The New International Encyclopædia/Kōbō Daishi
KOBO DAISHI, kō'bṓ dī'shḗ (Sinico-Japanese, Great Teacher, who Spreads Abroad the Law). The posthumous title of one Ku-Kai, a noted Buddhist saint of Japan, and the founder of the sect known there as Shingon, or ‘True Words.’ In 1898 its temples numbered 12,807. He was miraculously conceived, and many wonderful tales are told of him. He was born in the Province of Sanuki in 774, went to school in Kioto in 788. Dissatisfied with Confucian teaching, he entered into relations with the Buddhists, was admitted a priest in 793, receiving then the name of Ku-Kai, which means ‘Space and Sea,’ and in 795 became Abbot of To-ji, in Kioto. In 804 he was sent to China by the Government as a student; became a disciple there of a priest of the Vogachara or Tantra school, whose mystic doctrines he imbibed and later introduced into Japan, to which he had returned in 806. He built several monasteries, the most famous of which is that of Koya-san. in Kiushiu, about 50 miles from Osaka. In 835 he died in a sitting posture in the presence of his disciples, who had been summoned for the occasion, and was carried in this posture to his vaulted grave. The title of Kobodaishi was conferred on him by the Mikado in 921. He is said to have invented the I-ro-ha, or Japanese syllabary of 47 letters, and he introduced the system of doctrine which is known as Riohu Shinto, in which he reconciled, or attempted to reconcile, Confucianism, Shinto, and Buddhism, contending that he had received a revelation from the ‘food-producing god’ at Isé (q.v.); that the native Shinto deities were merely manifestations of Buddha in a previous state of existence. Consult: Griffis, The Religions of Japan (New York, 1895), and Satow, “The Revival of Pure Shinto,” in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. iii., Appendix (Yokohama, 1875).