Re: REALITY ACCORDING TO THE JAPANESE SHINGON TEACHING
Sep 02, 2004 05:27 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
Sept 2 2004
This is of interest:
INSIGHT INTO REALITY ACCORDING TO THE JAPANESE
By Beatrice Lane Suzuki
There is a religious teaching in Japan that claims to be able to open the
mind to see Reality. This is the Shingon or "True Word" school of Mahayana
Buddhism. It is akin historically and spiritually to certain teachings in
India, but like much that the Japanese have taken from others, it has been
adapted to the Japanese mind and transformed by the Japanese spirit.
Shingon is said to have originated with the great teacher Nagarjuna, who
discovered in a temple in South India the two precious sutras, the
Dainichikyo (Sanskrit: Mahavairochana) and the Kongochokyo (Sanskrit:
But, according to Shingon, Nagarjuna thought out and systematized Sakya's
teaching, Sakya was indeed his inspiration. Not all of Sakya's teaching is
contained in the Pali scriptures.
Shingon like Zen claims a secret transmission from the Buddha handed down
orally and to a certain extent preserved in Sanskrit manuscripts. Nagarjuna
handed down the sutras that he found through a series of illustrious
teachers in India and China, until they came to Keikwa, the teacher of Kobo
Daishi, the great scholar-priest-saint of Japan.
Kobo Daishi was a most remarkable man whether we view him as religionist,
social worker, scholar, painter, sculptor, or general man of affairs. So
tremendous was his prestige -- spiritual, artistic, and human -- that the
remembrance of it has survived to this day, and almost all Japanese consider
dim as one of the greatest geniuses that Japan has ever produced.
Kobo Daishi, to call him by his official and posthumous title, previously
known as Kukai, was born in 774 A.D. He entered the priesthood while young.
He practiced austerities and read the scriptures. When he found in an old
temple the sutra of Dainichi, all his doubts cleared up. He resolved to go
to China to learn the doctrine. He obtained Imperial permission and left for
China when he was thirty-two years old. There he studied at the temple of
Seiryuji in Choan under Keikwa and received Kwanjo.
Upon his return, he spread the teaching not only at the Imperial Court among
the aristocracy but also among all classes of people. He opened up the
mountain of Koya and established a group of temples there. This collection
of temples, still existing today, is the chief headquarters for Shingon
teaching. Here is the college systematically teaching the Shingon doctrine
and the temples where daily practice is performed.
The main idea of Shingon is what cosmotheism. The universe is a
manifestation of the Supreme Buddha, Mahavairochana, and is composed of six
elements: earth, water, fire, air (wind), ether, and consciousness, making
up the body of Mahavairochana.
His thoughts, words, and actions make up the thoughts, words, and actions of
the universe and are called The Three Secrets. We, as apparently imperfect
reflections of him, are to try to make our thoughts, words, and actions as
much like his as possible. How to do this is the teaching of the system of
The Shingon mandala is of great help, for to understand the mandala is to
understand oneself. The two chief mandala are pictorial representations of
the universe in symbolic presentation, the Kongo (Sanskrit: Vajradhatu)
representing the wisdom side of the Eternal Buddha, and the Taizo (Sanskrit:
Garbhakosha), the side of Compassion; the Kongo also shows the fulfilled
enlightened aspect of the Buddha but the Taizo shows the growing universe.
Although these pictures depict many Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and others,
remember that these many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not separate
personalities but are simply the varied aspects of the one Eternal Buddha.
In the phenomenal world, they may be seen as personal, but in the absolute
world as the Dharmakaya.
All these holy figures and the symbology of their attitudes and the objects
they hold must be considered a device (upaya) for opening the mind to see
Reality. The method is different from that of Zen, but it is a striving for
the same end. The Mandala is to be regarded as the representation of the
quality of the Eternal Buddha, Mahavairochana, and it reveals the divine
nature of all beings. All appearances are contained in the mandala, whether
dog, tree, stone, man, or Bodhisattva, for the whole universe is
Mahavairochana. His substance is the Six Elements and his activity the Three
The Shingon calls enlightenment Sokushinjobutsu, which means to become
Buddha in this body, and the aim of all its practices is to attain this even
if only in a slight degree. It has a variety of methods adapted to different
classes of persons. For the more ignorant, there are ceremonies and rituals
of all kinds to put them on the preparatory path. For the more enlightened,
these rituals assume deep meanings. Some of these rituals are performances
to symbolize the body, speech, and mind of the Eternal Buddha by means of
gestures (mudra), words (mantra), and meditation (Dhyana).
These mystical teachings and practices are taught to priests and earnest
laymen. Among them are the ceremonies of Kwanjo, commonly translated as
baptism but differing much from the usual meaning of that word; rituals
connected with the mandala and with the fire ceremony. Ceremonies are
considered helpful rather than necessary. They make a path and are not goals
There is a special meditation connected with every Buddha and Bodhisattva
aspect in the mandala. Besides these, there is the moon meditation and
perhaps the most important and significant of all is meditation upon the
letter "A" of the Sanskrit alphabet.
Through these practices, spiritual perception is gradually cultivated and to
some may come the summum bonum as in Zen, i.e., an insight into one's own
nature and that of the Buddha, the One Reality.
The aim of the practice of the Three Secrets is to become one with the
Dharmakaya (the Absolute Buddha). As the gestures represent his activity, we
try to imitate them. As the sacred words represent his speech, we try to
speak them. With our minds, we meditate on our oneness with him. If true
enlightenment is not obtained fully in this life, then perhaps a glimpse
will be given, and if not even this is vouchsafed, then it serves as a
preparation for the future life.
We are Buddhas now in essence because we have the Buddha nature although
phenomenally we seem far from it. The fundamental essence of Shingon
teaching is that Buddha and all beings are one. This means not human beings
only, for animals and plants have the Buddha-nature also and are aspects of
Illusion surrounds us and obscures our vision of this truth. Bodaishin
(Bodhisattva) exists in all things animate and inanimate and in both
enlightened and unenlightened beings.
What is this Buddha-nature (Japanese: Bussho, that is, Bodaishin)? In our
hearts, we have innate Buddhahood and can develop it. Sokushinjobutsu is to
be obtained in this world, in this body, not after death as is taught by
Christianity and certain Buddhist sects such as those that believe in Amida
and his Pure Land.
In this respect, Shingon resembles Zen. Both strive to realize that there is
no birth and no death and that Buddhahood is Here and Now. Sokushinjobutso
may be described as the opening of the Buddha's wisdom in us and the
exercise of his compassion whereby we acquire his virtues and powers.
Shingon lays much stress upon this acquiring the virtues and powers of the
Buddha and asserts that it is possible to do so.
It says that by the practice of the Three Secrets we can acquire the powers
and appropriate the virtues of the Buddha-well-being; happiness, compassion,
and wisdom. Wisdom and Compassion are the two foundation posts of Mahayana
Buddhism. The Shingon devotee makes four great vows at the beginning of his
> However innumerable sentient beings are, I vow to save them.
> However inexhaustible the passions are, I vow to extinguish them.
> However innumerable the Dharmas are, I vow to study them.
> However incomparable the Buddha-truth is, I vow to attain it.
Shingon systematic practice begins with the Kwanjo, which means that the
aspirant deliberately of his own free will starts upon the career of the
Bodhisattva. He then proceeds to learn the rituals with the view of
endeavoring to realize his oneness with Mahavairochana.
Practice must be united with Faith and by faith is meant faith in the
teachings of Non-duality and Sokushinjobutsu. The two great sutras --
Dainichikyo and Kongochokyo explain the doctrine of Funi isshin (one Mind,
not two), the former from the standpoint of Compassion and the latter from
that of Wisdom.
Shingon explains the true nature of the Dharmakaya Buddha. According to
Shingon, it is not empty and formless as in the teaching of some schools of
Buddhism, but of real substance with which we can unite, substance that is
true and permanent.
When we are enlightened, the Dharmakaya is found to be not formless and
empty but active, and we understand the meaning of the Great Self and the
true teaching of non-ego that is emptiness of the small self but not of the
Great Self that unites itself with Mahavairochana.
According to Mahayana Buddhism, and especially Shingon, the conception of
Nirvana is different from that as generally explained in Buddhism. Many
writers on Buddhism consider Nirvana to be extinction but Shingon conceives
of it as the Absolute Reality and equivalent to Enlightenment. In Nirvana,
the self enlarges to become one with all other selves in Mahavairochana.
In Nirvana, true individuality is not lost. Each individual is the center of
the universe, but he must realize that all other beings are himself. This is
anatta, which is different from the Hinayana conception. Shingon says that
we must not cling to the small self but enlarge it to contain all others.
This constitutes the Real Self and the knowledge of it is Nirvana that is
full of Bliss.
The field of supreme enlightenment is Bodaishin. The great enlightenment of
Mahavairochana is tranquil, bright, and filled with compassion for all
beings. The sutra says that the Buddha sees all over the universe and knows
that all can realize Buddhahood. The whole trouble with us unenlightened
beings is that we regard ourselves as separate when in reality we unite in
the Dharmakaya. This is the true meaning of non-ego.
What is Shingon?
It is the teaching of non-duality, of Buddha-nature, of enlightenment, of
union with the One that brings the Vision of Truth and the Insight into
[From THE ARYAN PATH, May 1936, pages 217-20.]
THE BUDDHIST VOID OF EMPTINESS
By James Sterling
Emptiness prevails throughout the universe;
My mind is like a blank slate,
Neither is there good to praise,
Nor evil to condemn.
I am like unto a void,
Existing between the pair of opposites:
Happiness and sorrow, good and evil,
Have little consequence on my
Translucent, transparent soul.
I am at my best in this void,
Feeling nothing within -- the clock
Ticks not, thirst for life is abated,
Emotions are like the receding tide
On an evanescent sea.
Purification washes away Personality;
My personality has vanished -- the birds
All flew south for the winter.
I am as empty as the mind of the
Newborn babe; I know not who
I am -- just a fleeting memory of
What I was -- a dark mystery to
Forget about and not care.
Emptiness -- detachment of the soul
Leaves knowledge and wisdom forgotten,
Quiescence perfected. A channel
Unveiled leaves destiny opening
Like an unwritten book.
To do my duty, to stay just empty and selfless,
Solitary in the Ineffable void, it's really
Just the same.
Merging my form with the formless leaves
Nothingness on this lowest plane.
Only my soul's scattered wanderings
Where Buddhist Emptiness of the Universe
Joins the I AM.
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