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Mandala Vermont
Shingon, Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, Japanese Culture, Kukai, Kobo Daishi, Dharma
Shingon, Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, Japanese Culture, Kukai, Kobo Daishi, Dharma

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Mandala Vermont maintains a Pinterest page.  Please enjoy our image collection that goes beyond Shingon to include art, architecture and Japanese culture. 

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Nyorin Kannon

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Monks chanting --

Shingon is a form of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, it is also called Shingon Mikkyo. This school was founded in 804 AD by Kukai (Kobo Daishi) in Japan. The teachings of Shingon are based on the Mahavairocana Sutra and the Vajrasekhara Sutra, the fundamental sutras of Shingon. Through the cultivation of three secrets, the actions of body, speech and mind, we are able to attain enlightenment in this very body. When we can sustain this state of mind, we can become one with the life force of the Universe, known as Mahavairocana Buddha. The symbolic activities are present anywhere in the universe. Natural phenomena such as mountains and oceans and even humans express the truth described in the sutras.

The universe itself embodies and can not be separated from the teaching. In the Shingon tradition, the practitioner uses the same techniques that were used over 1,200 years ago by Kukai, and have been transmitted orally generation after generation to the present. As Shingon Buddhists, there are three vows to observe in our lives:

May we realize Buddhahood in this very life.

May we dedicate ourselves to the well-being of people.

May we establish the World of Buddha on this earth.

Becoming a Buddha in This Very Life (Sokushin Jobutsu) The unique feature of this Shingon Teaching is that one does not become a Buddha only in his mind, nor does one become a Buddha after one has died. It means one is able to attain perfection of all of the qualities of a Buddha while one is yet living in his present physical body. An essay on the Bodhicitta (Bodaishin-ron) says: "One speedily attained great Awakening in the very body born of mother and father." According to the Shingon tradition, all things in this universe -- both physical matter, mind and mental states -- are made up of some six primary elements. These six primary elements are: earth (the principle of solidity), water (moisture), fire (energy), wind (movement), space (the state of being unobstructed) and consciousness (the six ways of knowing objects). Buddha as well as ordinary human beings are made up of these six elements, and in this sense both Buddha and human beings are basically and in essence identical. When we realize this truth, then our actions, our words, and our thoughts will undergo and experience of faith which will cause them to be correct and purify their surroundings. This living, physical body will be able to achieve Buddhahood.

Salvation and Enlightenment. Shingon Buddhism grants salvation and enlightenment to human beings who would otherwise be caught in the cycle of birth and death. Once a person is able to enter the gate of this faith, he/she will be able to receive that salvation and guidance of many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It is a religion in which that person will be fortunate enough to be able to recite the mantras that are the Buddha's own words. Kobo Daishi explained two points as its special characteristics:

1. Attainment of enlightenment in this very body.

2. The present moment that clearly teaches the content of enlightenment.

He explained these two aspects throughout his writings like, "The Meaning of Becoming a Buddha in This Body," "The Ten Stages in the Development of the Mind," "The Meaning of the Secret Samaya Precepts of the Buddha." It is a blessings of Shingon Buddhism to make it possible to come into direct contact with the practices leading to salvation. Shingon discipline The Shingon Teachings are broad and profound, and require strict discipline to put into practice. If we do not personally practice them in our daily lives of faith, then this treasure will become a useless possession. In actuality, we must manifest the teachings and practice of becoming a Buddha in this body in concrete form. The form of this faith is the developing one's mind into higher stage and engaging in discipline. There are various meditation techniques in Shingon traditions including the practice for gaining secular benefits for others by using mantra chanting and mudra hand signs as well as seeking enlightenment in this very body for oneself.

Shingon Discipline

The followings are some of the major forms practiced by many practitioners: Susokukan (Basic meditation to find one's own breathing pace) Gachirinkan (Moon Disc meditation) Ajikan (A syllable meditation) These practices are gateways into understanding the nature of Reality. Through these gateways we can experience many states of consciousness and as our skill develops we begin to have real insight into the nature of the unproduced state. Through these meditations we can experience the flow of energy from this state into this physical plane of existence. However, this state cannot be experienced without correct understanding of its doctrine and the guide by an authentic teacher.

Seicho Asahi

Northern California Koyasan Temple

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In some sort of continuity with my earlier post on the history of early Buddhism in Japan (, here is a quick presentation of the Shingon school.

Shingon means 'mantra' and is an esoteric school, from India via China, based on early tantra. It is resolutely among the Mahayana schools. It is noticeable that Tibetan buddhism developed the Vajrayana teachings independently. Many Indian 'sources' are shared between Shingon and Vajrayana, but there is no direct connection.

As in Tibetan tantra though, the relation between teacher and student is of extreme importance in Shingon, and teachings are 'secret' (not because they're hidden but because they should only be given in the situation of an appropriate teacher-student pair).

Meditative technics from tantra regularly rely on visualisation, and a central figure of Shingon is Vairocana or Mahāvairocana (in Japan, called Dainichi Nyorai 大日如來) as the central primordial buddha: a visualisation of thusness —impermanence, emptiness— and of the Dharmakāya —principle of Enlightenment).
In total, 37 deities are listed though.

Shingon also relies on mandalas. Two mandalas in particular are considered to summarise the whole of the Dharma, i.e. form the root/basis of Buddhism. These two mandalas naturally have sub-aspects ("9 mandalas" for the Vajradhatu, the "fourfold mandala" for the Garbhadhatu).

Shingon perceived itself as the 'complete' school of Buddhism while all other schools focus on particular aspects only (and thus are not necessarily wrong, but incomplete).
Shingon could thus accept the teachings of all other schools as partial components, which was useful when it appears in Japan after the "six schools" of the Nara period. The view of Shingon allowed to give sense to the collaboration between the six schools, while also claiming superiority over them for political reasons and patronage.

Tendai had also entered the scene during Shingon's development, and one of the teachings of Shingon —the ten stages of development of human consciousness— directly mapped different Nara schools as well as Tendai as stages 4 through 9, with Shingon being the 10th stage:
the 10 stages can be divided into 3 samsaric stages, 2 related to Hinayana, 2 related to Mahayana's "Three Vehicles", 2 related to Mahayana's "One Vehicle" and finally one associated to Vajrayana and Shingon.

Unsurprisingly, given the Indian tantric origin, Shingon also uses mantras and syllab-words (

As most tantric schools, Shingon relies on rituals: Shingon supports the notion that enlightenment is possible within this very life, based on the doctrine of buddha-nature, and rituals are thus keys to let defilements drop away and access the realisation of emptiness directly.

For all the claims of superiority and completeness, Shingon also acknowledged that tantra was a mere teaching device, maybe the complete one, maybe 'taught' by the Dharmakāya itself, but nonetheless just a teaching device.
The truth is directly tied to the Dharmakāya, not to any teaching which can be expressed! The truth is beyond words. It is the combination of the "teachings of eternal differentiation" and the "teachings of eternal sameness". It is one but dual, two but one. All dharmas are Mahāvairocana, the Absolute is identical to our own bodies, and Buddha-dharma is identical to our own forms.

#Buddhism   #buddhistcircle  
(image via

Sentient Beings: Those living beings who are endowed with feelings, emotion and consciousness, such as human beings or animals.  In Buddhism all existence is broadly classified into sentient and insentient beings.  Insentient beings are grass, trees, stones and so forth.

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'All conditioned things are not-self' — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.

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Mandala Vermont created a Shingon inspired presence on Pinterest

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