Books recommended and those not on the subject in a thread by the Rev Eijo, a Shingon priest, of E-Sangha Forum:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... t&p=713408
Short answer:read Hakeda's Kukai: Major Works several times. (see below)
Long answer: Some books to look at (there are a couple others I know of that I haven't been able to see yet):
Abe, Ryuichi. The Weaving of Mantra, Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Discourse. Columbia University Press: New York, 1999.
Astley-Kristensen, Ian. The Rishukyo: The Sino-Japanese Tantric Prajnaparamita in 150 Verses (Amoghavajra's Version). The Institute of Buddhist Studies: Tring, UK, 1991.
Giebel, Rolf. Two Esoteric Sutras. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2001.
———— . et. al. Shingon Texts. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2004.
Hakeda, Yoshito. The Awakening of Faith. Columbia University Press: New York, 1967. (not exclusively a Shingon text, but key to Shingon)
———— . Kukai: Major Works. Columbia University Press: New York, 1972.
Hodge, Stephen. The Maha-Vairocana-Abhisambodhi Tantra: With Buddhaguhya's Commentary. Curzon Press, 2000.
Kiyota, Minoru. Shingon Buddhism: Theory and Practice. Buddhist Books International: Los Angeles-Tokyo, 1978.
———— . The Tantric Concept of Bodhicitta: A Buddhist Experiential Philosophy. Wisconsin-Madison, 1982.
Payne, Karl Richard. The Tantric Ritual of Japan. Aditya: New Delhi, 1991.
———— . ed. Re-Visioning "Kamakura" Buddhism. University of Hawaii Press, 1988.
———— . ed. Tantric Buddhism in East Asia. Wisdom, 2000.
Sawa, Takaaki. Art in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. Weatherhill/Heibonsha: New York/Tokyo, 1972.
Snodgrass, Adrian. The Matrix and Diamond World Mandalas in Shingon Buddhism. Aditya: New Delhi, 1988.
Tanabe, George, Jr., ed. Religions of Japan in Practice. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1999.
Unno, Mark. Shingon Refractions: Myoe and the Mantra of Light. Wisdom Publications: Boston, 2004.
van der Veere, Hendrik. A Study into the Thought of Kogyo Daishi Kakuban. Hotei Publishing: Leiden, 2000.
Wayman, Alex & Tajima, R. The Enlightnment of Vairocana. Motilal Banarsidass: Delhi, 1992.
Yamasaki, Taiko. Shingon: Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. Shambhala: Boston & London, 1988.
Some books I don’t recommend:
Gibson, Morgan. Tantric poetry of Kukai (Kobo Daishi), Japan's Buddhist saint: With excerpts from the Mahavairocana sutra and I-Hsing's Commentary. Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, 1982
Miyata, Taisen. A study of the Ritual Mudras in the Shingon Tradition: A Phenomenological Study on the Eighteen Ways of Esoteric Recitation (Juhachido nenju kubi shidai, Chuin-ryu) in the Koyasan Tradition.
Oda, Ryuko. Kaji: Empowerment and Healing in Esoteric Buddhism.
Yamamoto, Chikyo. History of Mantrayana in Japan (Indian reprint)
———— . Mahavairocana-sutra: Translated into English from Ta-p'i lu che na ch'eng-fo shen-pien chia-ch'ih ching, the Chinese version of Subhakarasimha and I-hsing, A.D. 725 (Indian reprint)
Shingon Buddhism (眞言, 真言 "true words") is a major school of Japanese Buddhism, and is the other branch of Vajrayana Buddhism besides Tibetan Buddhism. It is often called "Japanese Esoteric Buddhism". The word shingon is the Japanese reading of the kanji for the Chinese word zhen yan, literally meaning "true words", which in turn is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit word mantra.
Shingon Buddhism arose in Japan's Heian period (794-1185) when the monk Kūkai went to China in 804 and studied tantric practices in the city of Xian and returned with many texts and art works. In time, he developed his own synthesis of esoteric practice and doctrine, centered on the universal Buddha Vairocana (or, more accurately, Mahavairocana Tathagata). He established a monastery on Mount Koya, which became the head of the Shingon sect of Buddhism.
Shingon enjoyed immensely popularity during the Heian Period, particularly among the Heian nobility, and contributed greatly to the art and literature of the time, as well as influencing other communities, such as the Tendai sect on Mt. Hiei.
Also, Shingon's emphasis on ritual found support in the Kyoto nobility, particularly the Fujiwara clan. This favor allotted Shingon several politically powerful temples in the capital, where rituals for the imperial family and nation were regularly performed. Many of these temples such as Toji and Daigoji in the South of Kyoto and Jingoji and Ninnaji in the Northwest became ritual centers establishing their own particular ritual lineages.
SHINGON BUDDHISM is a religion that was established by Kôbô Daishi (Kûkai) at the beginning of the Heian period (9th century), and its teachings are known as Shingon Esoteric Buddhism (Shingon Buddhism).
This form of Buddhism is also known in Japanese as mikkyô, meaning "secret teaching". Mikkyô is one of several streams of practice within the Mahâyana Buddhist tradition. Mikkyô blends many doctrines, philosophies, deities, religious rituals, and meditation techniques from a wide variety of sources. Assimilation of Hindu and local deities and rituals was especially marked in the Buddhism that became Mikkyô. Such diverse elements came together over time and, combining with Mahâyåna philosophical teachings, formed a comprehensive Buddhist system of doctrine and practice.
Shingon represents the middle period of esoteric Buddhist development in India. This, extending from the seventh into the eighth century, was the time when the Mahâvairocana Sutra and Vajra Sekhara Sutra were compiled. Esoteric Buddhist history was practiced from India to Central Asia, Ceylon, China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and Tibet. The Mikkyô tradition continues in Japan today, but in other lands where the Indian source tradition developed in varying ways, the esoteric Buddhist teachings have mostly declined, some to the point of extinction.
Shingon is a form of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, it is also called Shingon Mikkyo. This school was founded in 804 AD by Kukai (Kobo Daishi) in Japan.
...in the early Heian Period (ninth century), Kobo Daishi was initiated into all the secrets of the esoteric teachings by the great master Hui‐kuo(746‐805)during his studies in China.
After returning to Japan, he founded the S hingon Sect, which then set up its center on Mt.Koya in present‐day Wakayama Prefecture and propagated its teachings from there.
In the late Heian Period (12th century), however, it temporarily fell into decay.It was Kogyo Daishi who revived the teachings o f Kobo Daishi and threw new energy into the Shingon Sect.
He founded Negoro-Ji Temple near Mt.Koya as a new center, where the teachings of Kogyo Daishi were kept alive.
Thus Shingi Shingon Sect came to be founded by Raiyu Sojo(Archbishop Raiyu) on the basis of "a new interpretation of Shingon(true words or mantras)" in the Kamakura Period(1192-1333).
Shingi Shingon Sect flourished, centering around Negoro-ji temple, which was unfortunately set on fire in the Sengoku Period (from about mid-15th century to about the mid-16th century)and thus thrown into a state of total destruction. As a result,two prominent learned priests, Senyo Sojo and Genyu Sojo left the temple.
The latter founded Chizan‐ha(Chizan Division) at Chishaku‐in temple in Kyoto, while the former founded Buzan‐ha at Hase dera temple in Nara.The name of Buzan-ha derives its origin from the name of the mountain where Hase‐dera Temple was built. In the Edo Period (1603‐1867), Hase‐dera Temple flourished very much as the head temple of Buzan‐ha and also as a place of learning. In the Cantou district, Ryuko Sojo(Archbishop Ryuko) of Buzan‐ha won the strong confidence of the Tokugawa government and founded Gokoku‐ji temple as a big base of religious activities and constructed many other subordinate temples around the district, thereby building up the prosperity of the Buzan‐ha temples.
Like the Tendai School that branched into the Jōdo, Zen and Nichiren Schools in the Kamakura period, Shingon also divided into two major branches: Kogi Shingon (古儀真言宗 ,Old Shingon?) and Shingi Shingon (新義真言宗 ,New Shingon?).
This division primarily arose out of a political dispute between Kakuban and his faction of priests centered at the Denbō-in Hall (伝法院) and the leadership at Kongōbuji, the head of Mt. Kōya. Kakuban, who was originally ordained at Ninnaji in Kyoto, studied at several temple-centers (including the Tendai temple complex at Onjiyōji) before going to Mt. Kōya.
Through his connections, he managed to gain the favor of high ranking nobles in Kyoto, which helped him to be appointed abbot of Mt. Kōya. The leadership at Kongōbuji, however, opposed the appointment on the premise that Kakuban had not originally been ordained on Mt. Kōya.
After several conflicts Kakuban and his faction of priests left the mountain for Mt. Negoro to the northwest, where they constructed a new temple complex, now known as Negoroji.
After the death of Kakuban in 1143, the Negoro faction returned to Mt. Kōya.
However in 1288, the conflict between Kongōbuji and the Denbōe came to a head once again. Led by Raiyu, the Denbōe priests once again left Mt. Kōya, this time establishing their headquarters on Mt. Negoro.
This exodus marked the beginning of the Shingi Shingon School at Mt. Negoro, which was the center of Shingi Shingon until sacked by Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1585.
During the initial stages of his predication in Japan, the Catholic missionary Francis Xavier was welcomed by the Shingon monks since he used the word Dainichi for the Christian God. As Xavier learned more about the religious nuances of the word, he changed to Deusu from the Latin and Portuguese Deus. The monks also realized by that point that Xavier was preaching a rival religion.
Namo Amida Butsu!