Deities of Kunisaki and Beyond
Japanese Sect Founders
Saicho (767 ~ 822AD ) was born in Omi, present day Shiga Prefecture, and became a Buddhist monk at the age of 12. He was impressed by the Tientai (Tendai) teachings and went for a year to China to study them, Zen, the Vinaya Sect and esoteric buddhism.
Saicho returned to Japan in 806 AD, he received permission from the emperor Kammu to found the Tendai Sect and to expound the Lotus Sutra doctrine of one single vehicle for the salvation of all. Saicho insisted that all people are endowed with Buddha nature and are, therefore, capable of attaining enlightenment, a Mahayana precept.
Kukai (774 ~ 835), also known as Kobo Daishi, was born in modern day Kagawa Prefecture. He studied Chinese in Kyoto and Nara but at the age of 18, he abandoned his studies and renounced the world. Kukai wandered the mountains of Shikoku. Ordained a priest at Todai-ji in Nara, he found the teachings there incomprehensible so he travelled to China to study esoteric Buddhism. After two years he returned and founded the Shingon Sect at Kanzeon-ji temple in modern-day Fukuoka. He was later made abbot at Todai-ji and enjoyed the patronage of the emperor, who granted him the monastery at Mt. Koya and To-ji temple in Kyoto. Kukai revealed himself to be a form of Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana) during a discussion of doctrine of Shingon with chiefs of other sects. A great calligrapher, the creation of the Kana syllabary used in Japanese writing is attributed to him.