Chuin School (中院流)

Chuin School is one of the sects of the Shingon Buddhism (Tomitsu) that places emphasis on jiso (one of Buddhism practical trainings). The founder is Meizan (1021-1106), an Ajari, or master, of Chuin school of esoteric Buddhism. It is a school belonging to the Ono school of Buddhist thought. Although it is a leading school in the Mount Koya tradition of esoteric Buddhism, it is not included in the Yataku Konpon Juniryu (12 schools of Hirosawa School and Ono School).

Refer to "Shingon Buddhism" for definition of jiso in Shingon sect.


Meizan devoted greater energy into the restoration of Mount Koya under Joyo of Koyasan (known as Kishin Shonin or Jikyo Shonin, titles for a Buddhist high priest). After Joyo's death, Meizan studied under Seison from the Ono School. Residing in the Chuin (located outside the Naiin) of Mount Koya, Meizan drew a large number of monks wishing to learn jiso from him, due to his extensive knowledge of the hiketsu (esoteric secrets, namely, the methods of learning and protocols related to such methods) that had been handed down from the monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi) to Shinzen.

The Chuin school lineage

Kukai - Shinga - Gennin - Shobo - Kangen - Junyu - Gango - Ningai - Seison - Meizan

Shidokegyo (Four Trainings) of the Chuin School

To earn denpo-kanjo (the consecration for the Transmission of the Dharma) at Mount Koya, the Shidokegyo (Four Trainings) based on the Chuin School is conducted at a Shingon temple in Mount Koya (or at the kegyo dojo [Daibosatsuin Temple] when held at Koyasan University or even at Koyasan Shingon temple located outside Mount Koya). Today, the Chuin school commonly combines Shidokegyo with Rishukyobo (Principle of wisdom sutra)-kegyo discipline. In addition, Goshinpo (self-defense)-kegyo may be conducted previous to Shidokegyo at some temples, based on their respective study protocols. Most of the temples on Mount Koya conducts denpo-kanjo.

Shidokegyo is a term used in the Shingon sect and schools other than Chuin also conducted Shidokegyo, but there may be some differences in discipline or sequence. In addition, Shidokegyo is an essential for every Shingon monks and is a basic method in esoteric Buddhist discipline. Furthermore, Shingon monks must go through tokudo (entry into Buddhist priesthood) and jukai (receiving of the religious precepts) to reach Shidokegyo.

Shidokegyo of the Chuin school takes place four stages, namely Juhachi-do (Eighteen Paths), Kongo-kai (Diamond Realm), Taizo-kai (Womb Realm) and Goma (Fire Ritual), and each stage has Kegyo (trainings) and Shogyo (ascetic practices) disciplines. Denpo-kanjo is granted only after undergoing these four stages, and the qualified person is able to join denppo-kanjo-dan and gain the title of Denpo Ajari.

Honzon (The Image of Buddha Worshipped)

The difference between Chuin and other schools in Shidokegyo practice as an example, the Juhachi-do, which actually is named Juhachido-nenjukubi-shidai, consists of 18 types of mudra (symbolic hand gestures) and shingon (mantras). The image of Buddha worshipped, however, is Dainichi Nyorai for the Chuin school, Nyoirin Kanzeon Bosatsu for Sanpoin school and Ryobu-funi Dainichi Nyorai for the Denboin School.

The principal image of worship during Shidokegyo in the Chuin school is the picture image of Kongokai Dainichi Nyorai alone is enshrined for the stages of Juhachido kegyo and shogyo and Kongokai kegyo. If there is no picture image of Kongokai Dainichi Nyorai alone, the Kongokai Mandala shall be enshrined. The images of Kongokai Dainichi Nyorai, the Statue of Kobodaishi, and Koya Shisha Myojin are enshrined.

During Kongokai-kegyo and Taizokai-kegyo, the principal object of worship is Kongokai Mandala, and during Taizokai-shogyo, Taizo Mandala is the object of worship. However, both are displayed. For Goma-kegyo, Kongokai Dainichi Nyorai and the mandalas of the two realms are displayed. In many cases, the three images are displayed at front and are not changed until reaching the Goma-shogyo stage. The object of worship for Goma-shogyo is the Fudo-myoo (Acala, one of the five Wisdom Kings). The images of the Daishi and the Myojin together are displayed together as in the previous case.

Training process

The Shidokegyo of the Chuin school requires the start of Sho-gyo discipline in the Juhachi-do with worship repeated 108 times (or 21 times) as practice to repent and seek forgiveness of sins and later by raihai-kegyo (kegyo) of chanting the sutra and the mantra. Sho-gyo begins for completion of 'Juhachido-nenju-kubishidai,' which Sho-gyo method of discipline serves as Kegyo for the next stage, Kongokai, which then in turn serves as the Sho-gyo method for Kongokai (Kongokai-nenju-shidai), progressing on similarly to use as Kegyo for Taizokai stage. (With Shogyo in Taizokai used as Shogyokai-nenju-shidai) Kegyo-Shogyo cycle is repeated for a finite number of days until completion of Shogyo in the Goma stage (where the shidai is 'Sokusaigoma-watakushi-shidai-tsuketari-fudo').

However, the reading of the shidai (a book which the method of Shidokegyo or esoteric ritual written) alone does not complete training in each realm of the process. The oral tradition of the Ajari (high priest) which was not written in the shidai is an essential component of the discipline, and the methods based on this oral tradition and contents of the shidai complete mastery in practical training. Those factors split the division of the sect into various schools of Buddhist training.

Recently, it takes generally 84 days for Shidokegyo in the Chuin school. The most simplified Kegyo (shortest) is taken place for 28 days and it may sometimes be for 100 days, therefore the number of days are determined in advance. Previously, the training was conducted over a long duration but it has been revised later that the number of days are determined.

Shidokegyo consists of three training sessions a day, namely, shoya (at seven p.m.), goya (at four a.m.) and nicchu (at ten a.m.), and when it is interrupted, the practice will start from the beginning. In addition, a person during the Shidokegyo training must obey strict rules by performing purification bathing before training, as well as bathing with water for purification after trips to the toilet.

Receiving the teachings of the school
In order to receive practical training (in the Shingon sect), koka-kanjo permission must be granted by the Ajari or master without exception.

In the process of Shidokegyo, although the practical training, which is necessary as a manner for Kegyo is taught, denpo-kanjo is essential for undergoing Ichiryu-denju (initiation of practical training in the Shingon sect) because denpo-kanjo is necessary to receive training in the discipline. After Chuin school's Ichiryu-denju is completed, many monks pursue further advancement in training by studying other teachings over a period of several years (which may vary by monk because each monk have temple affairs to attend to in addition to training) to receive Ichiryu-denju in such schools.

If a monk wishes to learn an esoteric method in other schools, training in the method without going through the entire process is possible. This is called 'Nuki-denju' (partial initiation).

Details of the teachings may be different in each Ajari who will be in charge of teaching. Such difference may occur because, for instance, each Ajari had learned in different schools other than Chuin school. Valuing Menju (person-to-person teaching based on oral communication) in the teaching of practical training is one of the reasons to split into various schools. In the Chuin school, the differences in method details are regarded minor in importance.

Although nearly all monks (temples) at Mount Koya provide training of the Chuin school, there are also some monks who studied under other schools and teaches other teachings to the monks if requested. However, such cases have declined in number today.

[Original Japanese]