湯殿山総本寺 大日坊
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Yudonosan Dainichibo
Yudonosan ranks with Ise and Kumano as one of the three great sacred places in Japan. From ancient times, it was called the “unspeakable mountain”, and there was a strict religious commandment forbidding anyone to speak of the sacredness of Yudonosan.
Dainichibo was founded in the second year of Daido (AD 807) by Kukai Kobo-Daishi*1. The correct title of the temple is Yudonosan-Ryusuiji-Kongoin, and in fact, “Dainichibo” is the main hall of the temple though we usually recognize it as the generic name of the temple.
In the 19th year of Keicho (AD 1614), Kongoin-Ryusuiji was dedicated as an inner shrine of Ise. Dainichi-Nyorai (Mahavirocana) was enshrined in Dainichibo where many priests belonged, and Dainichibo flourished as the main hall of the temple.
Since women used to be forbidden to visit Yudonosan, Kukai Kobo-Daishi founded this temple for them to worship Yudonosan-Daigongen*2 out of pity. This is the beginning of the temple, Yudonosan-Dainichibo.
The temple has suffered a number of misfortunes such as Haibutsu-Kishaku*3, a fire, and a landslide, but has continued to maintain its religious traditions for 1,200 years. Today the chief prieast covers 95 generations.

*1 The founder of Shingon Sect. (774 〜 835)

*2 Yudonosan-Daigongen : The union of Dainichi-Nyorai and Amaterasu-Omi-no-Kami

*3 A policy formulated by Meiji Government to reject all Buddhism
Daijuku Bosatsu Shinnyokai-Shonin
Daijuku Bosatsu Shinnyokai-Shonin was born in Ecchuyama (A part of Tsuruoka-city today).
From a very early age, he was attracted by the teachings of Buddhism, and as a young man, he became a believer and entered the Buddhist priesthood, devoting his life to make this society of inequalities into a Buddhist paradise. Vowing to help all mankind, he put his faith in Yudonosan-Daigongen*1, and he strove for enlightenment in all areas using Yudonosan-Dainichibo as his base.
From his twenties he aspired to become Sokushin-butsu*2, and joined the religious austerities of Mokujiki*3 which he followed for a period of over 70 years.
In the 3rd year of Tenmei (AD 1783), aged 96, he abstained from food except salt and water for 42 days, and finally he drank lacquer sap and was committed alive to the earth. His continued devotions had made him Sokushin-butsu.

*1 Yudonosan-Daigongen : A union of Dainichi-Nyorai and Amaterasu-Omi-no-Kami

*2 Sokushin-butsu : A living Buddha

*3 Mokujiki : Quitting food but nuts

* What is Sokushin-butsu?

Some Yudonosan ascetics practiced Mokujiki which was the strictest asceticism. After a long series of asceticism, they were buried alive meditating in a wooden box, and were dug up and cleansed by their pupils and believers after 1,000 days later. They remained the same as before they were buried, and it means they succeeded to be Sokushin-butsu.

The main reason why they tried to be Sokushin-butsu was to help all people from poverty and hunger by being living Buddha.
Actually it was while the big famine in Tenmei period (1781 〜 1789) that Shinnyokai-Shonin made up his mind to be Sokushin-butsu.
In addition, it is said that Kukai Kobo-Daishi himself has been Sokushin-butsu and is still enshrined in Koyasan. Yudonosan ascetics followed Kukai’s faith to be Sokushin-butsu, and this is why all Yudonosan Sokushin-butsu has a letter “海”(kai) in their names.
Kiganji of Tokugawa Shogunate
In the 8th year of Keicho (AD 1603), Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Edo Shogunate. Two years later, he retired to Sumpu Castle, making his son, Hidetada his successor as Shogun. Ofuku (Kasuga-no-Tsubone), who was appointed the official wet nurse on the birth of Takechiyo, Hidetada’s son in 1604, became a major influence ruling O-Oku (the inner palace).
The ostensible reason for Ofuku’s visit in supplication to Yudonosan and the statue of Dainichi-Nyorai(Mahavirocana) which was made by Kukai Kobo-Daishi and the principle image of Yudonosan-Dainichibo was for recovery from illness of Hidetada, but in fact, a desperate and secret supplication was made to strengthen Takechiyo physically and establish him as the successor to the Shogunate. As a result, Takechiyo became the third Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu.
Kasuga-no-Tsubone donated the statue of Dainichi-Nyorai to Yudonosan-Dainichibo, and since then, it was recognized as one of the seven Kiganji (Temples of Supplication) located through Japan under the patronage of the Tokugawa-Shogunate.
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