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The Kurama Yama Connection
Part 1 - Deities of the Sacred Mountain...
Copyright © 2003 James Deacon

It 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 Arts.

The main temple complex at Kurama Yama is referred to as the 'Kurama-dera'

(no Kami)
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 in Japan.
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 Earth')
Since then, it is said, Mao-son’s powerful spirit
has been emanating from Kurama Yama, governing the development and the evolution of mankind and all other living things on Earth.
Mao-son 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.]

Mao-son's 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.

[*The Takamikura 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. ]

he Kurama-dera 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 moon.
Bishamon-ten - 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.

Senju-Kannon Bosatsu
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 temples and pagodas on the mountain.

Amida & Fudo
Other familiar deities at Kurama Yama include Amida Butsu
- Buddha 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.

Shinto Deities
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 Tengu.
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 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
Not only are they said to be skilled warriors, but the Tengu are also mischief makers, and are especially prone to playing tricks on vainglorious and arrogant 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.


The Kurama Yama Connection, part 2 - Shugyo Discipline


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