Myōe (Japanese: 明恵) (1173–1232) was a Japanese
active during the
Kamakura period who also went by the name Kōben
(Japanese: 高弁), and contemporary of Jōkei and Honen.
2 Monastic Regulations promulgated by Myōe
3 See also
6 Further reading
Born into the Yuasa family (湯浅), allegedly descended from a branch
Fujiwara clan, he came to be ordained in both the Shingon
Buddhism and the
Kegon school. In Medieval Japan it was not
uncommon for monks to be ordained in multiple sectarian lineages, and
Myōe alternately signed his treatises and correspondence as a monk of
either school through much of his career. In the latter half of his
career he served as abbot of
Kōzan-ji (高山寺), a temple of the
Kegon sect located near Kyoto.
Myōe is perhaps most famous for his
contributions to the practice and popularization of the
Light, a mantra associated with
Buddhism but widely used in
Myōe is also well known for keeping a journal
of his dreams for over 40 years, studied by later
and for his efforts to revive monastic discipline along with Jōkei.
During his lifetime he was a scathing critic of his contemporary,
Hōnen, and the new
Buddhist movement. As a response to the
increasing popularity of the exclusive nembutsu practice,
two treatises, the Zaijarin (摧邪輪, "Tract for Destroying
Heretical Views") and the follow-up Zaijarin Shōgonki
(摧邪輪荘厳記, "Elaboration of the Zaijarin") that sought to
refute Honen's teachings as laid out in the Senchakushu.
with Hōnen's criticism of the establishment, but felt that sole
practice of the nembutsu was too restrictive and disregarded important
Buddhist themes in
Buddhism such as the
Bodhicitta and the
concept of upāya. Nevertheless,
Myōe also lamented the necessity of
writing such treatises: "By nature I am pained by that which is
harmful. I feel this way about writing the Zaijarin." (trans.
Professor Mark Unno)[full citation needed]
Myōe's grave in Kōzan-ji
In the later years of his life,
Myōe wrote extensively on the meaning
and application of the
Mantra of Light. Myōe's interpretation of the
Mantra of Light
Mantra of Light was somewhat unorthodox, in that he promoted the
mantra as a means of being reborn in the
Pure Land of
rather than a practice for attaining Enlightenment in this life as
Kūkai and others.
Myōe was a firm believer in the notion
Dharma Decline and sought to promote the
Mantra of Light
Mantra of Light as a means
Myōe was equally critical of the lax discipline and corruption of the
Buddhist establishment, and removed himself from the capital of Kyoto
as much as possible. At one point, to demonstrate his resolve to
Myōe knelt before an image of the Buddha at
Kōzan-ji, and cut off his own ear. Supposedly, the blood stain can
still be seen at the temple to this day. Records for the time show
that the daily regimen of practices for the monks at Kōzan-ji, during
Myoe's administration, included zazen meditation, recitation of the
sutras and the
Mantra of Light. These same records show that even
details such as cleaning the bathroom regularly were routinely
enforced. A wooden tablet titled Arubekiyōwa (阿留辺畿夜宇和,
"As Appropriate") still hangs in the northeast corner of the
Sekisui'in Hall at
Kōzan-ji detailing various regulations.
At the same time,
Myōe was also pragmatic and often adopted practices
Buddhist sects, notably Zen, if it proved useful. Myōe
firmly believed in the importance of upāya and sought to provide a
diverse set of practices for both monastics and lay people. In
addition, he developed new forms of mandalas that utilized only
Japanese calligraphy and the
Sanskrit script, Siddham. Similar styles
were utilized by
Shinran and Nichiren. The particular style of mandala
he devised, and the devotional rituals surrounding it, are recorded in
his treatise, the Sanji Raishaku (Thrice-daily worship) written in
Myōe sought twice to go to India, in 1203 and 1205, to study what he
Buddhism amidst the perceived decline of the Dharma,
but in both occasions, the kami of the
Kasuga Shrine urged him to
remain in Japan through oracle.
Monastic Regulations promulgated by Myōe
The monk Myōe: hanging scroll dated to 13th century Kamakura period.
In the wooden tablet at
Kōzan-ji Temple mentioned above,
the following regulations to all monks, divided into three
06:00 - 08:00 PM, Liturgy: Yuishin kangyō shiki (Manual on the
Practice of Contemplating the Mind-Only)
08:00 - 10:00 PM, Practice once. Chant the Sambōrai (Revering the
10:00 - 12:00 AM,
Zazen (seated meditation). Count breaths.
12:00 - 06:00 AM, Rest for three [two-hour] periods.
06:00 - 08:00 AM, Walking meditation once. (Inclusion or exclusion
should be appropriate to the occasion). Liturgy: Rishukyō raisan
(Ritual Repentance Based on the
Sutra of the Ultimate Meaning of the
Principle) and the like.
08:00 - 10:00 AM, Sambōrai. Chant scriptures for breakfast and intone
Mantra of Light) forty-nine times.
10:00 - 12:00 PM, Zazen. Count breaths.
12:00 - 02:00 PM, Noon meal. Chant the Goji
Mantra of the
Five Syllables) five hundred times.
02:00 - 04:00 PM, Study or copy scriptures.
04:00 - 06:00 PM, Meet with the master (Myōe) and resolve essential
Etiquette in the Temple Study Hall
Do not leave rosaries or gloves on top of scriptures.
Do not leave sōshi [bound] texts on top of round meditation cushions
or on the half tatami-size cushions [placed under round cushions].
During the summer, do not use day-old water for mixing ink.
Do not place scriptures under the desk.
Do not lick the tips of brushes.
Do not reach for something by extending one's hand over scriptures.
Do not enter [the hall] wearing just the white undergarment robes.
Do not lie down
Do not count [pages] by moistening one's fingers with saliva. Place an
extra sheet of paper under each sheet of your sōshi texts.
Etiquette in the Buddha-Altar Hall
Keep the clothes for wiping the altar separate from that for wiping
During the summer (from the first day of the fourth month to the last
day of the seventh month), obtain fresh water [from the well] morning
and evening for water offerings.
Keep the water offerings and incense burners for buddhas and
bodhisattvas separate from those for patriarchs.*
When you are seated on the half-size cushions, do not bow with your
Do not place nose tissues and the like under the half-tatami size
Do not let your sleeves touch the offering-water bucket.
Do not put the [altar] rings on the wooden floor; they should be
Place a straw mat at your usual seat.
The regular sutra for recitation is one fascicle of the Flower
Sutra (or half a fascicle). The three sutras should be read
alternately every day.
When traveling, you should read them after returning.
The Gyōganbon (Chapter on Practice and Vow), Yuigyōkyō (
the Buddha's Last Teachings), and Rokkankyō (
Sutra in Six Fascicles)
should all be read alternately one fascicle a day.
Kegon School Shamon Kōben [Myoe]
Schools of Buddhism
^ Reprinted with permission from Professor Mark Unno from the book
Myōe and the
Mantra of Light
^ Gohonzon Shu: Dr. Jacquie Stone on the Object of Worship Archived
April 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Myōe.
Abe, Ryūichi (2002). Mantra, Hinin, and the Feminine: On the
Salvational Strategies of
Myōe and Eizon, Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie,
Vol. 13, 101 - 125
Buswell, Robert E., Lopez, Donald S. Jr. (2014). The Princeton
Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University Press, p. 558
Girard, Frédéric (1990). Un moine de la secte
Kegon à Kamakura
(1185-1333), Myôe (1173-1232) et le Journal de ses rêves, Paris:
Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient. ISBN 285539760X
Kawai, Hayao; Unno, Mark (1992). The
Buddhist priest Myōe: a life of
dreams. Venice, CA: Lapis. ISBN 0932499627
Morell, Robert E. (1982). Kamakura Accounts of
Myōe Shonin as Popular
Religious Hero, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 9 (2-3), 171-191
Mross, Michaela (2016). Myōe’s Nehan kōshiki: An Annotated
Translation, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies Volume 43 (1),
Online supplement 2, 1–20
Unno, Mark (2004).
Myōe and the
Mantra of Light.
Somerville MA, USA: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-390-7
Topics in Buddhism
Four Noble Truths
Noble Eightfold Path
Iconography in Laos and Thailand
Mahapajapati Gotamī (aunt, adoptive mother)
Places where the Buddha stayed
Buddha in world religions
Three marks of existence
Two truths doctrine
Ten spiritual realms
Hungry Ghost realm
Three planes of existence
Vipassanā (Vipassana movement)
Seven Factors of Enlightenment
Four Right Exertions
Four stages of enlightenment
Upāsaka and Upāsikā
The ten principal disciples
Emperor Wen of Sui
Basic points unifying Theravāda and Mahāyāna
Buddhism in India
Buddhism in India
Buddhism and the Roman world
Buddhism in the West
Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
Persecution of Buddhists
Buddhist monks from Nepal
Women in Buddhism
The unanswered questions
Thai temple art and architecture
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Om mani padme hum
Maya Devi Temple
Temple of the Tooth
East Asian religions
ISNI: 0000 0001 1977 6237
BNF: cb12238480x (data)