The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Kobo

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KOBO, kō-bō, the Cadmus, Philo and Euhemenis of Japan, all in one. The posthumous title of the Buddhist priest Kukai (koo-kigh), to whom is attributed the invention of the Japanese syllabary i ro ha, of 47 letters. He proposed and carried out the scheme, by which Shintoism (q.v.) was occulted and swallowed up in Buddhism. In 804 he went to China to study under the most renowned masters. On his return in 806 he excelled all by his erudition and eloquence, and founded the Shingun, or Sect of the True Word, which makes use of verbal formula to a remarkable extent. According to its tenets, a believer can attain to the state of the Enlightened, or Buddhahood, while in the body of flesh and blood. After a revelation from the gods at Isé, the most sacred of the Shinto shrines, he came forth to baptize all the native gods as avatärs, or manifestations of Buddha, giving them new Buddhistic names, while for every Shinto festival he arranged a corresponding Buddhist saint's or gala day. He thus provided both for the scholars and the common people. He sent forth his pupils to preach the new theology, which soon captured the whole nation, thus establishing for a thousand years Ryobu, or mixed Shinto. In 816 he built on Mount Koya one of the most splendid temples in the empire. In 921 Kukai was canonized by the emperor, under the name of Kobo Daishi (the Great Teacher, who promulgates the law). The popular legends concerning Kobo's amazing powers of learning, writing, literary accomplishments and painting from the favorite subjects of the art of Hokusai (q.v.) and other artists. Consult Reischauer, ‘Studies in Japanese Buddhism’ (1918), and Griffis, ‘The Religions of Japan’ (1895).