Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. 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 ignorance by the luminous rays issuing out of it.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Meaning of Manjushri
- 2 - Iconography of Manjushri
- 3 - Belief and Worship
- 4 - Existence of Manjushri
- 5 - Swayambhu Purana and Manjushri
- 6 - Civilization to Nepal from China and Manjushri
- 7 - Manjuvajra Mandala
- 8 - Tsongkhapa and Manjushri
- 9 - Emanation of Manjushri
Meaning of Manjushri
The word Manju means “charming, beautiful, pleasing” and Shri means “glory, brilliance”. The Bodhisattva is regarded as the crown prince of Buddhist teachings, or the one who can best explain the Buddhist wisdom, that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about enlightenment.
Manjushri has this title because eons ago, he was the instructor for seven different Buddhas, 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 lotus flower on which rests the Prajnaparamita (Great Wisdom) Sutra. He is often seen riding a lion. The Prajnaparamita Sutra on the lotus flower symbolizes wisdom as pure as lotus. The sword represents the sharpness of wisdom that to cut through illusion. The lion is called the king of a hundred animals, 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 Bodhisattvas.
Existence of Manjushri
It is difficult to fix the exact time when Manjushri entered the pantheon of the Northern Buddhists. His images are not found in the Gandhara and Mathura schools of sculpture, and Asvaghosa, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva do not mention him in their works.
His name occurs for the first time in the Aryamanjushrimulakolpa which is obviously a pre’Guhyasamaja work, and then in the Guhyasamaja Tantra which is dated circa 300 A.D. In this work, there are at least four references to Manjushri and three to Manjuvajra.
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, Nepal and other places. Many details about Manjushri are to be found in the Swayambhu Purana, dealing with the glories of the Swyambhu kshetra in Nepal.
The Adibuddha manifested himself here in the shape of a flame of fire, and so it is called the Swyambhu kshetra( place of the Self- Born ). This place is consecrated with a temple 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 China, 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 Adi Buddha, has manifested himself as a flame of fire on a lotus on the waters 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 mind 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
Manjushree 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 Hindu 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 body 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 Asia where Buddhism had it’sway.
Manjushri is worshipped in all Buddhist countries and has a variety of forms. Manjushri has several names such as Manjuvajra, Manjughosa, Dharmadhatuvagisvara and so forth. As one of the sixteen Bodhisattvas Manjushri is taken as second in the group headed by Maitreya.
Tsongkhapa and Manjushri
The Tibetan King in the eleventh century, the Tsongkhapa, also the founder of Ge-lug-pa School of Tibetan Buddhism, which the Dalai Lama 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 teachings directly from him.
Sometimes, Manjushri is depicted riding on a lion, the king of the beasts, symbolizing that Manjushri teaches the Dharma without fear 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 Yamantaka, Kalarupa, 4-Faced Mahakala and Black Manjushri, Manju ghosa, Vajraraga etc.
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 is one-faced and two-armed. His two hands are joined on his lap forming what is called the Samadhi or the Dhyana mudra. Vajaraga is white in color and he is seen in Samadhi Mudra with Vajraparyahka Asana.