Cradle [クレードル] 出羽庄内地域文化情報誌

The cultural informational magazine which visits the charm of Shonai.

◆◆The Mysteries of Shugendo◆◆

Mountains are themselves gods, sacred lands where divine spirits reside, and holy ground that cultivates new life. Going into seclusion on that holy ground (the mountain), making pilgrimages from mountain to valley, practicing toho*, and carrying out difficult training, removes impurities, leaves behind doubts, and opens the path to Buddhism (practitioners become persons who can extend help to all living things).

* Toho is an act of running through the mountains while putting all worldly thoughts out of mind and chanting to cleanse the body of the six roots of evil.


◆◆Present, Past, Future◆◆

The ascetic training has three stages, the ichi-no-shuku, ni-no-shuku, and san-no-shuku.

      Priests pass through the hardship of the present life, go through the acts carried from the past, and break free of the circle of transmigration of the future to become a person who can live peacefully in the Pure Land of eternally tranquil light.

    In other words,

      Ichi-no-shuku         Overcome the past life

      Ni-no-shuku           Pass from the present life to enlightenment

      San-no-shuku         Pass to the sea of birth-death of the future

It is ascetic training for the purpose of transcending the three worlds of past, present, and future to obtain everlasting life.



◆◆Rites of Death and Rebirth◆◆

In Shugendo, when setting foot in the other world of the mountain, the body that is soiled by worldly passions and sins is discarded.

  The mountain ascetic dies, is reborn, and aspires to transform to purity.

  Rites begin with one’s own funeral. With harmony between mother and father, conception occurs and the body resides in the mother’s womb.

Practicing the “10 realms” ascetic training, which is a process of attaining Buddhahood (to become a Buddha) cleanses the worldly passions and sins clinging to the new physical body and spirit growing inside the womb. This symbolizes a figurative death and rebirth where the body joins with Dainichi Buddha, becomes a deeply merciful bodhisattva, and is born into the human world.


10 Realms:            Hell, hunger, animality, arrogance, humanity, heaven, learning, realization,

bodhisattvahood, Buddhahood


◆◆Haguro Shugen Aims◆◆

It is a mountain mandala created by Shugendo.

The mountain mandala is a projection of actual mountains, not only a Buddhist world that exists in fantasy. Shugendo believes this world (the universe) is the world of Buddha and that utilizing the body to obtain experiences will open up ways of living.


The World of Shugendo: Mandala of the Cosmos, The Five Rings, The World of Kya/Ka/Ra/Ba/A

In part of nature—5 elements (earth, water, fire, wind, air), 5 Colors (yellow, black, red, white,

blue), seasons, directions

In the human body—5 limbs (head, arms, legs), 5 viscera (liver, lungs, heart, kidney, spleen),

5 senses

In both—5 Buddhas, 5 Nyorai

Thus, Shugendo teaches that both the inside and outside of the human body, and everything in this world, is an endless cycle animated by the mercy and wisdom of Buddha.

◆◆Spiritual Awakening◆◆

Based on the Five Rings/Mandala of the Cosmos, everything comes from blessings and spiritual awakening.

The cruelty of nature and fear of the unknown—everything and anything can be accepted as they are.

In other words…

Discover the mercy of Buddha (Nature’s blessings and power to heal) within malevolent gods (threat of savage Nature)—Honji-suijaku (Shinto and Buddhist syncretism), birth of incarnation

Realize the mercy of Buddha lies within humans.

Understand for the first time that humans are a part of Nature.

The hardship of life, aging, illness, death, and even happiness can be accepted as major

cycles of Nature.

Realize you are alive as a part of Nature.




Understand the connection between oneself and others, and when that disparity is overcome, know that living through altruism (living for others) is the path of life for humans.

In other words, practice the way of Buddha/being a bodhisattva.

When introduced to Buddhism, immediately go to the mountain.

Look and experience Nature through the teachings of Buddha.

Understand the mercy and blessings residing there.

The form of faith unique to Japan is supported and cultivated

by the teachings of Shugendo that extoll the realization to help others

and the Buddhist teachings.


it is a power so strong that Buddhism in Japan can only be found through Shugendo.

Develop the path to the world of living Buddhas.

Shugendo is a path of faith that is practiced while learning through experiences amid Nature.

Stated differently,

Shugendo naturally fosters a spirit that values nature as precious.

“Mountains, rivers, grasses, and trees—everything will attain Buddhahood.”

—An important lesson for persons undergoing ascetic training at Kotaku Shrine

◆◆Ascetic Training◆◆

The universe of esoteric Buddhism is replaced with mountain nature (mountain mandala) and the mandala of Nature is experienced with the body.

We, who have only our present selves, will follow the suggestions of the mandala, and through this action will at once exist both as ourselves and as objects of the natural world. We will become grass, trees, and animals. With the great power of imagination (ability to contemplate) we will be reborn into a spirit that has consideration for those objects and a reverential heart.


◆◆Shugendo Ideology◆◆

Fundamentally, the universe is the origin of life.

Dainichi Buddha, Acala, and others are manifestations of that.

Humans, too, are nothing more than part of that.

By nature, humans are a microcosm that hold the sacred power of life

and exist as goodness in motion that conforms with the macrocosm.

The Ultimate Aim of Haguro Shugen

Realize the universal divinity and assimilation capacity of Dainichi Buddha and Acala through ascetic mountain practices to comprehend the good of the universe. Become a bongaichinyo, sokushinjobutsu, and jishinsokubutsu to save mankind and live in the land of Buddha.


the ascetic practices provide salvation through purification, developing divinity, assimilating holiness, and acquiring sacred power.

However, today when the acquisition of sacred power and salvation are overlooked, extraordinary magic and mystics become a sharp contrast.

Fundamentally, incantations and prayers

are the fulfillments of people’s honest prayers and wishes, and aim to improve people’s spirits.

A supplicant spirit strengthens the human mental power, and gives balance and a sense of

connectedness between humans and nature.

“Aim to escape from loneliness and despair. Give people the courage to live.”

This is why Shugendo can become the shared light of the common people.

Shugendo values the steady, step-by-step journey.

References: Hagurosan Kotakuji Shozenin Temple, Haguro Shugendo

Shimatsu, Kokai. Sennen no Shugen Haguro Yamabushi no Sekai (1,000 Years

of Shugen: The world of Haguro Yamabushi), Shinjuku Shobo, 2005 (excerpt)


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