Tokyo National Museum: Kukai’s World and The Arts of Esoteric Buddhism
Michel Le Bon and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Tokyo National Museum is currently showing an exhibition about Kukai and Esoteric Buddhism. Kukai is of major importance in Japan and this applies to Shingon Buddhism and the rich legacy he left, and in time this rich legacy would reach many distant lands. Therefore, the current exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum will highlight the richness of his teaching, Shingon Buddhism, Koyasan, cultural factors and take you into the world of Esoteric Buddhism.
Kukai (774-835) who became known as Kobo Daishi established the first monastery in the ninth century on mount Koya (Koya-san). The Shingon sect had a different thought pattern within the many schools of Buddhism and Kukai believed that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime.
His theory that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime was very powerful in his day and it gave hope and a new freshness to Buddhist thought within Japan. Kukai also spread his message and thinking on the top of Mount Koya which is situated in Wakayama and you can imagine the impact of nature and the isolation of Koyasan on his thinking.
In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Kukai was a searcher and he visited China and during his stay he studied Esoteric Buddhism. Initially, he prayed for peace and prosperity because he could not find inner-peace within city life, therefore, he searched for a place where he could meditate and become even more spiritual.”
“When Kukai saw the stunning nature of Koyasan it was clear to him that he had found the place which he desired. The mountains meant that he was cut off from everyday city life in this period and the sublime beauty of nature added to the mysterious feel of Koyasan.”
“Today, in the modern period, other worlds still survive and in Koyasan you feel the richness of culture, the souls of the dead within the mysterious graveyards, the beauty of life within the grounds of so many Buddhist temples and a culture which still survives.”
Near the end of Kukai’s life he stopped taking food and water and instead he meditated and it was reported that his body did not decay for several years. Many legends have sprung up about Kukai and one claims that Kukai was transformed into an eternal Samadhi. Therefore, the legend states that Kukai wanders around Mount Koya where he is awaiting a major spiritual event to take place and this applies to the next Buddha Maitreya appearing.
Other legends have developed, therefore, if you want to understand about Kukai and esoteric Buddhism then the exhibition at Tokyo National Museum is a must. If you reside far from Tokyo in Japan or in another nation, then check the website which will be supplied and read more about this very important individual.
http://www.tnm.jp/modules/r_free_page/index.php?id=1393 Tokyo National Museum
http://www.visiblemantra.org/kukai.html Kukai and information
http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/ Kukai and information
http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/ (stunning Koyasan)
http://www.koyasan.org/ (Information about Koyasn)
(If you attend the exhibition after reading this article then please mention that Modern Tokyo Times highlighted the exhibition)