Gyoki (行基)

Gyoki (or Gyogi, 668 - February 23, 749) was a Buddhist monk of the Nara era in Japan. There is another theory that he was born in April 677. It is said that his father was KOSHI no Saichi, who was a member of Kawachi no Fumi clan, descendents of those who had come from Kudara (Baekje; one of three kingdoms in the southern Korean Peninsula in Ancient periods). His mother was from Hachita no Obito (today's Keirin-ji Temple), Otori District, Kawachi Province (later Izumi Province).

Biography

He was born in Otori District, Kawachi Province (Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture in present days). He entered the priesthood in 681, learned the methods of education and learning such as Hosso sect at Kandai-ji Temple, and formed a new group committed to social activities, including relief for the poor, flood control, and bridge construction mainly in the Kinki Region. In 704, he changed the house of his birth into Ebara-ji Temple, which he made his residence.

The Government criticized and suppressed him for swing public opinion and for his outside-temple activity violating 'Soni ryo' (Regulations for Monks and Nuns) under an imperial decree dated April 23, 717 (old lunar calendar). However, the government could not stop Gyoki leading the development of new rice field and other social activities, or the religious community mainly consisted of local clans and ordinary people; the goverment also recognized that Gyoki's activities did not have any 'anti-government' intentions, which the goverment feard; so, the government weakened the suppression in 731, and made full use of Gyoki's powers in technology and gathering peasants for the construction of Sayamashimo-ike Pond in Kawachi in 732. On March 741Emperor Shomu met Gyoki at Senkyo-in Temple in the suburb of Kuni-kyo, and in 743 Gyogi was designated as the Kanjin (position to collect donations for the temple) for the construction the Great Buddha statue in Todai-ji Temple. Gyoki made a great success in collecting donation for the contribution, and in 745, he was endowed with the first Japanese Dai-sojo (a buddhist priest of the highest order) from the Imperial Court.

Regarding Gyoki's activities and being suppressed by the government, it is said that Gyoki was the only person that was punished explicitly for violating Soni ryo in the Nara period. It was suspected, therefore, for the activities and crack-down by the Government, that there may have been relation to, and influence on, the activities of Sangaikyo (Sanjiejao), a cult that dominated in the same period in China, and the crack-down by the Tang Dynasty Government.

When the Sanze-isshin Law (promoting reclamation) was put into effect, Gyoki became involved in irrigation projects and the construction of the Great Buddha statue in Todai-ji Temple mentioned above. Gyoki entered Nirvana (passed away) at the age of 81at Kiko-ji Temple on February 2, 749, when the Great Buddha statue was being constructed; his tomb is in Chikurin-ji Temple (Ikoma City). The title of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) was bestowed on Gyoki by the Imperial Court, and so he was called Gyoki Bosatsu.

Places related to Gyoki

Because Gyoki promulgated Buddhism in various places, mainly in the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto), there are a lot of places associated with him in the Kinki region as well as other places.

The house where Gyoki was born has turned into Ebara-ji Temple, which is famous for many people's praying for success in entrance examinations because the temple's Honzon (principal image of Buddha) is Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri), who is believed to embody wisdom.

Another theory says that Gyoki was born near 3 cho-me, Takashinohama, Takaishi City, Osaka Prefecture, where there is a stone monument inscribed with 'Birthplace of Gyoki.'
The inscription of the monument reads 'a group of carpenters related to Gyoki designed a threshing machine, the group became official carpenters for Kyoto Imperial Palace until the end of the Edo era, and commissioned residential construction in Takaishi District making full use of their carpentry skills.'
Because of the successful achievements, the area is called 'Takumi' (craft master).
The community hall built in the supposed birthplace of Gyoki is called 'Takumi Hall (or Hachiku Hall).'

In front of the entrance gate of Kintetsu Nara Station stands a Gyoki statue made of red Akahadayaki pottery, providing a popular meeting spot in the Nara City.

In the Danjiri Matsuri Festival in Kishiwada, Osaka prefecture, decorated portable shrines of the local districts gather in Ryuchi-in Kumeda-dera Temple, Mt. Ryugasan, which was founded by Gyoki. This gathering is called 'Gyoki mairi (visit),' which celebrates Gyoki's numerous achievements including his leadership in excavating Kumeda-ike Pond located in front of Kumeda-dera Temple; the excavation greatly contributied to the development of farm lands and the improvement of the lives of the local people.

In the facility at Koyaike koen Park in Itami City, Hyogo Prefecture, Gyoki's achievements and a bust statue are displayed. Koya-dera Temple, which was founded by Gyoki, is located about 1km from Koya-ike Pond in a south-southeasterly direction. In Itami City, there is a geographical name of Gyogi-cho.