NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

2007/5/29

空海 Kuukai Kukai

Jp En


Kukai (774-835) was a Japanese monk, the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism in Japan. Kūkai is also famous as a calligrapher, and together with the Emperor Saga and the courtier Tachibana no Hayanari, he is admired as the “Three Great Brushes” (or sanpitsu).

Kūkai was born in 774 in the province of Sanuki on Shikoku island in the present day town of Zentsūji. He studied Confucianism at the government university in Nara, where he became disillusioned with his studies because he thought that Confucianism could not resolve social contradictions. He developed a strong interest in Buddhist studies and named himself Kukai.
In 804, he set sail for China as a menmer of the government sponsored mission, in which Saichō, the founder of the Tendai school of Buddhism, was also included.

After studying Buddhism techings and Chinese cultures, he finally met Master Huiguo (Jap. Keika), the man who would initiate him into the esoteric Buddhism tradition at Changan's Qinglong Monastery in 805. In a few short months he received the final initiation, and become a master of the esoteric lineage.

Kūkai arrived back in Japan in 806 and reside in the Takaosanji (later Jingoji) Temple in the suburbs of Kyoto. There he established his own sect of Buddhism, the Shingon sect. At the same time, he used his knowledge in civil engineering that he had learned in China and directed civil works in many places. He also exercised his talents in various fields such as caligraphy, painting and sculpture.

When the emperor granted Mt. Koya to Kūkai, he planned to build the monastic retreat centre. However, before seeing the completion of his ideal religious institution, he died in Mt. Koya on March 21st, 835.

In 857, Kūkai was awarded the posthumous title of “Daishojo (the Great Priest) by Emperor Buntoku in 857, and “Kobo Daishi” by Emperor Daigo in 921. Kūkai was the great saint, who contributed greatly to the development of Japanese Buddhism after the Heian period (794-1192), and a lot of folklore and legends pertaining to Kūkai still exist in every part of the country.

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