Shingon Sect of Buddhism

A new Buddhist movement was headed by two leaders, Saicho and Kukai, who were also known as the ‘Kobo Daishi’. Saicho went to China in 804 and upon returning to Japan he founded the Tendai sect of Buddhism. Like Saicho, Kukai also went to China and studied there for three years.

Kukai was was a Japanese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar and a calligrapher. During the duration of his stay in China he came under the influence of esoteric Buddhism. Later when he returned to Japan he founded the Shingon sect or the True Word sect of Japanese Buddhism. With the help of several emperors, Kukai was able to preach shingon teachings and establish shingon temples.

Kukai is also very well known for his artistic and linguistic achievements. He was an outstanding calligrapher and is also credited with the invention of the kana syllabary but this is not completely authenticated. 

Kūkai, considered the protection of Japan is one of the central functions of Buddhism. Kūkai, in order to serve his nation established his Shingon center on Mt. Koya, south of the capital in 819.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on

  Dainichi Nyorai, also known as the ‘Maha Vairocana’ or the Great Illuminator was the chief or principal deity in Shingon sect. ‘Maha Vairocana was the primal form of Buddha from whom all the other forms of buddha emerged. These form not only included the deities but also the demons, saints and goblins, were said to have been emerged from The Great Illuminator alike. According to Kukai teachings, the Maha Vairocana, had its prensence in all things the universe holds, the body, speech and the thought of Maha Vairocana, is what constitutes the life of the universe.

The Shingon sect of Buddhism aimed at eliciting the vitality of the ‘three mysteries’ in the bodies, speech and thought in each and every individual. The Great Illuminator is present in each and every being present in this universe, all of the beings have the mystical bodies of the Great Illuminator, the voice is his mystical mouth and the thoughts are his mystical mind. All of this is beyond the comprehension of an ordinary persons mind, hence they are but mysteries to our senses. According to the teachings of Esoteric Buddhism, the body, mouth and mind is united with the Great Illuminator by practicing mudras for the body, reciting mantras for the mouth and performing meditation for the mind, this enables the person to connect to the Buddha. After one connected to the Buddha they will find the road to their salvation.

Photo by Alex Azabache on

Shingon sect also played the role of reuniting or reconciling Buddhism with Shinto. The shigon sect proposed the idea that all the gods and goddesses in Shintoism are the manifestations of the great Buddha. During the end if the Heian period they were successful in the reconciliation of Shinto and Buddhism and it came to be known as ‘Dual Shinto’.