Ku-ji simply means “nine syllables”, and refers to a variety of mantras that consist of nine syllables. The kuji-in are used in a number of meditations, both those related simply to religious practice and those dealing with martial arts; in some ways, they are used similarly to the Taoist ideas in Chinese internal martial arts.
Mantra and mudra Edit
In Japanese, the nine syllables are: Rin (臨), Pyō (兵), Tō (闘), Sha (者), Kai (皆), Jin (陣), Retsu (列), Zai (在), Zen (前). If the nine cuts are then made, as is sometimes done, the syllable Kō (行) is sometimes spoken.
Note that the syllables are shortened forms, and there are also longer, Japanese mantra that go with the same mudra. As to why there appears to be no correlation between the mudra and mantra and the representative deities is unknown at this time.
The mudra [hand postures] are as follows:
'臨'' (Rin): Hands together, fingers interlocked. The index (sometimes middle) fingers are raised and pressed together.
Note: the mudra dokko-in is asscociated with Tammon-ten/Bishamon-ten. Whereas the mudra kongoshin-in is the mudra of Taishaku-ten (Indra)
Mantra is, On baishiramantaya sowaka. [All hail the Vajra (diamond thunderbolt) of glory and sacrifice. Om!] [Eng.]
Note: this is the mantra of Tamon-ten/多聞天 (a.k.a. Bishamon-ten) (Vaiśravaṇa)
'兵'' (Pyō): Hands together, pinkies and ring fingers interlocked (often on the inside). Index finger and thumb raised and pressed together, middle fingers cross over index fingers and their tips curl back to touch the thumbs' tips, the middle-fingers' nails touching.
Mantra is, On ishanaya intaraya sowaka. (All hail the instrument of divine righteousness Om)
'闘'' (Tō): Hands together, index fingers cross each other to touch opposite ring fingers, middle fingers crossed over them. Ring and pinky fingers are straight. Tips of ring fingers pressed together, tips of pinkies pressed together, but both sets of ring and pinky fingers are separated to form a V shape or bird beak
Mantra is, On jiterashi itara jibaratanō sowaka. [All hail the exultant and glorious celestial jewel om]
Note: this mudra is associated with the pair of lions which stand guard over Buddhist temples, in particular the lion who utters the sound "a", the alpha.
'者'' (Sha): Hands together, ring fingers cross each other to touch opposite index fingers, middle fingers crossed over them. Index finger, pinky and thumb straight, like American Sign Language "I love you".
Note: this mudra is not found in Shingon. But is rather a Shugendo mudra.
mantra is, On haya baishiramantaya sowaka. (All hail the swift thunderbolt of exalted strength, virtue, and glory Om!)
Note: this mudra is associated with the pair of lions which stand guard over Buddhist temples, in particular the lion who utters the sound "Om", the omega.
'皆'' (Kai): Hands together, fingers interlocked.
Mantra is, On nōmaku sanmanda basaradan kan. [Om homage to all-pervading diamond thunderbolts. Utterly crush and devour!] [Eng.]
Note: this is the "One Word Mantra/不動一字呪 of Fudo myo-O (Acalanatha)
'陣'' (Jin): Hands together, fingers interlocked, with the fingertips inside.
Mantra is, On aga naya in maya sowaka. [All hail the glory of Agni (God of the Sacred Fire). Om!]
'列'' (Retsu): Left hand in an upward-pointing fist, index finger raised. Right hand grips index finger, and thumb is pressed onto left index's nail.
Note: this is the primary mudra associated with Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana)
Mantra is, On irotahi chanoga jiba tai sowaka. [All hail the radiant divine all-illuminating light bursting and streaming forth in all directions Om]
'在'' (Zai): Hands spread out in front, with thumb and index finger touching.
Mantra is, On chirichi iba rotaya sowaka.
'前'' (Zen): Hands form a circle, thumbs on top and fingers on the bottom, right hand overlapping left up to the knuckles.
Note: The mudra hobyo-in is associated with Fugen Bosatsu (Samantabhadra) in the Kongo-Kai mandara, as well as Ichiji Kinrin. Whereas the mudra ongyo-in is a mudra associated with Marishi-Ten.
mantra: On a ra ba sha nō sowaka [Om a ra pa ca na. All hail!] [Eng.]
Note: this is mantra of Monju bosatsu (Mañjusri Bodhisattva)
Meaning of ku-jiEdit
The influence of Taoism is very apparent in the practice of ku-ji, in that there are yin/in and yang/yô aspects to ku-ji that must be taken into consideration by the practitioner.
There are five yang/yô-syllables, and four yin/in-syllables. In onmyôdo [inyo goku] philosophy yin/in is related to relative, to benefit self, defensive; yang/yô is absolute, to use against others, offensive. Thus, when looking at the implied meaning of the syllables in ku-ji it is apparent that the in-syllables are used to defend the self, and the yô-syllables are used to attack outside influences.
The yin and yang theory of kuji also carries over to kuji kiri. In kuji kiri the vertical strokes/slashes represent the yin/in syllables, while the horizontal strokes/slashes represent the yang/yo syllables. Thus in kuji kiri the practitioner is fist making an aggressive horizontal slash representing the first syllable which is a yang/yo which represents the absolute aspect or offensive nature of the deity. The second stroke/slash is defensive and represents the second syllable or relative aspect or defensive nature of the deity. And so on...
Often a tenth syllable is added at the end. Generally it is the mata [syllable] for victory, or "to destroy".
Yang/Yô syllables [horizontal, absolute] Edit
前/Zen: in front
Yin/In syllables [vertical, relative] Edit
在/Sai: take position
Thus the essence of the meaning of the ku-ji can be roughly translated as,
Taoist: “May all those who preside over warriors be my vanguard.” [Waterhouse, 1996]
Japanese: "Come warriors, fight as one, ready in formation, line up and take position in front. Destroy/victory!"
Each of the nine syllables has a meaning that when integrated with the corresponding mudra, mantra, and visualization [corresponding deity] manifests sanmitsu kaji [grace, viture, merit of the Three mysteries]. In general it can be said that ku-ji is the harnessing and control of psychospiritual or psychophysical energies, and, or, of cosmic–universal spirits/deities/energies.