A Rakshasa (Sanskrit: राक्षसः rākṣasaḥ, Kannada: ರಾಕ್ಷಸ, Malay/ Indonesian: raksasa, Bengali: rakkhosh, Assamese: raikhox, Tibetan: སྲིན་པོ་ srinpo, Chinese: 羅剎 luóchà [Pinyin] or lo-cha [Wade-Giles], Japanese: 羅刹 rasetsu, Vietnamese: la sát) or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion. Rakshasas are also called man-eaters (“Nri-chakshas,” “Kravyads”). A female Rakshasa is called a Rakshasi, and a female Rakshasa in human form is a Manushya-Rakshasi. Often Asura and Rakshasa are interchangeably used.
In the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma Pundarika Sutta), translated by Kumarajiva, Bodhisattva Samantabhadra is accompanied 10 female guardian acolytes, the 10 Raksasis (Skt.: Rākṣasīs; Chinese: Ten Demon Daughters, 十羅刹女; Japanese: Rasetsu 羅刹; ) These giant man-eating ogresses or demonesses are chiefly connected to sorcery. In their evil state they were enemies of the living, when converted into Buddhism are enemies of evil. They are rarely represented except in mandalas.
They are said to be previous incarnations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, with whom they are associated, as follows:
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In the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma Pundarika Sutta), chapter 26 Dharani,
At that time there were rakshasa women. The first was named Lamba, the second was named Vilamba, the third was named Crooked Teeth, the fourth was named Flower Teeth, the fifth was named Black Teeth, the sixth was named Much Hair, the seventh was named Insatiable, the eighth was named Holder of Beads, the ninth was named Kunti, and the tenth was named Robber of the Essence and Energy of All Beings. These ten rakshasa women, along with the ghost mother and her children and their retinues, all went before the Buddha and spoke to him in unison, saying, “World Honored One, we, too, wish to protect those who read, recite, receive, and hold the Dharma Flower Sutra, and keep them from harm. Should anyone seek out the weaknesses of these Dharma Masters, he will not be able to take advantage of them.”
Then, in the presence of the Buddha, they spoke this mantra:
Yi ti li. Yi ti min. Yi ti li. E ti li. Yi ti li. Ni li. Ni li. Ni li. Ni li. Ni li. Lou xi. Lou xi. Lou xi. Lou xi. Duo xi. Duo xi. Duo xi. Dou xi. Nou xi.
“Climb on top of our heads, but do not trouble this Dharma Master. No yaksha, rakshasa, hungry ghost, putana, kritya, vetala, ghanta, omaraka, apasmaraka, yakshakritya, human kritya; nor any fever lasting one day, or two days, or three days, or four days, or up to seven days; nor any constant fever; nor any shape of man, woman, young boy, or young girl shall trouble him, even in his dreams.”
Then, in the presence of the Buddha, they spoke this verse:
If anyone fails to comply with this mantra
Or tries to disturb one who speaks the Dharma,
His head shall break into seven pieces,
Like the branch of the arjaka tree.
Like the retribution for the offense of killing one’s parents,
Or that of pressing oil,
Or cheating others with weights and measures,
Or Devadatta’s offense in breaking up the Sangha- One who harms this Dharma Master
Shall incur calamities such as these.
Having spoken this verse, the rakshasa women said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, we, too, shall personally protect those who receive, uphold, read, recite, and cultivate this Sutra, causing them to be peaceful and secure, free from all harm and illness, and able to neutralize all poisonous potions.”
The Buddha told the rakshasa women, “Good indeed, good indeed! In protecting those who receive and uphold even the name of the Dharma flower, your blessings will be unlimited; how much more so for protecting those who receive and uphold it in full; who make offerings to the Sutra text of flowers, incense, beads, powdered incense, paste incense, burning incense, banners, canopies, and music; and who light various lamps-butter lamps, oil lamps, lamps of fragrant oil, lamps of sumana oil, lamps of champaka flower oil, lamps of varshika flower oil, lamps of utpala flower oil, and lamps such as these, of a hundred thousand kinds. Kunti! You and your retinue should protect Dharma Masters such as these.”
- Lokesh Chandra, Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography, International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan, 1999, Vol 12, page 3608
- Louis Frederic, Buddhism, Flammarion Iconographic Guides, 1995, ISBN 2-08013-558-9, page 198, 332 – 334
- William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2000, ISBN 81-208-0319-1, page 52b
- Soka Gakkai, Dictionary of Buddhism, Motilal Banarsidass, 2002, ISBN 978-81-208-3334-0, page 665 – 666, 679
- Anita Khanna, Buddhist Iconography in the Butsuzozui of Hidenobu, D.K. Printworld, 2010, ISBN 13:978-81-246-0542-2, pages 107 – 108
- Rakshasa – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Lotus Sutra – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Kariteimo – Buddhist Protector of Children & Easy Child-Birth in Japan; important to NICHIREN sect