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The Kurama Yama Connection
Part 3- The
Kurama-Kokyo sect & The Reiki Symbols...
Copyright © 2003 James Deacon

The Kurama-Kokyo Sect
On numerous websites you will read extracts from a tourist information leaflet about Kurama, the Kurama-Kokyo sect (who control the Kurama-dera Temple Complex) - and about their beliefs and symbolism concerning their Supreme Deity: 'Sonten'.

For the Kurama-Kokyo, the deities Mao-son, Bishamon-ten, and Senju-Kannon [or Senju-Kanzeon] are seen as symbols of the universal soul, forming the triune deity which they call: ‘Sonten’.
Mao-son is seen as representing the power of Sonten, Bishamon-ten is seen as representing the light of Sonten, and Senju-Kannon - the love of Sonten.

In recent years, many people have attempted to make a connection between Usui-Sensei, the Reiki Shirushi (symbols), and the doctrine of the Kurama-Kokyo sect - some even going so far as to claim that the Kurama-Kokyo sect was the original source for Reiki, or at least, an influencing factor in the origin of Reiki.

One of the things that many have latched onto is the Kurama-Kokyo's use of certain symbols in connection with the Mao-son - Bishamon-ten - Senju-Kannon trinity.

'Seed' Characters & Reiki Shirushi
However, in itself, this use of symbols is nothing out of the ordinary. In Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, each deity (Buddha, Bodhisattva, Myo-o, etc) - and each of the Five Elements - has its associated symbol - known as a shuji ( 'seed' character): a particular character from the 'Siddham' form of the Sanscrit script.

This shuji is held to be
the 'sacred sign' of the given deity, and is regarded as itself possessing the divine grace and power of that deity.

Amongst other things, a deity's shuji is essentially perceived as a single-character depiction of the sacred mantra of the deity, and as such invokes the merit associated with the fukushu or recital/repetition of that mantra

Now, in what would seem to be a combination of, on one hand, an almost desperate attempt to make connections to the Sonten doctrine and, on the other, a very superficial approach to research, many people - either after viewing images of
Kurama-Kokyo's San-Mon Shrine (or having visited Kurama Yama in person) have jumped to some slightly misguided conclusions concerning the origins of the Reiki shirushi and Reiki itself.

It is now widely accepted that the Reiki shirushi: SHK ('mental-emotional' symbol
) is almost certainly derived from the shuji: 'kiriku' (pronounced somewhere between: 'k'rik' and 'k'lik') ['hrih' in the original Sanscrit].

Noting that at the San-mon Shrine, the shuji kiriku is plainly visible as the symbol of Senju-Kannon, many, it seems have, without further investigation, leapt to the conclusion that, as Senju-Kannon is presented in the Kurama-Kokyo doctrine as being an element or attribute of their Sonten deity, then, as Kiriku is the symbol of Senju-Kannon, the Sonten religion must be the original source of the SHK symbol - and therefore probably also the source of some of Usui-Sensei's spiritual ideas!

And when they discover that the term Dai Ko Myo is sometimes applied to Sonten, well...!
[Of course, the point that 'Dai Ko Myo' refers to the 'great illuminating wisdom' of deity - and can be properly be applied to each and every Butsu, Bosatsu or other Enlightened Being - is one that is completely missed!]

Some, it seems, have even attempted to make a connection between the symbolic meanings of the shuji of Mao-son (in Japanese: 'un', Sanscrit: 'hum') and Bishamonten (Japanese: 'vai') and the CKR and HSZSN shirushi respectively - something made all the more confusing as many Reiki-related websites misrepresent the Mao-son shuji (which is, admittedly actually a variant form of the more common version of 'un') as being: "..an older form of the 'om' symbol..." (the Sanscrit 'om' is 'on' in Japanese).

more commonly used form of 'un'
'on' ('om')
Bishamonten 'vai'

However, in Japanese Buddhist tradition, the allocation of shuji to deities is not a simple and clear-cut process. Certain deities have more than one shuji: each representing a different form or set of attributes of that given deity, and - just to confuse matters even more - deities with similar attributes can sometimes share one or more shuji in common.

shuji kiriku is indeed a symbol of the Bodhisattva Senju-Kannon - and not just in Kurama-Kokyo doctrine.

Yet it is first and foremost the 'spiritual emblem' of
Amida Butsu - Buddha of Infinite Light & Life - (referred to as Amida Nyorai in esoteric tradition).

[And of course it is claimed by some that Usui-Sensei was a Tendai Buddhist all his life, and in particular a devotee of Amida.]

While kiriku is also allotted (in a secondary sense) to
Senju-Kannon - it is essentially because this male Bodhisattva shares some of the attributes of Amida Butsu, and is seen as one of Amida's attendants.
Elsewhere, the shuji of Senju-Kannon can often be seen depicted in the following stylised form [perhaps to distinguish it from the shuji of Amida?]:

Senju-Kannon Bosatsu   Amida Butsu

But attempts to connect Usui-Sensei, Reiki and the Kurama-Kokyo doctrine do not stop with confusion concerning the shuji.

Kurama-Kokyo Reiki
Recently we have even begun to hear about 'Kurama-Kokyo Reiki' - which claims to be "the original system of Reiki using the ancient Japanese symbols rediscovered by Usui-Sensei during his meditation on Kurama Yama..." and includes the 4 'Kurama-Kokyo Reiki' symbols, a secret mantra said to have been used by Usui-Sensei, a secret Japanese mantra that activates all symbols, and the prayer used by 'Masters' ( - presumably the Senior Priests??) of the Kokyo sect's Hondon Temple on Kurama Yama...

However, something overlooked by the teachers of this 'Kurama-Kokyo Reiki', and by many other Reiki practitioners is this: during Usui-Sensei's lifetime, the Temple Complex on Kurama Yama was under the control of the Tendai Sect (yet, admittedly, visited by monks and lay practitioners of many different sects).

It was not until 1949 - almost a quarter of a century after Usui Sensei's death - that it passed to the control of the then newly founded, Sonten-worshipping, Kurama-Kokyo sect.

This simple fact, to my mind at least, somewhat negates the theory of a connection between Usui Sensei and the Kurama-Kokyo sect - particularly the claim that the Kurama-Kokyo sect was either the original source for Reiki, or at least, an influencing factor in the origin of Reiki...


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