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All about Manjushri Bodhisattva – Meaning, Iconography and Belief

manjushri Thangka

is the  of . The sword in the hand of Manjushri is called the Prajna khadga or the Sword of Wisdom, which is believed to destroy the darkness of by the luminous rays issuing out of it.

Meaning of Manjushri

The word Manju means “charming, beautiful, pleasing” and Shri means “glory, brilliance”. is regarded as the crown prince of , or the one who can best explain the wisdom, that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about .

Manjushri has this title because eons ago, he was the instructor for seven different , the last being Sakyamuni Buddha.

Iconography of Manjushri

Manjushri is often depicted with his right hand holding a double-edged flaming sword and his left hand holding a flower on which rests the Prajnaparamita (Great Wisdom) . He is often seen riding a lion. The Prajnaparamita Sutra on flower symbolizes wisdom as pure as lotus. The sword represents the sharpness of wisdom that to cut through illusion. The lion is called the of a hundred , and this symbolizes the stern majesty of wisdom.

Belief and Worship

There is no doubt that the place assigned to Manjushri in the Buddhist pantheon is one of the very highest. The MahSyanists consider him to be one of the greatest .

They believe that the of Manjushri can confer upon them wisdom, retentive memory, intelligence and eloquence, and enables them to many .

It is no wonder, therefore, that his worship became widely prevalent amongst the Buddhists of the North. They conceived him in various and worshipped him with various .

Those who could not form any conception of him according to rites attained perfection only by muttering his numerous .

Existence of Manjushri

It is difficult to fix the exact when Manjushri entered the pantheon of the Northern Buddhists. His images are not found in the and Mathura schools of sculpture, and Asvaghosa, , Aryadeva do not mention him in their .

His name occurs for the first time in the Aryamanjushrimulakolpa which is obviously a pre’Guhyasamaja work, and then in the which is dated circa 300 A.D. In this work, there are at least four references to Manjushri and three to .

His name also occurs in the Vyuha or the Sutra in its smaller recension 8 which was translated into Chinese between A.D. 384 and 417.

Subsequent Buddhist works, however, give many references to Manjushri, and in the accounts of foreign travelers also finds mention of Manjushri.

His images are to be found in the sculptures of Sarnath, Magadha, Bengal, and other places. Many details about Manjushri are to be found in the Swayambhu Purana, dealing with the glories of the kshetra in Nepal.

The Adibuddha manifested himself here in the shape of a flame of , and so it is called the Swyambhu kshetra( place of the Self- Born ). This place is consecrated with a of Adibuddha, and close to it is the Manjushri Hill now known as the Sarasvatisthana.

The information about Manjushri as gleaned from the Svayambhu Purana is given below in brief.

Swayambhu Purana and Manjushri

It is said there in that Manjushri hailed from , where he was living on the mountain.  He was a great saint with many disciples and followers, including Dharmakara, the king of the country.

Receiving divine intimation one day that the self-born Lord , has manifested himself as a flame of fire on a lotus on the of Lake Kalihrada in Nepal, he forthwith set out for that country along with a large number of his disciples, his two wives and king Dharmakara, with the intention of paying homage to the deity.

When he came to the lake, however, he found a great expanse of water surrounding the god rendering him quite inaccessible, and it was with immense difficulty that he could approach the flame and offer his obeisance. Having at last succeeded in doing so, however, he cast about in his for some means of making the god accessible to all and he began a circuit of the lake.

When he reached the southern barrier of hills, he lifted his sword and clove it asunder. The hill was split into two, and the water rushed through that opening, leaving behind a vast stretch of dry land, which is now known as the as the Nepal Valley.

The waters of the Bagmati flow down even to this day through that opening, which is still called “sword-cut”.

Creation and Transformation of Manjupattana

After that Manjushri created a temple over the flame of fire and on a hillock nearby he made his own , and also a Vihara (or ) still known as the Manjupattana, for his disciples.

is supposed to have built the town Manjupattana, probably around Balaju area. Later kings shifted from Manjupatana to Sankasya on the Banks of Ikshumati (Tukucha). This same town as per chronicle is supposed to be Nandisala, credited to Lichchavi kings.

Dharmakara the King of Nepal

Lastly, he made Dharmakara the King of Nepal. These and many other pious deeds are ascribed to Manjushri in the Swayambhu Purana.

Putting everything in proper order, Manjushri returned home and soon attained the divine form of a Bodhisattva, leaving his mundane behind.

Civilization to Nepal from China and Manjushri

From above it appears that Manjushri was a great man who brought civilization to Nepal from China. He had apparently extraordinary engineering skill and was a great architect.

It is not definitely known when he came down to Nepal from China, but there is no doubt that in 300 A. D, he was well-known as a Bodhisattva.

He wielded great influence on the minds of the Buddhists and the Mahayanists worshipped him in various forms and in various ways. He is known in almost all the countries in the continent of where had it’sway.

Manjushri is worshipped in all Buddhist countries and has a variety of forms. Manjushri has several names such as Manjuvajra, , and so forth. As one of the sixteen Bodhisattvas Manjushri is taken as second in the group headed by Maitreya.

Manjuvajra Mandala

In the Manju , Manjushri comes as a Bodhisattva in the third of surrounding the principal god Manjuvajra who is represented along with his Prajna or female counterpart.

Manjuvajra Mandala

Tsongkhapa and Manjushri

The King in the eleventh century, the , also the founder of Ge-lug-pa School of , which the have been head of the sect, was believed as the manifestation of Manjushri.

Tsongkhapa, after engaging in an intensive 4-year retreat in a cave, was able to see Manjushri and also receive directly from him.

Sometimes, Manjushri is depicted riding on a lion, the king of the beasts, symbolizing that Manjushri teaches the Dharma without or favor.

Manjushri belongs to the group of eight Dhyani-Boddhisattva and is therefore represented like a prince with all the Boddhisattva ornaments.

Emanation of Manjushri

Manjushri has emanated in many forms, orange, green, blue, white, four-armed or sitting on a lion. Manjushri has also emanated as wrathful protectors like , Kalarupa, 4-Faced and Black Manjushri, Manju ghosa, Vajraraga etc.

Manju ghosa

Manjushri as one of the eight Bodhisattvas is recognized by the favorite name of Manju ghosa (soft voice) and under this name, he is described in the Lokanatha sadhana of the Sadhanamala.

Manju ghosa is of golden color and he holds in his two hands the sword and the book.

Vajraraga

Vajraraga Manjushri is also known by the two names of Vak and Manjushri showing his allegiance to the Dhyani of red color.

Vajraraga is one-faced and two-armed. His two hands are joined on his lap forming what is called the or the . Vajaraga is white in color and he is seen in Samadhi Mudra with Vajraparyahka .

 

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About sadiksha

Namaste! I am a Nepali Art Dealer specialized in Mandala and Thangka paintings. I love to write articles about the monastic culture of the Himalayas. If you like this post or have any question please leave me a comment or use the contact page to reach me.

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