Kurama Yama Connection
Part 1 - Deities of the Sacred Mountain...
© 2003 James Deacon
was Kurama Yama (Horsesaddle Mountain) - situated on the northern
outskirts of Kyoto - where, it is said, Usui-Sensei carried out
his 21-day meditation, and on the 21st day experienced the phenomenon
that is Reiki.
Kurama Yama (which is apparently not the mountain's original name),
as is the case with most Japanese mountains, is considered a holy
place for followers of both Buddhism and Shinto alike. It also
has a strong historical connection with bujutsu - the Martial
The main temple complex at Kurama Yama is referred to as the 'Kurama-dera'
According to a leaflet produced by the Kurama Temple, some
six million years ago, Mao-son came to earth from the planet Venus.
But the leaflet only tells a part of the tale...
In an ancient legend, we hear how a meteorite from Venus
streaked across the sky, and having broken in three, fell to earth
One section of the meteorite landed in Kumano - in the prefecture
of Wakayama, another on Takamikura Yama*
in Banshu, and the third section fell to the north of Kyoto, on
Kurama Yama. It was this latter section of the meteorite which
came to be enshrined as the kami: 'Mao-son'
(the 'Great King of the Conquerors of Evil and the Spirit of the
Since then, it is said, Mao-sons powerful spirit has
been emanating from Kurama Yama, governing
the development and the evolution of mankind and all other living
things on Earth.
apparently has another side to his nature. It has long been believed
that, while bestowing divine protection on those who co-perate
with him, Mao-son destroys those who oppose him.]
small shrine, high on the mountain, is called the 'Okunoin Mao-den',
and to the rear of the shrine, behind an iron fence, is an old
cedar tree in which the spirit of Mao-son (also referred to as
gohomaoson) is believed to reside.
piece of the meteor is called Kimon Reiseki (or Kuki
Mitamaishi). It was deified as the kami: 'Konjin',
and during the Edo period, was worshipped at Kukimitama Shrine
in Ayabe. ]
Temple itself was founded in 770 by the
monk Gantei, who, led by a white horse, climbed this holy mountain
and was enlightened with the realization of Bishamon-ten (God
of War and Warriors, the scourge of evil-doers - also called
The '-ten' part of the name indicates that Bishamon-ten is one
of the gods of the 'twelve directions': guardians of the four
quarters and four semi-quarters, up and down, and the sun and
- the guardian of the Northern Quarter - was regarded as a powerful
protector of the city of Kyoto (which, up to the beginning of
the Meiji Era, was the capital of Japan), defending it from evil
coming from the north.
Later, in 796, the chief officer in
charge of the construction of the Toji Temple, received a vision
of Senju-Kannon Bosatsu (also Senju-Kanzeon Bosatsu ) - the
thousand-armed form of the Bodhisattva Kannon - and built further
and pagodas on the mountain.
Amida & Fudo
Other familiar deities at Kurama Yama include Amida Butsu -
of Infinite Light & Life - (referred to as Amida Nyorai
in esoteric tradition), whose giant statue can be found at the
base of Kurama Yama; and Fudo Myo-o - the Immovable One - patron
of the Martial Arts who is said to dwell deep in the mountains.
The image of Fudo Myo-o is enshrined in the Sojoga-dani Fudo
Do (Fudo Hall) high
up in the mountains some distance above the Kurama Dera itself.
Usually portrayed as livid blue in color with a fierce expression
teeth bared and with angry eyes - and
sitting on a rock surrounded by flames, Fudo Myo-o brandishes
a sword in his right hand, and holds a rope in his left. It
is said he aids his devotees by defeating the obstacles and
devils which hinder their practice of the Dharma. Entering into
a flame-emitting meditation ('kasho zammai') Fudo exudes
fire and destroys all karmic hindrances.
Besides the kami Mao-son, Kurama Yama is of course home
to innumerable other kami - the numinous spirits of Shinto,
and shrines to these deities abound. For example, the Kibune-jinja
shrine is dedicated to the god of water, and the Yui no Yashiro
("Binding Shrine") is dedicated to the god of marriage.
Also strongly associated with Kurama Yama are the legendary
Originally, Tengu were depicted as bird-like beings, but over
time came to take on more human-like form, yet retaining wings
and crow-like heads,
with red faces and long noses.
Described as 'forest goblins' by some, the Tengu are the guardians
the mountainous regions, and highly skilled in the martial arts.
They are said to be possessed of supernatural powers including
shape-shifting, the ability to move instantly from place to
speak without moving their mouths, and
the power to appear uninvited in peoples dreams.
Tengu are also said to have mastery over rain and wind and to
be responsible for mysterious lights seen in the mountains.
only are they said to be skilled warriors,
but the Tengu are also mischief makers, and are especially prone
to playing tricks on vainglorious
monks and priests.
Likewise they take it on themselves to punish those who willfully
misuse knowledge and authority to gain fame or further their
position. The have a great dislike for braggarts, and for those
who would corrupt the Dharma (law).
Buddhist temples, shrines and monasteries are often said to
be guarded by Tengu, and while Bishamon-ten
is considered the original deity at the
Kurama Temple Complex - it is believed that the most holy image
in the temple (rarely
ever revealed to public view) is a statue
of a winged, human-like figure, with a red face, a white beard,
and holding a fan in his hand -in other words, a Tengu.
Kurama Yama Connection, part 2 - Shugyo Discipline