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2003 dissertation, UW-Madison, Buddhist Studies. A study of the life of the Kūkai (774-822), known posthumously by the honorific title Kōbō Daishi (Great Teacher who Propagated the Dharma). Kūkai is best known as the founder of Japanese Shingon Tantric Buddhism. The study is based primarily on writings attributed to him and his immediate followers and secondarily on early legends (those apparently dating from the Heian period) as identified by modern researchers. These writings show that Kūkai was involved in a variety of social activities. In some instances I have attempted to understand the socio-political intention of Kūkai’s biographers, his followers and others. However, I devote more time to interpreting the biographical stories and Kūkai’s words in light of their literary, iconographic and religious images. I have based a large part of my own interpretations on modern iconographic guides, various encyclopedias and dictionaries of Buddhism. In addition to exploring the specifics of Kūkai’s religious practices based on those early writings, I point to the amount of time and effort he spent on other activities, based on those same writings, and examine the nature of these activities. Such activities include writing poems, compiling poetry anthologies and works of literary theory. The early writings indicate Kūkai must have also spent much time on fundraising and administrative tasks at various temples around Japan as well as charitable activities such as overseeing the building of ponds.


OCLC: 53304305.