General Background of Shingon
SHINGON BUDDHISM is a religion that was established by Kôbô Daishi (Kûkai) at
the beginning of the Heian period (9th century), and its teachings
are known as Shingon Esoteric Buddhism (Shingon Buddhism).
This form of Buddhism is also known in Japanese as mikkyô, meaning
"secret teaching". Mikkyô is one of several streams of practice
within the Mahâyana Buddhist tradition. Mikkyô blends many doctrines,
philosophies, deities, religious rituals, and meditation techniques
from a wide variety of sources. Assimilation of Hindu and local
deities and rituals was especially marked in the Buddhism that
became Mikkyô. Such diverse elements came together over time and,
combining with Mahâyåna philosophical teachings, formed a comprehensive
Buddhist system of doctrine and practice.
The teachings of Shingon are based on the Mahâvairocana Sutra
(J: Dainichi-kyô) and the Vajrasekhara sutra (J: Kongôchô-kyô)
, the fundamental sutras of Shingon. These sutras were probably
written during the last half of the seventh century in India.
They contain the first systematic presentation of Mikkyô doctrine
Shingon represents the middle period of esoteric Buddhist development
in India. This, extending from the seventh into the eighth century,
was the time when the Mahâvairocana Sutra and Vajra Sekhara Sutra
were compiled. Esoteric Buddhist history was practiced from India
to Central Asia, Ceylon, China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal,
Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and Tibet. The Mikkyô tradition continues
in Japan today, but in other lands where the Indian source tradition
developed in varying ways, the esoteric Buddhist teachings have
mostly declined, some to the point of extinction.