Shugendô is knowledge obtained on the path (dô), resulting from ascetic practices (shu) of divine natural powers (gen). Shugendô is all of the practices and rules which are advisable to follow to reach this result, and the shugenjas are followers of this Japanese ancestral religion. They are more commonly called: Yamabushi, "those which sleep in the mountain", because it is indeed generally in the mountains that they practise, that they withdraw to during the time of retirement, in pilgrimage and that they travel "wandering" through the country like the hermit Indian ascetic Milarépa.

Shogoin temple : Building for fire ritual(back-side) : Goma-dô

Imperial Honzan Shugen branch headquarter

Shogoin Monzeki temple; Shinden building on left side, Hondo Fire hall in front

Prior to world war two, the government of Japan had banned the practice of Shugendo, thus forcing the Shugen temples to associate themselves with one of the accepted Buddhist schools. As such, different portions of Shugendô became associated with the different Buddhist doctrinal texts of the Shingon or Tendai schools. The Tôzan school was long associated with Shingon and is attached to the large Sanpoin temple inside the complex of the temple Shingon Daigoji. The shugendo of Tendai (Jimon) which was founded by the independent yamabushi-monk  Archibishop Zôyo and was very early on associated to the Shogoin-Monzeki temple; in the same way the shugendo of the Kimpusen temple (in Yoshino) & of Haguro, Hiko, Ishizuchi, Ontake... the lay yamabushi, priests and trained brotherhoods (kôsha) around the temples who receive their directiion from the head temples. At the end of the second world war, the freedom to practice any religion was declared in Japan and all four large schools of shugendo went back to being individual and independent organizations, except for the Tôzan school which remained attached to the Shingon school of Daigoji temple.

Miscellanous Honzan-ha shugen Tradition


Shogoin temple : Main building of worship(Shinden)


main building Shogoin temple Kyoto

Shugendô had founders: "En the Ascetic" for the Tôzan schools, Tônan and Honzan of the Ominé mounts in the south of Nara; the imperial prince Hachiko-No-ôji (Sôken Dai Bosatsu) for Mt Haguro in the North of Japan; the Matsu Saint for Sonshan shugen of the Mt. Fuji. However there are some which are described as the “renewing ones” for the doctrines of the shugen: the monks Enchin, Shôbô and Zôyô are those which assembled truly the practices and doctrines of Shugendô. During this time, the shugenjas gave the title of "Paramount Founder" to En-No-Ozunu, of the Kamo family. The teaching doctrines have grown more elaborate since the 12th century in Japan, but for a long time the beliefs of the yamabushi was a mixture which inherited the popular indigenous (folk religions) beliefs and influences from China, as well as the beliefs of the old shintoism. These beliefs, which have lasted into what is now the 21st century, lead to the creation of a market in the clothing industry for talismans and amulets, with the development of "magic" ceremonies which are supposed to cure diseases and to keep away bad spirits. There is an aspect of Shugendo which comes from the Ouralo-Altaïques Shamans. This represents the knowledge that the yamabushi Shamans are specialists in Eastern magic. Supernatural "or divine capacities" can be acquired by these "magic ones" practicing rituals, resulting in prayers with higher power and developed especially by the personal practice of the ascetic.

Monastery of Shugendo on top of Mt.Sanjo in the Omine Mountains

Omine Sanji temple

Shugen Kompon dôjô

Original birth place of Shugendô

Buddhist monks gave a religious direction to these popular folk beliefs, with the intention of replacing them with more acceptable Buddhist doctrines. Shugendô has always kept a foot strongly entrenched in the animist and magic culture. The introduction of boudhisation into the beliefs of Shugendo was easily achieved because these monks generally belonged to esoteric Buddhism and the proposed goals were similar to those of the shugenja animists: To help stop men from suffering the miseries which overpower them in this world and to achieve earthly satisfaction to make them happy. All the time, they also worked towards higher ends, for example the boudhisation a being of sound living even. To the incipient shugendô, they gave their doctrines. Nevertheless the practices of Shugendo always remained popular (close to the people), easily comprehensible by all, following the example schools Shingon, Hôsshô, Tendai, Zen, Kegon, Nichiren or Amida. Even considering all these schools theological discussions, they never had the pragmatism of Shugend

Yamabushi blowing conch shell on top of Mt.Sanjo(facing West)

Yamabushi monk blowing conch schell at top of Mt Sanjo

Shugendo is a crucible whose place is important in the development of Japan. Making the connection between traditions of hunters-gatherers wandering, those which go in the world of the spirits, and the sedentary farmers who cannot penetrate there. It was Shugendo from which were born many important Japanese cultural practices such as the Tea ceremony, Nôh theatre, & the traditional martial arts. Ethnologist Japanese Kanazawa Sennichi advances that it was Yamabushi, ascetic practitioners of Shugendô, who in the 7th century, were central to establishing an understanding of the universe and its relationship to mankind, the balance between beings and things. From this understanding emerged some of the best known Japanese art: Poetry, Nô theatre, the Tea ceremony, flower arranging and it held a strong influence over all Japanese thought in general. The thought of a middle ground or balance that is expressed in a practice of engaging both the subject and the object. 7th century Japan was a period of great upheavals: economic, cultural, philosophical and religious. The yamabushi, figures central to medieval Japan, who then were nomads, lived in a middle ground, physically and spiritually. They were driven between the "world of the plain" (seat of the new political and cultural power) and the "world of the mountain" (seat of the old traditions): Between the mountain fields of the hunters-gatherers and the paddy of the rice growing farmers. The mountain are considered to be the residence of the Gods and Divinities, an ancient belief in Japan that still holds true.

Santuary of Usa Shrine in Kunisaki's cap in Kyushu islands

Kûban at Usa shrine, performing Hachiman Dai Bosatsu Kagura

En-no-gyôja (Jimpen Dai-Bosatsu) The Founder

All yamabushi regard En-No-gyôja as the founder and as their spiritual ancestor. He was an ascetic-hermit who lived in the 7th century and got along with the bouddhic magic, and others... This man was called En-No-Ozuno of his true name which means "En (delivery: Japanese èn) "the small horned one" because he was born with a small horn on his forehead. "Devils" was a derogatory nickname the Japanese of the era gave Korean immigrants, and we know now that the Kamo family (En’s family) was of Korean descent. He was also known as En-No-Ubasoku (Upayaka En), by lay practitioners, but he is most commonly known as En the Ascetic (En-No-gyôja). Emperor Kokaku was so impressed with his practices that he gave him the posthumous name of Jimpen Dai-bôsatsu (Great Bodhisattva of Divine Change). The first document which speaks about him is "Shoku Nihongi" and the book Nihon Ryoki (which was written between 810 and 824, that is to say forty years afterwards), which are the first Japanese books with Konjaku monogatari: "En-No Ozunu lived in the Katsuragi mountains (close to the town of Wakayama, near to the current Osaka) where he converted demons and communed with a Shinto god, practised the asceticism in the Ominé mountains; He could cling to a cloud with 5 colors and fly through the air. He employed the demon spirits to build a bridge which would connect the Katsuragi mountains to that of Kimpusen, a distance several hundreds of kilometers. He was exiled on the peninsula of Izu, following problems with his cousin and disciple who was jealous of him. The emperor tried to execute him but the blade of the axe broke each time they tried to behead him. It is said that every night, he left his prison and flew away to practise ascetics at the top of the Mount Fuji. He was released thereafter.

Secret Statue of En-no-Gyoja inside monastery on top of Mt.Sanjo

Jimpen Dai Bosatsu of Omine Sanji monastery fire altar

It is also written more particularly in Nihon Ryoki, in chapter 28: En-No-Ubasoku came from the Kamo family of the village of Chihara (West of current Nara) in the district of Katsuragi of the plain of Yamato. From birth he was omniscient; and he revered the 3 Buddhist jewels (unusual at the time for a family of that closely followed Shinto beliefs like Kamo and Kusakabe). He practised the magic sutra of the Queen of the Peacocks" (Kujaku-Myô-kyô). Becoming a spirit himself (according to the taoists), he practised the Buddhist doctrines and every night he clung to a cloud with 5 colors, then flew in space in company of the hosts of the realm of the spirits; diverted himself in the gardens of Eternal Life; slept in the floors of Zuigai; He breathed the air which nourished him fully. As he was 40 years old he lived a cave (the cave of Shô), dressed in linens and bamboo shoots, bathed in the natural sources of water (made takishugyo), washing away there the stains of the world of desire. He practised the sutra of Kujaku and showed a marvellous capacity. He continued to control the demon spirits, obliging them to work for him for the construction of a gigantic bridge.

Yamabushi in front of Sho's cave in Omine mountains

 Ojuku Miyagi Tainen Sensei in middle at Shô grotto

With all the data collected from different sources over several centuries, one ends up establishing a biography which has been pieced together little by little. The following has been discovered : the name of his father, his mother, 5 disciples including 2 demons, the transmission of the Secret Law (Mippo) by the Master Nagarjuna in the cave of the Mt. Minô. The traditions of the schools of shugen do not agree as on his end. Some say that he flew away into the sky over Mt. Tenjo-gatake. Others say he disappeared on the sea and that was only re-examined (in Korea) after several centuries, following an official voyage of the monk Dôkô of the Kimpusenji temple of the village of Yoshino. Over the two centuries following his disappearance a growing number of individuals in Japan imitated his example: The monks Shôbô and Zôyô, as well as the itinerant yamabushi (as Jitsukaga at the time Meiji) continued to take him as a model. On January 25, 1799, the Emperor Kokaku decreed that he receive the posthumous title of Jimpen Dai Bosatsu! This document is always visible within the Shogoin temple in Kyoto.

En-no-Gyoja and Shugendo's world : 1300th anniversary of Founder

"Enno Gyyoja to Shugendô no sekkai /

Enno Gyoja & Shugendô 's world"

2000 Osaka exibition book

The God of Shugendo: Zaô-gongen (the Avatar Zaô)

Among all the divinities of Shinto, of the ground, of the rivers, of the mountains, it is that which appeared with En-No-gyoja which dethroned all former divinities: Zaô, the most powerful divinity of shugendô. In India, he is venerated in the form of Vajragarbha. In Avatamsaka sutra (Kegonkyô), he is a benevolent divinity who explains the 10 stages of the path of a bodhisattva. One cannot regard him as a figure of extreme importance in Buddhism, however he has been the object of devotion since the Kamakura era. The Japanese followers built an imposing vault to honour him (which will become the second greatest religious construction project, after the great Buddha of Nara, Daibutsuden). The vault of Zaô-gongen of the Kimpusenji temple in the village of Yoshino, has 3 large statues of Zaô. They were carved from the wood of the cherry tree, and each stands more than 7 meters in height. Since the Kamakura era, the Shingon school, shows Kongo Zaô in the mandala. It was in the middle of the 11th century that En-No-gyoja appeared at the side of Zao-gongen in Konjaku monogatari, and one should realize that this indicates a growing veneration among all the yamabushi.

The god Zao-Gongen of Kimpusenji temple of Yoshino village

 Deity Zaogongen of Zaodo chapel in Yoshino village

In the 14th century work Taihei, chapter 26 "Yoshino in the flames", it is written "As for Zaô-gongen, here formerly, En-No-gyoja made a 1000 day retreat on the top of the Mt. Kimpusen to help him him achieve harmony with the universe. Here he strongly requested assitance until appeared the image of a bodhisattva in the form of Kongo Zaô. He appeared with the features of the goddess of the Benzaiten dance. He first appeared at the top of the MT Miesen and became its guardian. Later Zaô reappeared under the aspect of the bodhisattva Ai Kongo and Jizo Bosatsu. En the Ascetic bowed his head while saying to him: "If you want to save the beings of the future worlds, an image such as this one is not appropriate! "And yet projected again was the tender image of Zaô, from the temple below Yoshino dedicated to Nage-Jizo (the" projected/Thrown Jizo"). Kongo-Zao, upset and furious at being told his image was inappropriate flew away, this time for the top of the MT Daisen of the province of Hôki, from where he returned completely transformed. He presented himself from that point on under the appearance of being strong and furious, holding in his right hand a three pointed vajra, the left making the sword mudra. His elbows raised for close striking, the eyes fixed in a projection of anger, all to subjugate the demons which make obstacles in Dharma. His hair is drawn up, feet are raised as if to strike the ground by deploying all the virtues of the sky and the ground. En-No-gyoja raised a vault to him, which became a splendid temple. Note that if Taihei gives Zaô his name and Buddhist title (Kongo-zaô), it is his status as an avatar (gongen) which is retained by En-No-gyoja. Zaô-gongen the Wrathful! Now let us see this as an example of the traditional metamorphosis in the doctrines of the avatars of Ryôbu-shinto of the Shingon esotericism, or Sanno-ichijutsu shinto of the Tendai esotericism, which is expressed by in the statement Honji Suijaku. Previous existing Shinto gods (or avatars) reappear in a ‘new’ Buddhist form, which goes along with the doctrines of the Buddhist schools, who, being quite intent on recruiting followers, quickly adopt native beliefs and give them a Buddhist flavour. The kami of the Kimpusen mount, is replaced with Zaô-gongen! As the original form was not as threatening or impressive as a bodhisattva, "the mixed esotericism" (zômitsu) transforms him into a wrathful avatar and integrates him into its Pantheon. He becomes terrifying! The esotericism of shugendô sometimes calls him Himitsu Kongo (secret diamond), Tokkô Kongo (the Thunderbolt which gives a special teaching) or Rikken Kongo (diamond which reigns with supernatural capacity). It is the Lightning-Diamond which shakes the beings of their apathy; apathy which makes them difficult to enlighten. Shugendô further went than in the "traditional Buddhist writings" where Zaô is only one auxiliary of the Shakamuni Buddha. It puts him on an equal footing with Shakamuni.
Zaô-gongen became the triple Buddha when he took action : past, present and future. In Dôken Shônin Meido Ki (Book of notes on the obscure world) written by the Saint Dôken, a monk yamabushi who lived during the 10th century and later became Grand Archbishop of the Kimpusenji temple under the name of Nichizô Shonin, Zaô-gongen is noted as saying "I am the Avatar of Shakamuni, the bodhisattva Zaô." In a petition (gamon) rolled in a scroll with sutras and buried by noble Fujiwara No Michinaga (960-1027), Fujiwara launches this exhortation: "Spoken loudly, Worship with the founder Saka Zaô-gongen", "Formerly, when he was on the top of the Peak of the Vulture, his name was Muni (the Silencer), today on top of Mt.Kimpusen to save all beings, he is Zaô." Fujiwara No Moromichi wrote another petition in 1088 at the time of a pilgrimage in the Mt.Kimpusen (Mt.Sanjo): "the protection of Zaô cannot be doubted!". One attributes to Zaô-gongen supernatural abilities and the yamabushi in the search of similar for themselves, sought his benevolence and requested the granting of this marvellous power.

Map of Yoshino village with apparition of the god Zao-Gongen

old scroll showing Zao-gongen & Yoshino village

Kimpusen (MT of the gold bell) was a gold bearing mountain which was exploited for a long time by the yamabushi like the mountains of Koya san and Hieizan, as the yamabushi were looked upon in the doctrines of Shingon and Tendai as the "Guard-Gods of the Ground". Little by little, people forgot the god of the ground which kept the gold of Kimpusen. Zaô replaced it and it is said that he takes care of this gold until the arrival of the next Buddha: The bodhisattva Miroku (Maitreya).


The Pantheon of Shugendô
Particularly the worship of the Vidyaraja Acalanantha (Fudo-Myo)

The doctrines of shugendo, although they may resemble (for a neophyte) the esoteric doctrines of Buddhism, lack similarity because the rites practiced come from taoism and the worship of various avatars (gongen) which populate the natural Pantheon, contrary to the other schools of traditional Japanese Buddhism. Its doctrines are "a cosmotheist", or all inclusive. The one shared basis is the principle of a supreme Buddha Dainichi Nyorai, of which each part of the universe, all beings, all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, gods, humans, animal, vegetable, mineral, spirits and demons are only emanations. From there the Pantheon expands considerably because it includes & understands not only the Buddhas of the first canonical works but also those of bramanic Indian (pre-buddhist) teachings of esotericism, as well as those of the indigenous cultures like shintoïsm and taoism. Each one of these divinities receives worship, prayers and offerings as holders of a particular capacity in certain fields. It is a polytheism in cosmic porportion for the eyes of the laymen. Certain Buddhist teachings passed on by divinities who appear as subordinates in Mikkyo, take a more important role in shugendô. Thus the worship of the 5 Kings of Light, whose central character is the Wrathful Buddha Fudou Myô, is of considerable importance in Shugendô. This worship has become more prominent in Japan since the the time of the monk Sôbô, founder of the school of Tôzan Shugen, who had studied the esotericism with the nephew of the Master Kukai : the Shingon Archbishop.

The great god Fudô-Myô


The worship of 5 Kings of Light comes from tantric Buddhism. They form in India part of Vidyarajas (Carriers of Light). The iconography represents them with a terrifying aspect, almost demonic for uninformed Westerners! But their appearance is actually only to frighten the demons in us, to destroy dangerous passions and ignorance. They add up to a total of 33, 33 is a special number in shugendô. Most easily recognized of the group of 5 is Fudou who is the chief in the center. In the East throne Gozanze Yasha Myô, in the West Daitoku Yasha Myô, in the North east Gundari Yasha Myô, the South Kongo Yasha Myô. Dainichi Daishô Fudo Myô is generally represented sitting on a stone slab or standing on top on one, his skin is of a dark blue color of unlimited spaceand he is wrapped flames. He holds up in his right hand the double edged sword of Sapience (Riken or Hôken) and in the left hand, he holds Kensaku (paça), a ballasted cord which makes it possible to bring back to the right path the people who stray. His eyes look up and down, he wears a braid on the left shoulder, and he sets his teeth strongly, the upper lip snarling, his eyebrows furrowed. During the ceremony which is dedicated to him, one also honours his eight large servants or the dragons which are its metamorphoses.

The God Aizen Myô


Two sutras are dedicated to him : a short one, Sho Fudo kyo, and longer one: Sho-Mudo-Son Dai -Hiinu-Darani Himitsu-kyo, the details of which are secret.

The god Fudô-Myô inside the crab nebula

Oyamadera Daisenji temple, Ishihara city, Fudo Myo with Kongara & Seitaka assessors

In addition to Zaô-gongen and Fudo, Amida Nyorai, Dainichi Nyorai, Mirokou Butsu, Kannon... Shugendô also venerates other divinities, of secondary importance for the Shingon or Tendai schools, such as Izuna Dai Gongen of the MT Togakushi, Sampo-Kojin or Kimon Dai Myô Jin, Hachi Dai Ryû Hô (8 Great King Dragons), Tengu (winged goblins) and Oni (ogre, ogress and beneficial demons). All the kami are worshipped and venerated but none more so for the yamabushi than Jimpen Dai Bosatsu!
The place most venerated, most magical (because they are volcanoes in Japan) remains the mountain. Shinto reveres mountains like it reveres trees, rivers, streams and the earth. The mountain is the place of meditation, of asceticisms for the Japanese Buddhists in general. For the yamabushi, it becomes more than a privileged place: It is the return to the Original Matrix, the other world from where one comes and where one sets out again. The mountain is the crucible of taoist transformation for the universe. The mountain is venerated like a natural mandala where the supreme Buddha preaches Dharma eternally.

Sylvain performing fire ceremony inside Shogoin Temple for the French National Kendo Team

Priest Kuban at Shogoin temple, Kyoto, 1996, performing Hashiramoto fire ceremony for French National Kendo team during World Kendo Championship

Doctrines of Shugendô

Shugendô is not based on particular canonical writings like: Lotus Sutra for Tendai (Hôke-kyo), Diamond sutra (Rishu-e Kyô) for Shingon, Avatamkasa sutra (Sutra of the garland of flowers) for the Kegon school, the 3 sutras of the Buddha of Amida for the Jodo school and Zen the writings of Dogen for the Soto school and Rinzai for the Rinzai branch. The texts of the shugendô belong to the schools of the various Masters of Shugen. As the successive Masters came from all the schools, it is normal to find at the same time texts of Zen, Amidisme and esotericism Shingon and Tendai, re-examined and corrected under the perspective of the ascetics of Shugen. As the latter were close with Matsu-Hijiri or Koya-Hijiri of Nembutsu, living close to the centers of Kumano and Nachi, shugen centers until the Meiji era, the practices mixed. There is a tendency in the west to classify the Tôzan-shugen school as part of the Shingon school, and then be able to compare how the Honzan school which considers as fundamental the Hokke-kyo, as does Tendai. Having studied all the doctrines and rites of the 4 large major schools of the shugendô, I can affirm that this hasty classification is erroneous. Shugen is shugen; not Shingon, nor Tendai, nor Zen or others. For proof, consider that Masters of Shogoin studied many things while practicing Shugen : at Hieisan the doctrines of Tendai and Amida, as well as at Koya san to study the Shingon doctrines. Others did not hesitate to go to the monastery of Soto-Zen Iei-ji to learn. There is a difference in knowledge between the yamabushi priests (who always had a religious culture) and the lay yamabushi which often have despised liturgical and doctrinal texts.

Outside Fire ritual by the yamabushi of Mt.Haguro

Haguro shugendo, rebirth fire ceremony

There are compilations of texts for use in Shugendô. A commission of Nihon Daizôkyo (Japanese Buddhism) completed during period between 1916 - 1919, published 3 volumes (N° 17, 37 and 38) gathering the ritual and doctrinal texts of the principal schools of Shugendô. Another 3 volumes included Shugen-Seiten and Shugen-Shôten made up from Sanboin and Shôgoin temples headquarters. In 1986, professor Miyake Hitoshi wrote the first dictionary of Japanese Shugendô: Shugendô Daijiten. Shugen-seiten contains texts of the Archbishop Shôbô (the Master of Shingon: Rigen) founder-renovator of the Tôzan-shugen school of the Sanpoin temple at the time of the emperor Godaigo as well as the sutras Konchokyo and Dainichikyo, the sutra of Kegonkyo devoted to Bodhisattva Fugen and a particular text devoted to En-No-gyoja : Ubasoku-Kaikyo. The same applies to Shugen-shôten which outlines the teachings and methods of the Honzan and Tôzan schools, and those which existed concerning Shugen of the MT Hiko in the island of Kyushu. One can summarize briefly the Doctrines of Shugen : "There exists the cosmic Buddha, Vairocana (Dainichi), who fills up all the universe, who is each thing of the universe, material things as well as that of the spirit.” All that is ", is the actualization of the Vairocana. Buddha. Our Nature is not different from that of the Buddha... It is only because it is obscured by our delusions that we lose sight of this fact."

The Great Archbishop Miyage Tainen performing outside fire ceremony in front of the monastery of Mt.Sanjo

Ojuku Miyagi Tainen, Omine Sanji monastery performing Saito Dai Goma, bonfire ceremony

Shugen sanju-san tsuki borrows passages from the books of the Master Kukai (Juju-shin-ron and Sokushin-jôbutsu-gi; rules and methods for obtaining the state of Buddha during this life) to express its doctrines concerning Substance of the Buddha Dainichi (Vairocana): This substance is made of 6 elements, the earth (the cube), water (the sphere), fire (the pyramid), the air (the crescent), space (the drop) and the ether (the end of this drop). With these 6 elements correspond the following colors: Yellow, white, orange, red , black and blue.
These are aspects of Dainichi Nyorai. Shugendo, as other esoteric schools recognize the 4 great types of mandala: 1) Dai Mandara (Large mandala) where all divinities/practices are represented 2) Sanmaya-mandara (or mandala of Convention) represents the means they choose to utilize : This mandala is built with the representation of the attributes of each one (arc, jewels, sword, arrows, sutra...). 3) Hô-mandara (the mandala of the law of Dharma) or Bonji-mandara (bija mandala) which is supposed to represent "the true spirit" which animates each veneration. It is a mandala where veneration is represented in the form of letter-germ sanscrite like A or Kan 4) Gô-mandara (Katsuma mandala) represents the actions of each veneration, motionless or moving, drawing the sword, or bandaging an arc...

Sylvain performing the fire walk during a ceremony for the fire god Akibasan of Nagoya city

1996, yamabushi priest Kûban during barrefoot walking inside fire (kassyo zanmai) at Nagoya, Akibasan festival, Zenpukuji temple

But Shugendô attaches a paramount importance to the "nonhuman Body" in 3 dimensions of the Buddha Dainichi Daishô Fudô (Fudô the Invaluable Saint resulting from Dainichi): The mountain (Ritai mandara), and to include/understand the direction of the words of the wind in the trees, it is to include/understand the true one sutra of the Buddha, the movement of the clouds, the noise of rains which fall, the direction of the rivers... that all this is the true Substance of Dainichi! Shugendô, like esoteric buddhism, preaches Triyuga (triple yoga) or Sanmitsu : Connection between the word (mantra), the gesture (mudra, action) and the thought (mandala). Like Kukai, shugendô affirms that if we practise the 3 mysteries, the divine blessing (kaji) quickly appears because these three mysteries are equal and in harmony! It is in this way of practising, that shugendô makes a distinction because it plunges the practitioner by the asceticism to the center of the mandala and it says to him: That to reach the state of Buddha, it is necessary to get rid of passions (it is not easy and does not mean to just change them). The individual is already a Buddha but is unaware because a veil of ignorance of masks the sight. It is in its initiatory advance through the mountain by the ascetic practice that Shugendô takes all its ecological thought and harmonizes the practitioner with Nature! The equality of a Single Reality is a quality of the Absolute.
The Tôzan school of the shugen developed a particular theory of the RI(Innate Reason Kongokai mandala) and CHI (Knowledge Taizokai mandala) FU Ni: Richifuni Innate Reason and Knowledge are not separate. They are the front and back of the same scroll. The Honzan school will say a few centuries later: RI and Chi is neither here nor there, it is the same; that it depends on who considers it what they wants to compreend. RI and Chi exist only in thought!


2013 France Shômudo-an Aki-no-Mine Tojime Shiki

In esoteric Buddhism , the overriding principle which resides at the base of each thing, which has never changed, nor will ever change, this immutable principle is named: Shinnyo (Ainsité, which is thus). In the book Shugen-shuyô-Hiketsu-shû (secret Keys of the practices of Shugen), written by the yamabushi priest (who practiced Zen) Renkaku Shônin, in the 11th century its stated that : "The true body of the practitioners is the Buddha Danichi Nyorai's "substantial non-created awakening body" (nirmanakaya-sambogakaya-dharmakaya; physicaly manifested body, apparitional body and Buddha Teachings body). The true mind of the practitioners is the inner attestation of the Kongokai mandala (the Essence) and the world of form is the Taizokai mandala. The mind and world of form of the practitioners originate from the substance of the Great Cosmic Buddha Dainichi Nyorai.. So that when the thought of the realization of the state of Buddha (of our current body) is well anchored sufficiently in our spirit, that which is bad disappears to leave in its place what is good. Having in spirit, only the saving of the all beings, it is their will to transfer all merits accumulated by his practices. The practises are most important to alive beings, and the Buddhas are most important to the practise. It results from this relationship that between the spirits of the alive beings, the practise and the Buddhas, there is no difference. These alive beings, which are truly Buddhas in power, are already Buddhas since their origin. The characteristic of the 3 classes or categories of Buddhas (vajra, padma and ratna) is that they do not differ in their realization from the Major Awakening. And when that spirit is known, one knows the spirit of all the Buddhas. The Buddhas have the highest comprehension of all, they remain in the "City of the Original Spirit". The alive beings are mistaken about the Absolute; they wander in the uncultivated plains filled with illusions where the 4 possibilities of lower rebirths continue (demons, damned hearts, warriors who died in the combat, animals or human). The 3 worlds (past, present and future) are only in the spirit. All Dharma is simple Knowledge. To know the equality of spirit of the 3 classes of Buddha is called the Great Awakening. Here is the essential point of shugen, it is the great idea of its doctrines."


In France, Sylvain in yamabushi costume blowing inside a conch shell(Hora gai)

Kuban blowing conch to call "good" student from USA... wearing traditional OI backpack in bamboo 2003

Just as in Japanese Tantric Buddhism, Shugendô believes:

  • Sokujin jôbutsu: immediate access to the state of Buddha in this life, with this body.
  • Sokushin sokubutsu: identity between our body and that of the Buddha.
  • Sokushin zebutsu: Our body is of comparable nature to that of the Buddha.

Three level of "boudhhisation" are defined

  • Rigu jôbutsu : Boudhisation in power
  • Kaji jôbutsu : Temporary Boudhisation by blessing
  • Kentoku jôbutsu : Final Boudhisation

The immediate accession with the bouddheity is regarded as the Initial Awakening. On the other hand, the identity of Ego and the Buddha is named the Original Awakening : Hongaku. The initial awakening is not different from the original awakening. Shugendô, like esoteric buddhism, takes again the maxim of the Kukai monk: "Bonnô soku Bodai" (passions are generating state of awakening or passions are identical to the awakening). On the other hand, Shugendo is more pragmatic to the average follower in that is shows them the access doors of its practise, more directly than the buddhist doctrines of the esoteric Shingon or Tendai. The state of awakening of Shugen is the state of mind of the Gotama Buddha under the tree of awakening, where he attained enlightenment but had not yet begun teaching, which he historically did at the encouragement of the Brâhman god. Shakamuni Buddha (Gotama the Ascetic) remained approximately a whole week in this state under the fig tree. This comprehension of the universe as a whole is named: Shugen!

The shugen shuyo hiketsu-shu says on this subject: "the thesis of Shugen, it is the doctrines of the 3 Mysteries (Sanmitsu) not characterized; it is the marvellous principle of Ainsité which reigns in the 10 plans (hells, hungry ghosts, Titans, animals, human, gods, Rakkan (sramana or Araht), Buddha-for-oneself (Engaku or Pratekya Bouddha), Bodhisattvas and Buddhas). If one inquires into their appearance, it is the Substance, complete right from the start, of the 2 esoteric sections (kongokai and taizokai). If one inquires about their supreme principle, it is the secrecy of the immediate understanding of realization of the bouddhisation of his own body. Its Substance being everywhere in space has neither form nor weight. Its knowledge fills up the Plain of the Thought, one cannot see the limits of them. In truth this is the true principle, which was not transmitted by the Buddha or a founder of schools. The transmission of spirit to spirit is at its base; it is not necessary to know the intention of it, there is no place to speak about it "

Sylvain and Haguro Yamabushi blowing special melodies inside their conch shells

Haguro Akinomine pilgrimage, Kûban on left blowing conch with Haguro Yamabushi on right

In a passage of the book "Shugen sanjusan tsuki", it is written: "All the schools depend on the writings (canonical texts); on which writings are based Shugen? (On all will answer a modern yamabushi!). Way of Shugen sutra is a sutra that is eternal and natural (that registered in the mountain and its phenomena). It is the Law mandala to which all the Buddha already attested; it does not know clear yellow silk (insinuation for the color of the toga of the monks; which is to say that the True Dharma is beyond Buddhism), one did not record it with brushes and ink (it is beyond the canonical writings of the disciples and the Masters). The song of the wind in the summits, the howling of the waves which beat the rocks, noises of nature. All that, in fact the brahmanic voices explaining the Nature of Dharmas. Without a single human saying anything, the Word goes everywhere in the Plan of the Essence. See, to listen and include/understand, it is to obey the Law with the 6 bodies of the directions. To put your spirit in the state like the Buddhas was before he preached the Law, here is the object of Shugen. Why be based on the Writings of the Masters? Before did the Original Awakening, how the Spirit of the Buddha keep the lesson of sutras? Shugen does not rest on them! Shugen it is the Spirit of the Buddha. Even if they do not know the Writings, the men who know the source of the spirit have the Original Awakening. The principle of Shugen, is not borrowed from the Buddhist lessons ; it is not established with words; it is transmitted spirit to spirit. The explanations of the Masters are pressed on texts, but that is not how the Way of Shugen is made."

To turn around the Rock of Equality : Test of free-climbing during the Omine pilgrimage

Ryodoji iwa, Zenki road, free climbing test after 12 hours walking per days during 4 days...

" If one learned from as many billions of Writings (Buddhist canonical texts) as there are sand grains in the Ganges, but one does not know the origin of the clean nature of the spirit, it is nothing but empty exercises." But to simply recognize the origin of the nature of the spirit, without developing it, is not sufficient on the path of to realization."

Funeral ceremony by Shogoin Yamabushi       Ordination in Shogoin Temple      Seminar Training in Shogoin      Masters of Shogoin Temple

All Kansai province Abbot teachers of Honzan Shugen 1990