Japanese Dakini

SEARCH     Home     Site Map    Symbolism    Calendar     Karmapa     News    DONATE

There is not much concerning Dakini teachings in the Buddhism of Japan, since most of the esoteric teachings brought to Japan by Kukai (a.k.a. Kobo Daishi) are of the lower tantra type, i.e. single form.  That may be because Kukai left China after only two years of practice, and it may not have been not long enough for him to have received any higher Vajrayana teachings. 

According to Kojien, the term dakini-ten refers to a female demon who devours the hearts of the dead.  This unbound spirit affords extraordinary powers to those engaged in the practice of  "black" magic.  

The White Fox

Inari are spirit or nature deities similar to the Indian yaksha.  Their shrines are numerous and can be distinguished by the pair of fox statues that guard the  entrance.   One theory is that the Inari became syncretized with dakini-ten.  Dakini-ten were generally associated with Daikoku-ten (Mahakala,) understood as the same as the god of the Five Cereals of Buddhism.  This dakini had as its "messenger" a white fox.  Worshipers offer fried soybean curd at Inari shrines, a food which is believed to be a favorite of foxes.

In Japan, then, the dakini is only understood to be a fox spirit, a were-fox. At the shrine Chiba-narita, a Dakiniten festival is held in February.

Tamamo-no Mae is the Japanese name of a mysterious female tantric adept who at one time was the consort of an Indian king.  Later, she became the concubine of Emperor Toba (1103-1156,) but she was believed to actually be a nine-tailed golden fox.  When the Emperor suddenly fell sick with a serious illness, she was blamed.  It is said that when her true identity was discovered, she sprang into the air and flew off to the Plain of Nasu where she was shot by the archer, Miura Kuranosuke.  (Some say she was struck by the "hammer"  of one of the gods.)  When she fell to earth, she assumed the form of a rock subsequently known as sessho seki  or the death stone, for any living thing that came into contact with it died.

" ... the play called "Tamamo no Mae asahi no tamoto" written by three playwrights for the puppet (jŰruri) theater and first staged in 1751. It was later revised and restaged in 1806 in Osaka, and it is the latter version that is better known today. ...  a good synopsis of the play [is] in The Bunraku Handbook by Shuzaburo Hironaga, Maison des Arts Inc., Tokyo, Japan, 1976, pp. 369-373 ... . 

Lady Tamamo is a nine-tailed fox who kills a young woman of the Emperorís court, assumes her identity, and gains employment as a lady-in-waiting. She soon becomes the Emperorís favorite concubine, but then later joins a prince who plots to dethrone the Emperor and agrees to use her supernatural powers to aid him. When the Emperor becomes ill, the chief astrologer of the court accuses her of having an evil influence and causing the illness. 

Tamamo no Mae survives the trial, but later during a prayer to assist the Emperor, the astrologer cleverly uncovers her true identity. She then takes back her fox form and flees. During her escape Tamamo no Mae assumes various forms (a country girl, a masseur, a god of thunder, a man, a street girl, a courtesan, and once again Lady Tamamo)." 

~ John Fiorillo, in response to a message board query. Edited here.


Dictionary considered the authority in Japan.

Japanese Buddhist legend tells of kitsune who disguise themselves as nuns wearing traditional robes .


Home ] Up ] Valkyrie ] Chinese Dakini ] [ Japanese Dakini ]
Copyright 1998-2018 Khandro.Net All rights reserved. This Web site is designed with Firefox as browser but should be accessible to others. However,  if you eliminate underlining in your Preferences you could miss some of our links.