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Shingon (Jap. pronunciation of Chin., chenyen, ‘true word’, which represents Skt., mantra). A school of esoteric Buddhism established in Japan by Kūkai after his learning experience in China, especially from Hui-kuo. The ‘School of the True Words’ (Skt., mantrayāna, Jap., shingon) emphasizes three mysteries or secrets which all possess, and through which the buddha-nature can be realized: body, speech, and mind. The secrets of the body include mudrās and the handling of the lotus and the thunderbolt (vajra). The secrets of speech include mantras and dhāraṇīs. The secrets of mind are the five wise ways of perceiving truth. These skills are transmitted orally from teacher to pupil, never in writing, and not as public teaching. The esoteric mysteries were expounded by the cosmic buddha, Vairocana/Dainichi Nyorai, for his own delight. In so far as its truth can be expressed at all, it can only be done in representational, above all maṇḍala, form. Central are the two maṇḍalas, Vajra (Diamond) and Garbha (Womb). The first is active, with Vairocana seated on a white lotus surrounded by four transcendent Buddhas; the second is passive, with Vairocana on a red lotus, surrounded by eight buddhas and bodhisattvas. An initiate throws a flower on to the maṇḍalas and becomes the devotee of the buddha on which the flower falls. In Kūkai's case, it fell on Vairocana in both the Diamond and the Womb maṇḍalas.

Shingon remains a large Buddhist school in Japan, in six main branches, with more than 10,000 temples.

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