Articles: Esoteric Buddhism by Ajari Kamizane Yokoyama (Adapted from, 'The Universe of Tantric Buddhism')
What is Esoteric-Buddhism (Mikkyo)? The word means 'secret teaching' in Japanese and
even today Mikkyo remains a doctrine veiled in enigma; its door closed to the uninitiated.
Esoteric Buddhism is actually a form of Tantric Buddhism transmitted from India to China
and thence to Japan, where it was introduced by the great monks Kukai Kobo Daishi and
Saicho Dengyo Daishi in the ninth century AD. Mikkyo survives today in the Shingon and
Tendai schools and in the various Shugendo sects. It is the unique doctrine of attaining
buddhahood in this body (即身成仏) through the communion with Buddha or
'God-Buddha's (shinbutsu) grace (adhiṣṭhāna).
Even should Mikkyo be made public it's rites have no efficacy for those evil hearted or
those who have not undergone the appropriate preliminary practices and initiation
(abhiṣeka). Should they abuse the teachings of MIkkyo, the evil hearted run the risk of
being engulfed by demonic powers; falling into hell instead of the paradise they seek.
Mikkyo is unique among the world's esoteric teachings for two reasons; first it has
assimilated the essence of all the other great mystic doctrines - including the Kabbala,
Zoroastrianism, Sufism, Taoism, Mahayana and Tantra, and thus represents the perfection
of esoteric practice. Second Mikkyo rituals themselves are unrivaled in their precision
What is the source of Mikkyo's power? We find it in the Three Mysteries (triguhya or
sanmitsu) which provide the means of entering from everyday reality into the depths of
the spiritual world. The three mysteries of body, speech and mind manifest themselves in
both the material and spiritual worlds. Linked together, they have the power to make
these worlds one; the Mikkyo adept uses them to unite his [sic] ordinary consciousness with the Buddha-Mind. He does so by manifesting the mystic body through mudras, symbolic activity made with the hands and body. The adept manifests the mystic voice through mantras, dharanis and seed syllables (bija) which contain great power and meaning. The adept manifests the mystic mind through his own concentrated intention and imagination. Every step of Mikkyo ritual is composed of these three elements. They are parts of a whole that must be properly executed in unison.
The power of the three mysteries reveals itself only when the complex rites are mastered by a disciple who has cleansed himself through appropriate purification. The powers hidden in mudra, mantra and samadhi must not be taken lightly. I have written this to acquaint people in the west with the practices of Esoteric Buddhism. I wish to first point out that the monotheistic world view of Christianity, Judaism or Islam and the polytheistic view of Buddhism belong to the same spiritual reality and in fact coexist in the spiritual world. Man [sic] is a self centered being. When he is an infant his family are his universe and other people are completely alien to him. Only when he has begun to grow a little can he comprehend the relationship of his family to other families and then only as us and them. By the time he reaches adulthood he can see objectively that his family is one of many in the world around him.
As he grows his consciousness of space expands from that of his home town to the surrounding province and later the continent. Eventually the idea of an entire world composed of many countries evolves from this awareness. Man's perception of the universe was limited to this materialistic earth centered view of the cosmos until quite recently and the tendency remains conspicuous in religion today. Because of this worldview people everywhere have tended to regard gods as spiritual supermen in an earth centered universe. Apprehension of the relative status of these gods differs however across the world. In Japan for example all gods are considered more or less equal, all bearing the same privileges of existence and power. The notion of one Almighty God has never developed. Hindusim, Buddhism, Jainism, Shinto etc share this polytheistic spiritual world. Abrahamic religions however developed a view of gods united under the omniscient authority of one great single being, just as men deferred to the authority of a king in the secular world. This monotheistic notion originated in ancient Egypt but it was Judaism that perfected it with the organisation of a mythical history centering around one god. Christianity rejects the rituals and laws of Judaism but reinforced the spiritual authority of their God asserting that Jehovah was not only the God of the Hebrews but could also become the God of other nations [This forms part of the basis of imperialism and colonisation]. This view of a world ruled by only one god creates a closed, self contained space in the spiritual world by excluding other gods; it is not a world where many worlds can exist. There is no intercourse with Buddhist, Indigenous and other world views, whose existence is completely denied. This is not however an accurate view of spiritual reality.
Einstein demonstrated that there exist neither absolute movement nor an absolute centre in material three dimensional space. The same can be said of four dimensional (spiritual ) space; it is common to all spiritual worlds and the monotheistic worlds of Christianity or Islam are limited spaces occupying only one part of the whole. In other words, the spiritual worlds of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and every other religious world view coexist independently. Spiritual beings have been creating such worlds since time immemorial and humans have been practicing methods of communing with them for as long as they have been aware of their existence. These spiritual worlds are ideal or mental in essence and they operate according to principles that do not apply to the material world. To understand what is meant by attaining Buddhahood in this body you must first grasp three of these most fundamental of these principles.
This can be thought of as spiritual meeting of minds. Attaining buddhahood in this body means that the mind of the disciple and the Buddha Mind interpenetrate one another, becoming one (nyuga-ganyu).
This is the power of imagination and will toward an end; it is the essence of spirit and is brought to focus through deep concentration We can view spirit as having two aspects; one in which it shows itself and one in which it spontaneously transcends itself so as to reveal the meaning of its existence. We may say that the intentionality of spirit that realises this transition, just like a seed sprouting from its husk to become a tree. Over three thousand years ago this truth was recognised by Indian philosophers who said 'Man is formed by intention. When he leaves this world he accepts his next life by intention.'
The European philosopher Husserl also wrote about intention and imagination. He defined it as the way in which consciousness relates to or is aware of an object. The nature of the relationship differs according to the level of consciousness. Furthermore intention is not mere observation or attention. Both of these are forms that intention can take but they are not its limit. In the fullest sense intention is the means of whole contemplating an object. Consciousness is always consciousness of something, consciousness which experiences something. Consciousness relates to its object by means of intention; therefore intention is the means of going toward something or towards an end.
We may think of spiritual energy as waves which may or may not resonate with one another. This resonance between waves of spirit is another way of describing the interpenetration of the disciple's mind and the Buddha Mind. Waves of spirit differ in quality according to a person's knowledge, thought, temperament and character. Waves produced by like levels of consciousness are apt to resonate with each other; those from different levels are not. In short 'birds of a feather flock together".
It may happen that we are awakened by waves of spirit; this is what we call inspiration. On the other hand higher waves of spirit tend to repel wave emanating from baser levels of thought. Even waves from the same level will repel one another if they differ too much in character. When you react to another person with 'what an odious fellow', what has occurred is a mutual repulsion of waves of spirit caused by a difference in character.
With a knowledge of these three actions it is possible to understand the principle of action or means underling all Esoteric-Buddhist practice.
If a person concentrates his intention the object of intention first appears as a phenomenon of the spiritual world. In time however it will materialise and take concrete form. Esoteric Buddhism recognises all phenomena as coming from the same power of intention.
Another important point is that the intention to attain Buddhahood is itself a form of deep attachment. As a rule Buddhism teaches us to free our bonds to attachments. This really means not to become attached to desire rooted in the Three Poisons. The Buddhist ideal is the Bodhisattva; an enlightened being who defers his own attainment of nirvana in order to assist others. Out of compassion, the Bodhisattva undertakes vows for the salvation of all beings, and concentrated intention is the means byu which these vows are realised. Attachment to an end of this sort is psychologically no different than ordinary emotional attachment and yet transcends them.
This concentrated intention is called Samadhi. Without Samadhi we could not expect to live the life of a Bodhisattva. The transformation of deep attachment into something transcendent is called klesa pravartana-bodhi; desire and enlightenment are one. This is the fundamental truth that underlines all Tantric practice.
If you believe that power derives from material wealth or social influence you are mistaken. Such power can only govern things; it cannot govern spirit. Your power to govern spirit and achieve new creations depends on your intention. If you effectively govern your imagination you can construct a new fate for yourself by your own will and continue doing so eternally.
The world in which we live was created by this process of intention, imagination and construction. The magnificent world of spirit that appears in the Mikkyo practice hall is likewise realised by intention, imagination and construction through properly executed observances. Indeed the phenomena of this entire cosmos grew out of the intention, imagination and construction of what is referred to as the Buddha Mind.
The disciples spiritual energy arises from his own core and resonates with the waves of spirit of the cosmos. The Buddha's waves of spirit create their own field of energy, exerting an attractive force on everything around them. When a persons waves resonate and assimilate into this cosmic spirit, the union is complete. If you experience from within the spiritual world that lies behind the material universe and comprehend its truth, you will experience a true freedom.