- Aaron ProffittAaron ProffittDepartment of East Asian Studies, University at Albany
Shingon Buddhism is one of the major schools of Japanese Buddhism. Shingon developed from the eastward flow of the tantras from South Asia into East Asia, flourished at the very pinnacle of Tang-dynasty Buddhist ritual culture, was systematically integrated into the Japanese state monastic bureau through the efforts of Kūkai, and flourished through the efforts of other important figures that followed such as Ennin and Annen. Shingon functioned both as a trans-sectarian area of ritual knowledge key for competition across diverse lineages within and between major state-run temples and emerged as a distinct school focused on the doctrinal thought of Kūkai, as well as the widespread devotion to Kūkai as a bodhisattva-like savior figure on Kōyasan, the mountain monastic complex that included his mausoleum. Shingon practice emphasizes the coordination of mudra, mantra, and mandalic contemplation under the direction of a trained ritual master. Through the unification of body, speech, and mind in the ritual arena, the adept is awakened to their inherent participation in awakened reality. As such, Shingon practitioners are said to be able to realize corporeal Buddhahood and have often been tasked with performing rituals such as rainmaking, aiding emperors to extend their life span, and so on.