What is Shugendo?  

Shugendo (修験道) is a Dharma tradition characterised by combinatory ritual-practice and mountain-asceticism.

As a practice-path, Shugen's roots extend into ancient folk-traditions related to mountains and ancestors. Gradually these absorbed and influenced aspects of both Shinto and Daoist thought, ultimately to be shaped through the doctrines and practices of esoteric Buddhism & the Buddha-Dharma more broadly.

Shugendo's defining method is the use of periodic retreats and unique practices involving the ritual 'entering' of mountains and valleys. Shugen can be said to possess, in the words of Riten Tanaka, a 'glocal' outlook, combining both global/universal and localised/particular approaches to faith, doctrine and practice. 

Another important aspect of Shugendo is that it is a tradition orientated towards the householder (ie; practitioners who maintain sets of vows and undertake the cultivation of sādhanā from a non-monastic viewpoint). The majority of participation in Shugen comes from non-ordained practitioners, however paths of practice into ordination (tokudō) and initiation (abhiṣeka) exist for those who have taken on commitments through a direct student-teacher relationship.

Periodic retreat is complimented and deepened through the practice of ritual (sādhanā) taught in the context of the teacher-student relationship. These include various altar practices, such as homa, puja and ritual-prayer (kaji-kitō). As a sect which due to historical reasons is intertwined with the esoteric Buddhism, consecration (abhiṣeka), ritual-practice and the direct teacher-disciple relationship are considered paramount. The esoteric-Buddhist viewpoint  - an expression of Mahāyāna orientation - is characterised by yoga; the creative union of body, speech and mind.

Questions are welcome. 

ubasoku | what is shugendo?