Sanko-No-Matsu – The Pine of the Three-Pointed Vajra in Kōya-san, Japan

Legend has it that shortly before Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) returned to Japan from China, where he had been studying Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, he prayed that he would be shown the ideal place to build a monastery upon his return. He then threw a triple-forked vajra (an instrument used in Esoteric Buddhist rituals) into the sea, in the direction of the Japanese archipelago. The vajra is said to have rode on a cloud and disappeared into the sky, going east towards Japan.

When Kōbō Daishi arrived back in Japan he set about finding the perfect place for his monastery. One day, as he wandered through the mountains, he encountered a tall hunter with two dogs, one black and the other white. The two dogs led him to Kōya-san, where he found the vajra lodged in a pine three.

The hunter is believed to have been the local god, Kariba Myōjin. Kōbō Daishi enshrined Karina Myōjin and Myōjin’s mother, the local protector goddess, Niutsuhime, at a shrine on the western edge of what is now Danjo Garan complex before building the monastery at Kōya-san

The pine tree in which the vajra was found stands today in the centre of Danjo Garan complex and is known as Sanko-no-matsu, meaning ‘the pine of the three-pointed or triple-forked vajra’. Ever since the founding of the monastery, people have worshipped three-leafed pine trees growing on Mount Kōya because of their resemblance to the triple-forked vajra and many visitors take home fallen pine leaves as good luck charms.

SOURCES: 

  • Koyasan and Kumano Access Bus
  • UNESCO World Heritage Koyasan Leaflet in English
  • Koyasan Reihokan Museum Leaflet in English
  • Dai Garan Kongobuki Koyasan leaflet
  • Kongobuji Temple Leaflet
  • Guide to Koyasan
  • Kōyasan – the 1200th Anniversary Since The Foundation

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Sanko-No-Matsu – The Pine of the Three-Pointed Vajra in Kōya-san, Japan

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