A priest of Yakushi-ji temple in Nara, Japan. He entered the priesthood in 682 and studied the doctrines of the Dharma Characteristics (Hosso) school. He traveled throughout the provinces to teach these doctrines and is said to have gained some one thousand converts.
The imperial court became uneasy about his propagation activities and persecuted him as an agitator.
Later, however, after a change in imperial policy, such religious activities were permitted.
When Emperor Shomu proclaimed his vow to build a great image of Vairochana Buddha in 743, Gyoki traveled widely with his disciples, soliciting contributions for its construction.
In 745 he was appointed general administrator of priests. In his travels, he also built bridges and embankments, repaired roads, and carried out reclamation and irrigation work. Because of his contributions to public welfare, people highly revered and respected him, calling him Bodhisattva Gyoki.
Gyōki (行基?) (668–749) was a Japanese Buddhist priest of the Nara period, born in Ōtori county, Kawachi Province (present day Sakai, Osaka), to Son of Koshi no Saichi. According to a theory, (He was Korean descendent line).
Gyōki became a monk at Asuka-dera temple in Nara at the age of 15, and studied under master Dōshō as one of his first pupils.
Gyōki studied Yogacara (唯識), a core doctrine of Hosso, at Yakushi-ji. In 704, he returned to his birthplace to make his home into a temple, then started to travel around Japan to preach for commoners and help the poor.
He formed a volunteer group to help the poor mainly in the Kansai region, building 49 monasteries and nunneries that also functioned as hospitals for the poor.
Gyōki and his followers roamed the countryside, teaching common people about Buddhism, building temples that were more like community centers, and organizing irrigation and other public works projects to help the poor.
Since regulations at the time strictly prohibited activities by priests outside their monastic compounds, his travelling around the country made him a non-official, private priest (i.e. not registered through the Office of Priestly Affairs (僧綱 Sōgō?)).
Gyōki and his followers were persecuted by the government, although Gyōki's popularity and administrative skill in public works later earned him a pardon from the government.
Gyōki was later recognized, and in 745 became the first priest who was given the rank of Daisōjō.
During the construction of Tōdai-ji, the government recruited Gyōki and his fellow ubasoku monks to organize labor and resources from the countryside. He contributed to building of Tōdai-ji and also built several ponds.
He died on February 2, 749 at the age of 80 and was buried at Chikurin-ji, now in Ikoma, Nara.
The Imperial Court in Kyoto posthumously granted him the title of Bosatsu in 751, so in Japan he is often referred to as Gyōki Bosatsu.