using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 0 8 44 first syllable of the Sanskrit syllabary, it signifies beginning. Considered to be present within all Sanskrit syllables, it is universal. As a negating prefix, it represents ending. Medita- tions on the syllable A are also found throughout Tibetan tantric Buddhism as well. These three are “open-ended” practices in the sense that you continue with them until your teacher feels you are ready to begin the formal training. The actual training to become a priest includes four parts: the practice in eighteen stages, Vajra World practice, Matrix World practice, and the fire ritual. The practice in eighteen stages in its early form included eighteen mantra and mudra (hand gestures). Within Shingon ritual practice, mantra and mudra always go together, and indeed the mudra are considered to be in some senses more secret, because it is the mudra that actu- ally make the mantra effective. This appears to be why some of the earliest Chinese ritual texts recorded the mantra but did not show the mudra, apparently relying on teacher-to- disciple transmission of this knowledge. The most important part of Shingon practice is ritual identification, which refers to the identification of the prac- titioner’s body, speech, and mind with the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha. This allows the practitioner to experi- ence directly the awakened nature of their own natural con- sciousness (consciousness as the totality of body, speech, and mind, and not purely mental). While Mahayana thought in- cludes the understanding of natural consciousness as already awakened, tantric Buddhism adds ritual practice as a means of actualizing this naturally awakened consciousness. Ritual identification becomes more prominent as the prac- titioner progresses through the sequence of four rituals. The second of the four rituals, the Vajra World ritual, focuses on the pantheon of thirty-seven buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other deities of the Vajra World mandala. In the same way, the third ritual, the Matrix World practice, focuses on the Matrix World mandala, and the pantheon of deities found there. Physical representations of these two mandalas are usually hung in the training hall. They represent the two cosmic forms of awakened consciousness: wisdom and com- passion. The buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other deities that one evokes in the ritual practice arise from these cosmic mandalas of wisdom and compassion. The fourth and final ritual in the training is the fire ritual. Symbolically, this includes the deities from both mandalas, and it adds to the structure a series of five fire offerings. The implements held by the chief deity, Fudo, hold special signifi- cance. A lasso catches those who would run away from being fully who they are, and a sword cuts away their most prized possessions, their delusions. Fudo’s primary quality, how- ever, is immovability or steadiness. In the face of whatever personal issues a practitioner brings to the practice, Fudo is unmoved and implicitly demands an equal solidity on the part of the practitioner. It is the very character of awakened consciousness to be unmoved by greed, hatred, and delusion, and to transform them into positive energies. Ifinally finished the training in September, when days were beginning to get shorter and nights on the mountain quite noticeably colder. It was one of those moments in life when, having completed some very intense undertaking, one is sud- denly finished and wonders, “What now?” There was, of course, more to be done. The final initiatory ritual, known as the dharma-transmission ceremony, which bestows the title of ajari, enabling one to act independently as a Shingon priest, followed in a couple of weeks. This was soon followed in turn by a move from Koyasan to Kyoto. Many years later, I was finally able to go on a pilgrimage route around the island of Shikoku, a journey usually un- dertaken by new Shingon priests fairly soon after completing their training. And now, suddenly it seems, twenty-six years have gone by. My teacher, Chisei Aratano, himself attained the status of “Dharma-seal Great Master,” which required him to lead all the ritual activities conducted on Koyasan for a full year. Shortly thereafter, he passed away. His temple, Yochi-in, remains and continues to be a place of training for aspirants from outside Japan. What seems most important to convey to Western Bud- dhists who have not trained in tantric rituals (sadhana) is that the common understanding of the categories of medi- tation and ritual is inaccurate. Most Westerners learn that meditation is something internal, a mental undertaking, and in our society it’s generally looked upon as having a positive value. Ritual, on the other hand, is often viewed negatively, as something merely external, mere form, and our religious culture tells us fundamentally that it is empty of meaning. This opposition to ritual grows out of a long history in the West, one that goes back most significantly to the Prot- estant Reformation. Much of the focus of dispute during this period in European history concerned the status of re- ligious ritual. In large part, the reformers wanted to reduce the number of rituals of the medieval church, and some of them wanted to eliminate rituals entirely. In place of rituals, The most important part of Shingon practice is ritual identification. Tantric Buddhism adds ritual practice as a means of actualizing naturally awakened consciousness. SanjuSangendoTemPle