Metaphor and maṇḍala in shingon buddhist theology

Sophia 47 (1):43-55 (2008)
Abstract
Buddhist maṇḍala that are made of colored sand or are painted on cloth have been well represented in Asian art circles in the West. Discussions of the role that they can play in stimulating religious contemplation or even as sacred icons charged with power have also appeared in English scholarship. The metaphorical meaning of the term maṇḍala, however, is less commonly referenced. This paper discusses how the founder of the Japanese school of Shingon Buddhism, the Buddhist monk Kūkai of the ninth century, uses this term in a metaphorical sense to convey the transformed nature of awareness that is the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. Emphasis is also placed on the importance of metaphorical thinking to the religious path of transformation itself.
Keywords Shingon  Buddhism  Kūkai  Maṇḍala  Metaphor  Jujushinron  Sokushin-jobutsugi
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