Kokuzo symbolizes the "vast and boundless" Buddha wisdom that permeates the universe. Believers pray to Kokuzo to grant them wisdom on their quest toward enlightenment. In Japan, Kokuzo is also venerated for the ability to fulfill wishes. In particular, people pray to Kokuzo to improve their memory, technical skills, and artistic talents, for Kokuzo is revered not only as the wisdom-bestowing Bodhisattva, but as the patron of craftspeople and artisans.
Sanskrit Seed Syllable
for Kokuzo Bodhisattva
In Japan, sculptures of Kokuzo are generally found only among Shingon temples and some Tendai temples, where special esoteric rites are still performed (mostly in secret) to ensure good memory, the granting of wishes, and the bestowal of Kokuzo's "vast and boundless" blessings.
Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese Spellings
English Translations for Kokuzo Bodhisattva
- Space/Sky Repository (also Space/Sky Treasury)
- All-Encompassing Wisdom
- Vast and Boundless Vessel
- Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Memory
- Protector of Craftspeople and Artisans
- Guardian of the Treasury of All Wisdom & Achievement
Kokuzo in Japan. Kokuzo was introduced to Japan in the late Nara period (645-794 AD) as part of a special rite to improve one's memory -- hence, Kokuzo's reputation even today is that of a deity who bestows intelligence on devotees. Kokuzo can appear in many different forms. In sculpture, Kokuzo's role as bestower of wishes means that Kokuzo is shown frequently holding the wish-granting jewel. In another variant, Kokuzo holds a lotus stem surmounted with the sacred wish-giving gem. In another popular representation, Kokuzo holds a sword to symbolize wisdom cutting through ignorance. Kokuzo is sometimes depicted with a hand gesture known as the Wish-Granting Mudra (Jp. = Yoganin; Skt. = Varada). This mudra represents the granting of wishes to those who welcome the Buddhist teachings. At other times, Kokuzo is portrayed with the "Fear Not" Mudra, a gesture that symbolizes the granting of protection to Buddhist followers.
Kokuzo is no longer venerated widely in Asia or Japan, with the exception of Japan's Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism, where Kokuzo serves as the last of the Thirteen Deities of the Shingon School (consisting of Five Buddha, Seven Bodhisattva, and Fudo Myoo). As a group, these 13 represent the chief deities of the Womb World and Diamond World mandalas. As one of the thirteen, Kokuzo presides over the memorial service held on the 32nd anniversary after one's death. On the Japanese island of Honshu, children who are 13 years of age still follow the custom of paying homage to Kokuzo in the hopes of becoming more intelligent. In Japan's esoteric traditions, Kokuzo is also counted among the 16 Deities of the Auspicious Aeon, and as one of the 16 Great Bodhisattva.
Kokuzo Bodhisattva (lit. Space Repository) was originally paired with Jizo Bodhisattva (lit. Earth Repository), with the two representing the blessings of space and earth respectively. This pairing is now almost completely forgotten. Today Jizo is one of Japan's most popular deities among the common folk, and is worshipped both independently and as an important member of Amida Buddha's retinue. In contrast, Kokuzo is a relatively neglected deity whose devotees come largely from the Shingon tradition.
Historical Notes. Kokuzo is described in the Kokuzo Sutra (Jp. = Kokuzo Bosatsu Kyo) as one who removes obstacles, one who helps people recognize and overcome their errors, and one who encourages the practice of the Six Perfections (Sanskrit = Paramita). Kokuzo's central role in the esoteric rite to improve one's memory is described in the Gumonjihou (Jp.). The Six Perfections are:
Japanese Mantra for Kokuzo Bodhisattva
Kobo Daishi, the founder of Japan's Shingon sect,
said people who chant this mantra one million times
will gain a full understanding of all Buddhist teachings
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A-TO-Z PHOTO DICTIONARY (SISTER SITE)