|WikiProject Buddhism||(Rated Stub-class)|
|WikiProject Japan / Mythology||(Rated Stub-class, Mid-importance)|
Historical Notes. Akasagarbha (Japanese - Bodhisattva Kokuzo) is described in the Kokuzo Sutra (Jp. = Kokuzo Bosatsu Kyo) as one who removes obstacles, one who helps people recognize and overcome their errors, and one who encourages the practice of the Six Perfections (Sanskrit = Paramita). Kokuzo's central role in the esoteric rite to improve one's memory is described in the Gumonjihou (Jp.). The Six Perfections are:
charity morality forbearance effort meditation wisdom
Kokuzo was introduced to Japan in the late Nara period (645-794 AD) as part of a special rite to improve one's memory -- hence, Kokuzo's reputation even today is that of a deity who bestows intelligence on devotees.
Kokuzo can appear in many different forms. In sculpture, Kokuzo's role as bestower of wishes means that Kokuzo is shown frequently holding the wish-granting jewel. In another variant, Kokuzo holds a lotus stem surmounted with the sacred wish-giving gem. In another popular representation, Kokuzo holds a sword to symbolize wisdom cutting through ignorance. Kokuzo is sometimes depicted with a hand gesture known as the Wish-Granting Mudra (Jp. = Yoganin; Skt. = Varada). This mudra represents the granting of wishes to those who welcome the Buddhist teachings. At other times, Kokuzo is portrayed with the "Fear Not" Mudra, a gesture that symbolizes the granting of protection to Buddhist followers.
Kokuzo symbolizes the "vast and boundless" Buddha wisdom that permeates the universe. Believers pray to Kokuzo to grant them wisdom on their quest toward enlightenment. In Japan, Kokuzo is also venerated for the ability to fulfill wishes. In particular, people pray to Kokuzo to improve their memory, technical skills, and artistic talents, for Kokuzo is revered not only as the wisdom-bestowing Bodhisattva, but as the protector of craftspeople and artisans.