Kukai’s Birthday

Kukai’s Birthday
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空海 誕生日

Kukai (AKA Kobo Daishi) was a once-mendicant Buddhist monk from over 1,200 years ago, who within his lifetime became a pillar of Japan’s religious establishment.

Kukai statue at Kawasaki Daishi Temple.
Kukai statue at Kawasaki Daishi Temple

While the exact date of his birth is unknown,  today, July 27, is usually attributed as being his birthday.

Buddhist religious activity in 8th century Japan was strictly controlled by a government organ called the Office of Priestly Affairs (the Sogo), and monks who operated outside its ambit were effectively outcasts.

Kukai, in his early 20s, was not very interested in the Confucianism that was the main doctrine governing public life in Japan at the time, but developed a strong interest in the more overtly religious doctrine of Buddhism. He would retire to the mountains and chant Buddhist mantras.

Yet, he was a prodigious scholar, and published his first, very erudite, work at age 24.

By the end of his life, Kukai had become an imperially sanctioned leader of the religious establishment in Japan, and the brand of esoteric Buddhism that he propounded, Shingon Buddhism, had become a mainstream sect.

Kukai’s birthday is most famously celebrated in the middle of June, at the Mt, Koya Temple that Kukai founded back in 819 A.D. and at Chishaku-in Temple in Kyoto. Known as the Aoba Festival (not to be confused with the Aoba Festival that takes place in Sendai every May), it celebrates Kukai’s birth with parades and floats and music.

Read more about Kukai Kobo Daishi

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