Manjusri

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Manjusri
Manjusri Kumara (bodhisattva of wisdom), India, Pala dynesty, 9th century, stone, Honolulu Academy of Arts.jpg
Mañjuśrī Pala Dynasty, India, 9th century CE.
Chinese name
Chinese 文殊
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 文殊師利
Simplified Chinese 文殊师利
Second alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 文殊師利菩薩
Simplified Chinese 文殊师利菩萨
Literal meaning Manjusri Bodhisattva
Tibetan name
Tibetan འཇམ་དཔལ་དབྱངས།
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabet Văn-thù-sư-lợi
Thai name
Thai พระมัญชุศรีโพธิสัตว์
Korean name
Hangul 문수보살
Hanja 文殊菩薩
Mongolian name
Mongolian Cyrillic Зөөлөн эгшигт
Mongolian script ᠵᠦᠭᠡᠯᠡᠨ ᠡᠭᠰᠢᠭᠲᠦ
Japanese name
Kanji 文殊, 文殊師利
Tamil name
Tamil மஞ்சுஸ்ரீ
Sanskrit name
Sanskrit Mañjuśrī
Bengali name
Bengali মঞ্জুশ্রী
Nepal Bhasa name
Nepal Bhasa मञ्जुश्री
Malayalam name
Malayalam മഞ്ജുശ്രീ

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",[1] "Soft Glory" (Powers 1995), "Wondrous Auspiciousness" (Geibel 2001), and so forth. Mañjuśrī is also known by the fuller Sanskrit name of Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta.,[2] literally "Mañjuśrī, Still a Youth" or less literally "Prince Mañjuśrī".

In Mahāyāna Buddhism[edit]

Manjushri statue. Lhalung Gompa, Spiti Valley, India

Scholars have identified Mañjuśrī as the oldest and most significant bodhisattva in Mahāyāna literature.[3] 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).[2] 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).[4] 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).[5]

In Esoteric Buddhism[edit]

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.[2] and the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti. His consort in some traditions is Saraswati.

Je Tsongkhapa, who founded the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, is said to have received his teachings from visions of Mañjuśrī.

Iconography[edit]

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.

In Tibetan Buddhism Manjushri is sometimes depicted in a trinity with Avalokiteśvara (Tib. Chenrazig) and Vajrapāṇi (Tib. Channa Dorje).

Mantras[edit]

A mantra commonly associated with Mañjuśrī is the following:[6]

oṃ arapacana dhīḥ

The Arapacana is a syllabary consisting of forty-two letters, and is named after the first five letters: a, ra, pa, ca, na.[7] This syllabary was most widely used for the Gāndhārī language with the Kharoṣṭhī script, but also appears in some Sanskrit texts. The syllabary features in Mahāyāna texts such as the longer Prajñāpāramitā texts, the Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra, the Lalitavistara Sūtra, the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, and the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya.[8] In some of these texts, the Arapacana syllabary serves as a mnemonic for important Mahāyāna concepts.[9] Due to its association with him, Arapacana may even serve as an alternate name for Mañjuśrī.[10]

The Sutra on Perfect Wisdom (Conze 1975) defines the significance of each syllable thus:[citation needed]

  1. A is a door to the insight that all dharmas are unproduced from the very beginning (ādya-anutpannatvād).
  2. RA is a door to the insight that all dharmas are without dirt (rajas).
  3. PA is a door to the insight that all dharmas have been expounded in the ultimate sense (paramārtha).
  4. CA is a door to the insight that the decrease (cyavana) or rebirth of any dharma cannot be apprehended, because all dharmas do not decrease, nor are they reborn.
  5. NA is a door to the insight that the names (i.e. nāma) of all dharmas have vanished; the essential nature behind names cannot be gained or lost.

Tibetan pronunciation is slightly different and so the Tibetan characters read: oṃ a ra pa tsa na dhīḥ (Tibetan: ༀ་ཨ་ར་པ་ཙ་ན་དྷཱི༔Wylie: om a ra pa tsa na d+hIH).[11] In Tibetan tradition, 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[edit]

In China[edit]

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.[12] These made it a popular place of pilgrimage, but patriarchs including Linji Yixuan and Yun-men declared the mountain off limits.[13] Being in the North of China and revered, Mount Wutai was also associated with the Northern lineages of Zen.[14] Mañjuśrī has been associated with Mount Wutai since ancient times. Paul Williams writes:[15]

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.[16] The true origin of the name 'Manchu' remains under dispute.[17]

In Tibet[edit]

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.

In Nepal[edit]

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 Japan[edit]

Late apocryphal traditions held that Mañjuśrī (Monju or Monjushiri in Japanese) "invented" nanshoku .[18]

In Indonesia[edit]

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.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lopez Jr., Donald S. (2001). The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to its History and Teachings. New York, USA: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-069976-0 (cloth) P.260.
  2. ^ a b c Keown, Damien (editor) with Hodge, Stephen; Jones, Charles; Tinti, Paola (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9 p.172.
  3. ^ A View of Manjushri: Wisdom and Its Crown Prince in Pala Period India. Harrington, Laura. Doctoral Thesis, Columbia University, 2002
  4. ^ The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalog (T 232) 
  5. ^ Sheng-Yen, Master (聖嚴法師)(1988). Tso-Ch'an, p.364
  6. ^ Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 527
  7. ^ Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 61
  8. ^ Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 61
  9. ^ Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 61
  10. ^ Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 527
  11. ^ [1] - Visible Mantra's website
  12. ^ Liang, Ssucheng. A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture. Ed. Wilma Fairbank. Cambridge, Michigan: The MIT Press, 1984.
  13. ^ *See Robert M. Gimello, "Chang Shang-ying on Wu-t'ai Shan", in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China:, ed. Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 89–149; and Steven Heine, "Visions, Divisions, Revisions: The Encounter Between Iconoclasm and Supernaturalism in Kōan Cases about Mount Wu-t'ai", in The Kōan, pp. 137–167.
  14. ^ Heine, Steven (2002). Opening a Mountain: Koans of the Zen Masters. USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513586-5. 
  15. ^ Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. 2000. p. 227
  16. ^ Agui (1988). 满洲源流考 (the Origin of Manchus). Liaoning Nationality Publishing House. ISBN 9787805270609. 
  17. ^ Yan, Chongnian (2008). 明亡清兴六十年 (彩图珍藏版). Zhonghua Book Company. ISBN 9787101059472. 
  18. ^ Crompton, Louis, Homosexuality and Civilization, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003, p. 413f.

Further reading[edit]

Harrison, Paul M. (2000). Mañjuśrī and the Cult of the Celestial Bodhisattvas, Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal, No. 13, 157-193

External links[edit]

Media related to Manjusri at Wikimedia Commons