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Ākāśagarbha statue in Jingo-ji, 9th century

Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva (Sanskrit: आकाशगर्भ बोधिसत्त्व; traditional Chinese: 虛空藏菩薩; pinyin: Xūkōngzàng Púsà; Korean: 허공장보살; Japanese: Kokūzō Bosatsu; Standard Tibetan Namkhé Nyingpo, Wylie: nam mkha'i snying po) is a Mahāyāna bodhisattva who is associated with the great element (mahābhūta) of space (ākāśa).


Painting of Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva. Japan, 13th century

Ākāśagarbha is regarded[who?] as one of the eight great bodhisattvas. His name can be translated as "boundless space treasury" or "void store" as his wisdom is said to be boundless as space itself. He is sometimes known as the twin brother of the "earth store" bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha, and is even briefly mentioned in the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra.

Kūkai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, met a famous monk who is said to have repeatedly chanted a mantra of Ākāśagarbha as a young Buddhist acolyte. Kūkai took a tutorial with him on Kokuzou-Gumonji (a secret doctorine method, 虚空蔵求聞持法).[1] As he chanted the mantra, he experienced a vision whereby Ākāśagarbha told him to go to China to seek understanding of the Mahāvairocana Abhisaṃbodhi Sūtra.[2] Later he would go to China to learn Esoteric Buddhism from Huiguo, and then go on to found the Shingon school in Japan.


Two Mahāyāna sūtras are known to survive in which Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva is a central figure:

  • 《虛空藏菩薩經》 (Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva Sūtra)
  • 《虛空藏菩薩神咒經》 (Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva Dhāraṇī Sūtra)

Additionally, he appears briefly in the final chapter of the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sūtra, requesting that the Buddha preach on the benefits of praising that sutra, and of Kṣitigarbha.[3]


The mantra of Ākāśagarbha is popularly used by Shingon Buddhists, Chinese Buddhists following esoteric practices, and by artists. It is believed to give rise to wisdom and creativity, and dispel ignorance.[4]

  • Chinese: Namo Xukongzang Pusa
  • Korean: Namu Heogongjang Bosal
  • Vietnamese: Nam Mo Hu Khong Tang Bo Tat
  • Translation: Homage to Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva

Another mantra also exists for Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva:

  • Sanskrit: namo ākāśagarbhāya oṃ ārya kamari mauli svāhā
  • Chinese: 南牟,阿迦捨,揭婆耶,唵,阿唎,迦麼唎,慕唎,莎訶!
  • Japanese pronunciation: nōbō akyasha kyarabaya on arikya mari bori sowaka
  • Translation: In the name of ākāśa-garbhāya Om Flower-Garland Lotus-Crown may it be accomplished

Tantric rituals surrounding Ākāśagarbha are only given to students initiated in esoteric Buddhist lineages by an approved teacher.[citation needed] Currently the Chinese (Hanmi) Esoteric School is teaching his tantric ritual to the general public.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


Visser, M. W. de. The Bodhisattva Akasagarbha (Kokuzo) in China and Japan, Amsterdam: The Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, 1931.


  1. ^ Koya-san Fudoin 高野山不動院
  2. ^ Abe, Ryuichi (1999). The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse. Columbia University Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-231-11286-6. 
  3. ^ Shih, Tao-tsi. The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Vows (2nd ed.). Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada. pp. 89–93. 
  4. ^ The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

External links[edit]