The Esoteric Meaning Of ‘Amida’
The Esoteric Meaning Of ‘Amida’
An annotated translation with introduction
by Hisao Inagaki (Zuio)
Kakuban, popularly known as Mitsugon Sonja (Venerable Mystic Glorification), was born in Fujitsu-no-sho, Hizen Province (near the present Kagoshima City), on the 17th of the 6th month, 1095. His father Isa-no-Heiji Kanemoto was a high officer in charge of a manor belonging to the Ninnaji temple, and his mother came from the Tachibana family. Born as the third of four sons, he was called Yachitose-maro.
According to the Genko-shakusho, one day when Kakuban was eight years old, a messenger of the provincial governor came to see his father to press him for payment of taxes. The messenger’s attitude was rude, and the boy’s father was hiding behind the screen. The boy was shocked and asked the monk who was staying at his house, “Who was that messenger?” and “Who is the highest authority in Japan?” After learning that the emperor was the highest person, he further asked the monk if there was someone superior to the emperor. The monk replied that the Buddha was the supreme authority. This incident prompted him to decide to become a Buddhist; whereupon he himself burned incense as an offering to the Buddha.
His father died when Kakuban was ten, and in 1107, at the age of 13, he went to Kyoto and became a disciple of Kanjo, the founder of the Joju-in Hall and a well-known esoteric adept. In the following year, he went to Nara to study the Kusha and Hosso teachings under Keigyo at the Kofukuji. In 1110 he returned to the Joju-in and received the ordination of a novice from Kanjo and was given the name Shogaku-bo Kakuban – “Enlightened VAM” (VAM is the mystic syllable of Maha Vairocana in the Vajra-realm Mandala). After the ordination, Kanjo sent him to Nara again – this time to the Todaiji to learn the Sanron and Kegon Teachings. While studying in Nara, Kakuban had a dream in which a Shinto god urged him to go up to Mt. Koya. So he once again returned to the Ninnaji and began the preparatory practice for becoming an acarya.
In 1114, at the age of 20 Kakuban received the full ordination of a monk at the Todaiji, Nara, and then went up Mt. Koya, where he was greeted by a Nembutsu sage, Shoren of the Ojo-in. Being a devout aspirant to Amida’s Pure Land, Shoren undoubtedly had a great influence on Kakuban. Kakuban learned many ritual practices under Meijaku, who was also known as an aspirant to the Pure Land through the Shingon Nembutsu. Under Meijaku’s guidance, Kakuban particularly practiced the ritual called “Kokuzo gumonjiho,” dedicated to Kokuzo (Akashagarbha) Bodhisattva. During his stay on Mt. Koya, until he was 27 of age, he also received the Dharma-transmission abhiseka (Denbo kanjo) as many as eight times.
In 1121 Kakuban received from Kanjo of the Ninnaji the abhiseka of the two Mandela’s, the Realm of Matrix-store and the Realm of Vajra. Later he tried again and again to master the Kokuzo gumonjiho ritual, until at the ninth attempt in 1123 he attained the transcendent state, and thus spiritual awakening dawned in his mind.
In 1125 Kakuban is said to have written the Koyoshu, 3 fascicles, explaining the way of birth in Amida’s Land, and sent it to his mother. In the following year, he wished to build a hall on Mt. Koya to revive the lecture meeting of transmission of the Dharma, called “Denbo-e”, which was originated by Kukai for the promotion of studies in esoteric Buddhism. Coincidentally, a large estate in Wakayama was donated to him, so he invoked Shinto gods and built there a shrine to guard the Denbo-in, which was to be built on Mt. Koya. Later the Negoroji was built on this site. In 1130 Kakuban received the patronage of the Ex-emperor Toba and his sanction to build the Denbo-in on Mt. Koya. Since that temple proved to be too small, in 1131 he built the Daidenbo-in temple (Great Denbo-in). Thus he succeeded in establishing a center for the study and practice of Shingon.
Kakuban’s next effort was to rehabilitate the Shingon rituals. At that time, there were two traditions of rituals in the Tomitsu (the esoteric Buddhism of Shingon as opposed to that of Tendai): the Ono and Hirosawa schools, each divided into sub-schools. Besides those, on Mt. Koya another school, called “Chuin,” was founded by Meizan (1021-1106). Kakuban sought to unify them all by establishing the Denbo-in school.
In 1134, an imperial decree was issued to designate the Daidenbo-in and the Mitsugon-in, the latter constructed as Kakuban’s residence, as temples for offering up prayers for the emperor, and Kakuban was nominated as the first zasu of the Daidenbo-in. Monks of the Kongobuji, the head temple of Mt. Koya, became angry and tried to expel Kakuban, but an Ex-emperor’s decree ruled that those monks be punished. Later that year, Kakuban was additionally appointed zasu of the Kongobuji. Until that time, the zasu of the Toji temple in Kyoto had also been the zasu of the Kongobuji, and so Mt. Koya had been effectively under the jurisdiction of Toji. Worried about further incurring the wrath of those monks who had already sought his expulsion, Kakuban finally resigned as zasu of both temples and retired to the Mitsugon-in.
Nevertheless, the antipathy of the Kongobuji monks against Kakuban was aggravated. They even took to arms and attempted to kill him. Kakuban, however, remained in the Mitsugon-in and began a discipline of silence for a thousand days. In 1139, the armed monks destroyed the Denbo-in and its sub-temples, numbering more than eighty. Kakuban fled to Negoro in Wakayama, never to return to Mt. Koya again. He spent the rest of his life there teaching students and writing books. In 1143 when he was 49 years of age, he became ill, and later that year he passed away while sitting in the lotus posture, making the appropriate mudra, and facing towards Mahavairocana’s Pure Land. He was given the posthumous title Kogyo Daishi (the Master who Revived the Teaching) by Emperor Higashiyama in 1690.
Reconciliation and conflict ensued between the Kongobuji and the Negoroji, lasting for more than a hundred years. The great master Raiyu (1226-1304) finally moved the Daidenbo-in and the Mitsugon-in to Negoro in 1288, and declared the independence of the new school, called Shingi Shingon.
Kakuban’s life-work can be summarized under the following four headings:
(1) Reviving the denbo-e lecture-meetings to promote the study of the Shingon teachings;
(2) Founding the Denbo-in school to unify various traditions of Shingon ritualism;
(3) Independence of the Kongobuji from the jurisdiction of the Toji;
(4) Founding a new school of thought and practice uniting Shingon esotericism and the Nembutsu, called ‘Shingon Nembutsu’ or ‘Himitsu Nembutsu.’
Kakuban’s literary works, amounting to more than 150, show the depth and scope of his scholarship grounded in his dedication to and his mystic experience of Shingon esotericism. Above all, he made a great contribution to the transmission of Kukai’s teachings by elaborating his theories of “attaining Buddhahood with one’s present body” (sokushin jobutsu), “the Dharmakaya’s exposition of the Dharma” (hosshin seppo), “the ten spiritual stages” (jujushin), and so on. Based on his practice and personal experience, Kakuban also wrote a number of manuals of ritual performance, especially on the rite for increasing memory, dedicated to Akashagarbha (Kokuzo gumonjiho), contemplation of the Sanskrit syllable “A” (ajikan), and contemplation of the moon-disc (gachirinkan). His devotion to the rite for Akashagarbha is worthy of our special notice, for through the successful performance of this practice, he is said to have attained a spiritual awakening similar to the realization of Buddhahood with one’s present body.
Kakuban is generally credited with having started the tradition of the esoteric Nembutsu, but there were some predecessors. From the middle of the Heian period, especially after Genshin (942-1017) published his famous Ojoyoshu, Amida worship became very popular on Mt. Hiei and elsewhere. In Shingon, too, the contemplative and oral practice of the Nembutsu became popular. Saisen (1025°1115) of the Ninnaji wrote some works on Pure Land Buddhism. Jitsuhan (1089-1144) of Konponjodo-in, Nakagawa, Nara, who founded the Nakagawa ritual school of Shingon, practiced the Nembutsu of the Pure Land School in his later years and recommended it to his followers; he wrote among other works the Jodo-ojoron.
From about the end of the 10th century, kanjin-hijiri, who urged devotees to make donations for building temples and for other purposes, began to settle on Mt. Koya. A little later, Nembutsu practitioners, called hijiri-gata or koya-hijiri (Koya sages) began to appear. They were originally joji (also shoji; one who performs miscellaneous duties at a temple while remaining a layman and sometimes married). Those hijiri who held the Pure Land faith and were devoted to the Nembutsu, were also in charge of the crematorium and mortuary chapel. A number of groups of hijiri lived on Mt. Koya from the middle of the 11th century. They practiced both Shingon esotericism and the Nembutsu, and their influence on the spiritual life of the general public was great.
Kakuban’s theory of esoteric Nembutsu appears in the following works:
(1) Gorin kuji hishaku (The Esoteric Meanings of the Five Elements and the Nine Syllables; Kogyo Daishi senjutsushu (henceforth abbreviated to KDS.) Vol. 1, 149-152);
(2) Ichigo taiyo himitsushaku (The Esoteric Exposition of the Most Important Matter in Life; KDS. Vol. 1, 157-176);
(3) Amida hishaku (The Esoteric Meaning of ‘Amida’; KDS. Vol. 149-152).
It is believed that the Gorin kuji hishaku was written during the last few years of the author’s life. This work is also called Tongo ojo hikan (The Esoteric Contemplation for Quick Attainment of Birth in the Pure Land). The five elements are: earth (indicated by ‘A’), water (‘VA’), fire (‘RA’), wind (‘HA’), and space (‘KHA’); they symbolize the five Buddhas, five wisdoms, and so forth. The nine syllables of the Amida mantra are: M, A, MR, TA, TE, JE, HA, RA, and HUM (Om amrita teje hara hum). Kakuban explains that the five elements and the nine syllables are essentially the same and that through contemplation of them, one can attain birth in the Pure Land. In this work, Kakuban asserts that the practitioners of the Shingon Nembutsu attains birth in the highest grade of the highest class (cf. note 11) like Nargarjuna, who had already in this life attained the Stage of Joy. As for the specific cause of birth in the Pure Land, he says (KDS. Vol. I, 212): “The three refuges and the five precepts are the karmic cause for birth in the Pure Land. The six contemplations, four Dhyana, ten good actions, meditation on void-ness, and so forth, can also be the causes of birth there.”
The Ichigo taiyo himitsushaku teaches nine specific points to remember for Pure Land aspirants. These nine include “repenting of one’s karmic transgressions” (5), “contemplation of the Pure Land” (7), and “decisive assurance of birth” (8). Kakuban emphatically states: “Amida is the manifestation of Maha Vairocana’s wisdom; Maha Vairocana is the essential nature of Amida.” (KDS. 1, 172) He thus clarifies the essential identity of Amida and Maha Vairocana and that of Amida’s Land of Utmost Bliss (Gokuraku) and Maha Vairocana’s Land of Mystic Glorification (Mitsugon). The eighth instruction is “the most important matter to be taken care of, “as the author notes under that heading (KDS. I, 172). Here he elaborates on the terminal care to be taken of a dying person in order to safeguard his attainment of birth in the Pure Land: Five Dharma friends should be in the room of the dying person and see that the deathbed rite is properly performed. The rite consists mainly of repeating the Nembutsu. They should recite the Nembutsu in time with the breath of that person for one to seven days, until he dies. The five friends should also envision that as they pronounce “NA MO A MI TA BUH”, these syllables enter the mouth of the dying person as he inhales, and that those syllables turn into the sun, which shines forth from his six sense-organs and breaks the darkness of his karmic transgressions. This contemplation enables him to attain the sun-meditation, as taught in the Contemplation Sutra (Kanmuryojukyo) and thus gain birth in the Pure Land.
The Amida-hishaku is a short work covering only one page in the Taisho Tripitaka edition, but it presents the essential teaching of the esoteric Nembutsu. Kakuban first explains that Amida is the manifestation of the wisdom of the Dharmakaya Maha Vairocana and corresponds to the wisdom of wonderful discernment (myokanzatchi; pratyaveksana-jnana). When one realizes the ultimate One Mind, which contains all the Buddhas, divinities, their wisdoms, and other realms of beings, one attains unity with Amida. Next, the author explains thirteen different names of Amida related to his manifestations of Light, each as one of the functions of the Dharmakaya’s wisdom of discernment. Lastly, he presents the esoteric meanings of AMITA.
The presentation in this work is reminiscent of a short sutra translated by Amoghavajra, entitled Kuhon ojo Amida sanmaji shu-daranikyo (The Sutra Presenting the Dharani of the Amida Samadhi which Ensures Birth in the Nine Ranks of Enlightenment)(TT. 19, 79b-80a). This sutra first states that the Land of the Buddha of Infinite Life is manifest in the samádhi of pure consciousness glorified with the nine ranks of enlightenment, which he then explains. Contrary to our expectation, those nine ranks are not the same as the nine grades presented in the Contemplation Sutra but are the nine stages of enlightenment (see note 11). They seem to indicate nine different virtues contained in the Pure Consciousness of True Suchness. Within this consciousness appear twelve Mahamandala figures originating from the Great Round Mirror-Wisdom. The twelve figures are the twelve Buddhas, who, according to the Larger Sutra (Muryojukyo), are different names of Amida and the same as the last twelve of the thirteen names given in the Amida-hishaku.
The sutra continues to explain that one who contemplates those Buddhas and praises their names can escape from samsára and reside in True Suchness. It further states that one who wishes to enter this Samádhi and purify his mind and body should concentrate on the following mantra:
OM A MR TA TE JE HA RA HUM.
By holding fast to this mantra, which is popularly known as the Amida shoju (the Small Amida Mantra), one can dwell in the realization of the principle of ultimate reality. The sutra ends with the usual praise of the merit of copying and reciting it and the benefit of its leading the practicer to the Pure Land.
Kakuban must have read this sutra and used its essentials in the Amida-hishaku. He re-interprets it as the nine consciousnesses adorned with nine grades or ranks of enlightenment, which are contained in the One Mind. One noticeable divergence from the sutra is Kakuban’s use of A MI TA. Instead of following the more usual esoteric formula of the nine syllables of the Amida mantra, he teaches that one who recites AMITA (or AMIDA) can extinguish his grave karmic offenses and attain boundless wisdom and merit. He then gives esoteric meanings of A MI TA.
In summing up the above observations, we can see that Kakuban uses three kinds of Amida mantra in the three texts above:
(1) 9 syllable-mantra, i.e., OM (or M) A MR TA TE JE HA RA HUM., in the Gorin kuji hishaku;
(2) 6 syllable-mantra, i.e., NA MO A MI TA BUH, in the Ichigo taiyo himitsushaku;
(3) 3 syllable-mantra, i.e., A MI TA., in the Amida-hishaku.
A comparative study of these three texts reveals that the Amida-hishaku is an ontological and metaphysical exposition of the Shingon Nembutsu and that the Gorin kuji hishaku is the most elaborate exposition of the authentic esoteric Amida mantra along the lines of Pure Land thought. Of the three texts, the Ichigo taiyo himitsushaku shows the closest affinity to the popular Nembutsu formula of the Pure Land school.
Throughout these works the central Shingon idea of ‘sokushin jobutsu’ is evident, and the Pure Land concept of ‘ojo’ is interpreted from this viewpoint. We also note that in the Gorin kuji hishaku Kakuban warns the practicer of the 9 syllable-mantra not to despise the 6 syllable-name or the 3 syllable-mantra (KDS. I, 219). Hence we know that there is no basic difference between the three mantras. For Kakuban, Amida and other Buddhas are manifestations of Maha Vairocana, and the Pure Lands of Amida and other Buddhas are his transformed Lands (KDS. I, 177).
The Esoteric Meaning Of ‘Amida’
Amida Buddha is the embodiment of the wisdom of discerning and recognizing the Dharmakaya in one’s own nature and is also the common ground from which all sentient beings attain enlightenment.
If you contemplate and perceive the One Mind,1) you will also recognize the reality of all dharmas; if you know the reality of all dharmas, you will also know the mental activities of all sentient beings. Thus the One Mind contains in itself all aspects of the twofold truth2) without distinction. Every form and mind of beings in the nine realms3) equally possesses the Five Wisdoms4) in full array. It follows then that the sages in the Four Mandala5) originally reside in one’s body, which is a temporary conglomeration of the five aggregates,6) and continue to do so everlastingly. The Holy Ones who are responsive to the practicer in his Three Mystic Acts7) eternally and pervasively dwell in his delusory mind of nine consciousnesses.8)
Since the One Mind is identical with all dharmas, the realm of Buddhas and that of sentient beings are at once non-dual and dual. Since all dharmas are identical with the One Mind, the realm of Buddhas and that of sentient beings are at once dual and non-dual. Further, one’s mind and the Buddha are, from the beginning, one. Do not attempt to make this mind become a Buddha. When delusion subsides, wisdom appears and then you become a Buddha with the present body.9)
When it is taught (in other sects) that there is a Buddha beyond one’s self and a pure land beyond this defiled land, it is for the purpose of guiding ordinary ignorant persons of deep attachment and benefiting sentient beings who have committed the gravest offenses. Expositions of the Dharma accommodated to the capacities of people present shallow and simplified teachings while keeping the principle of truth hidden. The exposition of truth by the Dharmakaya Buddha10) opens up the true wisdom and destroys attachments.
If you clearly recognize the deep fountainhead of the One Mind, the Mind-Lotus of the nine ranks11) will bloom in the Pure Mind with nine consciousnesses12); if you attain enlightenment through the Three Mystic Acts, you will perceive the forms of the Five Buddhas13) manifested in your body through the five sense-organs.14) Who still aspires to the glorious land of treasures15) in the beyond? Who still wishes to see the exquisite forms there?
The difference between delusion and enlightenment rests with your mind, and so, there is no Buddha apart from your three modes of action.16) Since the true and the delusory are one, you can perceive the Land of Utmost Bliss15) in the five states of samsaric existence.17) The moment you understand this truth, this very mind of yours is called ‘Avalokiteshvara,’ for you clearly know the principle of universal presence of the One Mind in all conditioned and unconditioned dharmas.17) If you acquire the thorough knowledge of this mind, you are called ‘Amida Tathágata,’ for you truly recognize the One Mind, which is your innate virtue, free from all discriminations and attachments.
The above is the outline.
Explanation of the Name
Next, I will explain the name. In India it was called ‘Amita’; in China it was translated as ‘wu-liang-shou,’ ‘wu-liang-kuang,‘ and so forth. There are in all thirteen translations, which are used only in the exoteric teachings. According to the esoteric interpretation, all names are, without exception, mystic names of the Tathágata (Maha Vairocana). Nevertheless, I will explain the true meanings of these thirteen names.18)
(1) Muryoju (Infinite Life): The Dharmakaya Tathágata dwells in the Dharma-realm Palace19) without arising or perishing; for this reason, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called “48b” ‘the Buddha of Infinite Life.’
(2) Muryoko (Infinite Light): The light of the Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment and observation20) illumines innumerable sentient beings and countless worlds, benefiting them continually forever; hence, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called ‘the Buddha of Infinite Light.’
(3) Muhenko (Boundless Light): The Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment and observation is limitless and without bounds; hence, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called ‘the Buddha of Boundless Light.’
(4) Mugeko (Unhindered Light): The Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment and observation realizes, all at the same time, the absence of obstruction among conditioned and unconditioned dharmas, absolute and relative truth, aspects and essence of reality, mental functions of all sentient beings, down to grass, trees, mountains and rivers; hence, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called ‘the Buddha of Unhindered Light.’
(5) Mutaiko (Incomparable Light): The Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment and observation cannot be explained in relative terms, because from the beginning delusion does not exist. The true enlightenment which cannot be explained in relative terms transcends the wisdom of distinguishing the true and the false; hence, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called ‘the Buddha of Incomparable Light.’
(6) The Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment and observation brilliantly illumines the darkness of ignorance in the consciousness of sentient beings and burns the defilements of their blind passions like a blazing fire; hence, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called ‘the Buddha of the Light of the Flaming King.’
(7) The light of the Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wonderful wisdom destroys the darkness of ignorance of sentient beings, reveals the Palace of Enlightenment in the Mind,21) and enables one to attain, for the first time, the bliss of original non-production;22) hence, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called ‘the Buddha of the Light of Joy.’
(8) The light of the Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wonderful wisdom clearly discerns the real significance of the absolute and relative truth and illumines conditioned and unconditioned dharmas; hence, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called ‘the Buddha of the Light of Wisdom.’
(9) The Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment allows him to dwell in the enjoyment of his own Dharma everlastingly without change and cessation; hence, Maha Vairocana Tathágata is also called ‘the Buddha of Unceasing Light.’
(10) The Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment is inconceivable even to the Bodhisattvas of Equal Enlightenment23) and of the Tenth Stage; hence, he is also called ‘the Buddha of Inconceivable Light.’
(11) The Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment is beyond the reach of the wisdom of ordinary beings and that of wise men and sages and cannot be adequately praised by them; hence, he is also called ‘the Buddha of the Light Beyond Praise.’
(12) The Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wisdom of wonderful discernment is originally not defiled by the objects of the six sense-perceptions;24) hence, he is also called ‘the Buddha of the Light of Purity.’
(13) The light of the Dharmakaya Tathágata’s wonderful wisdom is originally forever present and illumines everywhere at all times, day and night, regardless of time and space; because it excels the sun and the moon of this world, he is also called ‘the Buddha of the Light Outshining the Sun and the Moon.’
Thus the names of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the three periods throughout the ten quarters are different names of the great Dharmakaya. Again, all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the three periods throughout the ten directions are manifestations of the discerning wisdoms of Maha Vairocana Tathágata. Further, words and utterances of all sentient beings are, without exception, his mystic names. Those who are deluded about this are called sentient beings; that which realizes it is called the Buddha’s wisdom. For this reason, one who pronounces the three syllables, A, MI, and DA, will have his grave karmic offenses from the beginning-less past extinguished; one who is mindful of one Buddha, Amida, will accomplish endless merits and wisdom. Just as a single gem in Indra’s net at once reflects images of innumerable gems, the single Buddha, Amida, instantly endows him with boundless intrinsic merits.
Explanation of the Sanskrit Syllables
Next, I will explain the significance of the Sanskrit syllables.
(1) A signifies the principle of non-differentiation and original non-production25) of One Mind; MI26) signifies the principle of non-differentiation, ego-less-ness, and universal self of One Mind; TA27) signifies the principle of such-ness and tranquility of all dharmas pervaded by One Mind.
(2) A also signifies the Buddha family28), because it symbolizes the oneness of the principle of reality and the transcendental wisdom, and represents the essential nature of the Dharma-realm pervaded by One Mind. MI signifies the Lotus family,29) because the ultimate reality revealed by the wisdom of wonderful discernment and observation, i.e., the void-ness of sentient beings and dharmas, is, like a lotus-flower, originally undefiled by objects of the six sense-perceptions. TA signifies the Vajra family,30) because the wonderful wisdom of the Tathágata is in itself indestructible and destroys all the delusions, as enemies.
(3) A also31) signifies the principle of void-ness; the essential nature of One Mind is, from the beginning, free from delusory appearances. MI signifies the principle of temporariness; all dharmas pervaded by the undifferentiated One Mind are temporary existences like illusions. TA signifies the principle of the middle; all dharmas pervaded by the undifferentiated One Mind are free from the two extreme views31) and so, cannot be conceived as having fixed forms.
(4) A also signifies the principle of existence; the essential nature of the One Mind is originally existent, un-produced, and without extinction. MI signifies the principle of void-ness; all dharmas pervaded by the One Mind are in themselves ungraspable. TA signifies the principle of non-void-ness; all dharmas pervaded by the One Mind have, from their origin, been always possessed of the merits of the Dharmakaya.
(5) A also signifies cause; the realms of Buddhas and those of sentient beings are caused respectively by realization of the One Mind and by ignorance of it. MI signifies practice; by destroying self-attachment and attachment to dharmas, one realizes void-ness of self and dharmas, thereby attaining Buddhahood. TA signifies Buddha; undifferentiated One Mind expresses the principle of reality of such-ness and the transcendental wisdom, which are among the qualities of Buddhahood.
The above analysis is the explanation of the Sanskrit syllables. These syllables have no fixed forms in their mutual relations, just as (images reflected in) the gems attached to Indra’s net cannot be taken up or discarded, for the undifferentiated One Mind is ungraspable. The above gives the meanings (of the syllables). There is no syllable apart from its meaning; no meaning apart from the syllable. It is a delusory view of discrimination to accept one and discard the other, or vice versa.
To hate this Saha world and seek birth in the Land of Utmost Bliss, or to dislike this defiled body and revere the Buddha-body, is termed ignorance and also delusion. Even in the world of defilement, during the period of decline, if one continues to meditate on the undifferentiated Dharma-realm, how can one not attain the Buddhist Way?
1. The One Mind is the all-inclusive absolute mind, from which all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and sages appear and to which all dharmas and sentient beings return. It is the same as the Buddha-nature. The merits and virtues contained in One Mind are symbolically represented as Maha Vairocana.
2. The twofold truth or reality is: absolute reality or paramartha-satya) and conventional or relative reality (samvritti-satya).
3. The nine realms are: hell, the realms of hungry spirits, animals, asuras, humans, devas, shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas, that is all realms other than that of the Buddha, the tenth.
4. The five wisdoms are: (1) the wisdom of realizing the essence of the Dharma-realm (dharmadhatu-svabhava-jnana), (2) the great round mirror-wisdom (adarsha-jnana), (3) the wisdom of non-distinction (samata-jnana), (4) the wisdom of wonderful discernment (pratyaveksana-jnana), and (5) wisdom of manifesting transformed bodies (krityanusthana-jnana).
5. The four kinds of mandala are: (1) great mandala (mahamandala); a Buddha or Bodhisattva or a painting of his figure; (2) mandala of sacred attributes (samaya-mandala); symbols held in the hands of a divinity such as an ensign, sword, wheel, jewel, or lotus flower; also a painting of such an object; (3) mandala of sacred letters (dharma-mandala); seed-syllables, words, and the meanings of all sutras; and (4) mandala of iconic figures (karma-mandala); sculptures showing the posture and gestures of a divinity.
6. The five aggregates (panca-skandhah) are: (1) matter or form (rupa); (2) perception (vedana); (3) conception (samjna); (4) volition (samskara); and (5) consciousness (vijnana).
7. The three mystic acts are: (1) bodily mystic act (forming the manual sign (mudra) of a specific divinity; (2) verbal mystic act (reciting the mantra of a specific divinity; and (3) mental mystic act (meditating on a specific divinity).
8. The nine consciousnesses are: (1) visual consciousness, (2) auditory consciousness, (3) olfactory consciousness, (4) gustatory consciousness, (5) tactile consciousness, (6) mental consciousness, (7) ego-consciousness (manas), (8) alaya-consciousness, and (9) amala-consciousness. The theory of nine consciousnesses is attributed to the Shoron (She-lun) school, which flourished in China for about a hundred years from the latter half of the 6th century. In the present context, however, the 9th consciousness, which is usually considered undefiled, is treated from our viewpoint as being obscured by delusion.
9. Cf. H. Inagaki, “Kukai’s Sokushin-jobutsu-gi,” Asia Major, Vol. 17 Part 2, 1972; reprint published by Ryukoku Translation Center, 1975, under the title, “Kukai’s Principle of Attaining Buddhahood with the Present Body.”
10. Refers to Maha Vairocana.
11. ‘The nine ranks’ as used in the Contemplation Sutra (Kanmuryojukyo) refer to the nine grades of aspirants who attain nine different levels of birth in Amida’s Pure Land. Here the term seems to refer to the following nine ranks mentioned in the Kuhon ojo Amida sanmaji shu-daranikyo (TT. 19, 79c; hereafter, abbreviated to Daranikyo): (1) the upper grade of the upper class, shinjikiji (stage of true form), (2) the middle grade of the upper class, mukuji (stage of non-defilement), (3) the lower grade of the upper class, rikuji (stage of separation from defilement); (4) the upper grade of the middle class, zengakuji (stage of excellent enlightenment); (5) the middle grade of the middle class, myorikiji (stage of intellectual power); (6) the lower grade of the middle class, muroji (stage of absence of impurities); (7) the upper grade of the lower class, shinkakuji (stage of enlightenment of truth); (8) the middle grade of the lower class, gengakuji (stage of enlightenment of wisdom); and (9) the lower grade of the lower class, rakumonji (stage of the gate of happiness). In this sutra these nine ranks represent the nine pure consciousnesses of True Suchness. In the Gorin kuji hishaku (KDS. I, 212) Kakuban seems to use the term kuhon in the same sense as in the Contemplation Sutra (Kanmuryojukyo), but his usage of this term in the Shingonshu sokushin jobutsugisho (KDS. I, 32) is still different from that of the Contemplation Sutra.
12. The Pure Mind with nine consciousnesses refers to the purified states of the nine consciousnesses mentioned above; Kakuban’s phraseology is reminiscent of (Samádhi of Pure Consciousness with nine ranks) mentioned in the Daranikyo (TT. 19, 79c).
13. For the five Buddhas, see H. Inagaki, Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms, 3rd edition, 1988, under gobutsu.
14. The five sense-organs are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and the tactile body.
15. Refers to Amida’s Pure Land.
16. Bodily act, speech, and thought.
17. The five states of samsaric existence are: hell and the realms of hungry spirits, animals, humans, and devas.
18. Of the 13 names, the first is the name of Amida Buddha specifically used in the Larger Sutra (Muryojukyo). The next 12 names are his appellations describing different functions and characteristics of his light; cf. TT. 12. 270a-b. The Daranikyo also mentions those twelve appellations related to his light, stating that they represent twelve Mahamandalas (i.e., figures of Buddhas and sages) which are reflected in the great-mirror wisdom.
19. The Dharmadhatu Palace of Maha Vairocana in the Realm of the Matrix-store Mandala is located in the Maheshvara Heaven (Daijizaiten); its full name is Kodai kongo hokaigu (the Great Palace of the Diamond-like Dharma-realm).
20. Myokanzatchi corresponds to the sixth consciousness and is represented by Amida. Here it is interpreted as belonging to Maha Vairocana.
21. ‘Palace’ is a symbolic expression of Enlightenment realized in the ultimate nature of one’s mind.
22. ‘Original non-production’, Skt. anutpattika-dharma-ksanti, is the insight of realizing the void-ness of all dharmas.
23. ‘Equal Enlightenment’ is the highest stage of a bodhisattva, which corresponds to the 51st stage of the 52-stage career.
24. ‘The objects of the six sense-perceptions’ are form, sound, odor, taste, tangible objects, and objects of the mind.
25. The Sanskrit syllable ‘A’ is here construed as ‘ady-anutpada‘ (original non-production).
26. ‘MI’ seems to be construed here as ‘mahatman‘ (great self).
27. ‘TA’ represents ‘tathata’ (true such-ness).
28. The three families, Buddha, Lotus, and Vajra, are the three divisions of Buddhas and divinities in the Mahavairocana Sutra. The lotus symbolizes the ultimate principle (ri) contained in the pure Bodhi-mind and free from defilement by blind passions; the indestructible wisdom (chi) of realizing the ultimate principle is compared to the Vajra; the two perfect virtues of Enlightenment belong to the Buddha family. Three syllables used for them are respectively A, SA, and VA.
29. The Lotus family is also known as Kannon-bu (Avalokiteshvara family) and Ho-bu (Dharma family). In the Realm of the Matrix-store Mandala, the 36 sages, headed by Avalokiteshvara, belong to this family.
30. The Vajra family corresponds to Kongoshu-in (Vajrapani section) of the Realm of the Matrix-store Mandala, which contains 33 sages, headed by Kongosatta (Vajrasattva).
31. The theory that A, MI, and TA represent the triple truth of the void, the temporary, and the middle was propounded by Genshin (942-1017) of Mt. Hiei; cf. Kanjin ryakuyosho (Eshin Sozu zenshu, I, 277). Kakuban also says in the Gorin kuji hishaku (KDS. I, 212): “The practicer of the Single Path of the Unconditioned (i.e., one who follows the Tendai teaching) contemplates the void, the temporary, and the middle through the contemplation of A, MI, and TA.”