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date: 26 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explicates the philosophy of the body of sixth-century Buddhist thinker Kūkai. Kūkai brings together what initially seem to be opposing concepts: body and emptiness. He does this in the context of formulating a system of cosmology inseparable from religious practice. We interact with the rest of the cosmos through our body. Kūkai characterizes the cosmos in turn as the body of the Buddha, who personifies the embodiment of the dharma. This cosmic body is comprised of myriad bodies through their interactivities, in which we ourselves partake. The interdependence obtains both horizontally (among microcosmic bodies) and vertically (between macrocosm and microcosm). But this interdependent nature of bodies also means emptiness. All bodies are empty of substantiality. Enlightenment is to realize this emptiness of all. An additional factor is language because Kūkai conceives the body as the linguistic medium for communicating that dharma of emptiness.

Keywords: Kūkai, Buddhism, Shingon, Mahayana, body, Buddha, emptiness, dependent origination, mantra, mandala

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