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Eizon

Category: Mystic

Several generations of males in loincloths participate in the Hadaka Matsuri,
or Naked Festival at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, Japan

Eizon [叡尊] (1201–1290): Also known as Eison and Shien was a restorer of the Precepts (Ritsu) school in Japan.

Born in Yamato Province, he first studied the teachings of the Shingon (True Word) school at Daigo-ji temple in Kyoto.

In 1224 he went to Mount Kōya, the center of the esoteric teachings, to further his study. Awakened to the importance of the Buddhist precepts and grieved at the decline of those precepts, in 1235 he went to Saidai-ji temple of the Precepts school at Nara to restore it to prominence. The following year he accepted the precepts in a self-administered ceremony at Tōdai-ji temple. He also visited various temples in the surrounding areas where he lectured on the teaching of the precepts and administered the precepts to clerics and lay believers.

  In 1262, at the request of the former regent Hōjō Tokiyori and other government authorities, Eizon went east to Kamakura, the seat of the shogunate, where he and his disciple Ryōkan disseminated the teaching of the precepts. After half a year, he returned to Saidai-ji temple. Eizon won many followers among the imperial court and shogunate officials. He also undertook a number of social works.

On the occasion of the Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274 and 1281, he repeatedly conducted an esoteric prayer ritual to ward off the invasion. Eizon engaged in the practice of both the precepts and the True Word teachings. He is regarded as the founder of the True Word Precepts (Shingon–Ritsu) school based at Saidai-ji temple. He was posthumously given the title Bodhisattva Kōshō (Promoter of the Correct).

Shingon refractions – Dr Mark Unno

Saidaiji Temple, Nara

The Shingon monk Eizon (1201-90), also known as Kosho Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Righteous Revival) according to the posthumous title given under imperial decree, was a later contemporary of Myoe and well known for his contributions in four areas:

  • the revival of the precepts, a theme with which Myoe was also concerned;
  • the protection of the state;
  • the revival of the order of nuns; and
  • what might be characterised as social welfare activities involving criminals and outcasts, through attending to their physical and material needs

as well as administering precepts and otherwise propagating the dharma among these groups.

Eizon used the Mantra of Light as well as longer incantations including dharanis so as to complement the administration of precepts. Administering the precepts was designed to initiate and instruct people in "right living," the moral conduct becoming of a Buddhist and conducive to enlightenment; the Mantra of Light was the necessary inspiration and antidote to the karmic evil of the times and the particular plight of outcasts and criminals, who were regarded as especially "defiled."

 

Eizon propagated the practice of the Mantra of Light by instituting an annual seven-day assembly for chanting the mantra, the Komyo Shingon-e (Mantra of Light Assembly), which over time grew to be a major event held at Saidaiji of Nara. As Ryuichi Abe notes, at first the service was designed to memorialize the deceased members of his order, their relatives, and patrons of the order. This became an annual event that was key to the broadening influence of Eizon's movement.

Tanaka Kaio states, "On the fourteenth day of the tenth month of 1264, [Eizon instituted the annual] seven-day assembly of engaging in the esoteric cultivation of the uninterrupted chanting of the Mantra of Light...which since then has become standard practice and continues to this day."

 Saidaiji Eyo or Hadaka Matsuri, literally Naked Festival of Saidaiji Temple, the largest in scale of this kind, is held at Saidaiji Temple

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