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The center image of the Mandala
Mandala
of the Womb Realm, featuring the central figure of Mahāvairocana, the five Dhyani Buddhas, and attendant bodhisattvas.

Shingon
Shingon
Buddhism
Buddhism
(真言宗, Shingon-shū) is one of the major schools of Buddhism in Japan
Buddhism in Japan
and one of the few surviving Vajrayana
Vajrayana
lineages in East Asia, originally spread from India
India
to China
China
through traveling monks such as Vajrabodhi
Vajrabodhi
and Amoghavajra. Known in Chinese as the Tangmi, these esoteric teachings would later flourish in Japan
Japan
under the auspices of a Buddhist monk named Kūkai
Kūkai
(空海), who traveled to Tang China
China
to acquire and request transmission of the esoteric teachings. For that reason, it is often called Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, or Orthodox Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism. The word "Shingon" is the Japanese reading of Chinese: 真言 Zhēnyán "True Words",[1] which in turn is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
word "mantra".[2]

Contents

1 History 2 Lineage 3 Schism 4 Doctrines 5 Relationship to Vajrayāna 6 Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
Tathagata 7 Practices and features

7.1 Discipline 7.2 Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
outside Japan

8 Goma Fire Ritual 9 Secrecy 10 The Shingon
Shingon
Pantheon 11 Branches of Shingon 12 See also 13 Notes 14 Literature 15 External links

History[edit]

Painting of Kūkai

Shingon
Shingon
Buddhist doctrine and teachings arose during the Heian period (794-1185) after a Buddhist monk named Kūkai
Kūkai
traveled to China
China
in 804 to study Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhist practices in the city of Xi'an
Xi'an
(西安), then called Chang-an, at Azure Dragon
Azure Dragon
Temple (青龍寺) under Huiguo, a favorite student of the legendary Amoghavajra. Kūkai
Kūkai
returned to Japan
Japan
as Huiguo's lineage- and Dharma-successor. Shingon
Shingon
followers usually refer to Kūkai
Kūkai
as Kōbō-Daishi (弘法大師, Great Master of the Propagation of Dharma) or Odaishi-sama (お大師様, "The Great Master"), the posthumous name given to him years after his death by Emperor Daigo. Before he went to China, Kūkai
Kūkai
had been an independent monk in Japan for over a decade. He was extremely well versed in classical Chinese prose, calligraphy and Buddhist texts. Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
was not considered to be a different sect or school yet at that time. Huiguo was the first person to gather the still scattered elements of Indian and Chinese Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
into a cohesive system. A Japanese monk named Gonsō (勤操) had brought back to Japan
Japan
from China
China
an esoteric mantra of the bodhisattva Ākāśagarbha, the Kokūzō-gumonjihō (虚空蔵求聞持法 " Ākāśagarbha
Ākāśagarbha
Memory-Retention Practice") that had been translated from Sanskrit
Sanskrit
into Chinese by Śubhakarasiṃha
Śubhakarasiṃha
(善無畏三蔵, Zenmui-Sanzō). When Kūkai
Kūkai
was 22, he learned this mantra from Gonsō and regularly would go into the forests of Shikoku
Shikoku
to practice it for long periods of time. He persevered in this mantra practice for seven years and mastered it. According to tradition, this practice brought him siddhis of superhuman memory retention and learning ability. Kūkai
Kūkai
would later praise the power and efficacy of Kokuzō-Gumonjiho practice, crediting it with enabling him to remember all of Huiguo's teachings in only three months. Kūkai's respect for Ākāśagarbha
Ākāśagarbha
was so great that he regarded him as his honzon (本尊) for the rest of his life. It was also during this period of intense mantra practice that Kūkai dreamt of a man telling him to seek out the Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
Tantra
Tantra
for the doctrine that he sought. The Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
Tantra
Tantra
had only recently been made available in Japan. He was able to obtain a copy in Chinese but large portions were in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
in the Siddhaṃ script, which he did not know, and even the Chinese portions were too arcane for him to understand. He believed that this teaching was a door to the truth he sought, but he was unable to fully comprehend it and no one in Japan
Japan
could help him. Thus, Kūkai
Kūkai
resolved to travel to China to spend the time necessary to fully understand the Mahavairocana Tantra.

The main building of Shinsenen, a Shingon
Shingon
temple in Kyoto
Kyoto
founded by Kūkai
Kūkai
in 824

When Kūkai
Kūkai
reached China
China
and first met Huiguo
Huiguo
on the fifth month of 805, Huiguo
Huiguo
was age sixty and on the verge of death from a long spate of illness. Huiguo
Huiguo
exclaimed to Kūkai
Kūkai
in Chinese (in paraphrase), "At last, you have come! I have been waiting for you! Quickly, prepare yourself for initiation into the mandalas!" Huiguo
Huiguo
had foreseen that Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
would not survive in India
India
and China
China
in the near future and that it was Kukai's destiny to see it continue in Japan. In the short space of three months, Huiguo
Huiguo
initiated and taught Kūkai everything he knew on the doctrines and practices of the Mandala
Mandala
of the Two Realms as well as mastery of Sanskrit
Sanskrit
and (presumably to be able to communicate with Master Huiguo) Chinese. Huiguo
Huiguo
declared Kūkai
Kūkai
to be his final disciple and proclaimed him a Dharma
Dharma
successor, giving the lineage name Henjō-Kongō (traditional Chinese: 遍照金剛; ; pinyin: Biànzhào Jīngāng) "All-Illuminating Vajra". In the twelfth month of the same year, Huiguo
Huiguo
died and was buried next to his master, Amoghavajra. More than one thousand of his disciples gathered for his funeral. The honor of writing his funerary inscription on their behalf was given to Kūkai. Kukai returned to Japan
Japan
after Huiguo's death. If he had not, Esoteric Buddhism
Buddhism
might not have survived; 35 years after Huiguo's death in the year 840, Emperor Wuzong of Tang
Emperor Wuzong of Tang
assumed the throne. An avid Daoist, Wuzong despised Buddhism
Buddhism
and considered the sangha useless tax-evaders. In 845, he ordered the destruction of 4600 vihara and 40,000 temples. Around 250,000 Buddhist monks and nuns had to give up their monastic lives. Wuzong stated that Buddhism
Buddhism
was an alien religion and promoted Daoism zealously as the ethnic religion of the Han Chinese. Although Wuzong was soon assassinated by his own inner circle, the damage had been done. Chinese Buddhism, especially Esoteric
Esoteric
practices, never fully recovered from the persecution, and esoteric elements were infused into other Buddhist sects and traditions. After returning to Japan, Kūkai
Kūkai
collated and systematized all that he had learned from Huiguo
Huiguo
into a cohesive doctrine of pure esoteric Buddhism
Buddhism
that would become the basis for his school. Kūkai
Kūkai
did not establish his teachings as a separate school; it was Emperor Junna, who favored Kūkai
Kūkai
and Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism, who coined the term Shingon-Shū (真言宗, Mantra
Mantra
School) in an imperial decree which officially declared Tō-ji
Tō-ji
(東寺) in Kyoto
Kyoto
an Esoteric
Esoteric
temple that would perform official rites for the state. Kūkai
Kūkai
actively took on disciples and offered transmission until his death in 835 at the age of 61. Kūkai's first established monastery was in Mount Kōya
Mount Kōya
(高野山), which has since become the base and a place of spiritual retreat for Shingon
Shingon
practitioners. Shingon
Shingon
enjoyed immense popularity during the Heian period
Heian period
(平安時代), particularly among the nobility, and contributed greatly to the art and literature of the time, influencing other communities such as the Tendai
Tendai
(天台宗) on Mount Hiei (比叡山).[3] Shingon's emphasis on ritual found support in the Kyoto
Kyoto
nobility, particularly the Fujiwara clan
Fujiwara clan
(藤原氏). This favor allotted Shingon
Shingon
several politically powerful temples in the capital, where rituals for the Imperial Family and nation were regularly performed. Many of these temples – Tō-ji
Tō-ji
and Daigo-ji
Daigo-ji
(醍醐寺) in the south of Kyōto and Jingo-ji
Jingo-ji
(神護寺) and Ninna-ji
Ninna-ji
(仁和寺) in the northwest – became ritual centers establishing their own particular ritual lineages. Lineage[edit] The Shingon
Shingon
lineage is an ancient transmission of esoteric Buddhist doctrine that began in India
India
and then spread to China
China
and Japan. Shingon
Shingon
is the name of this lineage in Japan, but there are also esoteric schools in China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong
Hong Kong
that consider themselves part of this lineage (as the originators of the Esoteric teachings) and universally recognize Kūkai
Kūkai
as their eighth patriarch. This is why sometimes the term "Orthodox Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism" is used instead. Shingon
Shingon
or Orthodox Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
maintains that the expounder of the doctrine was originally the Universal Buddha Vairocana, but the first human to receive the doctrine was Nagarjuna
Nagarjuna
in India. The tradition recognizes two groups of eight great patriarchs – one group of lineage holders and one group of great expounders of the doctrine. The Eight Great Lineage Patriarchs
Patriarchs
(Fuho-Hasso 付法八祖)

Vairocana
Vairocana
(Dainichi-Nyorai 大日如来) Vajrasattva
Vajrasattva
(Kongō-Satta 金剛薩埵) Nagarjuna
Nagarjuna
(Ryūju-Bosatsu 龍樹菩薩) – received the Mahavairocana Tantra
Tantra
from Vajrasattva
Vajrasattva
inside an Iron Stupa
Stupa
in Southern India Nagabodhi (Ryūchi-Bosatsu 龍智菩薩) Vajrabodhi
Vajrabodhi
(Kongōchi-Sanzō 金剛智三蔵) Amoghavajra
Amoghavajra
(Fukūkongō-Sanzō 不空金剛三蔵) Huiguo
Huiguo
(Keika-Ajari 恵果阿闍梨) Kūkai
Kūkai
(Kōbō-Daishi 弘法大師)

The Eight Great Doctrine-Expounding Patriarchs
Patriarchs
(Denji-Hasso 伝持八祖)

Nagarjuna
Nagarjuna
(Ryūju-Bosatsu 龍樹菩薩) Nagabodhi (Ryūchi-Bosatsu 龍智菩薩) Vajrabodhi
Vajrabodhi
(Kongōchi-Sanzō 金剛智三蔵) Amoghavajra
Amoghavajra
(Fukūkongō-Sanzō 不空金剛三蔵) Śubhakarasiṃha
Śubhakarasiṃha
(Zenmui-Sanzō 善無畏三蔵) Yi Xing
Yi Xing
(Ichigyō-Zenji 一行禅師) Huiguo
Huiguo
(Keika-Ajari 恵果阿闍梨) Kūkai
Kūkai
(Kōbō-Daishi 弘法大師)

Schism[edit]

Part of a series on

Buddhism
Buddhism
in Japan

Schools

Jōjitsu Hosso Sanron Kegon Ritsu Kusha Tendai Shingon Pure Land Zen Nichiren

Founders

Saichō Kūkai Hōnen Shinran Dōgen Eisai Ingen Nichiren

Sacred texts

Avataṃsaka Sūtra Lotus Sūtra Prajñāpāramitā Heart Sūtra Infinite Life Sūtra Mahāvairocana Sūtra Vajraśekhara Sūtra

Glossary of Japanese Buddhism

v t e

Like the Tendai
Tendai
School, which branched into the Jōdo-shū
Jōdo-shū
(浄土宗) and Nichiren Buddhism
Nichiren Buddhism
(Nichiren-kei sho shūha 日蓮系諸宗派) during the Kamakura period, Shingon
Shingon
divided into two major schools – the old school, Kogi Shingon
Shingon
(古義真言宗 Ancient Shingon
Shingon
school), and the new school, Shingi Shingon
Shingon
(新義真言宗 Reformed Shingon school). This division primarily arose out of a political dispute between Kakuban
Kakuban
(覚鑁), known posthumously as Kōgyō-Daishi (興教大師), and his faction of priests centered at the Denbō-in (伝法院) and the leadership at Kongōbu-ji
Kongōbu-ji
(金剛峰寺), the head of Mount Kōya and the authority in teaching esoteric practices in general. Kakuban, who was originally ordained at Ninna-ji
Ninna-ji
(仁和寺) in Kyōto, studied at several temple-centers including the Tendai
Tendai
complex at Onjō-ji (園城寺) before going to Mount Kōya. Through his connections he managed to gain the favor of high-ranking nobles in Kyoto, which helped him to be appointed abbot of Mount Kōya. The leadership at Kongōbuji, however, opposed the appointment on the premise that Kakuban
Kakuban
had not originally been ordained on Mount Kōya. After several conflicts, Kakuban
Kakuban
and his faction of priests left the mountain for Mount Negoro (根来山) to the northwest, where they constructed a new temple complex now known as Negoro-ji
Negoro-ji
(根来寺). After the death of Kakuban
Kakuban
in 1143, the Negoro faction returned to Mount Kōya. However, in 1288, the conflict between Kongōbuji and the Denbō-in came to a head once again. Led by Raiyu, the Denbō-in priests once again left Mount Kōya, this time establishing their headquarters on Mount Negoro. This exodus marked the beginning of the Shingi Shingon
Shingon
School at Mount Negoro, which was the center of Shingi Shingon
Shingon
until it was sacked by daimyō Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) in 1585. Doctrines[edit]

Garbhadhātu maṇḍala. Vairocana
Vairocana
is located at the center

The teachings of Shingon
Shingon
are based on early Buddhist tantras, the Mahāvairocana Sūtra (Japanese. Dainichi-kyō 大日経), the Vajraśekhara Sūtra (Kongōchō-kyō 金剛頂経), the Adhyardhaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (Rishu-kyō 理趣経), and the Susiddhikara Sūtra (Soshitsuji-kyō 蘇悉地経). These are the four principal texts of Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
and are all tantras, not sutras, despite their names. The mystical Vairocana
Vairocana
and Vajraśekhara Tantras
Tantras
are expressed in the two main mandalas of Shingon, the Mandala
Mandala
of the Two Realms – The Womb Realm
Womb Realm
(Skt. Garbhadhātu, Japanese Taizōkai 胎蔵界曼荼羅) mandala and the Diamond Realm
Diamond Realm
(Skt. Vajradhātu, Japanese Kongōkai 金剛界曼荼羅) mandala.[2] These two mandalas are considered to be a compact expression of the entirety of the Dharma, and form the root of Buddhism. In Shingon
Shingon
temples, these two mandalas are always mounted one on each side of the central altar. The Susiddhikara Sūtra is largely a compendium of rituals. Tantric Buddhism
Buddhism
is concerned with the rituals and meditative practices that lead to enlightenment. According to Shingon
Shingon
doctrine, enlightenment is not a distant, foreign reality that can take aeons to approach but a real possibility within this very life,[4] based on the spiritual potential of every living being, known generally as Buddha-nature. If cultivated, this luminous nature manifests as innate wisdom. With the help of a genuine teacher and through proper training of the body, speech, and mind, i.e. "The Three Mysteries" (Sanmitsu 三密), we can reclaim and liberate this enlightened capacity for the benefit of ourselves and others. Kūkai
Kūkai
also systematized and categorized the teachings he inherited from Huiguo
Huiguo
into ten bhūmis or "stages of spiritual realisation". He wrote at length on the difference between exoteric, mainstream Mahayana
Mahayana
Buddhism
Buddhism
and esoteric Tantric Buddhism. The differences between exoteric and esoteric can be summarised:

Esoteric
Esoteric
teachings are preached by the Dharmakaya (Hosshin 法身) Buddha, who Kūkai
Kūkai
identifies as Vairocana
Vairocana
(Dainichi Nyorai 大日如來). Exoteric teachings are preached by the Nirmanakaya (Ōjin 応身) Buddha, which in our world and aeon, is the historical Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
(Shakamuni 釈迦牟尼) or one of the Sambhoghakaya (Hōjin 報身) Buddhas. Exoteric Buddhism
Buddhism
holds that the ultimate state of Buddhahood
Buddhahood
is ineffable, and that nothing can be said of it. Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
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. Kūkai
Kūkai
held that exoteric doctrines were merely upāya "skillful means" teachings on the part of the Buddhas
Buddhas
to help beings according to their capacity to understand the Truth. The esoteric doctrines, in comparison, are the Truth itself and are a direct communication of the inner experience of the Dharmakaya's enlightenment. When Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment in his earthly Nirmanakaya, he realized that the Dharmakaya is actually reality in its totality and that totality is Vairocana. Some exoteric schools in the late Nara and early Heian period
Heian period
Japan held (or were portrayed by Shingon
Shingon
adherents as holding) that attaining Buddhahood
Buddhahood
is possible but requires a huge amount of time (three incalculable aeons) of practice to achieve, whereas esoteric Buddhism
Buddhism
teaches that Buddhahood
Buddhahood
can be attained in this lifetime by anyone.

Kūkai
Kūkai
held, along with the Chinese Huayan school
Huayan school
( Kegon
Kegon
華嚴) and the Tendai
Tendai
schools, that all phenomena could be expressed as 'letters' in a 'World-Text'. Mantra, mudra, and mandala are special because they constitute the 'language' through which the Dharmakāya
Dharmakāya
(i.e. Reality itself) communicates. Although portrayed through the use of anthropomorphic metaphors, Shingon
Shingon
does not see the Dharmakaya Buddha as a god or creator (as a separate entity). The Dharmakaya is in fact a symbol for the true nature of reality and a representation of emptiness (Śūnyatā). It is important to note that, because of the interdependence between emptiness and form, Vairocana
Vairocana
is also a representation of all collective phenomena, of the universe itself. Relationship to Vajrayāna[edit] When the teachings of Shingon
Shingon
Buddhism
Buddhism
were brought to Japan, Esoteric Buddhism
Buddhism
was still in its early stages in India. At this time, the terms Vajrayāna ("Diamond Vehicle") and Mantrayāna ("Mantra Vehicle") were not used for Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhist teachings.[5] Instead, esoteric teachings were more typically referred to as Mantranaya, or the " Mantra
Mantra
System." According to Paul Williams, Mantranaya is the more appropriate term to describe the self-perception of early Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism.[5] The primary difference between Shingon
Shingon
and Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
is that there is no Inner Tantra
Tantra
or Anuttarayoga Tantra
Tantra
in Shingon. Shingon has what corresponds to the Kriyā, Caryā, and Yoga
Yoga
classes of tantras in Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan system of classifying tantras into four classes is not used in Shingon. Anuttarayoga Tantras
Tantras
such as the Yamantaka
Yamantaka
Tantra, Hevajra
Hevajra
Tantra, Mahamaya Tantra, Cakrasaṃvara Tantra, and the Kalachakra
Kalachakra
Tantra
Tantra
were developed at a later period of Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
and are not used in Shingon. Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
Tathagata[edit]

Samantabhadra
Samantabhadra
is one of the Thirteen Buddhas
Thirteen Buddhas
of Shingon
Shingon
Buddhism.

In Shingon, Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
Tathagata (Dainichi Nyorai 大日如來) is the universal or Primordial Buddha
Primordial Buddha
that is the basis of all phenomena, present in each and all of them, and not existing independently or externally to them. The goal of Shingon
Shingon
is the realization that one's nature is identical with Mahavairocana, a goal that is achieved through initiation, meditation and esoteric ritual practices. This realization depends on receiving the secret doctrines of Shingon, transmitted orally to initiates by the school's masters. The "Three Mysteries" of body, speech, and mind participate simultaneously in the subsequent process of revealing one's nature: the body through devotional gestures (mudra) and the use of ritual instruments, speech through sacred formulas (mantra), and mind through meditation. Shingon
Shingon
places emphasis on the Thirteen Buddhas
Thirteen Buddhas
(十三仏),[6] a grouping of various buddhas and bodhisattvas; however this is purely for lay Buddhist practice and Shingon
Shingon
priests generally make devotions to more than just the Thirteen Buddhas.

Acala
Acala
Vidyaraja (Fudō Myōō 不動明王) Shakyamuni
Shakyamuni
Buddha (Shaka-Nyorai 釈迦如来) Manjusri
Manjusri
Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
(Monju-Bosatsu 文殊菩薩) Samantabhadra
Samantabhadra
Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
(Fugen-Bosatsu 普賢菩薩) Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
(Jizō-Bosatsu 地蔵菩薩) Maitreya
Maitreya
Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
(Miroku-Bosatsu 弥勒菩薩) Bhaisajyaguru
Bhaisajyaguru
Buddha (Yakushi-Nyorai 薬師如來) Avalokitesvara
Avalokitesvara
Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
(Kannon-Bosatsu 観音菩薩) Mahasthamaprapta
Mahasthamaprapta
Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
(Seishi-Bosatsu 勢至菩薩 ) Amitabha
Amitabha
Buddha (Amida-Nyorai 阿弥陀如来) Akshobhya
Akshobhya
Buddha (Ashuku-Nyorai 阿閦如来) Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
Buddha (Dainichi-Nyorai 大日如来) Akasagarbha
Akasagarbha
Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
(Kokūzō-Bosatsu 虚空蔵菩薩)

Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
is the Universal Principle which underlies all Buddhist teachings, according to Shingon
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
Sanskrit
"seed" letter. Practices and features[edit]

The siddhaṃ letter a.

A typical Shingon
Shingon
shrine set up for priests, with Vairocana
Vairocana
at the center of the shrine, and the Womb Realm
Womb Realm
(Taizokai) and Diamond Realm (Kongokai) mandalas.

Play media

Video showing prayer service at Kōshō-ji in Nagoya. A monk is rhythmically beating a drum while chanting sutras.

One feature that Shingon
Shingon
shares in common with Tendai, the only other school with esoteric teachings in Japan, is the use of bīja or seed-syllables in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
written in the Siddhaṃ alphabet
Siddhaṃ alphabet
along with anthropomorphic and symbolic representations to express Buddhist deities in their mandalas. There are four types of mandalas:

Mahāmaṇḍala (大曼荼羅, Large Mandala) Bīja- or Dharmamaṇḍala (法曼荼羅) Samayamaṇḍala (三昧耶曼荼羅), representations of the vows of the deities in the form of articles they hold or their mudras Karmamaṇḍala (羯磨曼荼羅) representing the activities of the deities in the three-dimensional form of statues, etc.

The Siddhaṃ alphabet
Siddhaṃ alphabet
(Shittan 悉曇, Bonji 梵字) is used to write mantras. A core meditative practice of Shingon
Shingon
is Ajikan (阿字觀) "meditating on the letter a" written using the Siddhaṃ alphabet. Other Shingon
Shingon
meditations are Gachirinkan (月輪觀, "Full Moon visualization"), Gojigonjingan (五字嚴身觀, "Visualization of the Five Elements arrayed in The Body" from the Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
Tantra) and Gosōjōjingan (五相成身觀, Pañcābhisaṃbodhi "Series of Five Meditations to attain Buddhahood") from the Vajraśekhara Sutra. The essence of Shingon
Shingon
practice is to experience Reality by emulating the inner realization of the Dharmakaya through the meditative ritual use of mantra, mudra and visualization, i.e. "The Three Mysteries" (Japanese. Sanmitsu 三密). All Shingon
Shingon
followers gradually develop a teacher-student relationship, formal or informal, whereby a teacher learns the disposition of the student and teaches practices accordingly. For lay practitioners, there is no initiation ceremony beyond the Kechien Kanjō (結縁灌頂), which aims to help create the bond between the follower and Mahavairocana
Mahavairocana
Buddha. It is normally offered only at Mount Kōya
Mount Kōya
twice a year, but it can also be offered by larger temples under masters permitted to transmit the abhiseka. It is not required for all laypersons to take, and no assigned practices are given. Discipline[edit]

A priest from the Chuin-ryu lineage at Shigisan Chosonshi Temple (朝護孫子寺)

In the case of disciples wishing to train to become a Shingon
Shingon
ācārya or "teacher" (Ajari 阿闍梨, from ācārya Sanskrit: आचार्य), it requires a period of academic study and religious discipline, or formal training in a temple for a longer period of time, after having already received novice ordination and monastic precepts, and full completion of the rigorous four-fold preliminary training and retreat known as Shido Kegyō (四度加行).[7] Only then can the practitioner be able to undergo steps for training, examination, and finally abhiṣeka to be certified as a Shingon
Shingon
acarya and continue to study more advanced practices. In either case, the stress is on finding a qualified and willing mentor who will guide the practitioner through the practice at a gradual pace. An acharya in Shingon
Shingon
is a committed and experienced teacher who is authorized to guide and teach practitioners. One must be an acharya for a number of years at least before one can request to be tested at Mount Kōya
Mount Kōya
for the possibility to qualify as a mahācārya or "great teacher" (Dento Dai-Ajari 傳燈大阿闍梨), the highest rank of Shingon
Shingon
practice and a qualified grand master. Apart from the supplication of prayers and reading of sutras, there are mantras and ritualistic meditative techniques that are available for any laypersons to practice on their own under the supervision of an Ajari. However, any esoteric practices require the devotee to undergo abhiṣeka (initiation) (Kanjō 灌頂) into each of these practices under the guidance of a qualified acharya before they may begin to learn and practice them. As with all schools of Esoteric Buddhism, great emphasis is placed on initiation and oral transmission of teachings from teacher to student. Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
outside Japan[edit] East Asian Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
is also practiced in Tendai
Tendai
Buddhism
Buddhism
in Japan, founded in the same era as the Shingon
Shingon
School in the early 9th century (Heian period), although Tendai
Tendai
doctrines contain mostly exoteric teachings. The general term for Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism in Japan
Buddhism in Japan
is mikkyō (密教; literally "secret teachings"). In order to differentiate between the esoteric practices from the two schools, Shingon
Shingon
practices are also known as Tōmitsu (東密) while Tendai esoteric practices are known as Taimitsu (台密). In China
China
and countries with large Chinese populations such as Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore, Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
is most commonly referred to as the Chinese term Mìzōng (密宗), or " Esoteric
Esoteric
School." Traditions of Chinese Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism
Buddhism
are most commonly referred to as referred as Tángmì (唐密), "Tang Esoterica" or Hànchuán Mìzōng (漢傳密宗), "Han Transmission Esoteric
Esoteric
School" (Hànmì 漢密 for short), or Dōngmì (東密), "Eastern Esoterica," separating itself from Tibetan and Newar schools of Vajrayana. These schools more or less share the same doctrines as Shingon; in some cases, monks from traditions around the world have traveled to Japan to train and to be given esoteric transmission at Mount Koya and Mount Hiei. In the United States, Shingon
Shingon
is practiced at the branch temples of the Kōyasan lineage. There are branch temples of the Buzan lineage in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
and Vietnam. Goma Fire Ritual[edit] Main article: Homa Main article: Shugendō

A Goma ritual performed at Chushinkoji Temple in Japan

The Goma (護摩) Ritual
Ritual
of consecrated fire is unique to Esoteric Buddhism
Buddhism
and is the most recognizable ritual defining Shingon
Shingon
among regular Japanese persons today. It stems from the Vedic
Vedic
Agnicayana Ritual
Ritual
and is performed by qualified priests and acharyas for the benefit of individuals, the state or all sentient beings in general. The consecrated fire is believed to have a powerful cleansing effect spiritually and psychologically. The central deity invoked in this ritual is usually Acala
Acala
(Fudō Myōō 不動明王). The ritual is performed for the purpose of destroying negative energies, detrimental thoughts and desires, and for the making of secular requests and blessings. In most Shingon
Shingon
temples, this ritual is performed daily in the morning or the afternoon. Larger scale ceremonies often include the constant beating of taiko drums and mass chanting of the mantra of Acala
Acala
by priests and lay practitioners. Flames can sometimes reach a few meters high. The combination of the ritual's visuals and sounds can be trance-inducing and make for a profound experience. The ancient Japanese religion of Shugendō
Shugendō
(修験道) has also adopted the Goma Ritual, of which two are prominent: the Saido Dai Goma and Hashiramoto Goma rituals.[8] Secrecy[edit] Today, there are very few books on Shingon
Shingon
in the West and until the 1940s, not a single book on Shingon
Shingon
had ever been published anywhere in the world, not even in Japan. Since this lineage was brought over to Japan
Japan
from Tang China
China
over 1100 years ago, its doctrines have always been closely guarded secrets, passed down orally through an initiatic chain and never written down. 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
Mantra
School" except that besides performing the usual priestly duties of prayers, blessings and funeral rites for the public, they practiced only Mikkyō
Mikkyō
"secret teachings", in stark contrast to all other Buddhist schools, and were called upon to perform mystical rituals that were supposedly able to summon rain, improve harvests, exorcise demons, avert natural disasters, heal the sick and protect the state. The most powerful ones were thought to be able to render entire armies useless. Even though Tendai
Tendai
also incorporates esoteric teachings in its doctrines, it is still essentially an exoteric Mahayana
Mahayana
school. Some exoteric texts are venerated and studied in Shingon
Shingon
as they are the foundation of Mahayana
Mahayana
philosophy but the core teachings and texts of Shingon
Shingon
are purely esoteric. From the lack of written material, inaccessibility of its teachings to non-initiates, language barriers and the difficulty of finding qualified teachers outside Japan, Shingon
Shingon
is in all likelihood the most secretive and least understood school of Buddhism
Buddhism
in the world. The Shingon
Shingon
Pantheon[edit]

Acalanatha, the wrathful manifestation of Mahavairocana, and the principal deity invoked during the goma ritual.

Main article: Japanese Buddhist pantheon A large number of deities of Vedic, Hindu
Hindu
and Indo-Aryan origins have been incorporated into Mahayana
Mahayana
Buddhism
Buddhism
and this synthesis is especially prominent in Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism. Many of these deities have vital roles as they are regularly invoked by the practitioner for various rituals and homas/pujas. In fact, it is ironic that the worship of Vedic-era deities, especially Indra
Indra
(Taishakuten 帝釈天), the "King of the Heavens," has declined so much in India but is yet so highly revered in Japan
Japan
that there are probably more temples devoted to him there than there are in India. Chinese Taoist and Japanese Shinto
Shinto
deities were also assimilated into Mahayana Buddhism
Buddhism
as deva-class beings. For example, to Chinese Mahayana Buddhists, Indra
Indra
(synonymous with Śakra) is the Jade Emperor
Jade Emperor
of Taoism. Agni
Agni
(Katen 火天), another Vedic
Vedic
deity, is invoked at the start of every Shingon
Shingon
Goma Ritual. The average Japanese person may not know the names Saraswati
Saraswati
or Indra
Indra
but Benzaiten
Benzaiten
弁財天 (Saraswati) and Taishakuten
Taishakuten
帝釈天 (Indra) are household names that every Japanese person knows. In Orthodox Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism, divine beings are grouped into six classes.

Buddhas
Buddhas
(Butsu 仏) Bodhisattvas
Bodhisattvas
(Bosatsu 菩薩) Wisdom Kings
Wisdom Kings
or Vidyarajas (Myōō 明王) Deities
Deities
or Devas (Ten 天) Avatars
Avatars
(Keshin 化身) Patriarchs
Patriarchs
(Soshi 祖師)

The Five Great Wisdom Kings

The Five Wisdom Kings
Wisdom Kings
is the most important grouping of Wisdom Kings in Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism.

Main article: Wisdom King The Five Great Wisdom Kings
Wisdom Kings
are wrathful manifestations of the Five Dhyani Buddhas.

Acala
Acala
or Acalanatha (Fudō Myōō 不動明王) "The Immovable One" – Manifestation of Buddha Mahavairocana Amrtakundalin (Gundari Myōō 軍荼利明王) "The Dispenser of Heavenly Nectar" – Manifestation of Buddha Ratnasambhava Trailokyavijaya (Gōzanze Myōō 降三世明王) "The Conqueror of The Three Planes" – Manifestation of Buddha Akshobhya Yamāntaka
Yamāntaka
(Daiitoku Myōō 大威徳明王) "The Defeater of Death" – Manifestation of Buddha Amitabha Vajrayaksa (Kongō Yasha Myōō 金剛夜叉明王) "The Devourer of Demons" – Manifestation of Buddha Amoghasiddhi

Other well-known Wisdom Kings

Ragaraja
Ragaraja
(Aizen Myōō 愛染明王) Mahamayuri
Mahamayuri
(Kujaku Myōō 孔雀明王) Hayagriva
Hayagriva
(Batō Kannon 馬頭観音) Ucchusma
Ucchusma
(Ususama Myōō 烏枢沙摩明王) Atavaka (Daigensui Myōō 大元帥明王)

The Twelve Guardian Deities
Deities
(Deva)

Agni
Agni
(Katen 火天) – Lord of Fire ; Guardian of the South East Brahmā
Brahmā
(Bonten 梵天) – Lord of the Heavens ; Guardian of the Heavens (upward direction) Chandra
Chandra
(Gatten 月天) – Lord of the Moon Indra
Indra
( Taishakuten
Taishakuten
帝釈天) – Lord of the Trāyastriṃśa
Trāyastriṃśa
Heaven and The Thirty Three Devas ; Guardian of the East Prthivi
Prthivi
(Jiten 地天) – Lord of the Earth ; Guardian of the Earth (downward direction) Rakshasa
Rakshasa
(Rasetsuten 羅刹天) – Lord of Demons ; Guardian of the South West (converted Buddhist rakshasas) Shiva
Shiva
or Maheshvara
Maheshvara
(Daijizaiten 大自在天 or Ishanaten 伊舎那天) – Lord of The Desire Realms ; Guardian of the North East Sūrya
Sūrya
(Nitten 日天) – Lord of the Sun Vaishravana
Vaishravana
(Bishamonten 毘沙門天 or Tamonten 多聞天) – Lord of Wealth ; Guardian of the North Varuṇa
Varuṇa
(Suiten 水天) – Lord of Water ; Guardian of the West Vāyu
Vāyu
(Fūten 風天)- Lord of Wind ; Guardian of the North West Yama
Yama
(Emmaten 焔魔天) – Lord of the Underworld ; Guardian of the South

Other Important Deities
Deities
(Deva)

Marici ( Marishi-Ten
Marishi-Ten
摩里支天) – Patrion deity of Warriors Mahakala
Mahakala
( Daikokuten
Daikokuten
大黒天) – Patron deity of Wealth Saraswati
Saraswati
( Benzaiten
Benzaiten
弁財天) – Patron deity of Knowledge, Art and Music Ganesha
Ganesha
( Kangiten
Kangiten
歓喜天) Patron deity of Bliss and Remover of Obstacles Skanda (Idaten 韋駄天 or Kumaraten 鳩摩羅天) Protector of Buddhist Monasteries and Monks

Branches of Shingon[edit]

Located in Kyoto, Japan, Daigo-ji
Daigo-ji
is the head temple of the Daigo-ha branch of Shingon
Shingon
Buddhism.

The Orthodox (Kogi) Shingon
Shingon
School (古義真言宗)

Kōyasan (高野山真言宗)

Chuin-Ryu Lineage (中院流)

Tō-ji
Tō-ji
(東寺真言宗) Zentsūji-ha (真言宗善通寺派) Daigo-ha (真言宗醍醐派) Omuro-ha (真言宗御室派) Shingon-Ritsu (真言律宗) Daikakuji-ha (真言宗大覚寺派) Sennyūji-ha (真言宗泉涌寺派) Yamashina-ha (真言宗山階派) Shigisan (信貴山真言宗) Nakayamadera-ha (真言宗中山寺派) Sanbōshū (真言三宝宗) Sumadera-ha (真言宗須磨寺派) Tōji-ha (真言宗東寺派)

The Reformed (Shingi) Shingon
Shingon
School (新義真言宗)

Chizan-ha (真言宗智山派) Buzan-ha (真言宗豊山派) Kokubunji-ha (真言宗国分寺派) Inunaki-ha (真言宗犬鳴派)

See also[edit]

Sokushinbutsu Shinjō Itō Tachikawa-ryu Rishu

Notes[edit]

^ "Zhēnyán".  ^ a b Kiyota, Minoru (1987). " Shingon
Shingon
Mikkyō's Twofold Maṇḍala: Paradoxes and Integration". Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 10 (1): 91–92. Archived from the original on 25 January 2014.  ^ Caiger, Mason. A History of Japan, Revised Ed. pp. 106–107.  ^ Inagaki Hisao (1972). "Kukai's Sokushin-Jobutsu-Gi" (Principle of Attaining Buddhahood
Buddhahood
with the Present Body), Asia Major (New Series) 17 (2), 190-215 ^ a b Williams, Paul, and Tribe, Anthony. Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition. 2000. p. 271 ^ Shingon
Shingon
Buddhist International Institute. "Jusan Butsu – The Thirteen Buddhas
Thirteen Buddhas
of the Shingon
Shingon
School". Archived from the original on 1 April 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2007.  ^ Sharf, Robert, H. (2003). Thinking through Shingon
Shingon
Ritual, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 26 (1), 59-62 ^ "Ascetic Practice of Fire". Shugendo. Retrieved 23 February 2018. 

Literature[edit]

Giebel, Rolf W.; Todaro, Dale A.; trans. (2004). Shingon
Shingon
texts, Berkeley, Calif.: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. ISBN 1886439249 Giebel, Rolf, transl. (2006), The Vairocanābhisaṃbodhi Sutra, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Berkeley, ISBN 978-1-886439-32-0 Hakeda, Yoshito S. trans. (1972). Kukai: Major Works with an account of his life and a study of his thought, New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-03627-2. Matsunaga, Daigan Lee, Matsunaga, Alicia Orloff (1974). Foundation of Japanese Buddhism; Vol. I; The aristocratic age. Buddhist Books International, Los Angeles und Tokio. ISBN 0-914910-25-6. Kiyota, Minoru (1978). Shingon
Shingon
Buddhism: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles/Tokyo: Buddhist Books International. Payne, Richard K. (2004). Ritual
Ritual
Syntax and Cognitive Theory, Pacific World
World
Journal, Third Series, No 6, 105-227. Toki, Hôryû; Kawamura, Seiichi, tr, (1899). "Si-do-in-dzou; gestes de l'officiant dans les cérémonies mystiques des sectes Tendaï et Singon", Paris, E. Leroux. Yamasaki, Taiko (1988). Shingon: Japanese Esoteric
Esoteric
Buddhism, Boston/London: Shambala Publications.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shingon
Shingon
Buddhism.

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Shingon
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Shingon
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Amoghasiddhi
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Amitābha
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Vajrasattva
(Kongosatta) Maitreya
Maitreya
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Avalokitesvara
(Kannon) Samantabhadra
Samantabhadra
(Fugen) Manjusri
Manjusri
(Monju) Mahapratisara
Mahapratisara
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Kshitigarbha
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Akasagarbha
(Kokuzo) Mahasthamaprapta
Mahasthamaprapta
(Seishi)

Wisdom Kings (Myōō-bu)

Five Wisdom Kings Acala
Acala
(Fudo-Myoo) Rāgarāja
Rāgarāja
(Aizen-Myoo) Ucchusma
Ucchusma
(Ususama) Hayagriva
Hayagriva
(Bato Kannon) Mahamayuri
Mahamayuri
(Kujaku-Myoo) Yamantaka
Yamantaka
(Daiitoku)

Heavenly deities (Ten-bu)

Shitennō Marici (Marishi-ten) Mahākāla
Mahākāla
(Daikokuten) Saraswati
Saraswati
(Benzaiten) Brahma (Bonten) Hotei Jurōjin Fukurokuju Vaisravana
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