Role of Bodhicitta in Buddhist Enlightenment Including a Translation Into English of Bodhicitta-Sastra,benkemmitsu-Nikyoron, and Sammaya-Kaijo

Author: White, Kenneth R.
This book contains the first complete translation and interpretation of two of the works of K?kai (744–845), the founder of the Japanese Shingon School of Buddhism. As an element of Mah?y?na Buddhist thought, bodhicitta ('enlightenment mind') is integral to an accurate understanding of the quest for Buddhist enlightenment. With the development of theories of this process, bodhicitta came to serve as that impetus urging a practitioner to engage himself in practice aiming at not merely individual release from samsara in an effort to attain nirvana, but also in other-oriented compassionate acts, the embodiment of which is the bodhisattva. This important interaction with, and responsibility for, others in the enlightenment process was particularly integral to the formulation of the ethical basis for East Asian Buddhism.

As discussion of the possibilities available to sentient beings engaged in various ritual practices and devotions progressed, the notion arose that they were actual partakers in Buddha-nature, with the potential of attaining Buddhahood. That sentient beings could even think of such a notion was indeed a radical departure from the doctrines of early Buddhism.

It was perhaps K?kai, in his Shingon Buddhist doctrine, who took this notion to its fullest extent as he forwarded his scheme of actual integration between man and Buddha, facilitated by means of specifically directed practice, including activities of body, speech and mind. Such integration was not merely a philosophical phenomenon, but was viewed as a tangible and very immediate process. This immediacy is typified in the statement adopted by K?kai indicating that one could even 'be a Buddha in this very body' (sokushin-j?butsu), eliminating the necessity for countless rebirths.

K?kai saw his unique Shingon doctrine and practice as not merely an addition to Mah?y?na Buddhist thought and Japanese Buddhist ritual, but rather as the distillation of all that Buddhist doctrine had been hinting at and attempting to explain. He took it to constitute the effective essence of Mah?y?na Buddhism, emphasizing the important notion that Buddhahood is a possibility for all. Two of K?kai's original works, Benkemmitsu-niky?ro and Sammaya-kaijo, as well as the Bodhicitta-??stra, a text from which he often quoted, constitute the foundation of his sokushin-j?butsu thought, and are elucidating in an analysis of the development of his bodhicitta view.


“That the doctrines of bodhicitta and the teachings of K?kai both occupy a central place in the development and history of Mah?y?na Buddhism is a matter that hardly warrants asserting. Even further, it is well understood that K?kai made the doctrine of bodhicitta central to his interpretation of the Chinese Chen-yen, or esoteric school of Buddhism. Given this, it is surprising that K?kai’s interpretation of bodhicitta has as yet received relatively little scholarly attention, particularly in English language sources … What we need then are more works such as this one that delve deeply into specific interpretations of bodhicitta. Such works not only help us fill the missing pieces in our historical knowledge of the concept, they advance our knowledge of key thinkers like K?kai as well … What we have then in this work by Kenneth White is precisely the sort of investigation and translation effort that helps us more fully understand these and related matters. Accordingly, this effort will certainly be a welcome addition to the range of scholarly material available on these topics and, I expect, will stimulate further fruitful inquiry." – (from the Commendatory Preface) Dirck Vorenkamp, Lawrence University

“This work is a skillfully crafted treatment of a complex but enormously important topic in Buddhist philosophy.…White accomplishes the dual achievement of informing the reader of the history and philosophy of bodhicitta, while substantially contributing to a growing body of materials on K?kai accessible to the English reading audience. Due to both the celebrity of K?kai and the accessibility White brings to this otherwise difficult subject, this work is destined to appeal to a wide audience of East Asian specialists and non-specialists alike. Likely, the largest group of these will be students and scholars of religions seeking to understand the specifics of esoteric philosophy. Those readers will find in addition to in-depth explanations of bodhicitta and K?kai's uses of that concept, three valuable English translations of scriptures on the subject.…Those of us in the academic field of Buddhist Studies often grapple with disparities among philosophical theses, ascetic practices and acts carried out by Buddhists out of compassion. Sammaya-kaiyo is valuable as a seminal work bridging these aspects of the Buddhist dynamic. Students of classical Chinese language will find these translations to be of exceptional quality. For them, White has included the Chinese texts." – Ronald S. Green, Associate, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Table of Contents

Preface by Dirck Vorenkamp
1. General Historical Context of Bodhicitta Thought
2. History and Development of the Bodhicitta Concept
3. Shingon Interpretation of Bodhicitta
4. The Cultivation of Bodhicitta in K?kai's Shingon
5. The Role of Bodhicitta in Bodhisattva Practice
6. Conclusion
7. Bodhicitta-??stra
8. Benkemmitsu-niky?ron
9. Sammaya-kaijo
Glossary of Technical Terms