The Bodhisattva Kokūzō


The Bodhisattva Kokūzō

Paintings / Kamakura

Kamakura period, 13th century

Color on silk



Important Cultural Property

This deity’s name signifies the possession of wisdom and virtue as infinite as the cosmos itself.

Golden lines are used to depict rays of light radiating from body and head in all directions. The mysterious power of this bodhisattva captivates the viewer.

Images of Akasagarbha radiating light were used as the principal images in an esoteric ritual known as gumonjiho, which was performed to increase the infinite power of memory. Perhaps some of you would like to take part in this ritual. If so, prepare for some hard work, for it involves reciting a mantra one million times in accordance with a strict code.

Mountains are depicted at the bottom of the painting. This is a landscape around Mount Asama in Mie prefecture. The mountain is located in Ise, a sacred area in the Shinto religion. According to the philosophy of Shinto and Buddhist syncretism, Japan’s many kami gods are actually incarnations of Buddhist deities. Under this belief, Akasagarbha is the original form of the Shinto deity of Mount Asama. This painting follows in the tradition of depicting honjibutsu, or the original Buddhist forms of Shinto deities.

The gorgeous coloring and the subtle, intricate garment designs are also worthy of note.

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