MANDALA - The Legend of Kukai


Chamber 2 第二堂

Soon after settling in Chang An, Kukai went to the Qing Long Temple with the intention of seeing Acarya Hui Guo, but later turned back as he felt he needed to learn Sanskrit first.

On his arrival in Chang An, Kukai went first to study Sanskrit under the North Indian Brahmins, Prajna and Munisri. Mastery of Sanskrit was essential for the study of Esoteric Buddhism.

Studying under Indian Brahmins to master the Sanskrit language.

It was typical of Kukai's thoroughness that he gave his attention to language before going to study at the 青龙寺 Qing Long Temple under 慧果 Hui Guo, the true master for whom he had been searching. Kukai became a student of Hui Guo in the middle of the year 805AD.

Kukai finally meeting his Acarya, Hui Guo, at the Qing Long Temple.

Kukai himself records that as soon as Hui Guo saw him, the latter cried out, "I have long known that you would come. For such a long time I have waited for you! How happy I am, how happy I am today, to look upon you at last. My life is reaching its end, and there has been no one to whom I could transmit the teachings. Go at once to the initiation platform with incense and flowers!"

In a grand procession, Kukai follows Acarya Hui Guo to the Empowerment Hall of the Oing Long Temple to receive his Garbhakosa Dhatu Initiation.

Not long after this dramatic first meeting, Kukai received his initiation ritual into the 胎藏界曼荼罗 Garbhakosa Dhatu Mandala. As if being led by fate, his Guardian Deity in the Mandala turned out to be none other than Maha-vairocana Buddha right in the central court.

In the ritual casting of a lotus flower to determine one's Guardian Deity, the lotus lands right on Maha-vairocana Buddha in the center of the Mandala.

The next month he was initiated into the 金刚界曼荼罗 Vajradhatu Mandala. Amazingly, his Guardian Deity in this Mandala still turns out to be Maha-vairocana Buddha in the central court! According to Hui Guo this was a very rare occurrence and it signified Kukai's incomparable potential for the esoteric teachings.

In the subsequent ritual lotus casting to determine one's Guardian Deity for the Vajradhatu Mandala, the lotus again lands right on Maha-vairocana Buddha in the middle!

And in the following month, he received the final ritual, the transmission of the teachings. Thus in just three months, Kukai received from his master formal transmission of all the major esoteric sadhanas from the two systems, the Garbhakosa and the Vajradhatu. He was already a full fledged Acarya.

Hui Guo transmitting to Kukai the various stages of Maha-vairocana Buddha visualization sadhana.

Hui Guo, who had said on the first meeting that his life was running out, entered Parinirvana near the end of that year, aged 60, having transmitted the Dharma to Kukai. It was fortunate for Kukai that he could have received Dharma transmission from such an illustrious teacher so close to his death, but Hui Guo was also lucky in finally being able to meet a suitable Dharma heir.

Kukai leaving the Empowerment Hall finally as a full fledged Acarya. Soon after Hui Guo entered Parinirvana. Kukai then wrote a well-known ode in memory of his great master. It reads: "The poor are relieved by wealth, (and) the ignorant are guided by the Dharma. Whether noble or lowly, the empty leaves and the real returns. (As both) the far and the near seek light, (thus) they get to come (together) in assembly."

Having received the transmission of the orthodox Zhen Yan school from Hui Guo, Kukai became its 附法第八祖 8th Patriarch, and thus the direct line of transmission crossed the sea to be passed on in Japan as 真言密教 Shingon Mikkyo.

Kukai receives gifts and relics from the Tang Emperor Xiandi as he prepares to return to Japan. He says farewell to his friends in Chang An before riding off.

In the autumn of 806AD, Kukai returned to Japan aboard a diplomatic ship and came ashore in Northern Kyushu. With him he had brought 216 works in 451 volumes, of which 142 works in 247 volumes were translations of texts of the new Esoteric Buddhism, mainly those of Amoghavajra. In addition we should note the existence of 42 Sanskrit works in 44 volumes. Kukai also brought back with him various graphic works, mandalas and ritual implements, which tell of the completeness of the transmission of his Dharma lineage. Establishing the Shingon branch he started transmitting the esoteric teachings to many disciples (including 最澄 Saicho, the founder of the 天台密教 Tendai branch of Esoteric Buddhism), numbering 140 in all. He oversaw the building of Temples and Monasteries in various places, chiefly in 高野山 Mount Koya, which would become the base of Shingon. He also set up a school to teach the common folk various arts, the first of its kind in Japan. In order to achieve all these works Kukai had close relations with the Emperor Saga, and had a significant influence on him. But as the state budget was insufficient Kukai still had to went out to garner donations on his own. His literary works, both religious and cultural, are also many. They live on forever in Japanese literature.

Up to this day many Japanese pilgrims continue to flock to Mount Koya to walk the path that Kukai had walked, and to pay homage to the master they respectfully call Kobo Daishi.

On April 23rd, 835AD, Kukai entered Parinirvana on Mount Koya, at the age of 62. It is believed that even now his physical body remains in eternal samadhi within the inner shrine on the mountain. It is also believed he still appears to any pilgrim who has troubles they cannot get over with. These beliefs are also an eternal legacy of the burning admiration felt for him by the Japanese people as a whole.

The light of Kukai's wisdom shines on forever, not just in the hearts of the Japanese, but all mankind. 


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