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In Vajrayana Buddhism, a Wisdom King (Sanskrit Vidyārāja, Chinese: 明王; pinyin: Míngwáng; Japanese pronunciation: Myōō) is a type of deity in Buddhism and classed as the third after buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Japanese statuary. The Sanskrit name literally translates to "knowledge king", thus the Chinese character "明", meaning "knowledgeable", or "bright" is used, leading to wide array of alternative English names, including "Radiant King", "Guardian King", etc. In Tibetan Buddhism, they are known as Herukas.
The female counterparts of Wisdom Kings are known as Wisdom Queens (Sanskrit: vidyā-rājñī, Chinese: 明妃 Míngfēi, Japanese: 明妃 Myōhi).
According to the esoteric doctrine of the three chakra bodies (三輪身 sanrinjin), whereas Buddhas represent pure concepts and bodhisattvas teach through compassion, Wisdom Kings are embodiments of the wheel of injunction (教令輪身 kyōryō tenshin) and teach through fear, shocking nonbelievers into faith.
As mentioned above, Wisdom Kings are usually represented as wrathful deities, often with blue skin, multiple arms, sometimes with many faces, and even many legs. They hold weapons in their hands and are sometimes adorned with skulls, snakes or animal skins and wreathed in flames.
List of Wisdom Kings
The Five Wisdom Kings
In the Shingon tradition of Esoteric Buddhism, the Five Great Wisdom Kings (五大明王, Jp: Godai Myō-ō; Ch: Wǔ Dà Míngwáng), also known as the Five Guardian Kings are a group of Wisdom Kings who represent the luminescent wisdom of the Buddha and protect the Five Wisdom Buddhas. The Five Kings are usually defined as follows.
- Acala (不動明王, Jp: Fudō Myō-ō; Ch: Bùdòng Míngwáng) "The Immovable One" - Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Mahavairocana
- Trailokyavijaya (降三世明王, Jp: Gozanze Myō-ō; Ch: Jiàngsānshì Míngwáng) "The Conqueror of The Three Planes" - Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Akshobhya
- Kuṇḍali (軍荼利明王, Jp: Gundari Myō-ō; Ch: Jūntúlì Míngwáng) "The Dispenser of Heavenly Nectar" - Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Ratnasambhava
- Yamāntaka (大威德明王, Jp: Daiitoku Myō-ō; Ch: Dàwēidé Míngwáng) "The Defeater of Death" - Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Amitābha
- Vajrayakṣa (金剛夜叉明王, Jp: Kongōyasha Myō-ō; Ch: Jīngāng Yèchā Míngwáng) "The Devourer of Demons" - Wrathful manifestation of Buddha Amoghasiddhi
The Five Wisdom Kings inhabit the Womb Realm. They are organized according to the directions of the compass.
(principal deity/ meditator)
- Āṭavaka (Jp: Daigensui Myō-ō)
- Hayagrīva (Jp:Batō Myō-ō; also known as Batō Kannon)
- Rāgarāja (Jp: Aizen Myō-ō)
- Ucchuṣma (Jp: Ususama Myō-ō)
- Mahāmāyūrī (Jp: Kujaku Myō-ō)
- Baroni, Helen Josephine (2002). The illustrated encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism. New York: Rosen Pub. Group. p. 100. ISBN 0-8239-2240-5.
- Brown, Steven T. (2001), Theatricalities of power: the cultural politics of Noh, Stanford University Press, p. 85, ISBN 0-8047-4070-4
- J. Hackin (1994). Asiatic Mythology: A Detailed Description and Explanation of the Mythologies of All the Great Nations of Asia. Asian Educational Services. p. 423. ISBN 978-81-206-0920-4.
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