Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva (Sanskrit: Chinese: 虛空藏菩薩; pinyin: Xūkōngzàng Púsà; Japanese pronunciation: Kokūzō Bosatsu; Korean: 허공장보살; romaja: Heogongjang Bosal, Standard Tibetan Namkha'i Nyingpo, Vietnamese Hư Không Tạng Bồ Tát) is a bodhisattva who is associated with the great element (mahābhūta) of space (ākāśa).
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). As he chanted the mantra, he experienced a vision whereby Ākāśagarbha told him to go to Tang China to seek understanding of the Mahāvairocana Abhisaṃbodhi Sūtra. Later he would go to China to learn Tangmi from Huiguo, and then go on to found the Shingon sect of esoteric buddhism in Heian Japan.
Two Mahayana sutras 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)
The mantra of Ākāśagarbha is popularly used by Shingon Buddhists, practitioners of Tangmi, and by artists. It is believed to give rise to wisdom and creativity, and dispel ignorance.
- Chinese: 南無 虚空藏 菩薩 nāmo xūkōngzàng púsà
- Korean: Namu Heogongjang Bosal
- Vietnamese: Nam mô Hư Không Tạng Bồ Tát
- Translation: Homage to Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva
Another mantra also exists for Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva:
- Sanskrit: namo ākāśagarbhāya oṃ ali kalmali mauli svāhā
- Chinese: 南牟，阿迦捨，揭婆耶，唵，阿唎，迦麼唎，慕唎，莎嚩訶！
- Japanese pronunciation: nōbō akyasha kyarabaya om arikya mari bori sowaka
- Translation: In the name of ākāśa-garbhāya Om Flower-Garland Lotus-Crown may it be accomplished
- Abe, Ryūichi (13 August 2013). The Weaving of Mantra: Kūkai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-52887-0.
- French, Frank G.; Shih, Tao-tsi; Śikṣānanda (2003). The Sutra of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's Fundamental Vows. Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation.
- Thích, Nhất Hạnh (1998). The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy & Liberation : the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Other Basic Buddhist Teachings. Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0-7679-0369-1.
- Visser, M. W. de (1931). The Bodhisattva Akasagarbha (Kokuzo) in China and Japan, Amsterdam: The Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.
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