The Art of Enlightenment

What did he say … “you can become a Buddha in this very body”… and you can do that through the practice of art. In other words, art is the way, … the way to enlightenment.

More than 1250 years ago, Kukai, posthumously called Kobo Daishi, a famous poet, calligrapher, artist, philosopher, engineer, great diplomat; founder of the first democratic school in Japan where science and art had been considered complementary to each other; founded his Dojo – the meditation hall on Koyasan, where the secret teaching is still being given.

It is cold and dark in the morning when we start in our temple Muryoko-in to chant our Shomyo, a pentagonal recitation of mantras and Buddhist wisdoms. The black kimono with the yellow kesa, the fragment of the Indian Buddhist monks’ cloth, is the sign that the purpose of the performance and recitation is not only for those in attendance but also for the practitioner himself.

Enlightenment is the goal. The argument … the passions. The passions themselves are the Enlightenment … a second of rapture is pure, … the arrow of lust is pure, … embracement is pure, … love is pure, … form, taste, fragrance, touch are pure. Everyday the same, and nevertheless, everyday different. Different because of our body and our mind, the encountered circumstances, the continuously changing conditions, the cosmic law.

The recitation is for the purpose of bringing the three secrets together. The voice, the mind, the body … to become one; one with the whole. You have decided to go deeper into the secrets of this universal teaching, the solution of all solutions … this kind of experiential philosophy. You enter and participate in the drama of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Always actions, sound, and imaginations. Conventional figures with limitless meanings; first clear, and then beyond. Instruments to bring the codified mind in crisis. Every sound has thousands of meanings … that was the conclusion of Kukai after he repeated the mantra of the Bodhisattva Kokuzo one million times; the void womb – the store of emptiness.

Kukai called his Buddhist school “Shingon”, the “True Word“, a Japanese translation of the word Mantra. Mantra is a combination of vowels and consonants with or without meanings; often the name of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.

Reciting all these precious secret names allows you to travel through various different states of consciousness. Three times, seven times, one hundred times, a thousand times, many thousands of times, … first the meaning, then the theatre of your own mind, then out into space … and with this power – you walk on the sea, you go through walls … sounds found somewhere in the Garland Sutra.

Learn to understand your own mind as it really is … the advice of the Great Sun sutra. What is then here religion, no God, only Man, his mind and the Universe. Establish the void, and the Universe breaks in. Therefore, the Buddhas smile.

You became tired of sitting, playing with your fingers, smelling incensed, looking into the void, being dazzled by the flame of the candle, turning the nenju (the Buddhist rosary), in your hands. Koyasan, the High Wilderness, one thousand meters altitude, with its 200 temples is in its entirety – a Dojo, where walking is a part of meditation.

For the Enlightenment, two other places are of unparalleled importance. You walk noisily in your getta, the typical Japanese wooden clogs, and your fluttering clothes to the Garan. The Garan was originally the garden for the teachings; today is a complex of pagodas and other ritual buildings, which stand in place of the spoken words. This time you recite the truth, the meaning — in front of each of these elegant wooden buildings, living testaments. Sometimes you recite it solo, sometimes in chorus with a hundred other monks and/or nuns.

The black and yellow clothes, and the rhythmical sound of the mantras & dharanis, are combined with bird songs, the sound of the wind, the smell of nature, the changing light of the sun and clouds – all which hyper activate your sensory system.

You reduced your daily food intake, you reduced your daily information inflow, you reduced your active interaction with the world, with the people … and you are gratified with the perception of the subtleties of the world, the micro world, and the invisible world.