Perched between eight peaks deep in the Kii Mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, the village of Koyasan (Koya Mountain) appears as if resting inside a lotus flower. This unique feature may be a significant factor in its being chosen as the centre for Shingon Buddhism in Japan.Founded in 816 by Kukai, usually referred to as Kobodaishi, Koyasan is a treasure trove of ancient esoteric culture. Imagine all the ancient spiritual and cultural grandeur of Nara and Kyoto in one, easily traversed location. Throw in the surrounding peaks with their draping mists and you're in for an atmospheric experience.It was 804, during the Tang Dynasty, when Kukai, as part of an imperial mission, crossed the sea to China.
There the accomplished monk received the teachings of the Shingon tradition under the guidance of the national teacher Hui Kuo of the Ching Lung Temple.
Two years later, Kukai returned to Japan and,with imperial consent, began propagating the Shingon faith there.
It is quite remarkable that
master Hui Kuo chose this young Japanese monk as his successor over
hundreds of Chinese disciples and, hence, Kukai is recognised as being
the eighth patriarch in the Shingon lineage.
He passed on the teachings
in both Nara and Kyoto, but Kukai's heart inclined towards untouched
mountains, far removed from the distractions of the city. He had a deep
ambition to construct a monastic community where practitioners of
Buddhism could dedicatetheir lives to prayer for the peace of the land
and salvation of its people.
There is an old legend
about how Kukai discovered Koyasan. When about to leave China for the
return trip to Japan, on completion of his two years of study, he
prayed that the place where he should establish a religious community
would somehow be revealed to him. As the story goes, while praying, he
threw a three-pronged vajra (a religious instrument) into the air and
it landed in the very spot where the Garan in Koyasan now stands. Upon
arriving back in Japan, Kukai searched for the implement. When he
entered what is now Uchi County in Yamamoto, he came across an unusual
character of nearly seven feet tall with a bright red face.He was a
hunter, bearing a bow and arrows and holding a two-headed dog on a
leash. The hunter said: "I am a hunter from the southern mountain and I
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