Buddhists belonging to over 77,000 temples and
associations. The Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF) is the only federation of
traditional Buddhist denominations in Japan. It consists of all the major
denominations and sects (including the 58 main denominations), prefectural
Buddhist associations, and promotional Buddhist organizations. The members
of our affiliated 103 denominations and associations account for more than 90
percent of all Buddhist organizations in Japan.
Our federation has its origins in the Buddhist Interfaith Organization, founded
in 1900 to oppose the control of religion by the Japanese government. The
Japanese Buddhist Federation was created in 1957 out of the Greater Japan
Buddhist Association and the Japan Buddhist Confederation.
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Shingon Denomination

Koyasan Shingon shu

The Buzan Denomination of Shingon Buddhism
Shigisan Shingon Shu
Shingi Shingon Shu
Shingon Sanpo Shu
Shingon Shu Chizan-ha
Shingon Shu Daigo-ha
Shingon Shu Daikakuji-ha
Shingon Shu Inunaki-ha
Shingon Shu Kokubunji-ha
Shingon Shu Nakayamadera-ha
Shingon Shu Omuro-ha (Our teacher Gomyo is a full-time priest here)
Shingon-Shu Sennyuji-ha
Shingon Shu Yamashina-ha
Shingon Shu Zentsuji ha (Our teacher Gomyo had his Tokudo here).
Toji Shingon Shu

Shingon shu Omuro ha branch.

The head temple of the Omuro school of Shingon Buddhism is the Ninna-ji
temple (north-west of Kyoto) and is classified as one of the historic
monuments of ancient Kyoto as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Originally a summer home for the Imperial Family (called the Old Imperial
Palace of Omuro), which sought to escape the summer heat of the centrally
located palace, it was founded as a temple in 886 by the Emperor Uda, who
became its first head priest.
Ninna-ji Temple was also the first of Kyoto's monzeki (temples whose abbots
came from the imperial family), with retired emperor Uda being its first abbot.
Afterwards, it became tradition for a member of the Imperial Family to act as
head priest, a custom which lasted until 1869, when the Imperial household
moved to Tokyo.
The tradition of having aristocratic or persons of imperial lineage serve as chief
of the temple ended with the 30th Monzeki, Junnin Hosshinn in the late Edo
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The nationally renowned Omuro School of Flower Arrangement is also housed

on the temple complex.
In 1467, Ninnaji was destroyed by fire and fighting during the Onin War. It was
rebuilt some 150 years later.
In the hills just behind Ninnaji is the Hachi-ju Haka-sho (88 Temple Pilgrimage),
a short hike around mini-temples mirrored on the more famous 88 Temple
Pilgrimage around Shikoku. The entire walk can be done in less than an hour
and affords a great view of Kyoto.
Yugasan Rendaiji Temple.
Our Temple is the sub head temple of Ninna-ji, located in Kurashiki, Okayama
In 733, priest Gyoki began to worship the two statues of Amida Nyorai and
Yakushi Nyorai here as "Yuga Daigongen". On the request of Emperor Shomu
Tenno (701 - 756) he built a temple called Yuga-ji, now known as Rendai-Ji.
Rendai-Ji is part of a big shrine-temple complex on Mount Yuga. The site was
once an important place of pilgrimage as pilgrims heading across the channel
to Konpira-San would stop here first. After the Edo Period its popularity faded.
The temple is now number 6 on the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage.

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Main hall
The sacred objects of worship, such as statues, are displayed in the main hall.
Main halls are called Kondo, Hondo, Honden, Butsuden, Amidado or Hatto in

Lecture hall
Lecture halls are for meetings and lectures and often also display objects of
worship. Lecture halls are called Kodo.

The pagoda, a structure that has evolved from the Indian stupa, usually comes
with three (sanju no to) or five (goju no to) stories. Pagodas store remains of
the Buddha such as a tooth, usually in form of a representation.

Gates mark the entrance to the temple grounds. There is usually one main
gate, and possibly several additional gates, along the temple's main approach.

On New Years Eve, temple bells are rung 108 times, corresponding to the
Buddhist concept of 108 worldly desires.
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Most cemeteries in Japan are Buddhist and are located at a temple. The
Japanese visit their ancestors' graves on many occasions during the year,
especially during the Obon week, the equinoctial weeks and anniversaries.
Obon is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is
believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world
in order to visit their relatives.

Fudo Myo statue at Rendaiji Temple.

The sculpture, including the base and the surrounding flames is almost 8
meters tall.
Fudo himself is exactly 366 centimeters, one for each day of the year with an
extra one to take you into the next year. It was completed and installed in
2006 at the mountain temple of Rendai-Ji in southern Okayama. The statue
was carved by Kyoto sculptor Araki Keiun.

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