Shingon Disciplines – Beginner and Lay Practice

In the Vajrasekhara Sutra, one of the fundamental five aspects to attain Buddhahood within our body is to have the realization of our mind fostering the aspiration of being enlightened, essentially developing and raising the Bodhi mind (bodhicitta). At the same time, having the realization and aspiration to attain enlightenment leaves out those who suffer around us, whether it is the smallest insect walking under the crack of our floors, to the stranger that walks past us, and to those who have gone away from this earth.

To this end, a basic practitioner of Buddhism is one who observes and places their faith in the Triple Gem:

  • the Buddha (the guide to spiritual awakening)
  • the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha and the spoken words of our teachers)
  • and the Sangha (the community that abides in awareness, learning and practice).
Sometimes practitioners will observe basic vows (such as the Bodhisattva vows, the ten wholesome deeds, and others) and will practice meditation, chanting, reciting mantras repeatedly, or do prostrations at home.

Our founder Kobo Daishi in his teachings always outlined the Three Pledges for the Shingon practitioner:

  • May we realize Buddhahood in this very life.
  • May we dedicate ourselves to the well-being of people.
  • May we establish the World of Buddha on this earth.
The Shurangama Sutra states, “When completely contributing oneself to society, one requites the Buddha’s kindness.” From this, we can observe that as our guide to observing the basic Three Pledges of Kobo Daishi.

Next, there are Ten Paramitas that constitute as the cultivation of virtue, cleansing our body and mind of our karma:

  • Generosity (Dana)
  • Virtue (Sila)
  • Patience (Kshanti)
  • Effort (Virya)
  • Concentration/Contemplation (Dhyana)
  • Wisdom (Prajna)
  • Skillful Means (Upaya)
  • Vows (Pranidhana)
  • Developing energies (Bala)
  • Knowledge (Jnana)

If one observes the Triple Gem and follows his/her vows, it is the cultivation of a paramita (perfection) of patience and upholding precepts.

To give an loose example: if one completes a triathlon, crossing the finish line is a paramita of effort and concentration. If a student completes high school or college education, graduation with a degree is a paramita of wisdom and knowledge.

Some practices or meditative exercises may require a qualified teacher’s permission or one-on-one guidance in order to practice at home or with a group of practitioners. These practices are not limited to the following:

  • Ajikan (Meditative Yoga Visualization of the Letter A) 
  • Gachirinkan (Meditative Yoga Visualization of the Moon Disc)
  • Susokukan (Mindful breathing meditation and visualizations)
  • Daily Layperson’s Service
  • Sutra chanting and auxiliary mantra chanting (under supervision of a teacher)

What is described above is an overall summary of Shingon Buddhist teaching for the layperson.

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