Kobo Daishi’s Hidden Treasure

The Ten Precepts of the Japanese Hiragana Syllables

This research will present the translation of the original Chinese characters of the Japanese Hiragana syllables into ten precepts as intended by the original Japanese calligrapher, Kukai (Kobo Daishi), who designed the Hiragana script.

From the late 5th to the mid 7th Century ce the Japanese adopted Chinese writing (kanji), called Manyogana, in order to write down Japanese sounds. The earliest Manyogana writing is found on the Inariyama Sword of 471 ce. Manyogana came into full bloom from its more comprehensive use in the Manyoshu poems and literature compiled 759 ce. The Manyoshu contain elements of Chinese Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, together with Japanese Shinto beliefs.

In the 8th and 9th Century, the hundreds of Chinese words of Manyogana kanji branched off into two simplified syllabic kana systems of about 50 characters representing the major Japanese sounds. One of these systems, call Hiragana, was used by women in their communications and literature; the other system, the Katakana, was used for official documents with representations of foreign sounds.

Kobo Daishi (Kukai, 774-835), who founded Shingon (True Word) Buddhism in Japan, was involved in the design of the kana syllabary as an engineer and calligrapher and he provided a way to prove these Hiragana syllables form precepts from their Chinese meanings.

To find these Hiragana precepts of Kobo Daishi consider the following: The Hiragana syllables are listed below with their corresponding Chinese words, their pictographic origins and translation, which presents the discovery of the ten Hiragana precepts in a verifiable manner. Contemporary to the origins of the Hiragana syllables are the legends of Kobo Daishi and a description of the ten Bodhisattva precepts of the Fanwang Sutra from Japanese Mahayana Buddhism. These and the Manyoshu poems will offer a background to the purpose and place of the discovery of the Ten Hiragana Precepts.

Was Kobo Daishi qualified to design the Hiragana syllables while forming hidden Chinese precepts? Green writes:

As preserved in the Collection Divining the Spiritual Nature of Henjo, officials requested that he write speeches, sermons and letters in their names. As Ryuichi puts it,“Kukai did understand writing as a technology; however, it was for him not a tool for statecraft but a sacred technology necessary for creating and maintaining cosmic order.”

Kobo Daishi’s school of reasoning is marked like a fingerprint on the original Chinese meaning of the Hiragana syllables. That his views and intentions are expressed in these ten forms on the Japanese syllables and is being understood today, marks a particular event in Buddhist philosophy, called the gter-ma, or Treasure Finding Event. That is, the kami of Kobo Daishi intends to offer assistance to his people in a time of need. He does this by hiding a spiritual treasure in a cave or even in a hidden code for his people to find long after his death. Come and open the Treasure of Kobo Daishi in the 10 Precepts of the Hiragana Syllables:

Kukai, also Kobo Daishi (Great Teacher Kobo) became a great student of learning in Confucism, Daoism and Buddhism (especially Nara Buddhism in Japan and Tantric Buddhism in China). His vast spiritual education lead him to found Shingon (Mantra/True Word) Buddhism (Ichiro, H., et al eds., pp. 56-57). Therefore, the second Hiragana precept, the heavenly gift reaches its destination by ritual music, speaks directly of the source of Kukai’s Buddhist sect where music is understood as rhythmic mantra toward the development of the Buddha mind. In Confucius words, “It is by the Odes that the mind is aroused; by the Record of Propriety that the character is established; from Music that the finish is received” (Lun Yu, Bk. VIII, 8).

Kukai’s choice of Temple at the remote Mt. Koya (Schirokauer, 1989, p. 170) speaks to the first Hiragana precept: When lacking harmony bestow kindness from afar. Kukai believed his disciples would become true followers much quicker by leaving all behind and contemplating the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Community) in the distant wilderness. It is there the mantras would invite heaven to the growing rising heart of the human being. Yet, before the mantra is even chanted, the student of the Koya Temple was humble enough to realize the lack of harmony in society. To change other, one must first change self by distancing the self from the broader community. Even before returning home to a life of kind acts, the sacrifice of self has already awakened others in the community to their own spiritual possibilities. In becoming a better person at Mt. Koya, one is bestowing grace and kindness to their own community back home.

Kobo Daishi is noted for rewarding the generous, even with miracles. On one occasion he produced a fountain by striking his staff on the ground for an elderly woman who gave him a drink of what little water she had. Kobo Daishi was merely acknowledging that the elderly woman was truly producing water (life force) in the fountain of her giving heart.

Kukai spent years in learning and also writing. In 813 he wrote The Admonishments of Konin; in 817 he wrote, Attaining Enlightenment in This Very Existance, The Meaning of Sound, Word, Reality and Meaning of the Word Hum; in 818 The Difference Between Esoteric and Exoteric Buddhism and in 830, Kukai wrote Treatise on the Ten Stages of the Development of the Mind (Wikipedia).

Yet in the midst of his production of great works, in 821, Kukai gave to Japan its largest irrigation system when he took over a failing project and restored the Manno Reservoir as its chief engineer. In 821 he led in the restoration of the mandala and many Buddhist works of art. In 822 Kobo Daishi was assigned to build the Shingon Chapel at Todaiji in the heart of Nara Buddhism, which was telling of the acceptance of his Shingon teachings among mainstream Japanese Buddhism. In 824 Emperor Junna assigned 50 monks under Kukai at Toji. In 825 Kukai received the high honor of tutoring the Emperor’s son. In 827 Kukai was promoted even further to Director of the official monastic system (Daisozu). Not content with self-promotion, in 828 Kukai opened Shugei Shuchi-in (the School of Arts and Sciences) for any student regardless of wealth or class, where housing was provided for the needy. To keep the school running, what could not be provided by donations came from Kukai’s own government incomes. At the school was taught Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

He is also credited with the building of bridges in Japan along with bringing his nation the gift of tea.

Kobo Daishi’s love for woman’s seed (children) is evident when he performed a miracle by foretelling the production of fruit on trees that had not grown to full height. The purpose was to enable children to gather fruit, who could not climb the high chestnut trees. The statue of Jizo, the Buddhist guardian of the souls of dead children, is attributed to Kobo Daishi. It is said that he carved it in one night.

The Ten Stages of the Development of the Mind include the first three involving the mind of children (see Supplement 2 below). The first stage, ‘The Ram-like mind of people of different birth’ is pictographically represented in the second Chinese character of this forth Hiragana precept, mei, the man beneath the ram, or Ram-like mind. The Chinese character, mei, means beautiful, which is synonymous with truth in Kukai’s Heian culture. Kukai himself was a promoter of the arts, though he was a great writer believed that truth could only be conveyed in the beauty of art, not in writing (Schirokauer, p. 170).

The Chinese nai includes a man with the ability to rise up to heaven and draw down to earth the divine will for humanity. Kukai’s disciples believed that at the end of his life he remained living in an meditative state within his tomb awaiting the arrival of Maitreya, the returning messianic Buddha (Casal, 1959, p.139).

Jen is the fundamental Confucian virtue of love. Was introduced to Confucian and even Daoist teachings as a child and understood the concept of dualism and compassion also relevant to Buddhist teaching.

Kobo Daishi protects all who swim in the river where locals permitted him to wash his clothes in peace, though he was disguised as a wandering beggar. It is believed the river never runs dry as a result of their kindness. The river of heavenly knowledge is as vast as the universe, which is the playground of the kind Buddha-like imagination. Kobo Daishi prayed to Kashima’s deity before his staff produced the Willow Well still there at the Kashima shrine.

Precept 7: see also supplement 3 Mandala 1

In his “Attaining Buddhahood in This Very Body,” Kobo Daishi wrote,

Empowerment (Kaji) express the unity of
the Buddha’s great compassion and the faith of living beings.
The bestowal of empowerment (Kaji)
is the like sunlight from the Buddha’s radiance
shining on the water (the lifeforce) of the minds of living beings,
and the receiving of the empowerment (Kaji) is
the water (the lifeforce) of the practitioner’s mind
feeling the sunlight from the Buddha.

Precept 8:

Kobo Daishi believed that little by little the state or country would improve as each student of Buddhism practices their vow to become like Maha-vairocana, the body of the Buddha. In doing so their knowledge of the true pure land will change the world with wise actions.

During the priestly training of Kobo Daishi, it is said he endured visits from evil spirits, dragons and sea monsters. His mystical words and spittle containing the rays of the Evening Star fended them off. The temple he built to commemorate these battles was protected from these malicious spirits by sacred signs erected by Kobo Daishi. Are these Hiragana symbols not also signs to protect the entire empire with heavenly peace?

Consider the i symbol (second vowel of the tenth Hiragana precept). Is the central mark not reflected in the pivot stone legend? The legend tells of Onamazu, a giant catfish within the earth that caused earthquakes. To prevent the fish from moving, the ‘pivot stone’ of the Kashima Shrine is held atop the head of Onamazu by Shinto kami (deity) Takemikazuchi. Contemporary to Kobo Daishi, and 8th Century Manyoshu poem reads:

As long as Kashima’s deity is with us,
The pivot stone may wobble but it will not break.

Imagine Kobo Daishi’s syllable as the kami holds fast the catfish with the pivot stone? Who else would believe such a legend would lead to spiritual growth than Kobo Daishi, whose own staff would grow roots to hold fast the earth while instantly providing the sage with shade.
At the end of “The Secret Key to the Heart Sutra,” he wrote,

Manjusri and Prajna can dissolve confusion, drench those who have lost the way with sweet nectar, cut off ignorance, and destroy a host of demons. It is the year 818 and a great epidemic is sweeping the country. The Emperor personally copied the Heart Sutra with a brush dipped in gold ink. Following the pattern of other commentaries, I have composed a work on the main points of the sutra, and even before I uttered the words marking the end of this task, people who recovered from their illness were standing about the roadways. Night had turned into the brilliant light of day.

The Ten Hiragana Precepts Compared to the Ten Bodhisattva Precepts

  1. When lacking harmony, bestow grace from afar.
  2. The heavenly gift reaches its destination in our ritual music.
  3. Be productive, but also generous in giving.
  4. The end of good is violence against woman’s seed (children).
  5.  As sure as waves arrive on the shore, do not lower your guard.
  6.  Restoring love for the female servant is in accord with the divine will for humanity.
  7. Vast is the knowledge in the river to the heavenly destination.
  8. Help to grow inch by inch the state.
  9.  Increase by hidden progress over the duration of life the plan of the self.
  10. Peace employ for heaven’s protection over the empire (and the self).

Notice how the ten hiragana precepts relate to the contemporary Bodhisattva precepts of the Fanwang Sutra:

The Ten Bodhisattva Precepts of the Fanwang Sutra

  1. Not to kill or encourage others to kill (Hiragana 4).
  2. Not to steal or encourage others to steal (Hiragana 3).
  3. Not to engage in licentious acts or encourage others to do so. A monk is expected to abstain from sexual conduct entirely (Hiragana 6).
  4. Not to use false words and speech, or encourage others to do so (Hiragana 7).
  5. Not to trade or sell alcoholic beverages or encourage others to do so (Hiragana 5).
  6. Not to broadcast the misdeeds or faults of the Buddhist assembly, nor encourage others to do so (Hiragana 10).
  7. Not to praise oneself and speak ill of others, or encourage others to do so (Hiragana 9).
  8. Not to be stingy, or encourage others to do so (Hiragana 1, 3).
  9. Not to harbor anger or encourage others to be angry (Hiragana 10).
  10. Not to speak ill of the Buddha, the Dharma or the Sangha (or Buddha, teaching and community; the Three Treasures; lit. the Triple Jewel) or encourage others to do so (Hiragana 2, 8, 9).


The Japanese Hiragana script was designed from Chinese characters for the purpose of understanding Japanese syllables that formed into words. This design weaved the syllables into words that formed 10 precepts. That is, the Japanese sage, Kobo Daishi, wanted the learner to understand that their language was not merely a function of communication, but also of the values each student of the language would carry into the Japanese community. Green outlines Kobo Daishi’s thought on the use of words as: “... all literature expresses the universe of the Buddha.” Where Kobo Daishi has written:

The Tathagata (He Who Has Thus Gone) reveals his teachings by means of expressive symbols.

Those who discover and learn these symbols begin to walk in their Teacher’s footsteps. If such a one loved the empire, the land and people enough, by obeying the pangram precept: ‘Keep getting more familiar!’ they would eventually discover these ten precepts born from the depths and heights of the human heart. The Hidden Treasure (Gterma) becomes a moment of kindness shared by the Holy One himself to the disciple of any time and any place.

Kukai died in 835 on Mt. Koya. He was 62 years of age. In 921, by the Emporer’s decree, Kukai was given the name, Kobo Daishi (The Vast Dharma’s Great Teacher). The Shikoku Pilgrimage associated with Kobo Daishi has lasted over 1000 years with 88 Temple visits over a 1200 kilometer journey.

Supplement 1: Two Other Hiragana Syllable Puzzles (Pangrams)

Also, the Hiragana syllables were made into a perfect pangram in the 9th Century ce, called the Ametsuchi no Uta, the Song (or Words) of the Universe. This is also the era of Kobo Daishi. If Kobo Daishi designed the Hiragana, he or one of his contemporary disciples must have wrote the Ametsuchi no Uta pangram. And if he wrote the pangram, what would stop him from designing the syllables to make logical sentences in terms of their Chinese origins?

The text of the pangram written in Hepburn romaji:

Ame tsuchi hoshi sora
Yama kaha mine tani
Kumo kiri muro koke
Hito inu uhe suwe
Yuwa saru ofuseyo
Eno yewo narewite

The English translation:

Heaven, earth, star, sky,
Mountain, river, ridge, valley,
Cloud, fog, mudhouse, moss,
Person, dog, top, end,
Sulfur, monkey, grow!
Hackberry branch! Keep getting more familiar!

The Iroha poem of the Hiragana syllables is another example the Japanese pangram, but is likely written in the 11th Century ce, long after Kobo Daishi’s era.

Iro wa nioedo
Chirinuru o
Wa ga yo dare zo
Tsune naramu
Ui no okuyama
Kyo koete
Asaki yume miji
Ei mo sezu

Even the blossoming flowers (Colors are fragrant, but they)
Will eventually scatter
Who in our world
Is unchanging?
The deep mountains of karma
We cross them today
And we shall not have superficial dreams
Nor be deluded (intoxicated).

The Iroha pangram is believed to be an elaboration of the following verse from the Nirvana Sutra:

Shogyo mujo
Zesho meppo
Shometsu metsui
Jakumetsu iraku .

All acts are impermanent
That’s the law of creation and destruction.
When all creation and destruction are extinguished
That ultimate stillness (nirvana) is true bliss.

Supplement 2: The Twofold Classification of the Shingon School of Kobu Daishi

The Five Meditational Ways / The Ten Stages of the Mind

I. The meditational way of the world:

        1. The ram-like mind of people of different birth
       2. The mind of unreasoning children who keep the moral commandments
       3. The mind of little children who are not afraid

II. The meditational way of the Sravaka:

        4. The mind which acknowledges only the Skandhas and not the ego

III. The meditational way of the Pratyeka-Buddha:

        5. The mind which extracts the Seed or Cause of Karma

IV. The meditational way of the Bodhisattva -

a. Maitreya meditation
       6. The Mahayana mind which acknowledges the Relation with the others;
b. Manjusri meditation
       7. The mind which understands that mind is not born;
c. Avalokitesvara meditation
       8. The mind acknowledges the One Way and Non-Action.
d. Samantabhadra meditation
       9. The mind which studies the Non-Self-Nature;

V. The meditational Way of the Buddha-Ground:

      10. The Secret of the Sublime Mind.

Supplement 3: The Writings of Kobo Daishi

Kukai spent years in learning and also writing. In 813 he wrote The Admonishments of Konin; in 817 he wrote, Attaining Enlightenment in This Very Existance,

In Kukai’s Shingon tradition, the universe is made up of six elements: earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness. Since Buddha and all other humans contain these same six elements, human beings are essentially identical to the Buddha. The realization of this truth leads to the purification of self and the world around us. Kukai (Kobo Daishi) realized this meant possible complete enlightenment for the human being and so he developed these three steps to the physical attainment of Buddhahood:

These are the three types of Sokushin Jobutsu.

1. We are all Buddhas in Principle (Rigu no Jobutsu)

Mahavairocana’s spirit resides in all human beings by our status as creatures. Most are unaware of this enlightenment potential. So through the Shingon Teachings anyone may come to realize this Buddha status. This realization of Buddhahood is called the self -awakening, but only by way of the virtue of the spirit of Mahavairocana.

2. We become Buddhas through Empowerment (Kaji no Jobutsu)

The fully awakened being, or Buddha, must practice enlightenment in daily life, by making action, word and thought one with the Three Mysteries of the Buddha. As a result of this religious practice the devotee experiences the outside influence and power of the Buddha. This empowerment is the result the attainment of oneness with the Buddha.

3. The Manifestation of Buddhahood (Kentoku no Jobutsu).

Mahavairocana spirit suddenly breaks for within the devotee of perfect body, speech and mind. This fully awakened Buddha will be realized by others. Kobo Daishi is one such Buddha whom many people venerate. The purified Buddha continually develops their love and faith.

Also, in 817 Kobo Daishi wrote: The Meaning of Sound, Word, Reality and Meaning of the Word Hum;

In 818 he wrote: The Difference Between Esoteric and Exoteric Buddhism

Esoteric Buddhism involves stories which were not literally true, but contained some hidden meaning only known to a small group of people. Such teachings were aids to draw the listener into the story in the hope of developing the full teachings (exoteric) over time.
Kobo Daishi believed this was the long way to attaining Buddhahood.

Complete religious teachings can be outlined in ritual practice exoterically and put into immediate practice. Thus Kobo Daishi founded Shingon Buddhism with its two pillars of doctrine and practice for purification of the human by way excelling in the skillful means (Mahavairocana Sutra). This fullness of live is continually guided and guarded by buddhas of the past.

In 821, Kobo Daishi wrote: The Transmission of Shingon Dharma (Shingon Fuho Den) and in 830, Kukai wrote Treatise on the Ten Stages of the Development of the Mind (Wikipedia).

The Ten Stages of the Development of the Mind include the first three involving the mind of children (see Supplement 1 below). The first stage, ‘The Ram-like mind of people of different birth’ is pictographically represented in the second Chinese character of this forth Hiragana precept, mei, the man beneath the ram, or Ram-like mind. The Chinese character, mei, means beautiful, which is synonymous with truth in Kukai’s Heian culture. Kukai himself was a promoter of the arts, though he was a great writer believed that truth could only be conveyed in the beauty of art, not in writing (Schirokauer, p. 170).

Kobo Daishi’s Explanation of the 4 Mandalas

In explaining Mandalas, Kobo Daishi distinguished four types:

1. The Maha-Mandala
In Sanskrit Maha-Mandala means the Great Mandala. The Great Mandala expresses the entire universe in which, viewed broadly, human beings and all living things maintain harmony and interdependence with each other. It includes all of the other Mandalas.

2. Samaya Mandala
Samaya is a Sanskrit word that means vow. The buddhas and bodhisattvas express their respective vows through their hands by forming mudras, or holding lotus blossoms, swords or other objects. The mudras and handheld objects capture and express the essence that is hidden within that vow.

3. Dharma Mandala
Dharma, in Sanskrit, means teaching or transmission. The methods for transmitting the mind of the Buddha to people are the sutras, Sanskrit words, and the names of the buddhas. The essence of the teaching is contained in bîja or seed mantras. Generally speaking, this refers to language, words, and written texts.

4. Karma Mandala
Karma, in Sanskrit, means action, and this Mandala refers to the actions of the Buddha to teach and save people. In a broad sense, it refers to the actions and functions of everything in the universe, including the activities of people.

Kobo Daishi’s Mandala Ritual of the Fivefold Wisdom of Maha-Viarocana

Kobo Daishi believed in the personified enlightenment of Buddha under the name of Mahavairocana. As master of the ritual of new birth into the family of the Tathagas, Kobo Daishi would sprinkle his disciples on the forehead with the water of the fivefold wisdom.

1. The Ultimate Wisdom of Enlightenment, personified in Mahavairocana.
2. First Eastern Attribute of Mahavairocana, wisdom of the great mirror.
3. Second Southern Attribute of Ratnasarhbhava, equality.
4. Third Western Attribute of Amitabha, observation.
5. Fourth Northern Attribute of Amoghasiddhi, action.

And with flowers tossed, these disciples are given new esoteric Buddhist names, since their purification of actions, speech and thoughts makes them one with the ideal body, speech and mind of these Buddhist deities (Ryuichi, 1999).

Kobo Daishi combined the knowledge of Maha-Vairocana with the action of the Mandala mantra in order to visualize enlightenment. That is, Vairocana represents the human embodiment of divine perfection (as a Bodhisattva or Buddha). All and any human being could reach perfection by taking the vow and acting upon that vow of weaving Vairocana’s own identity into the self. Green writes:

According to the Mahavairocana-sutra, ultimate reality is found in all speech and the root of speech is the soul of the universe, which Shingon calls Dharmakaya Mahavairocana.

Therefore, in Japanese Buddhism, Vairocana, the Personification of enlightenment was named the Great Sun (Dainichi Nyorai) and became synonymous with the Shinto goddess Amaterasu. This is important, because Kobo Daishi was presenting an all embracing spirituality that enabled the Japanese Shinto believers to worship side by side with their Buddhist neighbors. Though the 1858 Meiji edict prevented uniting separate Buddhist and Shinto deities into one divine entity, it is not uncommon to see Buddhist and Shinto Temples built side by side and the Buddhist and Shinto household Shrines one on top the other. Did the Shinto believer find an intimate expression of Amaterasu in her aspect as Vairocana? Was the Great Mirror mandala of Vairocana one and the same as the reflection of Amaterasu in the Mirror of Yata housed at the Imperial Shinto Shrine of Ise?

Perhaps the answers will unfold at the appointed time when Amaterasu will return through her Shinto Mirror of Yata, just as Vairocana returns as the Buddhist Maitreya.

Kobo Daishi’s Messiah, Maitreya

Maitreya is to arrive as the fifth embodiment of the Buddha, after Gautama at the end of Middle-time. Maitreya will arrive in a low point in human history when Gautama’s teachings are being neglected. Prophecies stated that Maitreya would arrive when the oceans have decreased in size, that he might travel the world more easily to bring back dharma to a world in decline. Maitreya will only take seven days to become a bodhisattva (perhaps related to Venus hidden in the light of the Sun for seven days). Maitreya will teach the Ten Non-virtuous and Ten Virtuous Deeds (abandon any notion to kill, to steal, to sexual misconduct, to speak falsehood, to speak in disharmony, to speak brutishly, to idle speech, to desire things, to want to harm and to believe in falsehood.

Interestingly, in 1933 India, Anagarika Govinda founded the tantric Buddhist faith called, Arya Maitreya Mandala, to anticipate the future return of Maitreya. The Arya Maitreya Mandala has since spread to Vietnam, Singapore, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Austria and America. Govinda’s teacher, Ngawang Kalsang, saw the future Maitreya as the answer to the need for a model toward enlightenment in modern spirituality.

Supplement 4: Japanese Tanka and Manyoshu Poetry that Influenced Kobo Daishi in Relation to the 10 Hiragana Precepts

Kukai followed his educational history in his poetry by including the myths of the Japanese landscape, elements from Confucian and Daoist learning, Tantric Buddhist wording from China and Nara Buddhist spirituality from Japan. His openness to many belief systems led Shingon followers to embrace Shinto Kami (deities).

Kukai’s poem, Climb the Moutain to Contemplate the Hermit (Buddha) is a testament of this universal appeal in his writing. Green writes:

Beginning with classical Confucian references, the poem ends in contemplation of the mysteries of Mahavairocana, immediate and before his eyes. This emphasis on immediacy or things just as they are (tathata) is exactly that expressed in the previous chapter on the Ajikan. In my opinion, this is at the root of Kukai’s philosophy and practice. Kukai’s own explanation follows the title below. This is the first poem in the Collection Divining the Spiritual Nature of Henjo.

The following Manyoshu poems were written just prior or during Kobo Daishi’s generation.

Haru sugite
Natsu ki ni kerashi
Shirotae no
Koromo hosu teu
Ama-no-kagu yama

The spring has gone, the summer’s come,
And I can just see
The peak of Ama-no-kagu,
Where angels of the sky
Spread their white robes to dry.

Empress Jito Tenno (ruled from 690-696 ce)

The angels who spread their white robes across the mountains represent protection over the empire much like the Chinese character Yi, representing clothing, also means protection in the 10th Hiragana Precept: Peace employ for heaven’s protection over the empire (and the self).

Kasasagi no
Wataseru hashi ni
Oku shimo no
Shiroki wo mireba
Yo zo fuke ni keru.

When on the Magpies’ Bridge I see
The Hoar-frost King has cast
His sparkling mantle, well I know
The night is nearly past,
Daylight approaches fast.

Yakamochi (Imperial Adviser who lived until 785 ce)

The Magpies’ Bridge was an oriental constellation. It consisted of the Herdsman (Aquila) and the Weaver (Vega) maiden who clothed the divine kami. These two were in love but were separated by the Dark Rift of the Milky Way. Once a year they were united by a bridge made by magpies in the sky. The sun was aware of her the Weaver maiden’s broken heart, since the divine clothes were in short supply. Therefore, on the seventh night of the seventh month, when the frost appears just before dawn (the divine white clothes weaved across the landscape) the magpies gather to make a bridge across the Milky Way river and Dark Rift. It is then the Weaver and Herdsman are able to embrace.

The Shinto goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, employed her maidens to weave the divine clothes for humanity. Is the Magpies’ Bridge not an expression of the angelic Weavers of Amaterasu clothing humanity with the protection of divine love? Is not Amaterasu’s private weaving room spoken of in Kobo Daishi’s 9th Hiragana Precept? Increase by hidden progress over the duration of life the plan of the self. The Chinese character for ‘self’ is a weavers loom.

For further study: each Chinese Character as they relate to weaving, threads and clothes from the above 9th Hiragana Precept draws a comparison with the 1st Hiragana Precept: When lacking harmony, bestow kindness from afar.

Ashibiki no
Yamadori no o no
Shidario no
Naga-nagashi yo wo
Hitori ka mo nemu.

Long is the mountain pheasant’s tail
That curves down in its flight;
But longer still, it seems to me,
Left in my lonely plight,
Is this unending night (also meaning My life is drifting along)

Kaki-no-moto (Orphan who attended on
Emperor Mommu (Ruled 697-707 ce);
Kaki-no-moto died in 737
and was deified as God of Poetry.

Kobo Daishi’s love for children is testified by his founding of a school open to all children regardless of their families status or wealth. This love is also expressed in his 4th Hiragana Precept: The end of good is violence against woman’s seed (children). The following Manyoshu poem by Yamanoue no Okura is another example of the devotion to children in Kobo Daishi’s era, spirituality and culture.

I make offerings
And implore
Be true and lead him straight.
Show him the way to heaven.

Yamanoue no Okura (660-733);
learned in Buddhism and Confucianism,
he composed this tanka in memory of a child, named Furuhi)

Kobo Daishi’s Hiragana syllables became the mode of literary communication for the woman after his generation. To testify to his devotion to women consider the 6th Hiragana Precept: Restoring love for the female servant is in accord with the divine will for humanity (brings with it a blessing). Consider the following seven Manyoshu poems written by Japanese women or by mourning widowers just prior to Kobo Daishi’s generation.

As you come and go on the field
Of Murasaki,
The Royal Field,
May not the watchman see you
Waving your sleeve to me?

Princess Nukata (668 ce)

Princess Nukata was taken from her husband Prince Oama, in order to be a consort of Emperor Tenji. Therefore, the poem is for her former husband longing to see her again.

Sending my dear brother
Back to Yamato
I stood as the night wore on
Till wet with the dew of dawn.

Princess Oku (661-701)

Princess Oku wrote this Tanka for her brother Prince Otsu who was falsely accused and executed. She was priestess of the Imperial Shrine of Ise. Prince Otsu came to visit her there, but had to return him to his executioners at Iware:

Today seeing the mallards
Calling on the pond at Iware
For the last time
Must I go away into the clouds?

Prince Otsu (written just prior to his execution on September 3, 686)

Taking the route through Fusuma
I have left my dear one On Hikide Mountain.
As I trudge back down the path
I feel as though I am not alive.

Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (690 ce, while missing his wife)

Each time I see the plum tree
That my beloved wife planted
My heart swells within me
And the tears run down.

Otomo no Tabito (655-731; in memory of his wife he lost in 728)

If only at the moment of our meeting
After I have longed and longed for you,
Pour out all your words of love
If you wish our love to last.

Lady Otomo of Sakanoue (8th Century)

Would that a fire from heaven
Would pull up the long road
You must travel,
Roll it up
And burn it to ashes.

Sano no Chigami (In the 730s her husband, Nakatomi no Yakamori
was sent into exile because the court was against their marriage)

Japan of Kobo Daishi was under constant threat of attack by sea. As a result there were frontier guards sent to watch to coastlines. Perhaps the most compelling evidence that Kobo Daishi picked specific Chinese Characters to enable precepts to be read in the Hiragana syllables is this the 5th Hiragana Precept: As sure as waves arrive on the shore, do not lower your guard. And these are three Manyoshu poems written by frontier guards.

“Whose husband is going
As a Frontier Guard?”
Someone asks without a care.
How I envy her!

(8th Century; the wife of a Frontier Guard)

I have left them behind
Crying inconsolably,
Clinging to the hem of my garment
My motherless children.

Osata no Toneri Oshima (755, Frontier Guard)

My wife must be missing me sorely.
Her reflection appears
Even in the water I drink.
I cannot forget her
For a single moment.

Wakayamatobe no Mimaro (755, Frontier Guard)


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