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Temple Second Bodhisattva Manjushri

Coming up to the second floor, you will discover the Aranya Gallery, consisting of the Aranya Reference Library, BTRTM History Gallery and the Aranya Buddhist Culture Shop. These will provide much Buddhist knowledge enrichment for devotees and visitors alike.

Also situated towards the end of the hall is the Aranya Sutra Chamber, where the Maha Prajna Paramita Sutra is kept. Here you will see a splendid statue of Bodhisattva Manjushri providing inspiration to those seeking wisdom, as well as statues of the 16 Prajna Guardians.

Bodhisattva Manjushri in BTRTM
Bodhisattva Manjushri is depicted in the Sattvaparyanka (noble tailor) posture sitting cross-legged in a half-vajra posture with His left leg resting on His right leg on a three-tiered lotus pedestal, above an eight-legged throne. Beneath the throne lurks a ferocious-looking black-skinned crouching lion, mouth agape showing fangs, with golden beard, eyebrows, claws and tassels. Sporting long earlobes and soft round face, He gazes directly to the front with a gentle smiling expression.
He grasps a glossy golden priest’s sceptre in his right hand and holds a sutra scroll gently with his left hand. His dark-blue hair is neatly cropped and tied up in a high chignon with a lotus and a book of wisdom on top. A double lotus aureole radiates behind his body and head. He wears a blue-green plated general’s armour and a patterned red and orange monk’s robes over it.

In Chinese Buddhist iconography, Manjushri is predominantly shown seated above a lion and unlike, for example, Tibetan images, He does not hold a wisdom sword. His hand implements are not as important as the presence of the lion, although occasionally He has been shown to carry scriptures or a scepter, just like this statue.

About Bodhisattva Manjushri
Mañjuśrī or Manjushri (Skt: मञ्जुश्री; Chinese: Wen shu shi li, 文殊師利; Japanese: Monju Bosatsu; Tibet: ’Jam-dpal, Korean: Moosoo Posal; ) is a Bodhisattva associated with transcendent wisdom (Skt. prajñā) in Mahāyāna Buddhism. The Sanskrit name Mañjuśrī can be translated as ‘Gentle Glory’, ‘Wonderfully Auspicious’, ‘Sweetly Glorious’, ‘The Beautiful, Virtuous Lord’. Mañjuśrī is also known by the fuller Sanskrit name of Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta.

Manjushri means ‘wonderful virtues’, that is he has many unbelievable merits; it also means ‘wonderful first’ as his merits is first amongst all the Bodhisattvas; and it also means ‘wonderful and auspicious’ as his merits are the most auspicious. Besides these, there are many other meanings to his name.

In Esoteric Buddhism he is also taken as a meditational deity.

Manjushri is a Bodhisattva associated with Vairochana (Tibetan: nangpar nangdze,) the Buddha Resplendent. He is the patron Bodhisattva of the Kadampa (ie. Gelugpa) denomination.

Scholars have identified Mañjuśrī as the oldest and most significant bodhisattva in Mahāyāna literature. He appears in many sutras and is often regarded as the leader, parent and friend of the Bodhisattvas and spiritual son of the Buddha.

Birth
According to Chinese Buddhist legends, he was created by Buddha Shakyamuni to transmit His Teachings to the Chinese. Shakyamuni caused a golden ray to burst from his forehead and pierce a magical tree on Wutai Shan. A lotus grew out of the tree and from inside the lotus appeared Manjusri.

According to the Manjushri Parinirvana sutra:
During the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, Manjushri took rebirth in a Brahmin family in Sravasti, India. Many auspicious signs and symbols manifested on His body and during His birth, explaining the etymology of His name, which means ‘Wonderful and Auspicious’ (Chinese: 妙吉祥), Tibetan: Jampelyang).

According to the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, chapter 29,

    “In the northeast, there is a dwelling place of Bodhisattvas, called the Ching Liang Shan. In the past various Bodhisattvas have made their home there. It was here that a Bodhisattva called Manjusri manifested himself. He had ten thousand followers who were also Boshisattvas, and he continually preached the Law.”
Enlightenment
The Lotus Sūtra assigns him a pure land called Vimala Paradise. According to the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, he lives on Mount Clear and Cool, 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’.

He is the chief Bodhisattva in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra.

Dharma
Manjusri is well known for his wisdom. He is able to understand thoroughly everything that happens, as well as fond of teaching and leading others. He was the master of seven Buddhas, including Shakyamuni. His knowledge is very wide and without limits, hence he was also called ‘great knowledge’.

He is the chief assistant to Shakyamuni Buddha, and was called Manjushri, Prince of Dharma. In Mahayana Buddhism, Manjusri is not restrained by the traditional ways of Buddhist teachings, but he would use his own ways in Buddhist teachings, whenever possible. He concentrated on the Supreme Truth and he awakens all the sentient beings.

In the Sutra on the Dispelling of Ajatashatru’s Guilt, Manjushri skilfully assisted King Ajatashatru in confessing his negative karma from killing his father, King Bimbisara, by realising emptiness. In the same sutra, He prophesised the King’s future attainment of Buddhahood.

In the Lotus Sūtra, Mañjuśrī is the leading questioner in the audience and in chapter 12, Devadatta, also leads the Dragon King’s daughter to Enlightenment.

He also figures in the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra in a debate with Vimalakīrti.

In the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, final chapter called Gandavyuha, Manjusri is the first of the 54 teachers whom young Sudhana visits in search of Enlightenment.

Mantra
A mantra commonly associated with Mañjuśrī is the following:

    “oṃ a ra pa ca na dhīḥ”

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) (Skt. oṃ arapacana dhīḥ).

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.

India
Certain texts placed him on a five-peaked mountain in the Himalayas, near Lake Anavatapa.
China’s Wutai Mountain
In China, his festive date is the fourth day of the lunar fourth month and the pilgrimage site is Mount Wutai (5 Peaks), Shanxi, one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism in China. Wutai is located in Shanxi Province, Wutai County, 240 miles from the provincial capital Taiyuan. With a circumference of 250 kms, the mountain is actually a cluster of 5 peaks, with flat tops like terraces. Its cool and pleasant summer climate gives its other name of Qingliang (Cool and Pleasant) Mountain.
Nepal
Manjusri receives special veneration in Nepal. According to Swayambhu Purana, the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake, called Nagarasa. It is believed that Mañjuśrī saw a lotus flower in the center of the lake and cut a gorge at Chovar to allow the lake to drain. The place where the lotus flower settled became Swayambhunath Stupa and the valley thus became habitable.
Related
He has 4 Messengers (Sudhana, King Udayana, Vimalakirti, Yamataka,) and 8 youth acolytes attending to him.
Art
In Indo-Tibetan Buddhism Mañjuśrī is often depicted as a young prince with a bright orange body wielding a flaming sword in His right hand, held above His head, representing the realization of transcendent wisdom which cuts down ignorance and duality. The scripture supported by the lotus held in his left hand is a Prajñāpāramitā sūtra (usually the Aṣṭasāhasrikā version in the Tibetan iconography), representing His attainment of ultimate realization from the blossoming of wisdom.

Some images show five tufts of hair on his head, to symbolize the mantra A-RA-PA-CA-NA.The tufts also allude to the five peaks of Mount Wutai.


In Sino-Japanese and Central Asian art influenced by China, Mañjuśrī is often depicted as riding on a blue lion, 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. He is partnered with Samantabhadra who rides a six-tusked elephant, and together with Buddha Vairochana, forms the Huayan triad or the Three Saints of Avatamsaka (華嚴三聖) (The photo above shows statues of the Huayan triad in our 3rd floor Relics Chamber with Manjushri on the right).

In Himalayan Buddhist traditions, Manjushri is grouped with Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani, symbolising wisdom, great compassion and spiritual power, which are believed to the three most important factors for enlightenment. This triad is known as Three Lords of the World (Tibetan: rigs gsum mgon po; Chinese: 三族姓尊)

Development of BTRTM Bodhisattva Manjushri
The Bodhisattva Manjusri statue is modeled after a similar Tang period statue.

A statue (above-right) closely resembling our statue is found in Kōfukuji Temple (興福寺) called the ‘Seated Monju Bosatsu’. Sculpted by Jokei 1 (active late 12th to early 13th century) it dates back to 1196 and is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.
This was exquisitely hand crafted and gilded, from Canadian cypress wood in China by highly skilled carvers from China Chin Ting Enterprise Co Ltd, Fuzhou, China. It was hand painted by Shanghai You Shan Guan Decorative Design Co Ltd, led by Mr Zhang Jian.

The Manjusri Bodhisattva was consecrated during the BTRTM Grand Consecration Ceremony on 17 May 2008.

BTRTM Bodhisattva Manjusri Ceremonies
His festive date is the fourth day of the lunar fourth month.

In BTRTS, there are special Manjusri ceremonies before the opening of the school term and before the school examinations.

Further Reading: BTRTM Nagapuspa Magazine Vol 19, pages 6 – 9; 22 – 27; 46 – 53
Bibliography:

  1. Lokesh Chandra, Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography, International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan, 1999, Vol 8, pages 2141 – 2240
  2. Louis Frederic, Buddhism, Flammarion Iconographic Guides, 1995, ISBN 2-08013-558-9, page 192 – 196
  3. William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2000, ISBN 81-208-0319-1, page 153a
  4. E Lamotte, Manjusri
  5. Soka Gakkai, Dictionary of Buddhism, Motilal Banarsidass, 2002, ISBN 978-81-208-3334-0, page 392
  6. Meher McArthur, Reading Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs & Symbols, Thames & Hudson,2002, pages 52 – 53
  7. Charles F Chicarelli, Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Introduction, , Silkworm Books, 2004, ISBN 974-9575-54-7, pages 148 – 152
  8. Denise Patry Leidy, Shambala, The Art of Buddhism, An Introduction to its History & Meaning, 2008, pages 207, 156 – 157, 189 – 190
  9. Sacred Buddhist Lands, Famous Chinese Mountains, Hong Kong China Tourism Press, 1996, ISBN 962-7799-39-4, pages 34 – 51
  10. Jamgön Mipham, A Garland of Jewels : The Eight Great Bodhisattvas, translated by Yeshe Gyamtso, KTD Publications, 2008, pp. 29-42.
  11. 释见介,《文殊菩萨小百科:开启智慧的菩萨》,台北 : 橡树林文化, 2005,第18、142 页。
  12. 孙晓岗,《文殊菩萨图像学研究》2006,134页。

Websites:

  1. Manjusri – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Avatamsaka Sutra – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. Avatamsaka Sutra
  4. Manjushri
  5. Sutra of Maha-Prajna-Paramita Pronounced by Manjushri Bodhisattva, 文殊師利所說摩訶般若波羅蜜經
  6. Kōfuku-ji (retrieved 24 September 2012)
  7. Jōkei 1 定慶 (Jokei) (retrieved 24 September 2012)
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