Buddhist glossary

Amida

One of the most devoutly worshiped deities in Sino-Japanese Buddhism,Amitabha is the Buddha who reigns in the Western Pradaise.As the personification of eternal life and boundless light andvast compassion,he will welcome to Pradaise those who,with a sincere heart,call out his name.

Ashura

Malevolent demons of Indian epic mythology who challenge the authority of the Hindu gods;the Asuras were incorporated into Buddhist imagery as one of the eight classes of ferocious creatures who protect the Buddhist realm.

Birushana or Rushana

The supreme deity of Esoteric Buddhism and its forerunners;symbol of the great generative force which lies at the heart of all creation.The worship of Vairocana wa sespecially popular among ruling circles of China and the Japan in the seventh and eighth centuries and was depicted by colossal statues of which the broze Daibutsu in Nara and the rock cut image of Lungmen ,built between 672 and 675,are the best known surviving examples.

Bishamon-ten (Vaisravana)

Chief of the Four Guardian Kings (Shitenno, q.a.) . also known as Kubera, originated as an ancient Indian folk god, Lord of Wealth. ruler of animistic deities such as Yakshas, and Regent of the Northern Quadrant. He became important in the popular religion of Central Asia, especially in Khotan, where he was offred an independent cult as the tutelary god of the kingdom. The painted scroll depicting the Shigisan Engi is a by-product of his cu1t in Japan.

Bonten (Brahma)

A Hindu deity incorporated as early as the first century A.D. into Buddhist imagery and legends as a devotee of the Buddha, thereby symbolizing the religious superiority of the new religion over Brahmanical orthodoxy. In The Indian Middle Ages, Brahma became one of the supreme figures of the Hindu pantheon, the lord of creation and sacred knowledge ; but in Japanese Buddhist temples, statues of Bonten were paired with those of Indra as subordinate attendants of a Buddhist deity.

Bosatsu (Bodhisattva)

A class of Buddhist deities extolled in Mahayana literature because they are believed to labor unceasingly for the benefit of mankind; among the major Bodhisattvas, only Maitreya (Miroku) was related to a historical person;the rest were embodiments of theological and spiritual principles such as compassion, grace, divine wisdom, or steadfastness. In principle, the Bodhisattva possess the wisdom and power necessary to enter nirvana but refrain from doing so in order to help others reach salvation. In this they differ from the Arhats, who work only for their own enlightenment, and from the Buddhas, who (in theory) have already attained the hishest Ievel of spiritual insight and are usually no longer immediately connected with worldly affairs.

Kannon

A major Bodhisattva in Mahsyana Buddhism. Theologically Kannon serves as one of two major attendants of Amida and is no more puissant than Monju or Miroku or Fugen. In fact, however, he is the most widely worshiped of all Bodhisattvas in Japan and is virtually the archetype of this class of deity. The embodiment of divine compassion with limitless power and skill, Kannon can assume any form necessary for his mission of salvation ; but the most familiar formulations list thirty-three major guises. see Fuktkensaku Kannon, Guze Kannon, Nyoirin Kannon, and Sho-Kannon.

Kokuzo Bosatsu

An Esoteric Buddhist deity sometimes depicted in five different forms . Theologically the Aktsagarbha (Womb of the Void) is part of the Taizokai ; the five Bodhisattvas of this realm symbolize the five types of wisdom and power of achievement rooted in the merits of Vairocana and the Buddhas of the four directions ; their wisdom and mercy expand boundIessly, like space itself.

Kongokai

The Ingredient of the Vajra, in Esoteric Buddhist speculation, one of the ingredients out of which the entire creation was formed, the other being the Tai- zokai . The Kongokai is roughly equivalent to the Platonic phenomenon, or to material existence, to human knowledge, to contingency, to the first step by which the human consciousness returns to its divine matrix throush Buddhist enlightenment.

Mandra (mandala)

Theological diagram or schema prominent in Esoteric Buddhism. The mandala originated in India, where highly ab- stract diagrams called Yantras, made up of interlocking triangles and circles, have been used by ascetics as aids to private meditation. Mandalas are used in the same way, but they bear pictures or other symbols of the deities and also have been employed in baptism and ordination rituals. In the kondo ofJapanese Shingon temples, two large mandalas are frequently mounted on permanent wooden screens at right angles to the axis of the image platform.

Miroku (Maitreya)

The Buddha of the future. Early in the history of the faith, Indian Buddhists believed that another Buddha, to be called Maitreya, would appear on earth to lead myriads of the faithful to salvation, and Iaymen prayed that they would be reborn at the time of his coming. The future Buddha would be the reincarnation of one of the lesser disciples of Sakyamuni, a former Brahman named Maitreya. After his death, Maitreya was to rise to the Tushita Paradise and dwell there as a Bodhisattva until the time (in the remote future) for him to return to earth and begin his messianic role.

Monju (Manjusri)

One of the great Mahayana Bodhisattvas who are embodiments of compassion for mankind ; but the emphasis ia Manjusri’s character is also upon wisdom, and he is considered the guardian of the sacred doctrines of the Greater Vehicle.

Myo-o (Vidyaraja)

Fierce Bodhisattvas, prominent in Esoteric Buddhist symbolism; the manifestations of Vairocana’s wrath against evil. Although often seen in sets of five, their number and identities sometimes differ. The most commonly seen Myo-o in Japan, however, is Fudo .

Shingon

“True Word” , one of two major sects of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan, the other being Tendai . The Shingon sect was established in Japan by the monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi, a.d. 774-835), who studied Esoterism in China. Headquarters of the sect is the vast sanctuary atop Mount Koya, still a remote and isolated spot, other major temples include Jingo-ii near Kyoto Toji within the city proper Kanshin-ji in Osaka Prefecture , and Muro-ji in Nara Prefcture.

Shitenno

The four Guardian (Deve) Kings. Aancient Indian gods of the four cardinal point of the compass and rulers of the vast host of animistic deities which still hold the loyalties of Indian villagers. Depicted in early Buddhist arts as devotees and protectors ot Sakyamuni, their imagery became increasingly prominent in China and Japan.

Taishaku-ten

The Vedic Indian, deity with many functions:lord of rainfall,archetype of earthly rulers,king of the heavenly hosts.He, together with Brahma were shown in early Buddhist art as devotees of the Buddha,as though to demonstratethe superiority of Buddhism over orthodox Indian creeds.

Taizokai

The Ingredient of the Womb, or Matrix’ in Esoteric Buddhist speculation, one of the ingredients out of which the entire creation was formed, the other being the Kongokai . The Taizokai is roughly equivalent to the Platonic noumenon, or to innate existence, the first cause, the original step by which the divine ground of existence becomes matter.

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