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Home » 8. Schools, Groups, and Personalities » Personalities
En no Ozunu
(n.d.)
A thaumaturge thought to have lived on Mount Katsuragi (or Kazuraki) in Yamato Province in the second half of the seventh century and later known as the founder of Shugendō. Also known also as En no Ubasoku (En the upasaka [a Buddhist acolyte]) and En no Gyōja (En the ascetic), he was conferred the posthumous title (shigō) Jinben Daibosatsu (Great Bodhisattva Jinben) at a ceremony held in 1799 to commemorate the one-thousandth year of his passing. The Shoku nihongi reported En no Ozunu as living on Mount Katsuragi in 699, where it was said he controlled familiar gods and demons, and that due to false testimony by one Kaya no Kuni no Muraji Hirotari he was exiled to the Izu islands.
      The Nihon ryōiki relates that while at Mount Katsuragi, En no Ozunu mastered the magic formulas of the Buddhist tutelary Mahamayuri Vidyarajni (the Peacock Wisdom King, Kujaku Myōō). He used his powers to command his familiar demons to construct a bridge between Katsuragi and the neighboring mountain Kinpusen, an act that inspired the wrath of the kami Hitokotonushi no kami of Mount Katsuragi. The kami slandered En no Ozunu at court, upon which he was exiled to Izu. In exile, En no Ozunu reportedly changed into a mountain wizard and flew to the kingdom of Silla on the Korean peninsula, where he met Dōshō (629-700), a Japanese Buddhist monk who had traveled to China to study Buddhism and founded the Hōssō sect of Nara Buddhism upon his return.
      Reverence for the figure of En no Ozunu grew as mountain asceticism flourished. As the Shugendō tradition took shape, he was positioned as its founder.       Furthermore, since En no Gyōja had experienced visions of the deity Zaō Gongen, belief in this deity also spread alongside veneration of En no Gyōja. His legendary personage is linked to sacred mountains across Japan. The earliest of his many biographies include En no gyōja hongi and En no gyōja keiseiki.

- Miyamoto Kesao
A statue of En no Ozunu at Meguro Fudōson

Tokyo, 2007

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