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Mañjuśrī (Sanskrit: मञ्जुश्री) is a bodhisattva associated with prajñā (wisdom) in Mahāyāna Buddhism. His name means "Gentle Glory" in Sanskrit.[1] Mañjuśrī is also known by the fuller name of Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta (मञ्जुश्रीकुमारभूत),[2] literally "Mañjuśrī, Still a Youth" or, less literally, "Prince Mañjuśrī". Another name of Mañjuśrī is Mañjughoṣa.

Mañjuśrī Pala Dynasty, India, 9th century CE
Sanskritमञ्जुश्री / 𑀫𑀜𑁆𑀚𑀼𑀰𑁆𑀭𑀻
(Pinyin: Wénshū Púsà)
(Pinyin: Wénshūshīlì Púsà)
(Pinyin: Mànshūshìlì Púsà)
(Pinyin: Miàojíxiáng Púsà)
(Pinyin Miàodé Púsà)
(Pinyin: Miàoyīn Púsà)
Cyrillicᠵᠦᠭᠡᠯᠡᠨ ᠡᠭᠰᠢᠭᠲᠦ
Зөөлөн эгшигт
(romaji: Monju Bosatsu)
(romaji: Monjushiri Bosatsu)
(romaji: Monju Bosatsu)
(romaji: Myōkisshō Bosatsu)
(RR: Munsu Bosal)
(RR: Mansu Bosal)
(RR: Myokilsang Bosal)
Wylie: 'jam dpel dbyang
THL: Jampelyang

Wylie: 'jam dpel
THL: jampel
VietnameseVăn Thù Sư Lợi Bồ Tát
Diệu Đức
Diệu Cát Tường
Diệu Âm
Venerated byMahayana, Vajrayana
icon Religion portal

It is claimed that Nurhaci, the founder of what would become the Qing dynasty of China, named his tribe Man (滿) after Manjushri. Moreover, the Emperor Manjushri was an honorific title in Tibetan Buddhism given to some Qing emperors.

In Mahāyāna Buddhism edit

Manjushri statue, Lhalung Gompa, Spiti Valley, India
Bodhisattva Monju (Manjushri), Kamakura period, Tokyo National Museum, Japan

Scholars have identified Mañjuśrī as the oldest and most significant bodhisattva in Mahāyāna literature.[3] Mañjuśrī is first referred to in early Mahāyāna sūtras 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 Sutra assigns him a pure land called Vimala, which according to the Avatamsaka Sutra 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[citation needed]. In the Lotus Sūtra, Mañjuśrī also leads the Nagaraja's daughter to enlightenment. He also figures in the Vimalakīrti Sūtra in a debate with Vimalakīrti where he is presented as a Bodhisattva who discusses non-duality with him.

An example of a wisdom teaching of Mañjuśrī 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 Samādhi (Skt. Ekavyūha Samādhi). 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 (一行三昧; Yīxíng sānmèi).[5]

Vajrayāna Buddhism edit

Within Vajrayāna Buddhism, Mañjuśrī is a meditational deity and considered a fully enlightened Buddha. In Shingon Buddhism, he is one of the Thirteen Buddhas to whom disciples devote themselves. He figures extensively in many esoteric texts such as the Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa[2] and the Mañjuśrīnāmasamgīti. His consort in some traditions is Saraswati.

The Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa, which later came to be classified under Kriyātantra, states that mantras taught in the Śaiva, Garuḍa, and Vaiṣṇava tantras will be effective if applied by Buddhists since they were all taught originally by Mañjuśrī.[6]

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 padma (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[citation needed] 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.

In Chinese and Japanese Buddhist art, Mañjuśrī's sword is sometimes replaced with a ruyi scepter, especially in representations of his Vimalakirti Sutra discussion with the layman Vimalakirti.[7] According to Berthold Laufer, the first Chinese representation of a ruyi was in an 8th-century Mañjuśrī painting by Wu Daozi, showing it held in his right hand taking the place of the usual sword. In subsequent Chinese and Japanese paintings of Buddhas, a ruyi was occasionally represented as a Padma with a long stem curved like a ruyi.[8]

He is one of the Four Great Bodhisattvas of Chinese Buddhism, the other three being Kṣitigarbha, Avalokiteśvara, and Samantabhadra. In China, he is often paired with Samantabhadra[citation needed].

In Tibetan Buddhism, Mañjuśrī is sometimes depicted in a trinity with Avalokiteśvara and Vajrapāṇi[citation needed].

Mantras edit

A mantra commonly associated with Mañjuśrī is the following:[9]

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.[10] 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.[10] In some of these texts, the Arapacana syllabary serves as a mnemonic for important Mahāyāna concepts.[10] Due to its association with him, Arapacana may even serve as an alternate name for Mañjuśrī.[9]

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

A painting of the Buddhist manjusri from the Yulin Caves of Gansu, China, from the Tangut-led Western Xia dynasty

In China edit

Mañjuśrī is known in China as Wenshu (Chinese: 文殊; pinyin: Wénshū). Mount Wutai in Shanxi, one of the four Sacred Mountains of China, 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 Mount Wutai'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 Yunmen Wenyan declared the mountain off limits.[13]

Mount Wutai was also associated with the East Mountain Teaching.[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 dynasty, Nurhaci, a military leader of the Jurchens of Northeast China and founder of what became the Qing dynasty, named his tribe after Mañjuśrī as the Manchus.[16] The true origin of the name Manchu is disputed.[17]

Monk Hanshan (寒山) is widely considered to be a metaphorical manifestation of Mañjuśrī. He is known for having co-written the following famous poem about reincarnation with monk Shide:[18][19]

Drumming your grandpa in the shrine,
Cooking your aunts in the pot,
Marrying your grandma in the past,
Should I laugh or not?


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 Namasangiti, Arapacana Manjushri, etc. In Tibetan Buddhism, Mañjuśrī is also an yidam. The Emperor Manjushri as a honorific title was also given to Qing emperors such as the Qianlong Emperor.

In the Taoist pantheon, Mañjuśrī is adopted as a Taoist deity known as Wenshu Guangfa Tianzun. This deity appears in the Ming Dynasty novel Fengshen Yanyi as a senior disciple of Yuanshi Tianzun, the highest deity in Taoism. However, the books Qunxian Xianpo Tianmen and Western Tang Dynasty Biography state that Wenshu Guangfa Tianzun and Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva are not the same person.[20][21]

Black and white chalk drawing of a Mañjusri statue from Singhasari temple (East Java, Indonesia), probably made in 1823 by J.Th. Bik in Batavia.

In Nepal edit

According to Swayambhu Purana, the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake. It is believed that Mañjuśrī came on a pilgrimage from his earthly abode-Wutaishan (five-peaked mountain) in China. He saw a lotus flower in the center of the lake, which emitted brilliant radiance. He cut a gorge at Chovar with his flaming sword to allow the lake to drain. The place where the lotus flower settled became the great Swayambhunath Stupa, and the valley thus became habitable.

In Indonesia edit

In eighth century Java during the Mataram Kingdom, Mañjuśrī was a prominent deity revered by the Sailendra dynasty, patrons of Mahayana Buddhism. The Kelurak inscription (782) and Manjusrigrha inscription (792) mentioned about the construction of a grand Prasada named Vajrāsana Mañjuśrīgṛha (Vajra House of Mañjuśrī) identified today as Sewu temple, located just 800 meters north of the Prambanan. Sewu is the second largest Buddhist temple in Central Java after Borobudur. The depiction of Mañjuśrī in Sailendra art is similar to those of the Pala Empire style of Nalanda, Bihar. Mañjuśrī was portrayed as a youthful handsome man with the palm of his hands tattooed with the image of a flower. His right hand is facing down with an open palm while his left-hand holds an utpala (blue lotus). He also uses the necklace made of tiger canine teeth.

Gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

Citations 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. ^ Sanderson, Alexis. "The Śaiva Age: The Rise and Dominance of Śaivism during the Early Medieval Period." In: Genesis and Development of Tantrism, edited by Shingo Einoo. Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo, 2009. Institute of Oriental Culture Special Series, 23, pp. 129-131.
  7. ^ Davidson, J. LeRoy, "The Origin and Early Use of the Ju-i", Artibus Asiae 1950,13.4, 240.
  8. ^ Laufer, Berthold, Jade, a Study in Chinese Archaeology and Religion, Field Museum of Natural History, 1912, 339.
  9. ^ a b Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 527
  10. ^ a b c Buswell, Robert. Lopez, Donald. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. 2013. p. 61
  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. p. [2]. 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. ^ "诗僧寒山与拾得:文殊菩萨普贤菩萨化身" (in Chinese). Beijing: NetEase Buddhism Channel. 2014-12-10.
  19. ^ 韩廷杰. "寒山诗赏析" (in Chinese). Zhejiang: 灵山海会期刊社.
  20. ^ 四川道敎史话 [Sichuan Taoist History] (in Chinese). 四川人民出版社. 1985. ... 文殊广法天尊,就是文殊,至于观音,改名叫作慈航道人,自称"贫道乃灵鹫山元觉洞燃灯道人"者,前身就是燃灯佛,西方极乐世界的孔雀明王,成了准提道人。
  21. ^ 当代 (in Chinese). 人民文学出版社. 2009. ... 文殊广法天尊" ,这与三教中的大师法号习惯带"子" ,如"广成子" "云中子" "赤精子"也大异其趣。却不可认为这位"文殊"便真是佛家那位"文殊菩萨" [Translation:... Wenshu Guangfa Tianzun," this differs significantly from the usual naming conventions for masters in the Three Religions, where they typically include "Zi" (子) in their titles, such as "Guangcheng Zi," "Yunzhong Zi," "Chijing Zi," and others. However, it should not be assumed that this "Wenshu" is indeed the same as the Buddhist figure "Manjushri Bodhisattva."]

Sources edit

Further reading edit

Harrison, Paul M. (2000). Mañjuśrī and the Cult of the Celestial Bodhisattvas, Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 13, 157-193

External links edit