Article

Kūkai

Klaus Pinte

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0088
Kūkai

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Kūkai (空海, b. 774–d. 835) is most commonly revered as the founder of the Shingon denomination of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. He is reported to have been initiated into Esoteric Buddhism by Huiguo (惠果, b. 746–d. 805) during a research stay in China (804–806), from which he brought a vast array of texts, scroll paintings, and other ritual implements. The voluminous textual corpus attributed to Kūkai bears evidence of his envisioning a unity of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhist denominations, ultimately culminating in Shingon. Often juxtaposed to Saichō (最澄, b. 767–d. 822) because of the remarkable diplomatic insights he applied to interacting with both the imperial court and the established Buddhist institutions, Kūkai is regarded as one of the most prominent Japanese scholar-monks of the Heian period (784/94–1185). He is celebrated not only for his systematizing philosophical capacities, but also for his broad knowledge of Tang dynasty (618–907) culture. Also known as one of the three famous calligraphers (sanpitsu 三筆), Kūkai is a pan-Japanese cultural hero who, among numerous other legendary accomplishments, has been credited with the invention of the kana script. Devotees still venerate him as a popular “living saint,” remaining alive in eternal meditation on Mt. Kōya (Kōyasan 高野山). Kūkai’s lay name is Saeki (no) Mao (佐伯真魚); his posthumous title, Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師); and his “treasure name,” Henjō Kongō (遍照金剛). Popular appellations include Daishi (大師), Kōya Daishi (高野大師), and Odaishisama (お大師様).

Article.  7419 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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