Dr. Kenneth R. White is Assistant Professor in the History Department at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He completed his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has taught courses in Buddhism and East Asian history at several universities, including the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Dr. White has lived in Japan and traveled extensively throughout Asia.
2005 0-7734-5985-5 This book contains the first complete translation and interpretation of two of the works of K?kai (744–845), the founder of the Japanese Shingon School of Buddhism.
As an element of Mah?y?na Buddhist thought, bodhicitta ('enlightenment mind') is integral to an accurate understanding of the quest for Buddhist enlightenment. With the development of theories of this process, bodhicitta came to serve as that impetus urging a practitioner to engage himself in practice aiming at not merely individual release from samsara in an effort to attain nirvana, but also in other-oriented compassionate acts, the embodiment of which is the bodhisattva. This important interaction with, and responsibility for, others in the enlightenment process was particularly integral to the formulation of the ethical basis for East Asian Buddhism.
As discussion of the possibilities available to sentient beings engaged in various ritual practices and devotions progressed, the notion arose that they were actual partakers in Buddha-nature, with the potential of attaining Buddhahood. That sentient beings could even think of such a notion was indeed a radical departure from the doctrines of early Buddhism.
It was perhaps K?kai, in his Shingon Buddhist doctrine, who took this notion to its fullest extent as he forwarded his scheme of actual integration between man and Buddha, facilitated by means of specifically directed practice, including activities of body, speech and mind. Such integration was not merely a philosophical phenomenon, but was viewed as a tangible and very immediate process. This immediacy is typified in the statement adopted by K?kai indicating that one could even 'be a Buddha in this very body' (sokushin-j?butsu), eliminating the necessity for countless rebirths.
K?kai saw his unique Shingon doctrine and practice as not merely an addition to Mah?y?na Buddhist thought and Japanese Buddhist ritual, but rather as the distillation of all that Buddhist doctrine had been hinting at and attempting to explain. He took it to constitute the effective essence of Mah?y?na Buddhism, emphasizing the important notion that Buddhahood is a possibility for all. Two of K?kai's original works, Benkemmitsu-niky?ro and Sammaya-kaijo, as well as the Bodhicitta-??stra, a text from which he often quoted, constitute the foundation of his sokushin-j?butsu thought, and are elucidating in an analysis of the development of his bodhicitta view.