|Alternative Chinese name|
|Second alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||Manjusri Bodhisattva|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Зөөлөн эгшигт|
|Mongolian script||ᠵᠦᠭᠡᠯᠡᠨ ᠡᠭᠰᠢᠭᠲᠦ|
|Nepal Bhasa name|
Mañjuśrī (Skt: मञ्जुश्री) is a bodhisattva associated with transcendent wisdom (Skt. prajñā) in Mahāyāna Buddhism. In Esoteric Buddhism he is also taken as a meditational deity. The Sanskrit name Mañjuśrī can be translated as "Gentle Glory". Mañjuśrī is also known by the fuller Sanskrit name of Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta.
In Mahāyāna Buddhism
Scholars have identified Mañjuśrī as the oldest and most significant bodhisattva in Mahāyāna literature. Mañjuśrī is first referred to in early Mahāyāna texts such as the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras and through this association very early in the tradition he came to symbolize the embodiment of prajñā (transcendent wisdom). The Lotus Sūtra assigns him a pure land called Vimala, which according to the Avataṃsaka Sūtra is located in the East. His pure land is predicted to be one of the two best pure lands in all of existence in all the past, present and future. When he attains buddhahood his name will be Universal Sight. In the Lotus Sūtra, Mañjuśrī also leads the Nāga King's daughter to enlightenment. He also figures in the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra in a debate with Vimalakīrti Bodhisattva.
An example of a wisdom teaching of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva can be found in the Saptaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (Taishō Tripiṭaka 232). This sūtra contains a dialogue between Mañjuśrī and the Buddha on the One Practice Samādhi (Skt. Ekavyūha Samādhi). Master Sheng-yen renders the following teaching of Mañjuśrī, for entering samādhi naturally through transcendent wisdom:
Contemplate the five skandhas as originally empty and quiescent, non-arising, non-perishing, equal, without differentiation. Constantly thus practicing, day or night, whether sitting, walking, standing or lying down, finally one reaches an inconceivable state without any obstruction or form. This is the Samadhi of One Act (yixing sanmei, 一行三昧).
In Esoteric Buddhism
Within Esoteric Buddhism, Mañjuśrī is a meditational deity, and considered a fully enlightened Buddha. In the Shingon school of Esoteric Buddhism, he is one of the thirteen deities to whom disciples devote themselves. He figures extensively in many Esoteric Buddhist texts such as the Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa. and the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti. His consort in some traditions is Saraswati.
Mañjuśrī is depicted as a male bodhisattva wielding a flaming sword in his right hand, representing the realization of transcendent wisdom which cuts down ignorance and duality. The scripture supported by the lotus held in his left hand is a Prajñāpāramitā sūtra, representing his attainment of ultimate realization from the blossoming of wisdom. Mañjuśrī is often depicted as riding on a blue lion, or sitting on the skin of a lion. This represents the use of wisdom to tame the mind, which is compared to riding or subduing a ferocious lion.
He is one of the Four Great Bodhisattvas of Chinese Buddhism, the other three being: Bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha, Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, and Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. In China, he is often paired with Bodhisattva Samantabhadra.
A mantra commonly associated with Mañjuśrī is the following:
- "oṃ a ra pa ca na dhīḥ"
This mantra is believed to enhance wisdom and improve one's skills in debating, memory, writing, and other literary abilities. "Dhīḥ" is the seed syllable of the mantra and is chanted with greater emphasis and also repeated a number of times as a Decrescendo.
In Buddhist Cultures
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Mañjuśrī is known in China as Wénshū (Chinese: 文殊 or 文殊菩薩). Wutai Shan in Shanxi, one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism in China, which also had strong associations for Taoists, is considered by Chinese Buddhists to be his bodhimaṇḍa. He was said to bestow spectacular visionary experiences to those on selected mountain peaks and caves there. In Wutai Shan's Foguang Temple, the Manjusri Hall to the right of its main hall was recognized to have been built in 1137 during the Jin Dynasty. The hall was thoroughly studied, mapped, and first photographed by early twentieth-century Chinese architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin. These made it a popular place of pilgrimage, but patriarchs including Linji Yixuan and Yun-men declared the mountain off limits. Being in the North of China and revered, Mount Wutai was also associated with the Northern lineages of Zen. Mañjuśrī has been associated with Mount Wutai since ancient times. Paul Williams writes:
Apparently the association of Mañjuśrī with Wutai (Wu-t'ai) Shan in north China was known in classical times in India itself, identified by Chinese scholars with the mountain in the 'north-east' (when seen from India or Central Asia) referred to as the abode of Mañjuśrī in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra. There are said to have been pilgrimages from India and other Asian countries to Wutai Shan by the seventh century.
According to official histories from the Qing era, Nurhaci, a military leader of the Jurchen tribes in northeast China and founder of what became the Chinese imperial Qing Dynasty, renamed his tribe after Mañjuśrī. The Qing era histories state that he thus named his tribe as the Manchu. The true origin of the name 'Manchu' remains under dispute.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Mañjuśrī manifests in a number of different Tantric forms. Yamāntaka (meaning 'terminator of Yama i.e. Death') is the wrathful manifestation of Mañjuśrī, popular within the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Other variations upon his traditional form as Mañjuśrī include Guhya-Manjusri, Guhya-Manjuvajra, and Manjuswari. The two former appearances are generally accompanied by a shakti deity embracing the main figure, symbolising union of form and spirit, matter and energy.
Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso, also known as Mipham the Great, was considered to be a human manifestation of Manjushri.
According to Swayambhu Purana, the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake. It is believed that Mañjuśrī saw a lotus flower in the center of the lake and cut a gorge at Chovar to allow the lake to drain. The place where the lotus flower settled became Swayambhunath Stupa and the valley thus became habitable.
In 8th century ancient Java during the era of Medang Kingdom, Manjusri was a prominent boddhisattva deity revered by the Sailendra rulers, the patron of Mahayana buddhism. The Kelurak inscription (782) and Manjusrigrha inscription (792) mentioned about the construction of a grand prasada named Vajrasana Manjusrigrha (house of Manjusri) identified today as Sewu temple, located just 800 meters north of Prambanan Hindu temple complex. Sewu is the second largest Buddhist temple in Central Java after Borobudur. The depicition of Manjusri in Sailendra art of ancient Java is similar to those of Pala style of Bihar, Nalanda. Manjusri was portrayed as a youthful handsome man with the palm of his hands tattooed with the image of flower. His right hand lied down in open palm while his left hand holding an Utpala (blue lotus). He also uses the necklace made of tiger canine teeth.
Mañjuśrī figure brandishing sword of wisdom in Nepal
Palm leaf manuscript painting of Mañjuśrī. Nālandā, Bihar, India
Mañjuśrī figure in Blanc-de-Chine. China, 17th century
Media related to Manjusri at Wikimedia Commons
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