Who can practice Shingon?

Who can practice Shingon?

Postby TheSpirit » Mon Nov 04, 2013 3:17 pm

Are Shingon esoteric practice only available to those who ordained under a Shingon master and received the empowerment? How would lay practitioner go about cultivating under Shingon if he or she is not ordained nor received any empowerment?
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby DrLang » Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:59 pm

There are some simplified practices that are taught to the laity. The esoteric rituals and some other more complex practices are reserved for the ordained. However, you do not need empowerment to recite mantras and sutras. You can find the prescribed lay service in English on shingon.org

In Gassho,
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby TheSpirit » Mon Nov 04, 2013 7:10 pm

So the practice for laity in Shingon is pretty much similar to other sect? I see in other sect such as Pure Land, beside the focus on Amida Nyorai, all involve reciting mantras. Is there mudras that laity can do or does that need empowerment?

Thank you,
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:12 pm

Interesting, that looks like a great practice. So lay people do not get to do Sadhana etc. for specific Deities as in Tibetan Expression of Vajrayana? I.e., only the ordained get empowerment?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby DrLang » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:33 pm

TheSpirit wrote:So the practice for laity in Shingon is pretty much similar to other sect? I see in other sect such as Pure Land, beside the focus on Amida Nyorai, all involve reciting mantras. Is there mudras that laity can do or does that need empowerment?


I'm the wrong person to answer your first question as I am not well enough versed in the other schools of Buddhism yet.

Laity as a rule are not taught mudras with the exception of the cosmic mudra for sitting meditation. However, I was never taught anything about it beyond that I should do it as part of proper sitting meditation. For all I know, I might have been taught to do that just so I know what to do with my hands. My teacher doesn't particularly care if it completely collapses as I stop paying attention to it.

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Interesting, that looks like a great practice. So lay people do not get to do Sadhana etc. for specific Deities as in Tibetan Expression of Vajrayana? I.e., only the ordained get empowerment?


I don't know the details, but there lay people are permitted to initiated into the mandalas used in Shingon Buddhism as described in the Mahavairocana Sutra and establish a karmic connection. Following the MV Sutra's instructions, the deity on which a flower that they toss lands shoud be venerated by that initiate. I don't know of any "empowerment" for lay people beyond this ritual*. The mantras for these deities are not really held secret, so specifically instructed or not, there is nothing stopping a lay person from practicing veneration by reciting the deity's mantra. They would not be taught any mudra that I am aware of, and I don't know if a priest may or may not teach them visualization exercises.

Beyond that, participation by the lay people that I have been a part of involves reciting mantras and the Heart Sutra during public rituals. The Goma is particularly intense for me and leaves my mind particularly clear at its conclusion. It's a sensation that is difficult to describe.

*Actually the temple that I frequent offers "empowerment" blessings, but it has nothing to do with transmitting a practice.
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby TheSpirit » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:24 pm

Seems like Shingon is truly esoteric then, not much offered to those without empowerment or ordination.
From what you said about using Mudra during meditation, a lot of Zen practitioner will form a simple mudra while meditating as well so it is quite similar to other exoteric practice.

I am grateful for your help. Thank you.
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby Matylda » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:15 pm

TheSpirit wrote:Seems like Shingon is truly esoteric then, not much offered to those without empowerment or ordination.
From what you said about using Mudra during meditation, a lot of Zen practitioner will form a simple mudra while meditating as well so it is quite similar to other exoteric practice.

I am grateful for your help. Thank you.


Well due to shingon and tendai influence in zen you may find complicated mudra practices with proper mantras as well...
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby Matylda » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:32 pm

TheSpirit wrote:Are Shingon esoteric practice only available to those who ordained under a Shingon master and received the empowerment? How would lay practitioner go about cultivating under Shingon if he or she is not ordained nor received any empowerment?


I am not affilated with shingon in any way, though in my family there are some connections.. so i can speak more from observation than experience. As far as I know, including testimonies of my shingon friends one needs ordination if one wants to practice shingon-mantrayana proper. However those who I knew or met, who were deeply involved in shingon-mantrayana and were not obliged to take over family temple, or had no connection to temples, but just themselves had this strong affinity to tradition and practice, often returned to a lay life after completing obligatory practices and education in mantrayana. Then they had full access into the way, but did not have to be monks or nuns in a practical sense. And they had just regular life... one of my father's friends is very popular female singer, actor and writer. She is wonderful, but has deep insight in mantrayana practices and teachings.
So it seems to be the way people do it in Japan.. take ordination go for practice, retreat, empowerments etc. and after sometime return to regular life, but they have all what they need. However it seems to be very different than in the West with Tibetan vajrayana. Here people can take as they wish any sort of empowerment/abhisheka, and virtually do nothing later on, or at least not much... but in the case of Japanese mantrayana if you get ordained, then rather must do required retreats etc. and it may be much more strenuos... I do not say that it is very deep or enlightening, just one is somehow forced to do it with full power in comparison to this what I could witness in the West with Tibetan vajrayana done by majority of Westreners. I do not critisize, but just observe and compare. Anyway this easiness with which one can get an abhisheka from lamas was an advantage I took personally :)
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby DrLang » Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:50 am

TheSpirit wrote:Seems like Shingon is truly esoteric then, not much offered to those without empowerment or ordination.
From what you said about using Mudra during meditation, a lot of Zen practitioner will form a simple mudra while meditating as well so it is quite similar to other exoteric practice.

I am grateful for your help. Thank you.


The mudra used in zazen is the same I was taught by my Shingon teacher. That mudra along with chanting of sutras is the left over esoteric practice that remains in Zen Buddhism.
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby Meido » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:08 am

DrLang wrote:The mudra used in zazen is the same I was taught by my Shingon teacher. That mudra along with chanting of sutras is the left over esoteric practice that remains in Zen Buddhism.


There is more than one mudra commonly used in zazen.

There are many other mantra/mudra used in some Zen practice, as Matylda mentioned.

It's important to remember that "Zen" is not one standardized school, but rather a collection of many branching teaching lines. The actual practices stressed by these diverse lines, or even by individual teachers within the same line, can vary surprisingly. This is the case even with branches that share common connection to the larger "trees" of Soto-shu, Rinzai-shu, etc.

Which has nothing to do with the question of who can practice Shingon, of course. Apologies.

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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby Matylda » Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:31 am

Meido wrote:
It's important to remember that "Zen" is not one standardized school, but rather a collection of many branching teaching lines. The actual practices stressed by these diverse lines, or even by individual teachers within the same line, can vary surprisingly. This is the case even with branches that share common connection to the larger "trees" of Soto-shu, Rinzai-shu, etc.

Which has nothing to do with the question of who can practice Shingon, of course. Apologies.

~ Meido


Yes though it is off topic I would like to add a pinch of salt to this dish :)
There are many things like these in both soto and rinzai... some rinzai lineages are pretty much into it. However in soto it seems to be very common to find esoteric practices and they are taught to priests who mostly completed shiho, or dharma transmission. And it all depends on particualr history of the lineage or personal research of particualr individual. Specially interesting is personal pursuit, and if correctly incorporated could be used also by next generations of the lineage. Another side is a history.. in the case of soto tradition at certain moment some shingon masters got deep interest and practiced in this tradition becoming lineage holders as well... then the influence was natural and easy one. And it is true that there is a big variety sometimes. If in lineage is tendai influence we can discern it by the way mudras are done or mantras recited...
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby eijo » Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:33 am

TheSpirit wrote:Seems like Shingon is truly esoteric then, not much offered to those without empowerment or ordination.


That is correct, both ordination and empowerments are absolute requirements, along with the long retreat periods. As Matylda points out, it is possible to return to lay life afterward and continue the practice.
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby TheSpirit » Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:46 pm

Thank you for all the information. I greatly appreciate it.
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Re: Who can practice Shingon?

Postby padma norbu » Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:13 pm

I'm not sure which came first, but the following reasons are why I chant Akasagarbha and Ksitigarbha mantras without any transmission:

• Shingon and its usage of "A" (like Dzogchen) http://www.davidmoreton.com/echoes/ajikan.html
• the story of Kukai chanting the Morning Star mantra and—BLAMMO!—getting a result
• the discovery that Akasagarbha is my protector deity based on Chinese zodiac and also the twin of Ksitigarbha and how incredibly awesome both of these "twins" are
• the discovery that Akasagarbha is like a space buddha (space treasury) and Ksitigarbha is like an earth buddha (earth treasury) and my considerations of the sky and earth wheels of a properly-made prayer wheel vs. the relative importance of Akasagarbha, Ksitigarbha and Guanyin/Avalokitesvara in Japanese and Chinese Buddhism.

I like to chant Akasagarbha's mantras:
NAMO AKASAGARBHAYA OM ARYA KAMARI MAULI SVAHA
and
OM VAJRA RATNA TRAH SOHA

And Ksitigarbha's mantras:
CHHIM BHO CHHIM BHO CHIM CHHIM BHO / AKASHA CHHIM BHO / VAKARA CHHIM BHO / AMAVARA CHHIM BHO / VARA CHHIM BHO / VACHIRA CHHIM BHO / AROGA CHHIM BHO / DHARMA CHHIM BHO / SATEVA CHHIM BHO / SATENI HALA CHHIM BHO / VIVA ROKA SHAVA CHHIM BHO / UVA SHAMA CHHIM BHO / NAYANA CHHIM BHO / PRAJÑA SAMA MONI RATNA CHHIM BHO / KSHANA CHHIM BHO / VISHEMA VARIYA CHHIM BHO / SHASI TALA MAVA CHHIM BHO / VI AH DRASO TAMA HELE / DAM VE YAM VE / CHAKRASE / CHAKRA VASILE / KSHILI PHILE KARAVA / VARA VARITE / HASERE PRARAVE / PARECHARA BHANDHANE / ARADANE / PHANARA / CHA CHI CHA CHA / HILE MILE AKHATA THAGEKHE / THAGAKHI LO / THHARE THHARE MILE MADHE / NANTE KULE MILE / ANG KU CHITABHE / ARAI GYIRE VARA GYIRE / KUTA SHAMAMALE /TONAGYE TONAGYE / TONAGULE / HURU HURU HURU / KULO STO MILE / MORITO / MIRITA / BHANDHATA / KARA KHAM REM / HURU HURU

and
OM AH KSHITI GARBHA THALENG HUM


I am curious about the Akasagarbha movements that are taught in Shingon schools because I wonder if it is anything like Namkhai Norbu's Vajra Dance. I'm guessing it's probably not the same thing at all, but I wonder if there is any similarity of movement.

I would also like to know if any of these is authentic:
http://www.brentwoodbuddhistcommunity.c ... sattva.php
http://www.esotericschool.net/akasha-yoga.html
http://wisdom.yogadiamond.net/workshops ... arbha.html
http://www.dari-rulai-temple.org/prajna ... garbha.htm
http://www.dawnwaterhouse.co.uk/moving-meditation.html

Seems like they are all in agreement that there are 16 mudras and movements, anyway. I believe Shingon is very strict, though, so I'm not sure if this teaching is just something for any old Joe to pick up at a Sunday yoga class.
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