1. Ākāśagarbha

Ākāśagarbha (Japanese pronunciation: Kokūzō Bosatsu; Tibetan: Namkhai Nyingpo) is a Bodhisattva in Chinese, Japanese and Korean Buddhism who is associated with the Great Element (mahābhūta) of Space (ākāśa).

He is also sometimes called Gaganagañja, which means "sky-jewel."

Ākāśagarbha (Japanese: Kokūzō) is an important figure in far eastern Buddhism. His emblems are the Sword and Cintāmaṇi (or wish fulfilling jewel).

He is one of the 8 Great Bodhisattvas.

Ākāśagarbha is very important in the life story of Kūkai, the founder of the Shingon Buddhism in Japan:

As a teenager he met a Buddhist priest who taught him a mantra of Ākāśagarbha known in Japanese as Gumonji-hō, also known as the Morning Star Mantra.

It was in repeating this mantra millions of times that he had some decisive spiritual experiences, including many powerful visions of Ākāśagarbha.

2. Overview

Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva

Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva

Ākāśagarbha is regarded as one of the 8 Great Bodhisattvas.

His name Ākāśa-garbha can be translated as "boundless space treasury" or "void store" as his wisdom is said to be boundless as space itself.

He is sometimes known as the twin brother of the "earth store" Bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha, and is even briefly mentioned in the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrva-praṇidhāna Sūtra.

Kūkai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, met a famous monk who is said to have repeatedly chanted a mantra of Ākāśagarbha as a young Buddhist acolyte.

Kūkai took a tutorial with him on Kokūzō-Gumonji (a secret doctrine method).

As he chanted the mantra, he experienced a vision whereby Ākāśagarbha told him to go to Tang China to seek understanding of the Mahāvairocana Abhisaṁbodhi Sūtra.

Later he would go to China to learn Tangmi from Huiguo, and then go on to found the Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism in Heian Japan.

3. Sūtras

Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva

Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva

There are several Mahāyāna sūtras in which Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva is a central figure:

  1. Ārya Gaganagañja Paripṛcchā Nāma Mahāyāna Sūtra
  2. Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva Sūtra
  3. Buddha Speaks the Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva Dhāraṇī Sūtra
  4. Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva Dhāraṇī Sūtra
  5. Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva Sūtra
  6. The Meditation on Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva Sūtra
  7. The Method of the Victorious, Essential Dhāraṇī for Having Wishes Heard by the Bodhisattva Space-Store Who Can Fulfil Requests
  8. The Method of Invoking the Great Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva
  9. Dhāraṇī of the Space-Store Bodhisattva
  10. Buddha Speaks the Ākāśagarbha Dhāraṇī
  11. The 5 Great Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattvas Sūtra
  12. Ārya Sapta-Buddhaka Sūtra or Dhāraṇī of the Space-Store Bodhisattva’s Questions to 7 Buddhas
  13. Incantation of the Tathāgatas' Skilful Means

Additionally, he appears briefly in the final chapter of the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrva-praṇidhāna Sūtra, requesting the Buddha to preach on the benefits of praising both the Sūtra and Kṣitigarbha.

4. 5 Great Ākāśagarbhas

The 5 Great Ākāśagarbhas are manifestation of the 5 Wisdom Buddhas. They are said to bring about an increase of benefits such as good health.

Within the traditional maṇḍala, they are arranged as follows:

1) Dharmadhātu Ākāśagarbha | Centre | White | Vairocana
2) Vajradhātu Ākāśagarbha | East | Yellow | Akṣobhya
3) Rātnaprabha Ākāśagarbha | South | Blue | Ratnasambhava
4) Padma Ākāśagarbha | West | Red | Amitābha
5) Karma Ākāśagarbha | North | Black | Amoghasiddhi

5. Mantras

Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva

Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva

The Mantra of Ākāśagarbha is popularly used by Shingon Buddhists, Chinese Esoteric Buddhists, and artists.

It is believed to give rise to Wisdom and creativity, and dispel Ignorance.

Japanese: Namu Kokūzō bosatsu
Chinese: Nāmo xūkōngzàng púsà
Korean: Namu Heogongjang Bosal

Translation: Homage to Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva

Ākāśagarbha Buddha is a Buddha who bestows Wisdom through Enlightenment.

The Sanskrit Mantra of Ākāśagarbha is

Oṁ Vajra Ratna Oṁ Trāḥ Svāhā

The Japanese pronunciation of this mantra is:

om bazara aratanno om taraku sowaka

Morning Star Mantra

This mantra is very important in Shingon Buddhism and comes from a text known in Japanese as Kokūzō bosatsu nō man shogan saishō shin darani gumonji hō.

Repeated 1 million times according to the requisite rituals, in a certain time period, one gains the ability to remember and understand any text.

Namo Ākāśagarbhaya Oṁ Ārya Kamari Mauli Svāhā

The Japanese pronunciation of this mantra is:

nōbō akyasha kyarabaya on ari kyamari bori sowaka

Translation: In the name of Ākāśagarbhaya Om Flower-Garland Lotus-Crown may it be accomplished