Wisdom Kings – Mystic power of the sacred utterances
Table of Contents
The definition of Wisdom King
A Wisdom King is a type of wrathful deity in East Asian Buddhism alsp called Vidyārājas.
Whereas the Sanskrit name is translated literally as “wisdom / knowledge king(s),” the term vidyā in Vajrayana Buddhism is also specifically used to denote mantras; the term may thus also be translated “mantra king(s).”
Vidyā is translated in Chinese with the character 明 (lit. “bright, radiant”, figuratively “knowledge(able), wisdom, wise”), leading to a wide array of alternative translations such as “bright king(s)” or “radiant king(s)”.
Vidyārājas, as their name suggests, are originally conceived of as the guardians and personifications of esoteric wisdom (vidyā), namely mantras and dharanis.
They were seen as embodying the mystic power contained in these sacred utterances.
The iconography of Wisdom King
The iconography of Buddhist wrathful deities are usually considered to be derived from both yaksha imagery and Shaivite iconography.
Wisdom Kings are usually represented as fierce-looking, often with blue or black skin and multiple heads, arms, and legs.
They hold various weapons in their hands and are sometimes adorned with skulls, snakes or animal skins and wreathed in flames.
This fiery aura is symbolically interpreted as the fire that purifies the practitioner and transforms one’s passions into awakening, the so-called “fire samadhi”.
Forms & manifestations
This is a list of Wisdom Kings used for the practice of Buddhism.
Yamantaka literally means ‘The Destroyer of Yama, the Lord of Death’, is a wrathful form of Manjushri.
Vajrakilaya or Vajrakumara — the wrathful heruka Vajrakilaya is the yidam deity who embodies the enlightened activity of all the buddhas and whose practice is famous for being the most powerful for removing obstacles, destroying the forces hostile to compassion and purifying the spiritual pollution so prevalent in this age. Vajrakilaya is one of the eight deities of Kagyé.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, a Wisdom King 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.
Acala is a dharmapala primarily revered in Vajrayana Buddhism. He is seen as a protective deity particularly in Shingon traditions of Japan where he is known as Fudō Myō-ō, in Tangmi traditions of China and Taiwan as Búdòng Míngwáng, in Nepal and Tibet as Caṇḍaroṣaṇa, and elsewhere.
In Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism, Hayagrīva is an important deity who originated as a yaksha attendant of Avalokiteśvara or Guanyin Bodhisattva in India.
Appearing in the Vedas as two separate deities, he was assimilated into the ritual worship of early Buddhism and eventually was identified as a Wisdom King in Vajrayana Buddhism.
Mahamayuri, or Mahāmāyūrī Vidyārājñī is a bodhisattva and female Wisdom King in Mahayana Buddhism. Her origins are said to derive from an Indian goddess of the same name. She is also the name of one of the five protective goddesses in the Buddhist Pantheon.
Ucchuṣma is a vidyaraja in the Vajrayana sect of Buddhism. He is also known by various other names such as Burning Impurity Kongo, Jusoku Kongo (受触金剛) and Kazu Kongo (火頭金剛).
Āṭavaka is a popular figure in Buddhism. He is a yakṣa and regarded as a Wisdom King in esoteric tradition.
Kundali or Amritakundalin, also known in Chinese as Juntuli Mingwang and in Japanese as Gundari Myōō (軍荼利明王), is a wrathful deity and dharmapala in East Asian Esoteric Buddhism.
Rāgarāja is a deity venerated in the Esoteric and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. He is especially revered in Chinese Esoteric Buddhism in Chinese communities as well as Shingon and Tendai in Japan.
Trailokyavijaya is the King of knowledge having conquered the three worlds, one of the five kings of knowledge of Buddhism. His mission is to protect the eastern part of the world.
Vajrayakṣa is one of the Five Wisdom Kings. He is a manifestation of Amoghasiddhi.