“From the endless cycle of samsara how can we be freed? The only way is to practice meditation and correct thinking.”
Kukai, from “The Secret Key to the Heart Sutra”
(Hakeda, p. 263)
Especially in his later works the founder of Shingon, Kobo Daishi Kukai, often expressed key elements of Buddhism in terse, crystal clear terms. The above quotation is perhaps one of the most succinct statements about the essentials of the path to liberation in all of recorded Dharma.
In the second section of his exposition on Kukai’s “Thought” entitled, “ Essentials of Kukai’s Esoteric Buddhist Thought and Practice”, Professor Hakeda defines two aspects of “Kukai’s Esoteric Buddhism”. The first is kyoso, the “theoretical aspect ” and secondly is jiso, the “practical aspect ” (Hakeda, p. 76). Further, Professor Hakeda elaborates that the practical dimension of Kukai’s Buddhism is also broken down into two aspects. First is kai or “observance of the precepts” and secondly was jo or “ sitting in meditation” (Hakeda, p. 93).
From the earliest days of his teaching in the West, Ajari Tanaka has emphasized practice of what Professor Hakeda has defined as “jo”. Since those early days, Ajari Tanaka has worked uninterruptedly to transmit to a small group of his students a collection of meditations and recitation practices that he has established as the core of our training. Again and again in his discussions and talks with these students, Ajari Tanaka has established practice as the first and single most important commitment his students need to make. “Step by step, day by day, everyday, one hour, two hours, little by little,” Ajari Tanaka will often say, encouraging his students to develop a daily practice of meditation and to keep to it, allowing practice to become part of the fabric of our everyday lives. Ajari repeatedly tells his students that through this consistent daily practice we can come to not only grow in our self knowledge, but also find genuine happiness while uncovering our enlightenment.
In the Shingon tradition practice is particularly rich and unusually potent. For students unfamiliar to Shingon it can be surprisingly technical and refreshingly varied. Traditionally practice is summarized and referred to as the “Three Mysteries”. Though the term, the “Three Mysteries” has numerous connotations, most beyond the scope of this discussion, in general the Three Mysteries can be summarized as the meditation practices associated with body, speech and mind. In his Hizo Hyoaku, or “The Precious Key to the Secret Treasury” Kukai explains,
“The Three Mysteries are: the mystery of body - to make the mudras and to invoke the presence of the sacred object of meditation: the mystery of speech - to recite the mantras in secret, pronouncing them distinctly without making the slightest error: the mystery of mind - to be absorbed in yoga, keeping one’s mind in a wholesome state like that of the bright, pure, and full moon, and to meditate on the enlightened Mind”
(Hakeda, p. 220).
In Shingon, practice involves the whole person in the effort toward enlightenment. The body, the voice and the creative powers of the mind are all utilized to uncover and develop what is essential and inherent in each of us. As students of Ajari Tanaka we should make every effort to establish a consistent daily practice, faithfully making use of the meditation methods according to those instructions we have received. With the guidance of the teacher, the help of our fellow students and the support of Shingon’s methods of meditation our commitment and effort can become our path to happiness, and self knowledge.