Point of interest: Shuzenji - A Tragic History (Part 1)

Shuzenji - A Tragic History (Part 1)
505 words
This article is part of a series about locations in your Mastery Map, a visual representation of your Japanese Mastery Level.
Your goal of learning Japanese kanji can be a beacon of personal growth. Through Kanshudo, you will be able to successfully learn Japanese grammar and its many forms. Our choice of Shuzenji to represent Japanese Mastery Level 2 shares a kinship to the notion of steady growth over time.
In its early days, Shuzenji served as a hot spring (onsen) resort town with the Shuzenji Temple located at the center. Today, the Shuzenji Temple is hailed as a national sign of peace. However, this was unfortunately not always the case ... the Shuzenji Temple harbors a tragic history of its own.

The Foundation

During the ninth century, the Shuzenji Temple was built on the Izu Peninsula in Japan. According to legend, the temple was built by Buddhist Monk Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai. Born in the Sanuki Province to aristocratic stock, Kukai received education in the Chinese classics during his early years. He then went to the Daigakuryo in Nara and studied Confucianism and Taoism.
Prior to the building of the Shuzenji Temple in 807, Kukai took up the life of a wandering monk. His purpose was to seek truth through mantra and meditation. In 804, Kukai was selected to be a part of a government-sponsored expedition. Along with the famous monk Saicho, Kukai traveled to China with the goal of interpreting the Mahavairocana Tantra. This was an essential voyage for spreading Buddhism throughout Japan, as the Mahavairocana Tantra was one of the earliest texts of tantric Buddhism.
During his time in China, Kukai studied at the Ximing Temple. This is where he was immersed in Buddhism principles, Sanskrit, Chinese calligraphy, and poetry. Kukai was instructed by the Chinese master Hui-Guo during this time, and was bestowed with the mission of spreading further teachings of Buddhism throughout Japan.
In 806, Kukai returned to Japan. Upon his return, Kukai was now viewed as enlightened. Legend tells that on his return to Japan, Kukai visited the area of Shuzenji. He was moved by the deeds of a son caring for his sick father and struck a river rock with his tokko. The strike with his tokko, a Buddhist ritual tool, is said to have produced the famous hot springs of Shuzenji.
Kukai is revered as one of the greatest men of the Heian Period in Japanese history. As a priest, scholar, artist, and engineer, Kukai was a man of many talents. He is credited with founding hundreds of temples throughout Japan, but might be best remembered as the founder of the Shingon School of Japanese Buddhism.
Kukai remains a revered figure in Japanese and Buddhist culture. To this day, many Japanese individuals and foreigners alike embark on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The Shikoku Pilgrimage sees thousands of individuals pilgrimage to visit the 88 temples associated with Kobo Daishi each year. While Kukai is associated with the foundation of the Shuzenji Temple, the history of the temple continued long after he was gone. However, the history of the Shuzenji Temple following Kukai's time is quite tragic.
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