Kukai | Foundation for Shingon Buddhism


Kobo Daishi, Kukai, born March 21, 774.  Entered eternal meditaiton in 835 at the age of 61.  Founder of Shingon Buddhism and the Koyasan monastic mountain.

The founder of Koyasan and Shingon Buddhism in Japan is a larger than life figure know in Japan for his spiritual pursuits, calligraphy, poetry, and even engineering.  Kukai is famous of rhis spiriual work, but also for his contributions to Japanese society, sugh as founding Japan's first public schools.  Kukai is arguably the most famous Buddhist figure in Japanese history, and a source of a great deal of faith and reverence among believers today.

(Example of Kukai's calligraphy at the Kyoto Museum.) 

In 804 A.D., Kukai traveled to China to study the teaching he would later term, "Shingon."  In the following year he met Master Hui-Guo of the Qing Long Temple in Xian, China.  Here, Kukai recived transmission in both tantric Buddhist lineages trasmitted to China by Amoghavajra, and Subhakarasimha.  Kukai was the first student Master Hui-Guo initiated into these lineages.  At least two additional Chinese students were also initiated after Kukai.  Unfortunately the linage did not survive in China as a seperate school of Buddhism. 

Kukai introduced the linage to Japan upon his return, creating a new school of Buddhist practice, spawming new religious though, arts, and architecture.  Kukai's travels around Japan, ascetic practces, generosity and aid toward common people have developed into a great number of stories that dot the landcape of Japan.  Chief among areas rich with stories of Kukai's travels and grace is the island of Shikoku, home to the sacred pilgrimage dedicated to Kukai.

(Documentary on the Shikoku pilgrimage.)

Koyasan Shingon Buddhism explains the teachings of Kobo Daishi as follows:

All things in the universe are equal as manifestations of the Life Force of Dainichi Nyorai, and by mutually assisting one another they sustain the Life Force of and give rise to splendid personalities of their own.

All people seek to build a peaceful society on the basis of the aspiration for enlightenment, the mind of compassion.

When we experience and express these Universal truths

we can become enlightened in this life and in this body.

This is the goal of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism.

Using “The Life That Gives Life” as its basic theme, Koyasan Shingon Buddhism stands in the spirit of a mutual coexistence described by Kobo Daishi as “the mutual benefit for all living beings,” and aspires to bring about a caring society that gives life to the world of all living beings.

The mantra of Kobo Daishi’s Revered name is:

“Namu Daishi Henjo Kongo”

南 無 大 師 遍 照 金 剛

Additional Information and Links about Kukai:

     Wikipedia entry on Kukai

Books about Kobo Daishi Kukai

     Kukai and His Major Works, by Yoshito Hakeda

     The Weaving of Mantra, by Ryuichi Abe

Regardng Koyasan and Kukai

Sacred Koyasan: A Pilgrimage to the Mountain Temple of Saint Kobo Daishi and the Great Sun Buddha, by Phillip Nicoloff

Music Inspired by Kukai:

Sacred Journey of Kukai (4 volumes) by Kitaro