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Diagram of Personages Inscribed on the Shutei Gohonzon - a teaching tool for Nichiren Buddhist studies.

TLK-Quantum Life Buddhism Gohonzon


Further Explanation


The following section gives further explanation of the diagram of the Dai Nihonkoku Shamon Nisho Mandala (Gohonzon).


Gohonzon Catalog number 37 (from the excellent book “The Nichiren Extant Mandala Collection” available from This is a Shutei (teaching) Mandala meant to illustrate every aspect of the mandala. The numbering of each term corresponds to the numbering on the diagram.

Many of the Buddhist gods’ names include words such as 
Dai and tennoDai is an honorific term meaning great; tenno means heavenly king. The word namu is added to some names as a sign of great respect.

The Gohonzon at top is Catalog number 123, the last Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren and thought to be the Gohonzon Nichiren was buried with. This #123 Mandala is the chosen Gohonzon of the Quantum Life Buddhist Sangha.


Quick Reference;


1. Dai Jikoku Tenno

2. Namu Muhengyo Bosatsu

3. Namu Jogyo Bosatsu

4. Namu Taho Nyorai

5. Namu Myoho Renge Kyo

6. Namu Shakyamuni Buddha

7. Namu Jyogyo Bosatsu

8. Namu Anryugyo Bosatsu

9. Dai Bishamon Tenno

10. Fudo Myo-o

11. Dai Nittenno (Sun)

12. Dairokuten Ma-o (Mara)

13. Dai Bontenno (Brahma)

14. Namu Sharihotsu Sonja

15. Namu Yaku-o Bosatsu

16. Namu Monjushiri Bosatsu

17. Namu Fugen Bosatsu

18. Namu Miroku Bosatsu

19. Namu Dai Kasho Sonja

20. Shakudaijannin Dai-o (Indra)

21. Dai Gattenji (Moon)

22. Myojo Tenji (Stars)

23. Aizen Myo-o

24. Daibadatta

25. Ashura King

26. Wheel Turning King

27. King Ajatashatru

28. Naga-raja (Dragon King)

29. Kishimojin (Demon Mother)

30. Jurasetsunyo

31. Namu Tendai Daishi

32. Namu Ryuju Bosatsu

33. Namu Myoraku Daishi

34. Namu Dengyo Daishi

35. Dai Komoko Tenno

36. "This Great Mandara was

for the first time revealed in the

Jambudvipa 2,220 and some years

after the extinction of the Buddha."

37. Tensho Daijin

38. The signature of Nichiren

39. Hachiman Dai Bosatsu

40. Dai Zocho Tenno

41. The 3rd month of the 3rd year

of Koan, Kano







1.               Dai Jikoku Tenno - Dhritarashtra ~ Heavenly King of the East - Dhritarashtra is one of the four heavenly kings. The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism describes Dhritarashtra as follows: "This guardian king governs in the east and presides over the spring. He is 'He who maintains the kingdom (of the Law)'. 'the maintainer of the state'...He commands an army of celestial musicians (Gandharvas) and vampire demons (Pisaca)." The Gandharvas are one of the eight kinds of supernatural beings;who are said to revere and protect the Dharma.

According to the Kumarajiva translation of the Lotus Sutra, it is Dhritarashtra who offers dharanis in chapter twenty-six for the benefit of the teachers of the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: A helmeted warrior wearing armor and wind-blown scarves. He has a green complexion and a wrathful expression. He holds a sword in his right hand and his closed left hand rests on his hip.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth

In the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, innumerable bodhisattvas emerge from the sky beneath the Saha-world with their four leaders: Superior-Practice, Limitless-Practice, Pure-Practice, and Steadily-Established-Practice. They are the original disciples of the Original Buddha who are possessed of the thirty-two physical marks of greatness and are incomparably greater in stature and power than even the celestial bodhisattvas of the provisional teachings. In chapter 15, Shakyamuni Buddha does not commission the celestial bodhisattvas who are already present with the task of spreading the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Age, and summons these bodhisattvas instead. In chapter 21 they are given the specific transmission of the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Sutra consisting of the teachings, the supernatural powers, the treasury, and the achievements of the Tathagata. Therefore, they are the ones who are responsible for propagating the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Age of the Dharma. Anyone who upholds the Odaimoku in this age is said to be a Bodhisattva of the Earth or, more humbly, one of their followers.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are intimately related to the Original Buddha, because the eternal presence of the Original Buddha also means that his original disciples are also present. In Bodhisattva Archetypes, Taigen Daniel Leighton observes:

"The Lotus Sutra is also known for its teaching about the vast extent of Shakyamuni Buddhas lifetime, that Buddha is always present, intentionally choosing to appear to pass away or else to reveal himself, whichever is most beneficial. Thanks to his cosmic omnipresence, bodhisattvas are also pervasive in time and space. Although we do not always know of them, when needed they can pop out of the ground, from the soil of the earth and from the ground or roots of our own being."

Shinjo Suguro, commenting on the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra in his book Introduction to the Lotus Sutra, says of them:

"It is important to note that the Bodhisattvas who sprang up from beneath the earth, who first appear in this chapter, are not recognized by anyone in the congregation, not even by Maitreya, who is destined to be our next Buddha. These great Bodhisattvas appear only in this sutra and not in any other. Only these Bodhisattvas, who sprang up from beneath the earth, have the qualifications necessary to spread the Lotus Sutra in the evil and degenerate World of Endurance. Later on, in Chapter Twenty-one, 'Supernatural Powers of the Tathagata,' Shakyamuni will transmit the Lotus Sutra directly to them.

"Here it is revealed that the Bodhisattvas who sprang up from beneath the earth are the exemplary Bodhisattvas of the Lotus Sutra. Many other Bodhisattvas have appeared before this chapter, but these are the only ones who fully live up to the Sutra's teachings. Thus they symbolize the ideal, the models for dynamic activity. Their sphere of action is summarized in the lines 'They are no more defiled by worldly desires than a lotus flower is by the water in which it grows.'".

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are also the representatives of the Original Gate of the Lotus Sutra, the latter half of the sutra which contains the essential teaching. In the first half of the sutra, the Imprinted Gate, the theoretical teaching of the One Vehicle is taught. This teaching is called theoretical because it teaches that "in theory" all people can become buddhas because all along the Buddha was teaching the One Vehicle that leads to buddhahood. The provisional bodhisattvas, like Maitreya Bodhisattva and Accumulated-Wisdom Bodhisattva, represent this principle by providing a model of gradual cultivation to attain buddhahood. For them, bodhisattva practice is the cause of buddhahood which must precede it. The latter half of the Lotus Sutra, however, is the essential teaching of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha. The essential teaching reveals that buddhahood has no beginning or end and that the "cause" of bodhisattva practice is actually simultaneous with the "effect" of Buddhahood in the eternal enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha’s. One enters into this unity of practice and enlightenment through faith in the living actuality of buddhahood already present in the figure of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha. This is the teaching of the Original Buddha, and it is only his original disciples, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are entrusted to propagate such a teaching during the critical time of the Latter Age of the Dharma.

The four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth represent the four characteristics of Nirvana or Buddhahood as taught in the Nirvana Sutra: true self, eternity, purity, and bliss.

2.                Namu Muhengyo Bosatsu - Anantacaritra Bodhisattva ~ Limitless-Practice. This bodhisattva represents eternity which is the unborn and undying nature of Nirvana.

3.                Namu Jogyo Bosatsu - Visistacaritra Bodhisattva ~ Superior-Practice. This bodhisattva represents the true self which is the selflessness of Nirvana. Nichiren Shonin is considered by the Nichiren Shu to be the appearance of Bodhisattva Superior-Practice because he alone fulfilled the role of Bodhisattva Superior-Practice by being the first person to spread the Odaimoku.

7. Namu Jyogyo Bosatsu - Visuddhacaritra Bodhisattva ~ Pure-Practice. This bodhisattva represents purity which is Nirvana's freedom from all that is impure.

8. Namu Anryugyo Bosatsu - Supratisthitacaritra Bodhisattva ~ Steadily-Established Practice. This bodhisattva represents bliss which is Nirvana's liberation from suffering.

The Buddhas

Two Buddhas are shown on the Omandala, Shakyamuni Buddha and Many-Treasures Tathagata, but there are other buddhas who are present at the Ceremony in the Air. Also present are the Emanation Buddhas of the Worlds of the Ten Directions. This last group is compromised of all the buddhas of the pure lands throughout the universe who are in actuality the emanations of the Original Shakyamuni Buddha. These buddhas are not shown on the Shutei Mandala, but their presence is implied. Altogether, Shakyamuni Buddha and the Emanation Buddhas show the unity of all the buddhas in all directions with the Odaimoku.

Since the Omandala shows all the sentient beings of the ten worlds illuminated by the Odaimoku, the representatives of the other nine worlds on the Omandala are the buddhas of the future. In that sense, Shakyamuni Buddha and his emanations represent the buddhas of the present, Many-Treasures Tathagata represents all the buddhas of the past, and the other sentient beings are the buddhas of the future. This shows the unity of all the buddhas in all times with the Odaimoku.

4.      Namu Taho Nyorai - Prabhutaratna Tathagata ~ Many Treasures Thus Come One. Many-Treasures Tathagata appears within the stupa of treasures which emerges from beneath the earth and ascends into the sky above Vulture Peak in the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. In that chapter he testifies to the truth of what Shakyamuni Buddha has been preaching. Shakyamuni Buddha then tells the congregation that the Many-Treasures Tathagata taught in the world Treasure-Purity many ages ago, and that he made a vow even after his extinction he would appear to testify to the truth of the Lotus Sutra if anyone should preach it after his passing. Many-Treasures Tathagata also made a vow that he will allow the stupa to be opened and his body revealed if the Buddha who preaches the Lotus Sutra should recall all his emanated buddhas from throughout the universe. This is in fact what Shakyamuni Buddha does, and after all he has purified the Saha-world and recalled all his emanations, he ascends into the sky, opens the sutra and, at the invitation of Many-Treasures Tathagata, he enters the stupa of treasures. Then Shakyamuni Buddha uses his supernatural power to raise the entire congregation in the sky as well. In this way, the ceremony in the air begins. Senchu Murano points out that at first Shakyamuni Buddha is the guest, but after he reveals his true status as the Original Buddha he becomes the host and Many-Treasures Tathagata becomes the guest of honor. Many-Treasures Tathagata and his stupa return to their place of origin after the general transmission of the Lotus Sutra in chapter 22, though an offering is made to him and the stupa by Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva (Kuan Yin Bodhisattva) in chapter 25.


Many-Treasures Tathagata represents many things. On one level, he represents all the buddha's of the past, and his testimony shows that Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings are in accord with the universal truth which is valid in all ages and in all worlds. On another level, the Many-Treasures Tathagata personifies objective reality while Shakyamuni Buddha personifies subjective wisdom, so when they share the seat within the stupa of treasures they are actually demonstrating the unity of reality and wisdom, subject and object. The emergence of the stupa of treasures itself and the testimony of the Many-Treasures Tathagata from within it could also indicate the emergence of Buddhahood from within our own lives and our own inner recognition of and response to the truth when we are able to hear it.

Icon: Buddha in meditation with hands in gassho. His body aureole contains a stupa.


5.      Namu Myoho Renge Kyo - Devotion to the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching. Lotus Seeds: The Essence of Nichiren Shu Buddhism gives the following basic explanation of the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo: "In Sino-Japanese, the name of the Lotus Sutra is Myoho Renge Kyo. These five characters are themselves an expression of the essential core of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha taught in the Lotus Sutra. Because the Odaimoku embodies the essence of the Lotus Sutra, the five characters Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo are the key to unlocking the Buddha-nature which resides within all life. When the word Namu, meaning 'devotion,' is added to the title, it becomes Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, or 'Devotion to the Wonderful Truth of the Lotus Flower Teaching.' According to Nichiren, by simply chanting 'Namu Myoho Renge Kyo we are expressing our faith in the Eternal Buddha and opening our lives to all the qualities and merits of Buddhahood.

"For a clearer understanding of what Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is all about, let us take a closer look at each of the words which compose it.

"Namu comes from the Sanskrit word Namas, which means 'I devote myself to' or 'I take refuge in.' This affirms that when all other self-oriented methods of attaining happiness have failed, we come to recognize that true happiness is only found in the True Dharma.

"Myoho means 'True Dharma' or 'Wonderful Dharma.' It refers to the dynamic and interdependent true nature of life, in which everything exists through mutual support and transformation. In fact, the Buddha-nature is another name for life's inherent potential to recognize this true nature. Renge means 'Lotus Flower.' This illustrates the workings of the Wonderful Dharma by symbolizing the unity of cause and effect -- in this case aspiration and realization -- because the lotus produces flowers and seeds simultaneously. It also symbolizes the blossoming of the purity of Buddhahood from out of the muddy water of ordinary life, just as the pure white lotus flower blooms from the depths of muddy swamps. Kyo means 'Sutra,' which is what the Buddhist scriptures are called. Sutra means 'a thread of discourse.' In this context it refers to all the teachings of the Buddha which culminate in the Lotus Sutra. In a larger sense, because all phenomena manifest the Buddha's teachings, all phenomena can be considered the Buddha's teachings and actual manifestations of the truth of the Lotus Sutra.

"The recitation of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, is therefore the verbal expression of our heartfelt wish to attain Buddhahood. It is also a statement of our firm faith that Buddhahood is the true nature of our lives which can be realized anew in every moment. In this way we plant the seed of awakening within our lives and within the lives of others. The more we nourish this seed through our practice, the more our life will embody our ideals."

Senchu Murano explains:

"The Myoho Renge Kyo is not only the title of the Lotus Sutra but also the name of the Dharma itself. It is the core of the Lotus Sutra, the symbol of Nichiren Buddhism, the seed of Buddhahood to be sown in the minds of those who must be saved. We can say that the Purified Saha-world is the Palace of Sakyamuni Buddha because he is the Great King of the Dharma, and that the Myoho Renge Kyo is the Royal Standard hoisted on the roof of the Palace of the Great King of the Dharma." (Manual of Nichiren Buddhism pp.57-58)

Senchu Murano also writes:

"The Daimoku is the symbol of the Purified Saha-world of the Original Sakyamuni Buddha, the Royal Standard of the Palace of the Great King of the Dharma. Where there is the Daimoku, there is the Buddha. Even when the Emperor is in the field, the presence of the Imperial Standard indicates the whereabouts of the Emperor. Even when the Great Mandala is not fully inscribed or not written at all, the existence of the Daimoku represents the Buddha. Hence, Ippen Shudai no Gohonzon or the 'Gohonzon of the Daimoku Only' can be lawfully established."


6.      Namu Shakamuni Butsu - (Shakyamuni Buddha) - On the Great Mandala, Shakyamuni Buddha is the Original Buddha who cannot be spoken or thought of in terms of birth and death, self or other and is the source of all other manifestations of buddhahood. He is the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha who is unborn and undying.

In the sutras prior to the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha is the historical Buddha who attained enlightenment about 2,500 years ago and taught the way to enlightenment to others for approximately 50 years in northeastern India until his death at the age of 80. This view does not change until the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. In that chapter, Many-Treasures Tathagata appears in his stupa of treasures and testifies to the veracity and excellence of the One Vehicle teaching which Shakyamuni Buddha expounded in the first 10 chapters of the sutra. The assembly then ask to see Many-Treasures Tathagata, but in order to open the stupa of treasures Shakyamuni Buddha must recall his many emanations who are the buddhas of the ten directions. Shakyamuni Buddha purifies the world three times and then recalls his emanations. In doing this, he is no longer merely the historical Buddha but the source of all the ideal buddhas of the pure lands throughout the universe. He then opens the stupa of treasures, joins Many-Treasures Tathagata in the stupa which is already floating in the sky, and then uses his supernatural power to enable the entire assembly to rise up into the air as well. This is the beginning of the ceremony in the air. In chapter 15, Shakyamuni Buddha summons forth the bodhisattvas who emerge from beneath the earth and reveals that they are his original disciples from the remote past. In response to the question of how he could have taught these innumerable bodhisattvas beginning in the remote past when he has only been teaching for the past forty years, the Buddha reveals in chapter 16 that he did not attain enlightenment for the first time beneath the Bodhi Tree forty years before the events in the Lotus Sutra. Rather, he attained enlightenment in the unquanitifiably remote past. It is in chapter 16 that Shakyamuni Buddha shows himself as the Eternal or Original Buddha and not simply the historical buddha or even merely the source of the emanated buddhas of the present. It is this view of Shakyamuni Buddha in the 16th chapter which is the key to the true nature of enlightenment according to Nichiren Buddhism.

Shinjo Suguro explains that the original and eternal Shakyamuni Buddha provides Buddhism with a united faith:

In Buddhism, various Buddhas have been established as objects of devotion for different pious believers. Since each Buddha has a good reason for being venerated, Buddhism permits us to worship any or all of them. Nevertheless, the Most-Venerable-One should be One, just as the Truth is One. The second half of the Lotus Sutra (Hommon) emphasizes such a Buddhist position regarding the unity of faith. As the object of faith is absolute, it must relate to the realm of eternity. Generally we think of Sakyamuni as a historical figure, bound by the limitations of time and space, and only a provisional manifestation of the infinite, eternal Buddha. According to the Lotus Sutra, however, every Buddha, including the historical Sakyamuni Buddha, is a representation of the eternal original being of Sakyamuni.

Sakyamuni, when seen as the eternal being, is called the Original Buddha (Hombutsu), who was enlightened in the remotest past. The other Buddhas are called 'manifestations of the Buddha." The existence of each of them is a provisional manifestation in some time or place of the Original Buddha. The second half of the Lotus Sutra (Hommon) reveals the concept of the eternity of Sakyamuni, in contrast with the historical Buddha, who is a temporal representation of himself.

The Original Shakyamuni Buddha represents the unity of all three bodies (Trikaya) of a Buddha which are the Dharma-body (Dharmakaya), the Bliss-body (Sambhogakaya) and the Manifested-body (Nirmanakaya). The Original Shakyamuni Buddha is distinguished from the historical Shakyamuni Buddha by the presence of the Four Bodhisattvas who are the leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The historical Shakyamuni Buddha, however, is only accompanied by his monk disciples, such as Ananda and Mahakashyapa and only represents the Manifestation-body. The more exalted Shakyamuni Buddha of the provisional Mahayana teachings is accompanied by such bodhisattvas as Manjushri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, but only represents the Bliss-body perceived by the advanced bodhisattvas. Only the Original Shakayamuni Buddha accompanied by the Four Bodhisattvas represents all three bodies at once, all the other buddhas are merely emanations or aspects of this Buddha. For this reason the Original Shakyamuni Buddha is considered to be the Buddha who is most worthy of reverence.

The Original Shakyamuni Buddha also displays the three virtues of parent, teacher and sovereign of all who live in this Saha-world. Which is to say, the Original Buddha nourishes, teaches, and protects humanity through the power of the Wonderful Dharma. This is because faith in the Lotus Sutra enables our wisdom to mature, opens our eyes to the truth, and frees us of suffering.

The pure land of the Original Shakyamuni Buddha is the true reality of this world where the Buddha is always present preaching the Dharma. As such, it is sometimes called the Pure Land of Eagle Peak. In the Sutra of Meditation on Samantabhadra Bodhisattva this pure land is called the Pure Land of Tranquil Light.

Icon: Buddha seated in meditation with hands in gassho. His body aureoles contains three jewels.


The four heavenly kings

The guardians of the world who reside on the slopes of Mt. Sumeru in the heaven named after them from whence they are each responsible for one of the four cardinal directions. Each leads an army of supernatural creatures who help them keep the fighting demons (asuras) at bay. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts relates the following information about them:

"The lords of the four quarters who serve Taishaku as his generals and protect the four continents. They are said to live halfway down the four sides of Mt. Sumeru. They are Jikokuten (Skt Dhritarashtra) who protects the east, Komokuten (Virupaksha) who guards the west, Bishamonten (Vaishravana) who watches over the north and Zojoten (Virudhaka) who defends the south. Their respective functions are to protect the world; to discern and punish evil and encourage the aspiration for enlightenment; to listen to the Buddhist teachings and protect the place where the Buddha expounds them; and to relieve people of their sufferings. They appear in the ceremony of the Lotus Sutra with their ten thousand retainer gods, and in the 'Dharani' (twenty-sixth) chapter, Bishamonten and Jikokuten pledge on behalf of all four to protect those who embrace the sutra."

The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism states:

"These are the four celestial kings believed to guard the four cardinal points. Three are vassals of the fourth, Vaisravana. They are thought to live on Mount Meru, the home of the 33 deities (Trayastrimsa) and at the gates of the paradise of Indra, protector of Buddhism. Acolytes of Avalokitesvara, they are believed by some authors to be hypostases of the four-headed Brahminical deities symbolizing the cardinal points. They are the protectors of the world and of the Buddhist Law. As kings of the world, they were confused with their generals, and the Lalitavistara describes them already carrying weapons and wearing armor. Buddhist legends about them are legion: they are said to have assisted at the birth of the Buddha, and held up the hooves of his horse when he left the palace of the king his father at Kapilavastu. They offered the Buddha four bowls of food, which he miraculously merged into one. They were also present at his Parinirvana."


9.                Dai Bishamon Tenno - Vaishravana ~ Heavenly King of the North - Vaishravana is one of the Four Heavenly Kings. The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism describes Vaishravana as follows:

"Vaisravana is the guardian of the north and the chief of the four guardian kings - 'He who is knowing'. 'He who hears everything in the kingdom', the protector of the state par excellence, sometimes thought to be a god of defensive warfare. In China, he is considered to be a Buddhicization of the Indian god of wealth, Kuvera, the north being considered to hold fabulous treasures. He presides over winter and is black, so is also called 'the black warrior'. His symbols are a jewel and a serpent, and he commands a large army of Yaksas."

Vaishravana's army and attendants consisted of the kimnaras and the yakshas who are two of the eight kinds of supernatural beings who are said to revere and protect the Dharma. The kimnaras are celestial musicians and dancers who have the bodies of birds and human heads and torsos. They officiate at Vaishravana's court. The yakshas are a kind of flesh-eating demon or spirit who make up Vaishravana's army. Originally the yakshas appeared as the spirits of the trees and forests and even villages; but they had a fierce side as well, and in their more demonic aspect came to be called rakshasas. The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism states:

"The Yaksas are commanded by 28 generals, of whom the chief is Pancika - according to the Mahavamsa, he was the father of the 500 sons of Hariti. Worshipped very early in India (some of his representations are found in Gandhara and in northern India) as well as in Java, this general of the Yaksas was soon merged with Vaisravana.

Chapters twenty-four and twenty-five of the Lotus Sutra state that Bodhisattva Wonderful Voice and Bodhisattva World Voice Perceiver respectively can both transform themselves into Vaishravana (among many other forms) in order to expound the Dharma and save others. In chapter twenty-six of the Lotus Sutra, Vaishravana compassionately offers dharanis in order to protect those who teach the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: A crowned warrior wearing armor and wind-blown scarves. He is blue skinned and wrathful in appearance. In his right hand is a lance and in his right hand he holds up a stupa.


Myo-o ~ Knowledge Kings

These esoteric deities are the kings of mystic knowledge who represent the power of the Buddhas to vanquish blind craving. They are known as the the kings of mystic knowledge because they wield the mantras, which are the mystical spells made up of Sanskrit syllables imbued with the power to protect practitioners of the Dharma from all harm and evil influences. The Vidyarajas appear in terrifying wrathful forms because they embody the indomitable energy of compassion which breaks down all obstacles to wisdom and liberation.

There are two groups of Vidyarajas which are well known. The most famous is the group of five led by Fudo Myo-o. These five are the emanations of the Buddhas of the four cardinal directions and the center which figure prominently in esoteric Buddhist practice. There is also a group of eight, which includes Aizen Myo-o, who are emanations of bodhisattvas.

The two Vidyarajas who appear on the Omandala are Achalanatha and Ragaraja, known in Japanese as Fudo Myo-o and Aizen Myo-o respectively. The are each represented by their respective bijas, "seed syllables" that embody their essence. In this case, the seed syllables are written in Siddham, a variant of Sanskrit. They are the only parts of the Omandala written in the form of Sanskrit bijas. According to Jacqueline Stone, Fudo Myo-o and Aizen Myo-o represent, "respectively, the doctrines of 'samsara is nirvana' (shoji soku nehan) and 'the defilements are bodhi' (bonno soku bodai)." (Original Enlightenment, p.277) The first principle means that nirvana is not another realm but the true reality of the world of birth and death. The second principle means that bodhi, or enlightenment, is not the eradication of the defilements, but their liberation and transmutation into the wholesome energy of the enlightened mind.

Fudo Myo-o and Aizen Myo-o are sometimes identified with the Ni-o, the Two Kings, who are a dual form of Mahavairochana Tathagata (Dainichi Nyorai), who is a personification of the Dharmakaya or universal body of the Buddha. As such, Fudo Myo-o represents the element of spirit or mind, the Diamond World Mandala, and subjective wisdom; while Aizen Myo-o represents the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and space, as well as the Womb World Mandala, and objective truth. Together the pair represent all of the things which are united in the universal life of the Buddha - body and mind, wisdom and truth, and the two mandalas. The Two Kings are often found guarding the main gates to temple and monasteries as fierce giant warriors.


10.             Vam - The bija for Achalanatha Vidyaraja ~ Fudo Myo-o

The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism states:

"Chiefly represented in Japan, Fudo Myo-o, by his mystic name Joju Kongo, 'the eternal and immutable diamond', is the chief of the five great kings of magic science. The Sanskrit name for him, Acalanatha means 'immutable lord'. He is the Vidyaraja of the dark green or black body, the destroyer of the passions. In the doctrines of esotericism he is considered as a 'body of metamorphosis' (Nirmanakaya) of Vairocana, whose firmness of spirit and determination to destroy evil he personifies. His symbol is a vertically held sword around which winds a dragon (Japanese kurikara) surrounded by flames. His halo of flames is thought to consume the passions. He is described in many sutras and particularly in the Mahavairocana-sutra. He assumes 'faced with obstacles, the energy of the adept himself', thus demonstrating the power of compassion of Vairocana. His sword aids him to combat the 'three poisons': greed, anger, and ignorance. In the left hand he holds a lasso (pasa) to catch and bind the evil forces and to prevent them from doing harm. Fudo Myo-o, having taken a vow to prolong the life of the faithful by six months and to give them an unshakable resolution to conquer the forces of evil, is sometimes invoked in this respect as the 'prolonger of life'."

The Guide also says:

"Due to his combative force, Fudo is invoked in many circumstances, chiefly against attacks of sickness - not because he is considered as a healer, but as an effective force to combat impurities and demons that cause illness. He is also invoked for protection against persons feared to be harmful and against spells cast by sorcerers. Fudo is also often considered as the defender of Japan against attack from external enemies. For all these reasons, he must be one of the Buddhist deities most often invoked in Japan, and also one of the most popular. The temples and sanctuaries dedicated to him are found throughout the countryside, in cities and at crossroads. Most of these temples belong to the Shingon and Tendai sects. Members of the Nichiren sect also worship him, mainly as the 'protector of the state'."

Icon: A wrathful looking heavily muscled midnight blue monster with two prominent fangs sitting in full lotus posture on a rock and surrounded by flames. He holds an upright sword with a three pointed vajra handle in his right hand and a lasso with hooks in his left hand. He is dressed in green and red robes.

23.             Hum - The bija for Ragaraja Vidyaraja ~ Aizen Myo-o

The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism states:

"This Vidyaraja, who is venerated almost exclusively in Japan, is a deity of conception. He is the king of the magic science of attraction or of love. 'Aizen Myo-o represents in fact the amorous passion as it appears sublimated in the perspective of esotericism: victorious over itself, not by suppression as normally taught, but by a greater exaltation transmuted into a desire for Awakening.' He is sometimes identified with a ferocious form of Vairocana, although he is not one of the five great Vidyarajas. " (p.213)

The Guide also says:

"He is represented with a wrathful appearance. His colour is red, symbolizing the blood sweat of compassion. In his headdress is the head of a lion, symbolic of strength and of the five Great Buddhas. He has three eyes (to see the 'three worlds') and holds a lotus in the hand, symbolic of the calming of the senses, among other things. His other attributes are a bow and arrows. He has two round haloes included in a large 'burning wheel', red in colour. His half-open mouth reveals fangs." (p.214)

Finally, the Guide says:

"Aizen Myo-o is still venerated by the Japanese, and is often invoked in connection with petitions concerning love. Apart from this, he is not a popular deity except among artists, geishas and others in professions connected with matters of love." (p.214)

Icon: A wrathful looking heavily muscled red monster with sharp teeth, three eyes, and six arms sitting in full lotus on a lotus flower. One burning wheel forms an aureole around his head, and a larger one surrounds his body. He holds a bow and arrows, as well as a vajra and vajra bell, a lotus flower, and a pearl. He wears a lion in his headdress.



The Vedic Deities

On the mandala that Nichiren Shonin designed are several devas, deities from the Vedic cosmology of ancient India, which were accepted in Buddhism as the inhabitants of the heavens, the personifications of the forces of nature, fellow sentient beings in need of the Buddha's teachings, protectors of the Buddha Dharma, and even as roles taken on by the various bodhisattvas. In many ways they are similar to the ancient Olympian gods of Greece or the Aesir of Teutonic myths. In fact, they may even have a common source in the ancient Aryan culture. Nevertheless, the Vedic gods living on and above Mt. Sumeru have not disappeared but are still worshipped directly in India within Hinduism and appear as the guardians of the Dharma, protectors of humanity, and even as embodiments of aspects of enlightenment in Buddhism. The term devas means "shining ones."

In Philosophies of India, Heinrich Zimmer introduced the Vedic gods as follows:

"Indian orthodox philosophy arose from the ancient Aryan religion of the Veda. Originally the Vedic pantheon with its host of gods depicted the universe as filled with the projections of man's experiences and ideas about himself. The features of human birth, growth, and death, and of the process of generation were projected on the course of nature. Cosmic forces and phenomena were personalized. The lights of the heavens, the varieties and aspects of clouds and storm, forests, mountain masses and river courses, the properties of the soil, and the mysteries of the underworld were understood and dealt with in terms of the lives and commerce of divine beings who themselves reflected the human world. These gods were supermen endowed with cosmic powers and could be invited as guests to feast on oblations. They were invoked, flattered, propitiated, and pleased."

Flammarion Iconographic Guides: Buddhism gives the following summary of the position of these gods, or devas, within Buddhism:

"Devas are gods inhabiting the celestial stages of the world, and most of them are borrowed from the Indian pantheon. As we have seen, early Buddhism did not deny the existence of gods, but merely considered them to be spiritually inferior to the Buddha. The gods of Buddhism are not saviours, but beings with more power than humans. They live in pleasure for extremely long lives, but are nevertheless ultimately subject to the cycle of rebirth and suffering. They may be worshipped for material gain, and the earliest Buddhist literature contains stories of their service to the Buddha, and their promotion and protection of Buddhism. Thus we find the gods of the Indian pantheon assisting at all the major events in the life of the Buddha, more as attentive servants than as followers." (p. 258)

The Guide also says, "Devas represent the first of the eight classes of supernatural beings (Japanese Hachibutshu) mentioned in the Lotus Sutra as being protectors of the Buddha and the Law, victoriously waging war on opposing forces”. The other seven are the nagas (dragons), the garudas (giant birds who prey on the nagas), the ashuras (the fighting demons), the yakshas (nature spirits), the gandharvas (celestial musicians), the mahoragas (giant snakes), and the kimnaras (another type of celestial musician who are half-human and half-bird). There is another class of beings associated with the devas who are called the apsaras. The apsaras are servants, court musicians, dancers, and retainers of the devas. Presumably, they are the most populous class of beings in the heavenly realms. Nichiren taught that all the gods had promised to protect those who uphold the Lotus Sutra. He frequently invoked the Vedic deities and the Shinto kami as his protectors as in the following passage from On Persecutions Befalling the Sage:

"You may rest assured that nothing, not even a person possessed by a powerful demon, can harm Nichiren, because Brahma, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four heavenly kings, the Sun Goddess, and Hachiman are safeguarding him."

The other side of this, is that the gods would also abandon and punish those who slandered or turned away from the Lotus Sutra as in the following passage from his Letter to the Lay Priest Ichinosawa:

"The reason, as I stated earlier, is that every single person in this country has committed the three cardinal sins. Therefore, Brahma, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, and the four heavenly kings have entered into the body of the Mongol ruler and are causing him to chastise our nation." (pp. 530)

Nichiren also frequently addressed prayers to the gods and encouraged his followers to do so as well, but always in the context of an overarching faith in the Lotus Sutra.


13. Dai Bontenno - Great Brahma Heavenly King - Brahma is a term for the highest class of deities residing in the Brahma Heavens. So in the first chapter of the Lotus Sutra, three different Brahmas are said to be present on Vulture Peak: Brahma Heavenly King, Great Brahma Sikhin, and Great Brahma Light. Great Brahma Heavenly King, however, is the chief of these and is believed to be the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect creator of the world who resides in the Maha Brahma heaven of the realm of form. He is the lord of the saha world, and the first member of the trimurti which represents the three modes of material nature: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. In the sutras he says of himself, "I am Brahma, Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, the All-Powerful, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, Ruler, Appointer and Orderer, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be." (p. 76, Long Discourses of the Buddha) Other beings believe Brahma's self-testimony or have vague recollections of a past life in the Brahma heavens and therefore seek union with him or at least rebirth in his presence.

Union with Brahma or rebirth in the Brahma heavens of the realm of form (or any of the heavens for that matter) is treated by the Buddha as a legitimate though lesser goal for those who are unable to transcend their theistic assumptions about the goal of the religious life. It is a lesser goal because it is still within the six worlds of becoming and therefore one can only abide in a heavenly existence until the causes and conditions (in this case meritorious karma) which support that life are exhausted. Furthermore, even as the preeminent or first being among beings, Brahma is still subject to rebirth in accordance with the law of cause and effect and can not be apart from it. Brahma simply does not remember that he too came into being in the palace of Brahma due to causes and conditions at the beginning of the unfolding of the world. He believes that he is the sole cause for the creation of the world and its many beings, but once again he has overlooked the many other causes and condition involved. His self-testimony according to the Buddha is actually nothing more than self-delusion and egotism. As a being among beings who is also caught up in the round of birth and death, Brahma also must be considered in need of the Buddha's instruction despite his pretensions.

In any case, the Buddha was sharply critical of the brahmins and their Vedic learning who claimed to teach the way to union with Brahma. In the final analysis, he pointed out that the theistic teachings are based on hearsay and are not themselves able to give direct knowledge of Brahma. As an expedient, the Buddha taught the value of purifying the mind, renouncing the householder's life and meditating on the four infinite states of mind, "abodes of Brahma," associated with Brahma: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. In this way, one may be united with Brahma at death by emulating his good qualities through virtuous living and meditation.

The Buddha Dharma itself, however, is able to take those who follow it far beyond even the divine realms. The Buddha had realized that even the divine states of being were phenomenal and subject to the same shortcomings as all other forms of phenomenal existence. So, while union with Brahma or rebirth in the heavens is looked upon as a worthy and attainable goal, it is not the final goal, for only the peace of nirvana can provide true peace according to the Buddha. The Buddha, however, did assert that in his past lives as a bodhisattva he too had been Brahma.

According to the sutras, upon attaining enlightenment the Buddha was not sure whether he should attempt to teach others the Dharma. At that time Brahma himself came down from heaven and convinced the Buddha that he should teach and that there were those who would be able to understand. This story is recounted in chapter two of the Lotus Sutra where Brahma appears in the company of the Heavenly-King Shakra, the four heavenly kings, and many other gods. Brahma is also one of the deities who periodically makes an offering of music and showers the assembly with heavenly garments and lotus flowers. In chapter seven of the Lotus Sutra, Brahma Heavenly Kings from hundreds of billions of worlds all gathered to give offerings to Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Tathagata and requested that he turn the Wheel of the Dharma. Chapter eighteen asserts that anyone who persuades others to sit and hear the Lotus Sutra will obtain the seat of Brahma, so one of the causes by which one can become Brahma is to share the Lotus Sutra with others. Chapter nineteen asserts that Brahma will come to hear anyone who teaches the Lotus Sutra. Chapters twenty-four and twenty-five state that Bodhisattva Wonderful Voice and Bodhisattva World Voice Perceiver respectively can both transform themselves into Brahma (among many other forms) in order to expound the Dharma and save others. So based upon the testimony of the Lotus Sutra, Great Heavenly King Brahma is a devotee of the Lotus Sutra and may in fact be an appearance of one of the celestial bodhisattvas who uphold the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: A deity with four arms and four faces, each with a third eye. He is wearing the garments of an Indian king, including a crown on each head. In his upper right hand he carries a lance. The bottom right is in the Varada mudra which represents the act of making an offering. The top left arm holds a long stemmed lotus flower, while the lower left holds a vase of ambrosia. He is seated on a lotus flower which rests upon four (or seven) geese.


12.   Dairokuten Ma-o - King Mara of the Sixth Heaven - The name Mara means "Murderer" and he is called that because he is the entity who attempts to "murder" the spiritual life of others. Though he is a personification of delusion and even evil, he is very different from the devil in other religious traditions. To begin with, he is not a leader of the fighting demons who rebel against the gods, nor does he dwell in hell. Rather, he lives in the highest heaven in the realm of desire, from whence he is able to manipulate, exploit, and trick all the other beings in the realm of desire - including the deities in the lower heavenly realms. His primary purpose is to ensure that no one escapes the cycle of birth and death. In some ways, he is like a jail warden who is trying to keep his "wards" trapped within the world of birth and death. In other ways he is like the owner of a casino who employs all kinds of entertainments and even occasional payouts in order to keep the gamblers at the roulette wheels and card tables. In the end, the gamblers always lose but Mara does his best to keep them fooled into thinking that somehow they can hit the jackpot and find ultimate happiness within the realm of desire.

In the sutras, it is Mara who at first sends his daughters to seduce Siddhartha on the eve of his enlightenment. When Siddhartha sees through their beauty and reduces them to aged crones, Mara sends an army of demons to scare off the Buddha. This also fails. Siddhartha sits unmoved as the arrows and spears of the demons turn into flowers before they can hit him. Finally, Mara asks Siddhartha what entitles him to attain enlightenment. Siddhartha touches the ground and calls upon the earth itself to witness to the countless merits that he had accumulated over innumerable past lives as a bodhisattva. After his awakening, Mara tried to convince the Buddha that it would be impossible to teach anyone else the Dharma and that he should immediately enter parinirvana, but Brahma himself convinced the Buddha that it would be possible to teach others. Mara appears later in the life of the Buddha and unsuccessfully attempts to convince him to pass into parinirvana prematurely before the Dharma and the Sangha can be firmly established. Nichiren Buddhism often refers to Mara as part of the "three obstacles and the four devils" which was a teaching of Chih-i, the founder of T'ien-t'ai Buddhism. These are described in Dharma Flower: The Faith, Teaching and Practice of Nichiren Buddhism (unpublished manuscript):

"The three obstacles and the four devils were Chih-i's way of cataloging all the various phenomena which can keep us from practicing Buddhism. The three obstacles consist of self-centered desires or defilements, the unwholesome habits which arise from those defilements, and the painful consequences of such activity. The three obstacles describe the vicious circle created by our usual self-centered way of interacting with the world. They describe the way in which we bring so much unnecessary suffering upon ourselves, which naturally leads to further frustration and anxiety which then leads to even more selfishly motivated activities and so on, ad nauseum... All of this keeps us mired in our own problems. If we are not careful, it will even prevent us from putting into practice the very teachings which can break the cycle.

"The four devils consist of the devil of the five aggregates, the devil of the defilements, the devil of death, and the devil king of the sixth heaven. The devil of the aggregates refers to the inherent insecurity, anxiety, and outright suffering which results from trying to identify ourselves with various physical and mental components which are in constant flux. The devil of the defilements refers to the ways in which self-centered desires inevitably arise based upon the needs of the body and mind for nourishment, security, pleasurable stimulation, and self-aggrandizement. The devil of death refers to the dread, fear, and terror which arise in the face of the inevitable dissolution of the body and mind upon death. The devil king of the sixth heaven refers to those things in life which tempt us to forget about Buddhist practice and live only for worldly goals and aspirations. The devil king of the sixth heaven personifies all those people, situations, and inner impulses which tempt or threaten us to forsake Buddhism and return to the old cycle of unthinking habit, fleeting pleasures and familiar pains. One could say that the other name for the devil king of the sixth heaven is 'the devil we know' who attempts to frighten or cajole us away from the unfamiliar territory of liberation back into the vicious cycle of our self-centeredness." (p.23)

Icon: A deity dressed like a great king (maharaja) draped with garlands. He holds a bow in one hand and five arrows in the other.

20. Shakudaikannin Dai-o - (Shakra Devanam Indra ) a.k.a. Taishakuten (Shakra) - Indra is the ruler of the other thirty-two devas in the Heaven of the Thirty-three gods at the summit of Mt. Sumeru and also commander-in-chief of the Four Heavenly Kings. He is the god of thunder and lightning, the bringer of rain, the most powerful of the gods in the realm of desire, and the leader in the fight against the fighting demons (asuras) who constantly plot and scheme to overthrow the gods and on occasion even attempt to storm the heavenly palaces on the slopes of Mt. Sumeru. The name Shakra means "the mighty", Devanam means "chief of the gods," and Indra means "lord." Indra is also known as Vajrapani which means the "Vajra Wielder." He is called this because the thunderbolt which he wields is called the "vajra" or "diamond pounder." Unlike the aloof and serene Brahma who sees himself as the omnipotent creator, Indra sees himself as the mighty lord who leads the heavenly hosts.

Indra is also a follower of the Buddha and a protector of the Dharma. In fact, Indra often appears to test the resolve, patience, generosity, and compassion of the bodhisattvas, including Shakyamuni Buddha in his past lives. As an example, in the Nirvana Sutra, the story is told of how the bodhisattva who would become Shakyamuni Buddha was once a youth practicing asceticism in the Himalayas. Indra transformed himself into a ferocious demon (raskshasa) and began reciting the verse "All is changeable, nothing is constant. This is the law of birth and death." The boy insisted on hearing the rest of the verse, but the demon demanded that the boy offer himself as food after hearing it. The boy agreed, so the rakshasa recited "Extinguishing the cycle of birth and death, one enters the joy of nirvana." The boy inscribed the complete verse on all the surrounding rocks and trees and then leaped into the demon's mouth, but at the last moment Indra changed back into himself and caught the boy in his arms. In other past lives, while still practicing as a bodhisattva, the Buddha himself appeared as Indra. The other bodhisattvas are also reborn, at times, as Indra.

Indra is also well known for his net. The Net of Indra is said to cover the universe and contains jewels in each of its interstices which all reflect one another. This is a model for the interdependent nature of all phenomena according to the Buddha's teachings. This image is especially associated with the Flower Garland Sutra.

In chapter two of the Lotus Sutra, Indra is one of the deities who accompanies Brahma when he convinces the Buddha that he should teach the Dharma. Indra is also one of the deities who offers the assembly heavenly garments, lotus flowers and music. Chapter eighteen asserts that anyone who persuades others to sit and hear the Lotus Sutra will obtain the seat of Indra, so one of the causes by which one can become Indra is to share the Lotus Sutra with others. Chapter nineteen asserts that Indra will come to hear anyone who teaches the Lotus Sutra. Chapters twenty-four and twenty-five state that Bodhisattva Wonderful Voice and Bodhisattva World Voice Perceiver respectively can both transform themselves into Indra (among many other forms) in order to expound the Dharma and save others. So based upon the testimony of the Lotus Sutra, Indra is a devotee of the Lotus Sutra and may in fact be an appearance of one of the celestial bodhisattvas who uphold the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: A golden deity with a third eye in armor holding a vajra in his right hand, and with his left hand curled in a fist and resting on his hip. He sits in the posture of royal ease atop a white elephant which holds another vajra in its trunk.

11.   Dai Nittenno (Surya) - Surya is the Vedic god of the sun, and one of the thirty-three gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-three. In esoteric Buddhism, Surya represents bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings.

Icon: A deity holding a sun disc in his right hand, his closed left hand rests on his hip. He is seated upon a lotus which is carried by three horses.

21. Dai Gattenji (Chandra) - Chandra is the Vedic god of the moon, and one of the thirty-three gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-three. In esoteric Buddhism, Chandra represents the universal purity of the buddha-nature which cools the passions and removes the three poisons.

Icon: A deity holding a moon disc in his right hand, his closed left hand rests on his hip. He is seated upon a lotus which is carried by three geese.

22. Myojo Tenji (Aruna) - According to The Myths and Gods of India:

"The Sun's charioteer is the Red-One (Aruna), the wise elder brother of the bird Wings-of-Speech (Garuda). Aruna, like the resplendent Vivasvat, also a son of Kasyapa, is the deity of dawn. He stands on the chariot in front of the Sun, and his strong body shelters the world from the Sun's fury. Aruna is said to be more beautiful even than the Moon." (p.95)

Icon: A deity with red skin driving a chariot.


The Major Shravaka Disciples


The word shravaka means "voice hearer" and refers to those monastic disciples who directly heard the voice of the Buddha. From the standpoint of Mahayana Buddhism, the shravakas are the Hinayana disciples who listened and followed the teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The goal of the shravakas is to become an arhat or 'Worthy One.' An arhat is someone who has realized nirvana and is thereby free of all greed, anger, and ignorance and will no longer undergo birth and death. According to the Lotus Sutra, however, even the shravakas are on the One Vehicle which leads to buddhahood. The nirvana of the arhats is in actuality a temporary respite or 'magic city' on the journey to perfect and complete enlightenment. The true 'voice hearer' then, is actually a bodhisattva who has heard the teaching of the One Vehicle of the Lotus Sutra and who enables others to hear it as well.

Traditionally there are ten major disciples who are representative of the different qualities that were valued by Hinayana Buddhism. They are:

1. Shariputra - foremost in wisdom.

2. Mahakashyapa - foremost in ascetic practices.

3. Ananda - foremost in hearing the sutras.

4. Subhuti - foremost in understanding emptiness.

5. Purna - foremost in expounding the Dharma.

6. Maudgalyayana - foremost in supernatural powers.

7. Katyayana - foremost in explaining the Dharma.

8. Aniruddha - foremost in using the divine eye (clairvoyance).

9. Upali - foremost in observing the precepts.

10. Rahula - foremost in inconspicuous practice.

In the Lotus Sutra, the shravakas fall into three groups of superior, intermediate, and lesser capacity, depending upon the manner in which they are able to understand the One Vehicle. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts states:

"Shariputra alone understood immediately upon hearing the Buddha preach concerning 'the true entity of all phenomena' (shojo jisso) in the Hoben (second) chapter; he constitutes the first group. The Hiyu (third) chapter predicts his enlightenment. Maudgalyayana, Mahakashyapa, Katyayana and Subhuti understood the Buddha's teaching through the parable of the three carts and the burning house related in the Hiyu chapter. They constitute the second group. Their attainment of Buddhahood is predicted in the Juki (sixth) chapter. Purna, Ananda, Rahula and others finally understood the Buddha's teaching by hearing about their relationship with Shakyamuni since the remote past of sanzen-jintengo, as explained in the Kejoyu (seventh) chapter. They constitute the third group. Purna's enlightenment is prophecied in the Gohyaku Deshi Juki (eighth) chapter, and Ananda's and Rahula's in the Ninki (ninth) chapter."

14. Namu Sharihotsu Sonja - The Venerable Shariputra - Shariputra and his lifelong friend Maudgalyayana were born to brahmin families in neighboring villages near Rajagriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha. As young men they were both disillusioned with worldly life. Together they left home to find enlightenment and eventually became the leading disciples of the skeptical philosopher Sanjaya. This teaching did not satisfy them for long however, and so they both set out again to find the truth. The two friends even made an agreement that whoever discovered it first would find and tell the other. Shariputra traveled to Rajagriha and there he met Ashvajit. Ashvajit was one of the five ascetics who became the first disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha after he preached the sermon on the Middle Way and the four noble truths at the Deer Park in Varanasi. Ashvajit's calm demeanor so impressed Shariputra that he asked him who his teacher was and what teaching he had received. Ashvajit told Shariputra about Shakyamuni Buddha and then gave him a summary of the Dharma as he understood it in the following verse:

"Of those things that arise from a cause,

The Tathagata has told the cause,

And also what their cessation is:

This is the doctrine of the Great Recluse."

Upon hearing these words, Shariputra's quick mind realized the profound implications of this seemingly simple verse and he attained the first of four stages leading to complete liberation from birth and death - stream-entry. At that moment, he knew that Shakyamuni Buddha was the teacher he and his friend had been looking for. Shariputra immediately went to Maudgalyayana and shared with him Ashvajit's verse.

Maudgalyayana also attained the stage of stream-entry and together the two seekers agreed to see Shakyamuni Buddha. But first Shariputra insisted they go to their former teacher Sanjaya and try to convince him to join them. Sanjaya, however, was not willing to relinquish his position as a teacher in order to become the disciple of another. He even tried to convince Shariputra and Maudgalyayana to stay - offering them positions as co-leaders of his own movement.

Shariputra and Maudgalyayana were not interested in mere leadership, they were determined to attain liberation under a true teacher, so they both left and took half of Sanjaya's 500 disciples with them. When Shakyamuni Buddha saw the two friends coming to meet him, he announced to the assembly that these two would become his chief disciples. The Buddha ordained the two as monks at that time. After a week of intensive practice, Maudgalyayana attained the fourth stage of Hinayana enlightenment and became an arhat (a worthy one) who would no longer have to be reborn. After another week had passed, Shariputra also became an arhat while listening to the Buddha preach a sermon to Dighanakha, Shariputra's nephew. It is said that Shariputra took two weeks to attain enlightenment because he needed to think through and examine all the implications and permutations of the Buddha's teachings. Because he did this, he was second only to the Buddha in preaching the Dharma, and several sutras in the Tripitika are actually taught by Shariputra with the full approval of the Buddha.

Shariputra was known as the one who had the best knowledge of the Dharma in terms of analysis and systematization. According to tradition, the Buddha taught the Dharma in detail to his mother Queen Maya in the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods over a period of three months. Each day, the Buddha would explain to Shariputra what he had taught in there, and this transmission became the basis for the Abhidharma, the systematic explanation of the Buddha's teachings. Because the Mahayana sutras base themselves on the doctrine of emptiness, rather than the systematic philosophy of the Abhidharma, Shariputra is often the focus of criticism and ridicule in many Mahayana sutras. The point is that an analytical understanding of the Dharma as represented by Shariputra is inferior to the bodhisattva's intuitive insight into the empty nature of all phenomena. However, as one can see from the story of Shariputra's introduction to the Dharma, this may not be entirely fair to the actual Shariputra of the earlier teachings who seems to have been a very intuitive person and not just a dry intellectual.

Nevertheless, in the Mahayana canon he did come to represent a certain type - a humorless monk whose understanding of the Dharma was too literal and naive. He is portrayed as someone who takes himself and his status as a monk too seriously. He is often presented as a male chauvinist as well. Finally, he is made to represent those whose spiritual concern is limited to their own liberation.

The picture of Shariputra that emerges from the Pali Canon is very different. In the Pali Canon, Shariputra is the right hand man of the Buddha who assists him in teaching the Dharma up until the very end of his life. He is even known as the "regent of the Dharma" due to his role as the Buddha's principal teaching assistant. He is compassionate, helpful, and solicitous of the welfare of the other disciples. He is also given responsibility for the administration and material well-being of the Sangha. He has great facility in abiding in the highest stages of meditative absorption (the dhyanas) including the ability to "abide in emptiness." Contrary to the Mahayana sutras, Shariputra almost seems to be the prototype of the Zen Master: a master of meditation, a compassionate teacher, and one who can abide in emptiness at will. In the Pali Canon, the Buddha himself holds up Shariputra and Maudgalyayana as models for all the disciples.

One of the most important events in the life of the early Sangha was the schism created by Devadatta. Devadatta had convinced 500 newly ordained monks to follow him instead of Shakyamuni Buddha. Out of compassion for those 500 monks, the Buddha sent Shariputra and Maudgalyayana to visit them. Devadatta was eager to have these two revered disciples join his group and so he invited them to join him and even preach to the 500 while he rested. Devadatta's overconfidence was his undoing however, for Shariputra and Maudgalyayana taught the true Dharma which the monks had not heard before and convinced them to return to Shakyamuni Buddha. Devadatta awakened to discover that all his followers had left him.

In the last year of the Buddha's life, Shariputra returned to his home in the village of Nalaka. He returned because his mother had not yet taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha and yet he knew that she had the potential to attain the state of stream-entry. So he returned home in order to try one last time to awaken that potential.

Upon returning home, he fell ill with dysentery and all the gods visited him on his death-bed. Witnessing this, his mother realized that the gods that she worshipped in turn payed their respects to her son Shariputra because he had attained liberation. At that time she asked Shariputra to tell her about the Buddha and to explain the Dharma to her. Finally she was able to open her mind and attain the state of stream-entry by taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Shortly after that, Shariputra summoned the monks who had accompanied him and asked forgiveness for anything he might have done to upset them. He then entered into the highest stages of meditative attainment and passed away.

In the Lotus Sutra, it is Shariputra who the Buddha first addresses when he emerges from the Samadhi of Innumerable Meanings at the very start of chapter two. He tells Shariputra that the wisdom of the Buddhas is profound and immeasurable and beyond the capabilities of the Shravakas - of whom Shariputra was the chief representative. Three times Shariputra enthusiastically requests the Buddha to teach this great wisdom. Finally, the Buddha teaches the one great purpose for which the Buddha's appear in the word. The Buddha teaches the One Vehicle, by which he reveals that he only teaches bodhisattvas and so by implication even Shariputra and all the other disciples are actually bodhisattvas who will be able to attain buddhahood. In chapter three, Shariptura is the first to understand the import of this teaching and the sutra says that he felt like dancing for joy. Shariputra then reveals that all along he had wanted to be a bodhisattva and now he is very happy to learn that he too will attain buddhahood. Shakyamuni Buddha then explains that Shariputra has aspired to enlightenment in a previous existence but had forgotten. Now, upon hearing the Lotus Sutra, he was able to return to that original vow. So in a sense, Shariputra had actually been a bodhisattva all along without realizing it. Shakyamuni Buddha then predicts Shariputra's future buddhahood; announcing that in the future he will become Flower-Light Tathagata in the world Free-From-Taint. He also explains that even someone as wise as Shariputra can only understand the Lotus Sutra through faith. Shariputra then recedes into the background until he reappears in the latter half of chapter 12. In that chapter, Shariputra appears once more as the male chauvinist monk who can not believe that the eight year old dragon girl can attain enlightenment. Shariputra is proved wrong and unlike his earlier joyful reception of the Dharma the sutra states that he "received the Dharma faithfully and in silence." (Lotus Sutra, p. 202). Chapters 22 and 28 mention that Shariputra and the other monks had great joy upon hearing the teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: A monk with a long handled fan.

19. Namu Dai Kasho Sonja - The Venerable Mahakashyapa - Mahakashyapa grew up in a brahmin family near Rajagriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha. His father was very wealthy and owned a large estate encompassing sixteen villages. Despite growing up in luxury (or perhaps because of it) Mahakashyapa wished to renounce the world and live a simple life in search of enlightenment. His parents insisted that he marry and he reluctantly agreed. However, he commissioned an artist to caste a golden statue based on his idea of what a perfectly beautiful woman should look like. He demanded that the woman his parents chose to be his wife should look exactly like the statue. Of course, he never imagined they would find a woman to match the statue but much to his dismay they succeeded. The woman, Bhadra Kapilani, also wished to leave the home life. In fact, they had deep karmic affinities for each other due to having spent many past lives together perfecting virtue and seeking enlightenment. They ended up being a good match for each other due to their shared aspirations. Not long after Mahakashyapa's parent's passed away and he inherited their estate, the couple agreed that the time had finally come when they could both leave the home life and take to the road as homeless wanderers seeking enlightenment. So that it would not cause a scandal, they both agreed to part company and take different roads.

Bhadra Kapilani ended up going to Shravasti, the capital of the kingdom of Kaushali. There she stayed with an order of non-Buddhists nuns near the Jetavana monastery until the Buddha agreed to initiate an order of nuns at the urging of Ananda on behalf of Yashodhara, the Buddha's former wife, and Mahaprajapati, the Buddha's aunt and foster mother. Bhadra Kapilani soon attained the stage of arhat and freed herself from the bonds of birth and death. She became known as the foremost among the nuns for recalling her past lives, many of which were spent as the wife of Mahakashyapa in his previous lives. Bhadra Kapilani was also know for her patience and compassion, and was a popular teacher of the Dharma.

Mahakashyapa ended up meeting the Buddha on the road. The Buddha was sitting beneath a banyan tree emitting rays of light, and Mahakashyapa saw this and recognized all the signs and marks of a great man on him. He immediately went up to the Buddha and declared that he would be his disciple. The Buddha responded by saying that any unenlightened person who tried to explain enlightenment in the presence of someone as perceptive and sincere as Mahakashyapa would have their head split into seven pieces. The Buddha then gave him a brief teaching and accepted him as a disciple. At that time, Mahakashyapa folded his outer robe and gave it to the Buddha to use as a seat. The Buddha remarked upon the softness of the robe and Mahakashyapa immediately asked the Buddha to keep it. In return, Shakyamuni Buddha offered his own ragged robe which had come from a cremation ground. Mahakashyapa joyfully accepted. This was the only time that Shakyamuni Buddha ever exchanged robes with a disciple.

From that time on Mahakashyapa took up the dhuta, the various ascetic disciplines sanctioned by the Buddha for those who wished to strengthen their self-discipline and live as simply as possible. These disciplines included using only cast-off rags instead of accepting donated robes, eating only by begging door-to-door instead of accepting invitations to dinner, eating only once a day, only sleeping outdoors, and other such practices which were austere but not harmful in sub-tropical India. Mahakashyapa even became known as the foremost in ascetic discipline.

Mahakashyapa and many other monks were on the way to Kushinagara when the Buddha passed away. Mahakashyapa and the arhats were not upset, but many of the unenlightened monks were overcome with grief. One monk, however, was actually happy because he assumed that they would now be able to do as they pleased since the Buddha had passed away. Mahakashyapa and the monks continued to Kushinagara where they paid homage to the Buddha one last time. After Mahakashyapa finished paying homage, the funeral pyre spontaneously burst into flames.

After the funeral, Mahakashyapa gathered and presided over the first Buddhist council in order to preserve the Dharma and the Vinaya. The council consisted of 500 arhats. At the council, Ananda recited the sutras while Upali recited the Vinaya.

In China in the late 5th century a writing called A History of the Transmission of the Dharma Treasury appeared. It was allegedly a translation from a Sanskrit original, but this has never been proven. In that writing, a lineage of Buddhist patriarchs is given beginning with Mahakashyapa continuing with Ananda and ending with Aryasimha, the twenty-fourth patriarch. This list appears in the preface to Chih-i's The Great Calming and Contemplation (Jap. Maka Shikan) and became a part of the T'ien-t'ai tradition. In this system, the lineage ends with Aryasimha. This later became the basis for the legendary Zen lineage of 28 Indian patriarchs which extended to four more Indian patriarchs of which Bodhidharma was the last. It was Bodhidharma who allegedly transmitted the Zen teaching in China. Eventually the legend of the transmission of the Dharma from Shakyamuni Buddha to Mahakashyapa actually became one of the more famous Zen koans:

"Once, in ancient times, when the World-Honored One was at Mount Grdhrakuta, he twirled a flower before his assembled disciples. All were silent. Only Mahakashyapa broke into a smile.

"The World-Honored One said, 'I have the eye treasury of right Dharma, the subtle mind of nirvana, the true form of no-form, and the flawless gate of the teaching. It is a special transmission outside tradition. I now entrust this to Mahakashyapa.'" (The Gateless Barrier, p. 46)

In the Lotus Sutra, Mahakashyapa, along with Subhuti, Katyayana, and Maudgalyayana all express their joy at hearing the teaching of the One Vehicle in chapter four. These four disciples then tell the Buddhist version of the parable of the prodigal son in that same chapter. In chapter five, the Buddha addresses the parable of the herbs to specifically to these four. In chapter six, the Buddha predicts the future buddhahood of these four disciples beginning with Mahakashyapa, who he announces will become Light Tathagata of the world Light-Virtue.

Icon: A monk leaning on a begging staff.

The Provisional Bodhisattvas

The Buddhism of the Nikayas and Agamas, the source texts of basic Buddhism, recognizes only two bodhisattvas, Siddhartha Gautama before he attained buddhahood and Maitreya Bodhisattva who resides in the Tushita Heaven until it is his time to appear as the next Buddha in this world. The Nikayas and Agamas do accept the possibility that there might be other bodhisattvas, but none are named.

The Mahayana sutras, however, make the bodhisattva the primary ideal of Buddhist practice, and many bodhisattvas appear as models of that ideal and as celestial saviors who can assist others on their own journeys to buddhahood. Many of these celestial bodhisattvas are near equals to the Buddha in wisdom and in their power to help others. The celestial bodhisattvas are often portrayed as the attendants of the buddhas who reside in the various pure lands throughout the universe. A great many of these bodhisattvas appear in the Lotus Sutra, most notably: Manjushri (Beautiful-Lord) Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara (World-Voice-Perceiver) Bodhisattva, Bhaishajyaraja (Medicine-King) Bodhisattva, Maitreya (Loving-One) Bodhisattva, and Samantabhadra (Universal-Good) Bodhisattva. These bodhisattvas are well known figures in Mahayana Buddhism and appear in many other sutras.

In the Lotus Sutra, these bodhisattvas come from ideal worlds to hear the Dharma and they volunteer to teach the Lotus Sutra in this world after the Buddha's extinction. These bodhisattvas represent those who cultivate the six perfections over many lifetimes in order to attain buddhahood. They also assume that Shakyamuni Buddha only attained enlightenment within his current lifetime, and that his current buddhahood was the culmination of may eons of spiritual cultivation. The events of the Lotus Sutra challenge their view that buddhahood is attained through the gradual cultivation of the six perfections. Chapter 12 provides the example of the Dragon King's Daughter who attains enlightenment in an instant, while chapter 16 reveals that the Buddha actually attained enlightenment in the remote past and that his gradual cultivation of wisdom and merit in his present and past lives was itself an expedient means. In chapters 13 - 15, these bodhisattvas request that they be allowed to spread the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha's extinction, but the Buddha summons the Bodhisattvas of the Earth instead in chapter 15. In chapter 21, he gives the Bodhisattvas of the Earth the specific transmission and primary responsibility to spread the Lotus Sutra. Only in chapter 22 does Shakyamuni Buddha finally give the provisional bodhisattva a general transmission of the Lotus Sutra. According to Nichiren Shonin, the general transmission meant that the provisional bodhisattvas would spread the Lotus Sutra during the Former and Middle Ages of the Dharma, while the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who received the specific transmission would take over in the Latter Age of the Dharma. The provisional bodhisattvas are not granted the most difficult and crucial mission of spreading the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Age because they represent the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. The theoretical teaching of the first half of the Lotus Sutra teaches that all sentient beings have the potential to attain buddhahood through the gradual practice of the six perfections. This is the teaching that is to be spread during the Former and Middle Ages of the Dharma when there are still people who can cultivate themselves in this way. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth, however, represent the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra. The essential teaching shows that buddhahood is immediate, primordial, without beginning or end, and ever present in the lives of those who have faith in the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha. This is the teaching which must be spread during the Latter Age when no other teaching is radical enough to shake beings out of their complacency, obstinance, and spiritual blindness. Only the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, the original disciples of the Original Shakyamuni Buddha, are able to teach the essential teaching at such a time. Even then, however, the provisional bodhisattvas are still present and able to protect and assist the Bodhisattvas of the Earth in accomplishing their mission.

15. Namu Yakuo Bosatsu - Bhaishajyaraja Bodhisattva ~ Medicine King. This bodhisattva represents the healing power of the Buddha. He and his brother Yakujo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Bhaishajyasamudgata - Medicine Superior) figure prominently in the Lotus Sutra. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts relates the following story about them:

"According to the Yakuo Yakujo Sutra (Sutra of Bodhisattvas Yakuo and Yakujo), in the remote past in the Middle Day of the Law of a Buddha called Rurikosho (Lapis Lazuli Brightness), Bodhisattva Yakuo was a rich man named Seishukuko (Constellation Light). He heard the Mahayana teachings from a monk called Nichizo (Sun Repository). Rejoicing, he presented beneficial medicines as an offering to Nichizo and other people, and vowed that all those who heard his name would be cured of illness. Seishukuko had a younger brother called Raikomyo (Lightning Glow), who also offered beneficial medicines to Nichizo and other people. These people praised the two brothers, calling the elder brother Yakuo (Medicine King) and the younger brother Yakujo (Superior Medicine). Seishukuko and Raikomyo, the sutra says, were reborn respectively as the Bodhisattvas Yakuo and Yakujo, and will in the future attain enlightenment as Buddhas called Jogen (Pure Eye) and Jozo (Pure Treasury), respectively."

In the Lotus Sutra, Medicine-King Bodhisattva is mentioned by name among the bodhisattvas assembled in the first chapter. Chapter 10, "The Teacher of the Dharma," is addressed to Medicine-King Bodhisattva by Shakyamuni Buddha. In chapter 13, "Encouragement for Keeping the Sutra," he and Great Eloquence Bodhisattva along with their 20,000 attendants vow to the Buddha to expound the Lotus Sutra after his passing. Chapter 23, "The Previous Life of Medicine-King Bodhisattva," describes his past life as Gladly-Seen-By-All-Beings Bodhisattva who sets his own body on fire for 1,200 years as an offering to Sun-Moon-Pure-Bright-Virtue Buddha who had taught him the Lotus Sutra. In his very next life, he again became a disciple of Sun-Moon-Pure-Bright-Virtue Buddha. After that Buddha passed away he made 84,000 stupas to enshrine the relics and then set his arms on fire for 72,000 years as an offering to the stupas. In the end he miraculously restored his arms by the power of his merits, virtues, and wisdom. In this story, the bodhisattva's offering of his body and arms is a metaphorical way of showing the bodhisattva's willingness to offer all of his deeds (his arms) and even his very life (his body) for the sake of the Buddha. In chapter 26, "Dharanis," Medicine-King Bodhisattva offers dharani-spells for the protection of the teachers of the Lotus Sutra. Another past life story of Medicine-King Bodhisattva is given in chapter 27, "King Wonderful-Adornment as the Previous Life of a Bodhisattva." In the time of Cloud Thunderpeal-Star-King-Flower-Wisdom Buddha, Medicine-King Bodhisattva and Superior-Medicine Bodhisattva were the sons of King Wonderful-Adornment, named Pure-Store and Pure-Eyes respectively. The Buddha was preaching the Lotus Sutra, and the two sons asked their mother, Queen Pure-Virtue, to come with them to make offerings to the Buddha. Their mother, however, asked them to first receive permission from King Wonderful-Adornment who was attached to the teachings of the brahmanas (the Vedic priests). The two sons then performed various miracles for their father who was so impressed that he took faith in the Dharma. He not only gave them permission but also accompanied them and together they all became disciples of the Buddha. King Wonderful-Adornment then praised his two sons, declaring that they were his teachers who had done the work of the Buddha by causing him to convert.

Medicine King Bodhisattva and Superior-Medicine Bodhisattva are sometimes depicted as the attendants of Amoghasiddhi Tathagata. Medicine-King Bodhisattva in that case is considered one of the forms of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.

The Great Master Chih-i, was considered to be an appearance of Medicine-King Bodhisattva because he attained enlightenment upon reading the Medicine-King chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: Bodhisattva standing or sitting on a lotus flower and holding a willow branch in his right hand while left hand is closed.

16. Namu Monjushiri Bosatsu - Manjushri Bodhisattva ~ Beautiful-Lord. This bodhisattva represents the wisdom of the Buddha and is especially associated with the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras which he is often shown carrying along with a sword which cuts through delusions. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts relates the following information about him:

"He is revered as the chief of the bodhisattvas. With Fugen, he is depicted as one of the two bodhisattvas who attend Shakyamuni Buddha. Monjushiri is generally shown at the Buddha's left, riding a lion, and represents the virtues of wisdom and enlightenment. In contrast, Shakyamuni's right-hand attendant, Bodhisattva Fugen, represents the virtues of truth and practice. According to the Monjushiri Hatsunehan Sutra (Sutra of the Nirvana of Monjushiri), Monjushiri was born to a Brahman family in Shravasti and joined the Buddhist Order, converting a great number of people."

Taigen Daniel Leighton says of him:

"Manjushri is the bodhisattva of wisdom and insight, penetrating into the fundamental emptiness, universal sameness, and true nature of all things. Manjushri, whose name means "noble, gentle one," sees into the essence of each phenomenal event. This essential nature is that not a thing has any fixed existence separate in itself, independent from the whole world around it. The work of wisdom is to see through the illusory self-other dichotomy, our imagined estrangement from our world. Studying the self in this light, Manjushri's flashing awareness realizes the deeper, vast quality of self, liberated from all our commonly unquestioned, fabricated characteristics.

"With his relentless commitment to uncovering ultimate reality, Manjushri embodies the paramita of prajna, the perfection of wisdom, both as a practice and as the body of sutras so named. Although Manjushri is especially associated with emptiness teaching and the Madhyamika branch of Mahayana teaching, he is not present in the earliest of the Prajnaparamita sutras. However, Manjushri is one of the most prominent bodhisattvas in all of the Mahayana sutras, and is sometimes considered to be based on a historical person associated with Shakyamuni Buddha. One of the earliest bodhisattvas, Manjushri was popular in India by the fourth century, if not earlier, and was included in the first depictions of a bodhisattva pantheon in the fifth and sixth centuries. Images of Manjushri appeared in Japan by the early eighth century." (Bodhisattva Archetypes, p. 93)

Manjushri Bodhisattva appears in many Mahayana sutras such as the Vimalakirti Sutra and the Flower Ornament Sutra, and many others. He is considered to be a near-equal to the Buddha. At times, he is even said to have already realized buddhahood, but he is still voluntarily acting in the capacity of a bodhisattva. Some sutras even call him the teacher of all the Buddhas, which is the role he takes in the Lotus Sutra where he answers the questions of the future buddha Maitreya. In Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, Paul Williams summarizes the teachings about Manjushri Bodhisattva that appear in these sutras.

"Manjushri has now attained the tenth stage of a Bodhisattva. He is asked why he does not proceed staightway to full Buddhahood. The reply is that in fully understanding emptiness and acting accordingly there is nothing more to do. He has let go of the notion of full Buddhahood. He no longer seeks enlightenment; indeed, in the light of emptiness he cannot attain enlightenment. In saying this, of course, Manjusri indicates that he is already fully enlightened."

In the first chapter of the Lotus Sutra, "Introductory," Manjushri Bodhisattva answers Maitreya Bodhisattva's questions about the ray of light emitted by Shakyamuni Buddha. Manjushri Bodhisattva revealed that in a past life, when he was known as Wonderful Light Bodhisattva, he had witnessed Sun-Moon-Light Buddha also produce a ray of light just before teaching the Lotus Sutra, so he surmised that Shakyamuni Buddha was also about to teach the Lotus Sutra. Manjushri Bodhisattva reappears in the middle of chapter 12, "Devadatta," from the palace of the Dragon-King Sagara in the ocean where he had been teaching the Lotus Sutra. He then introduces all the innumerable bodhisattvas that he had taught, including the eight year old daughter of the dragon king. The dragon king's daughter then proceeds to demonstrate the instant attainment of buddhahood. In chapter 14, "Peaceful Practices," it is Manjushri Bodhisattva who asks the Buddha how ordinary bodhisattvas should expound the Lotus Sutra in the evil world after his passing. Finally, in chapter 24, "Wonderful-Voice Bodhisattva," it is Manjushri Bodhisattva who asks about the jeweled lotus flowers which float down from the sky to herald the appearance of Wonderful-Voice Bodhisattva, and it is he who asks the Buddha about that bodhisattva and asks to see him. Based on a passage in the Chinese translation of the Flower Garland Sutra, Manjushri Bodhisattva is believed to have his earthly home on Mt. Wu-t'ai in China.

Icon: A 16 year old youth riding a lion. He holds a sword in his right hand and a blue lotus flower in his left. He wears a five pointed crown.

17. Namu Fugen Bosatsu - Samantabhadra Bodhisattva ~ Universal-Good. This bodhisattva represents all of the vows and good causes made by the Buddha. An excellent description of the role of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is given by Taigen Daniel Leighton in his book Bodhisattva Archetypes:

"Samantabhadra is the bodhisattva of enlightening activity in the world, representing the shining function of wisdom. Samantabhadra also embodies the luminous web of the interconnectedness of all beings, and radiant visions that express it...

"Samantabhadra and Manjushri are often paired together as attendants on either side of Shakyamuni Buddha, with Manjushri on his lion representing the essence of wisdom, and Samantabhadra, mounted on an elephant, representing the application of wisdom actively benefiting the world.

"The primary scriptural source for Samantabhadra is the Flower Ornament (Avatamsaka) Sutra, for which he is the principle bodhisattva. Thus he represents the elaborate teachings on the array of practical activities of bodhisattvas, both of this sutra and of the profound Chinese Huayan School which developed from it. (Avatamsaka is Huayan in Chinese, Kegon in Japanese.) The diversity of beneficial expressions of bodhisattvas in the world, and spectacular visions of the interconnectedness of the ecosystems of the entire universe, are Samantabhadra's province. He is featured as well in the last chapter of the Lotus Sutra as a protector of that sutra and its devotees."

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is particularly well known in East Asia for his ten great vows which appear in chapter 40 of the Flower Ornament Sutra. The following explanation of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva and enumeration of his ten vows is given by Francis H. Cook:

"Samantabhadra is the Bodhisattva who symbolizes the practices of the Bodhisattva. His vows and practices exemplify the ideal course of conduct in the aspiring Buddhist in those phases of activity which are conceived as causes for the ensuing enlightenment-result. This course of conduct is exemplified by the activities of the youth Sudhana in the final chapters of the Avatamsaka Sutra. The result is the knowledge of, and the merging into, the universe of identity and interdependence, which is the experience of the perfectly enlightened Buddhas. Samantabhadra occupies a very important place in the sutra, since that work is primarily concerned with these causal practices. The vows of Samantabhadra, which must be sincerely duplicated by each aspirant, who really is Samantabhadra, are as follows:

1. Honor all Buddhas.

2. Praise the Tathagatas.

3. Make offerings to all Buddhas.

4. Confess all past transgressions of the Law.

5. Rejoice in the virtues and happiness of others (mudita).

6. Request the Buddha to teach the Dharma.

7. Request the Buddha to dwell in the world.

8. Follow the Dharma.

9. Always to benefit other beings.

10. Turn over one's own accumulated merit to others (parinamana)."

(Hua-Yen Buddhism, p.78)

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva appears in chapter 28 of the Lotus Sutra. He comes from a world far to the east in order to hear and receive the Lotus Sutra. He promises to protect and support those who keep the Lotus Sutra in the latter days after the passing of the Buddha. He then provides dharani spells for the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. He even declares that the ability to keep the Lotus Sutra is made possible through the aid of his supernatural powers. He goes on to say that those who keep the sutra, read and recite it, memorize it, understand it, and act according to it are doing the same practice as he does. Nevertheless, the Buddha tells Samantabhadra Bodhisattva that he should greet a keeper of the Lotus Sutra in the same way that he would greet the Buddha himself. The Sutra of Meditation on Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, which is the last part of the Threefold Lotus Sutra, elaborates on the promise of Samantabhadra in chapter 28 to appear on his six-tusked white elephant to those who practice repentance and recite the Lotus Sutra. In the Sutra on Meditation it is explained how the practitioner can visualize Samantabhadra Bodhisattva and eventually the entire Ceremony in the Air.

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is believed by many Chinese Buddhists to reside on Mt. Omei in western China.

Icon: A 16 year old youth riding an elephant. Hands in gassho. He wears a five pointed crown.

18. Namu Miroku Bosatsu - Maitreya Bodhisattva ~ Loving-One. Maitreya Bodhisattva is the future buddha of this world who currently resides in the Tushita Heaven. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts relates the following information about him:

"A bodhisattva predicted to succeed Shakyamuni as a future Buddha. Also called Ajita, meaning 'invincible.' Some accounts view him as a historical personage who preceded the Buddha in death. He is said to have been reborn in the Tushita Heaven where he is now expounding the Law to the heavenly beings there. It is said that he will reappear in this world 5.670 million years after Shakyamuni's death, attain Buddhahood, and save the people in Shakyamuni's stead. For this reason he is also sometimes called Miroku Buddha. Belief in Miroku prevailed in India around the beginning of the first century A.D., and spread to China and Japan. In the fourth century, a monk named Maitreya (c. 270-350) became famous as a scholar of the Consciousness-Only school, and was later identified with this bodhisattva."

Maitreya Bodhisattva is the only bodhisattva who is revered by both Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhists (aside from Siddhartha Gautama and his past lives as a bodhisattva). His coming is predicted in the Pali Canon as well as in the Mahayana Sutras.

In addition to the legendary fourth century teacher of the same name, Maitreya Bodhisattva has had many other appearances in history. The most famous is of the jovial monk whose statue is often mistaken as that of the Buddha. Taigen Daniel Leighton relates the following about this well-known but misunderstood figure:

"In China Maitreya is nearly synonymous with his supposed incarnation as the historical tenth-century Chinese Zen monk Budai, whose Japanese name, Hotei, may be more familiar in the West. Chinese images of Budai, or Hotei, are frequently labeled simply 'Maitreya' (Milo in Chinese) such that in popular Chinese awareness they are virtually identical. Hotei is legendary as a wandering sage with supernatural powers who spent his time in village streets rather than in the security of temples. His image is recognizable as the disheveled, fat, jolly 'laughing buddha' whose statue is seen in many Chinese restaurants and in all Chinese Buddhist temples.

"Hotei's name means 'cloth bag,' as he carried a sack full of candies and toys to give to children, with whom he is often depicted in play. This scruffy Buddhist Santa Claus expands our view of Maitreya's warmth and loving-kindness. Hotei's fat belly and affinity with children reflects yet another aspect of Maitreya in popular folk religion, that of a fertility deity. Maitreya was sometimes prayed to by those who wanted children, especially in Korea."(Bodhisattva Archetypes, p. 260-1)

Bodhisattva Maitreya plays a large role in the Lotus Sutra. In the first chapter, it is he who inquires of Manjushri Bodhisattva the reason for the miraculous signs displayed by the Buddha. Taigen Daniel Leighton summarizes and comments on this chapter as follows:

"Maitreya appears in a highly ambivalent light in some of the early Mahayana sutras. In the very first chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha emits a light from between his eyebrows that puzzles Maitreya, who questions Manjushri. Manjushri reminds Maitreya that in a remotely past buddha land they had witnessed a similar light emitting from a previous buddha, a light which had heralded the teaching of the Lotus Sutra on behalf of that buddha by a bodhisattva named Fine Luster, none other than Manjushri himself.

"Among Fine Luster's eight hundred disciples, one named Fame Seeker Bodhisattva was actually Maitreya in a former life. This Bodhisattva Seeker of Fame was named thus because he craved personal profit and advantage; although he read and memorized numerous sutras, he derived no benefit and quickly forgot most of them. Although Maitreya, or at least his past life, is thus dishonored by his former teacher Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom goes on to say that the slothful Fame Seeker also did many kind deeds. These allowed him to train with numerous buddhas over many lifetimes, until now he was finally the Bodhisattva Maitreya, destined to be the next buddha."

Maitreya Bodhisattva has a large role in the Ceremony of the Air as well. It is he who inquires after the origin of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth in chapter 15. He is also the one who asks how Shakyamuni Buddha could have taught them when he had only attained enlightenment 40 years before their appearance. It is this second question which prompts the revelation of the Buddha's enlightenment in the uncountably distant past in chapter 16. In chapter 16, it is Maitreya Bodhisattva who heads the assembly in declaring that they will faithfully receive the Buddha's answer. In chapters 17 and 18 it is Maitreya Bodhisattva whom the Buddha addresses when explaining the boundless merits of those who accept the teaching of the Buddha's unborn and undying nature with faith.

The closing chapter of the Lotus Sutra makes reference to Maitreya Bodhisattva in a more favorable light than in the first chapter. Taigen Daniel Leighton explains:

"Although the Lotus Sutra opens with Manjushri's rather dim view of Maitreya's distant past, the final chapter of the Lotus Sutra, delineating Samantabhadra's protection of students of the sutra, offers a more positive view of Maitreya and his future. Samantabhadra certifies that those who read the Lotus Sutra and understand its import will be reborn in Maitreya's Tushita Heaven. Samantabhadra describes this realm as highly meritorious and beneficial, as Maitreya abides there already possessing the marks of a Buddha, accompanied by a retinue of bodhisattvas and goddesses."

Icon: Bodhisattva wearing a three peaked crown in pensive posture with right ankle on left knee, left leg hanging over lotus seat, right hand touching cheek with only two fingers, left hand resting on right ankle.

Tenrin Jo-o


26. Chakravartin ~ Wheel Turning King - The wheel turning king is the ideal monarch, and in many ways is the worldly counterpart of the Buddha. They are even said to possess all of the thirty-two marks which the buddhas, celestial bodhisattvas, and the higher deities possess. In many ways, the wheel turning king represents the highest state of virtue and power that one can attain in the world of humanity. King Ashoka (reign: ca. 268-232 B.C.E.), who united India, converted to Buddhism, and administered his empire in keeping with Buddhist principles of non-violence and tolerance, is often said to have been like a wheel turning king. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts says:

"Ideal rulers in Indian mythology. In Buddhism, they are regarded as kings who rule the world by justice rather than force. They possess the thirty-two features and rule the four continents surrounding Mt. Sumeru by turning the wheels which the were given by heaven. These wheels are of four kinds: gold, silver, copper, and iron. The gold-wheel-turning king rules all of the four continents; the silver-wheel-turning-king, the eastern, western, and southern continents; the copper-wheel-turning-king, the eastern and southern continents; and the iron-wheel-turning-king, the southern continent. They are said to appear during a kalpa of increase, when the human life span is between twenty thousand and eighty thousand years, or at the beginning of the first period of decrease in the Kalpa of Continuance, when the human life span measures between innumerable years and eighty thousand years."

In Philosophies of India, Heinrich Zimmer describes the seven treasures that each wheel turning king acquires which enable them to rule:

"1. The Sacred Wheel (cakra), denoting universality. The Cakravartin himself is the hub of the universe; toward him all things tend, like the spokes of a wheel. He is the Pole Star about which everything revolves with the order and harmony of the hosts of the celestial lights.

2. The Divine White Elephant (hastiratna, 'elephant-treasure'). Swift as thought, this divine animal carries the monarch on his world-inspection tours across the firmament. The white elephant was the ancient sacred mount of the pre-Aryan kings.

3. The Milk-white Horse, the valorous sun-steed (asvaratna, 'horse-treasure'). The horse was the mount and chariot animal of the Aryan invaders. This milk-white animal performs the same service for the Cakravartin as the Divine White Elephant.

4. The Magic Jewel (cintamani, 'thought-jewel'), i.e., the wishing-stone that turns night into day and fulfills every desire the moment the wish is uttered.

5. The Perfect Queen-Consort (striratna, 'treasure of a wife'): the ideal woman, faultless in beauty, as in virtue. Her body has a cooling touch during the hot season and a warming touch during the cold.

6. The Perfect Minister of Finance (gehapati, grhapati, 'householder'). Because of his able and blameless administration, he is never short of funds for the purposes of lavish generosity; his charity is dispensed throughout the universe, to alleviate the sufferings of widows, orphans, the aged, and the sick.

7. The Perfect General-in-Chief (parinayaka, 'the leader')."

In chapter 14 of the Lotus Sutra, "Peaceful Practices," the Buddha tells the parable of the Jewel in the Top-knot which is about a wheel turning king who bestows the cintamani or Wish Fulfilling Gem upon those who served him, just as the Buddha bestows the Lotus Sutra upon his own followers.

Icon: An idealized king holding a wheel with the wish-fulfilling jewel in his top-knot.

27. Ajase Dai-o - King Ajatashatru - King Ajatashatru was the king of Magadha, whose capital city was Rajagriha, at the time that the Lotus Sutra was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. Vulture Peak, where the Lotus Sutra is taught, is actually located just outside of Rajagriha to the northeast. King Ajatashatru appears in the assembly in the first chapter.

Ajatashatru was the son of King Bimbisara and Queen Vaidehi. According to the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, King Bimbisara and his wife were unable to conceive a child. One day a seer told them that there was an ascetic living in the forest who was destined to be their child after his death. King Bimbisara hoped to speed the process along by having the ascetic murdered. Queen Vaidehi did conceive, but now the seer informed the king that because of what he had done, the boy would grow up and become his father's killer. Alarmed by this, King Bimbisara dropped the baby from the palace walls after his birth, but the boy survived and King Bimbisara apparently decided that he should not do anything else to make things worse. The name Ajatashatru means: "Enemy Before Birth."

Eight years before the parinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, Devadatta magically appeared before Prince Ajatashatru in the form of a young boy wreathed in snakes. Ajatashatru was terrified by this apparition, but when he found out it was actually Devadatta he was very impressed by this supernatural display. From that time on they plotted together so that Ajatashatru could usurp the throne from King Bimbisara, and Devadatta could take over the Sangha from Shakyamuni Buddha. In the meantime, Prince Ajatashatru became Devadatta's royal patron and gave him all that he could want and more than he could even use. Finally, Shakyamuni Buddha had Devadatta publicly denounced by the Sangha. From that point on, the Sangha was no longer responsible for his actions. Only Devadatta was to be held accountable for his actions. Shortly after this, Devadatta talked Ajatashatru into attempting to assassinate his father the king. The plot was discovered but in the end King Bimbisara voluntarily relinquished the throne to his son. Ajatashatru imprisoned his father upon taking the throne and had him starved to death. When his mother Vaidehi tried to smuggle food to the deposed king, Ajatashatru almost struck her down with his sword, but his counselors persuaded him not to commit such a heinous act. Instead, he confined her to an inner chamber in the palace. After taking the throne, one of King Ajatashatru's first acts was to dispatch assassins, at the instigation of Devadatta, to kill Shakyamuni Buddha. The assassins all failed because none of them could go through with the act of killing the Buddha once they were in his presence and they all became disciples of the Buddha in the end. Devadatta later succeeded in starting a schism but his schismatic order collapsed when the monks who had joined him returned to Shakyamuni Buddha and the legitimate Sangha.

Devadatta died not long after. Ajatashatru himself was eventually overcome by guilt because of his misdeeds and even developed life threatening boils all over his body according to the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Jivaka, the court physician, finally convinced King Ajatashatru to go and ask the Buddha for help. He was very impressed by the Buddha's teaching and at that time he repented, took refuge in the Three Treasures, and became a lay-disciple of the Buddha; thus eradicating the evil karma which brought about the boils and prolonging his life. The reign of King Ajatashatru was not a peaceful one, and he was frequently either scheming against or openly at war with his neighbors. He did, however, build a monument for his share of the relics of the Buddha and he supported the First Buddhist Counsel.

If the wheel rolling king represents the unattainable ideal of a monarch as conceived by Indian mythology, then King Ajatashatru represents the brutal reality of Indian history. In the course of his life he murdered his father, attempted to murder his mother, engaged in constant warfare and plotting against his neighbors, and even tried to have the Buddha assassinated. In the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, King Ajatashatru represents the icchantikka. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts says:

"Originally a hedonist or one who cherished only secular values. In Buddhism, the term came to mean those who have neither faith in Buddhism nor aspiration for enlightenment and, therefore, no prospect of attaining Buddhahood. Icchantika is sometimes translated as 'those of incorrigible disbelief.' Some sutras say that icchantika are inherently and forever incapable of reaching enlightenment, while other, particularly those of later Mahayana, hold that even icchantika can become Buddhas."

King Ajatashatru and his attendants are listed as present in the "Introductory" chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: An Indian king with a sword and scepter perhaps covered in boils with a guilt-ridden expression.

25. Ashura-o (Asura King) - The asuras are one of the eight kinds of supernatural beings who are said to revere and protect the Dharma. They are also the fighting demons who are the constant rivals of the devas, such as Indra and the four heavenly kings. The world of the fighting demons is one of the six lower world of rebirth and it is characterized by jealousy, envy, pride, and constant competition. The name asura means either "anti-gods" or those "without wine." The asuras are those who competed with the devas to rule the world, but agreed to assist them in churning the ocean in order to bring forth the soma, the elixir-of-life. But the devas were able to cheat the asuras of the soma in the end, thus depriving them of the wine of immortality. The asuras are said to live beneath the ocean and on the mountains ranges immediately surrounding Mt. Sumeru. Four of their kings were present to hear the Lotus Sutra: Balin Asura-King, Kharaskandha Asura-King, Vemacitrin Asura-King, and Rahu Asura-King.

Icon: A tall warrior with three head and six arms. The central head has a woeful expression and the other two are enraged. Two of the arms are holding a bow and arrow; two others are holding up a small sun and moon, and the last two are in the Anjali mudra (gassho).

28. Dai Ryu-o - Naga-raja ~ Dragon King - The nagas are one of the eight kinds of supernatural beings who are said to revere and protect the Dharma. The nagas are the dragons or serpents who dwell beneath the ocean and who control the tides, the flow of the rivers, and the rain. The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism describes the nagas as follows:

"These are actually serpents, symbols of the chthonic powers associated with the element of water. In India especially, they were regarded as guardians of the treasures of the earth. Although they are minor deities, they are powerful beings, thought to possess all the sciences. According to legend, they took the great Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna to their realm where he rediscovered the lost Prajnaparamita texts - the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, the fundamental texts of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy...These chthonic deities were adopted by Buddhism from the outset. Legend claims that a king of the Nagas, named Elapatra, disguised himself as a human king to listen to a sermon of the Buddha. Kings of the Nagas are depicted at the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha. One of them, named Mucilinda, is said to have sheltered the meditating Buddha during a great storm and torrential rain, by surrounding him with the coils of his body and forming a protective awning with his hood; images depicting this episode are numerous in Buddhist art, especially in South-East Asia."

Eight dragon kings were present at the teaching of the Lotus Sutra: Nanda, Upananda, Sagara, Vasuki, Taksaka, Anavatapta, Manasvin, and Utpalaka. In chapter 12, the "Devadatta" chapter, Manjushri Bodhisattva returns from the palace of the Dragon-King Sagara in the ocean where he had been teaching the Lotus Sutra. He then introduces all the innumerable bodhisattvas that he had taught, including the eight year old daughter of the dragon king. The dragon king's daughter then proceeds to demonstrate the instant attainment of buddhahood. The attainment of buddhahood by the Dragon King Sagara's daughter is the only time in the sutras that a contemporary of Shakyamuni Buddha attains buddhahood during the course of his teachings.

According to tradition, one of the guardians of Kuonji Temple on Mount Minobu is Shichimen Daimyojin, the dragon who resides on the nearby Mt. Shichimen. The legend holds that a beautiful woman used to attend Nichiren's lectures at Mt. Minobu. One day, he asked her who she was and she explained that she was the spirit of Mt. Shichimen. Nichiren, however, perceived that she was actually a dragon and he made her promise to be the guardian of Kuonji Temple.

Icon: A king whose body below the waist is that of a coiled snake. He wears a seven headed snake for a crown or aureole In his right hand is a sword and in his left there is a noose. He rides on a cloud.

29. Kishimojin (Hariti) - Hariti, whose name means "stealer of children," is a female yaksha, or yakshini, who originally came from the town of Rajagriha. The yakshas are one of the eight kinds of supernatural beings who are said to revere and protect the Dharma. The yakshas are a kind of flesh-eating demon or spirit who make up the guardian king Vaishravana's army. Originally the yakshas appeared as the spirits of the trees and forests and even villages; but they had a fierce side as well, and in their more demonic aspect came to be called rakshasas. They are numbered among the hungry ghosts. Hariti's husband is Pancika, one of the 28 yaksha generals of Vaishravana. He is the father of her 500 sons. She is also said to have 10 daughters who are considered rakshasas, which shows how interchangeable the classifications yaksha and rakshasa are.

Hariti was obsessed with eating the children of Rajagriha, and eventually even her brother, the benevolent yaksha guardian of Rajagriha, and her husband Pancika were unable to stop her. Neither King Bimbisara nor even the devas were able to stop her, so in desperation the townspeople turned to Shakyamuni Buddha. The Buddha then visited her home while she was away and used his supernatural powers to hide her youngest son under his alms bowl. When Hariti returned and could not find her son she was distraught and finally she herself sought out the Buddha. The Buddha then pointed out to her that if she felt so badly about missing even one child out of 500, she should consider how badly the parents of Rajagriha must feel when she takes away their children when they have so few to begin with. Hearing this, Hariti felt remorse and compassion for those she had harmed. She repented of her actions; took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; took the five major precepts; and vowed to protect the people of Rajagriha. Shakyamuni Buddha then restored her youngest son to her. In return the Buddha had his monks, from that time on, make a symbolic offer of their food to the hungry ghosts. Hariti came to be considered a protector of children and women giving birth as well as a protector of the Dharma, and her gentle image as a "giver of children" would sometimes cause her to be confused with Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.

Hariti appears in chapter 26 of the Lotus Sutra along with her ten daughters to offer dharanis for the protection of the teacher of the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: A fierce looking woman with fangs. Her hands form the anjali mudra (gassho).

30. Jurasetsunyo - Ten Female Rakshasas - The ten rakshasis, or female rakshasas, are the daughters of Hariti. Rakshasas are a kind of flesh-eating, blood drinking, or spirit draining demon or spirit. The tamer ones are known as yakshas and are the spirits of the trees and forests and even villages. They are considered a powerful type of hungry ghost. They appear as beautiful women (granted with fangs) in courtly attire bearing various weapons or other symbolic objects.

1. Lamba - carrying a sword in her right hand and a sutra in her left.

2. Vilamba - holding cymbals in her hands.

3. Crooked Teeth - carrying a tray of flowers in her left hand, right hand prepares to take a flower.

4. Flower-Teeth - her right hand is in the pendent Varada mudra, left hand holds a wish fulfilling gem.

5. Black-Teeth - her right hand is in the Abhaya mudra, left holds a halberd.

6. Many-Hairs - her right hand holds a halberd, left hand is in the Abhaya mudra.

7. Insatiable - right hand holds a scepter, left holds a flower vase.

8. Necklace-Holding - holding a garland in both hands.

9. Kunti - holding a spear.

10. Plunderer-Of-Energy-Of-All-Beings - holds a staff in her right, left holds a club.

The ten rakshasis and their mother, Hariti, appear in chapter 26 of the Lotus Sutra and together offer dharanis for the protection of the teacher of the Lotus Sutra.

24. Daibadatta (Devadatta) - Devadatta was the Buddha's first cousin and Ananda's brother (sources differ as to whether he was older or younger). Some versions of the Buddha's life portray Devadatta as a rival from childhood. In one story he shoots down a swan which falls to earth near Siddhartha. Siddhartha takes out the arrow and nurses it back to health, but Devadatta insists that the swan belongs to him because he shot it. The two boys took the case to the court where the king's counselors argued over the merits of each case. In the end, a wise man declared that the swan should belong to one who saved its life rather than the one who tried to take it away. Devadatta was also said to have competed for Yashodhara's hand in marriage, but again lost to his cousin Siddhartha.

Devadatta joined the Sangha along with his brother Ananda, and other Shakyan clansman including Aniruddha and the barber Upali. This occurred not long after the Buddha's first visit to Kapilavastu in the second year after his enlightenment. For a long time Devadatta was a respected member of the Sangha, and he did develop the supernatural powers that can be acquired through meditation. His hidden jealousy and envy, however, prevented him from attaining any genuine insight or liberation.

Eight years before the parinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, Devadatta magically appeared before Prince Ajatashatru in the form of a young boy wreathed in snakes. Ajatashatru was terrified by this apparition, but when he found out it was actually Devadatta he was very impressed by this supernatural display. From that time on they plotted together so that Ajatashatru could usurp the throne from King Bimbisara, and Devadatta could take over the Sangha from Shakyamuni Buddha. In the meantime, Prince Ajatashatru became Devadatta's royal patron and gave him all that he could want and more than he could even use. At this time, Devadatta lost his supernatural powers due to his greed and ambition. After that, Devadatta made a bid to take over the Sangha arguing that the Buddha should retire and trust it to his care. The Buddha firmly rejected this offer and when Devadatta persisted he said: "I would not hand over the Sangha of monks even to Shariputra or Maudgalyayana. How should I do to such a wastrel, a clot of spittle, as you?" (adapted from p.258, The Life of the Buddha) Finally, Shakyamuni Buddha had Devadatta publicly denounced by the Sangha. From that point on, the Sangha was no longer responsible for his actions. Only Devadatta would be held accountable for his actions.

Shortly after this, Devadatta talked Ajatashatru into usurping the throne from his father. After taking the throne, one of King Ajatashatru's first acts was to dispatch assassins, at the instigation of Devadatta, to kill Shakyamuni Buddha. The assassins all failed because none of them could go through with the act of killing the Buddha once they were in his presence and they all became disciples of the Buddha in the end. Deciding that he would have to kill the Buddha himself, Devadatta then rolled a boulder down onto him from Vulture Peak, but the boulder only injured the Buddha's foot. Another time, Devadatta used his influence at court to get the stable hands to set loose the maddened elephant Nalagiri so that it would trample the Buddha, but the Buddha tamed Nalagiri with the power of his loving-kindness. After this, Devadatta's reputation became so bad that King Ajatashatru was forced to withdraw his patronage.

Devadatta later succeeded in starting a schism by proposing that the Buddha adopt five mandatory ascetic practices: (1) monks should become forest dwellers and no longer live in villages or towns; (2) monks should only beg for food and no longer accept dinner invitations; (3) monks should only use rags from rubbish heaps and should no longer accept donated robes; (4) monks should only sleep under trees and not in buildings; and (5) monks should only eat vegetables and no longer accept any offerings of meat or fish. The Buddha refused to make these practices mandatory and so Devadatta was able to convince 500 younger members to join him because his practice was more rigorous than the Buddha's. Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, however, pretended to join Devadatta but then convinced the 500 to return to the Buddha. After the Buddha's attempt at creating a rival Sangha failed it is said that the ground opened up and he fell into hell alive. Other sources say that on his deathbed he tried to repent, saying "Namah Buddha," but that this was too little too late.

Devadatta himself is not present in the Lotus Sutra, so apparently the assembly on Vulture Peak takes place after his death. In chapter 12 of the Lotus Sutra, the "Devadatta" chapter, Shakyamuni Buddha reveals that in a previous life he had been a king who renounced his throne and became the servant of Devadatta, who at that time was a seer named Asita, who taught him the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha stated that was able to attain enlightenment because Devadatta had been his teacher in that previous lifetime. The Buddha then made the astonishing prediction that in the future Devadatta would become a buddha named Heavenly-King in a pure land named Heavenly-Way.

Devadatta represents the quintessential hell-dweller, but he is also a primary example of the universality of the Lotus Sutra which teaches that even one such as he will eventually be able to attain buddhahood. Devadatta also shows that even the worst of people can be considered our teachers and have made contributions which we may not always be able to recognize without the insight of a buddha.

Icon: A tormented youth with a girdle of snakes wreathed in flames or perhaps a monk with a scheming expression.


The Lineage Chart


The following list of names which appear at the bottom of the Omandala provide a kind of lineage chart of the authentic teaching of the Lotus Sutra according to Nichiren. This lineage comprises the historical transmission of the Lotus Sutra which began with the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. Nichiren refers to this in the Kanjin Honzon-sho (Spiritual Contemplation and the Most Venerable):

"...I should say that during the period spanning the time the Buddha was still alive and some 1,800 years after His death, there appeared only three throughout the three lands of India, China, and Japan who perceived the ultimate truth, that is, the Lotus Sutra. They are Sakyamuni Buddha of India, Grand Master T'ien-t'ai of China, and Grand Master Dengyo of Japan, who are the three sages of Buddhism." (p. 142)

If Nichiren Shonin is included in this number, all of these teachers are known collectively as the "four masters in three lands," who comprise the outer or historical transmission as opposed to the inner or spiritual one from the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha to Bodhisattva Superior Practice who appeared in the Latter Age as Nichiren Shonin. Shakyamuni Buddha already appears at the top of the Omandala and it is he who originally transmits the Lotus Sutra and Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Nagarjuna is added to the lineage chart because according to the T'ien-t'ai school he is one of the twenty-four patriarchs of Buddhism in India after Shakyamuni, and the honorary first patriarch of T'ien-t'ai Buddhism. The teachings attributed to him also contain praise for the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren stated that while he knew the truth of the Lotus Sutra in his heart he did not teach it to others because the time was not yet ripe. Chih-i, the Grand Master T'ien-tai, appears on the list as the founder of the T'ien-t'ai school and the one who proclaimed the true stature and meaning of the Lotus Sutra in China during the Age of Semblance Dharma. Chan-jan, the Great Master Miao-lo, appears on the chart as the ninth century T'ien-t'ai patriarch who revitalized the T'ien-t'ai school and wrote authoritative commentaries on the works of Chih-i. Next, Saicho, or Grand Master Dengyo, appears as the founder of the Tendai school in Japan. Nichiren's name appears, both in his capacity as the inheritor of the historical T'ien-t'ai legacy, but more importantly as the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra and the envoy of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha in the Latter Age of Degeneration. Nichiren's name, in many ways, represents all of those who chant Odaimoku in the presence of the Gohonzon.

32. Namu Ryuju Bosatsu - Nagarjuna Bodhisattva ~ 2nd-3rd century CE - Little is known about the life of Nagarjuna. He was supposedly a Brahmin from South India who converted to Buddhism and then to Mahayana Buddhism. Some sources say that he studied and later taught at the the Buddhist university Nalanda in what is now Bihar, India. He is also said to have recovered the Mahayana sutras, specifically the Prajnaparimita-sutras, from the nagas. Nagarjuna was the founder of the Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism which emphasized the teaching of emptiness and a system of Middle Way dialectics which showed the untenability of holding substantialistic views.

Nagarjuna is considered the fourteenth patriarch after Shakyamuni Buddha according to a late 5th century Chinese work called A History of the Transmission of the Dharma Treasury. It was allegedly a translation from a

Sanskrit original, but this have never been proven. In that writing, a lineage of Buddhist patriarchs is given beginning with Mahakashyapa continuing with Ananda and ending with Aryasimha, the twenty-fourth patriarch. This list appears in the preface to Chih-i's The Great Calming and Contemplation (Jap. Maka Shikan) and became a part of the T'ien-t'ai tradition. In this system, the lineage ends with Aryasimha. Later, this became the basis for the legendary Zen lineage of 28 Indian patriarchs which extended to four more Indian patriarchs of which Bodhidharma was the last. Most schools of East Asian Mahayana Buddhism try to trace their lineages back to Nagarjuna or at least to find precedents for their teachings and practices in the works attributed to him. His most important work is the Mula Madhyamika-karika (Jpn. Chu Ron) which is the main basis for the Madhyamikan teaching of emptiness and the Middle Way between the views of existence and non-existence. This work inspired Chih-i's teaching of the Three Truths of emptiness, provisionality, and the Middle Way. The Mahaprajnaparamita-shastra (Jpn. Daichido Ron) was also of great influence in T'ien-t'ai Buddhism. It is a commentary on the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in 100,000 Lines and only the Kumarajiva translation is still extant. Most scholars believe that it may have been written by Kumarajiva rather than Nagarjuna. In any case, it is a work which comprehensively describes Mahayana Buddhist teachings and practices, and also contained passages in praise of the Lotus Sutra as the highest teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Icon: Indian monk.

31. Namu Tendai Daishi - Great Master T'ien-t'ai, aka Chih-i, aka Chih-che 538-597 CE - Chih-i was the real founder of T'ien-t'ai Buddhism, but he is considered the third patriarch after his teacher Nan-yueh Hui-ssu (515-577) and his teacher's teacher Hui-wen. Some accounts make Nagarjuna the first patriarch, and Chih-i then becomes the fourth. In any case, Chih-i was ordained as a novice at the age of 18 after his parents died. He was fully ordained as a monk at age 20. From around 562 until 569 he lived at Mt. Ta-su studying with Hui-ssu (who would later leave to spend the rest of his life on his namesake Mt. Nan-yueh). There is a legend that when Chih-i met Hui-ssu, his teacher greeted him by saying that he had been waiting for him and that they had been together on Vulture Peak where they heard the Lotus Sutra from Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Hui-ssu was supposedly an earthly manifestation of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva and Chih-i was supposedly an earthly manifestation of Medicine King Bodhisattva. Chih-i, in fact, is said to have attained enlightenment while reading chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra, "The Previous Life of Medicine-King Bodhisattva." After studying with Hui-ssu, Chih-i moved to Chin-ling, the capital of the Ch'en dynasty. He spent eight years there at Wa-kuan-ssu temple. In 575 he moved again to Mt. T'ien-t'ai which would become his namesake and the name of the school of Buddhism that he founded. In 584 he was joined by Kuan-ting (561-632) who is also known as Chang-an after his birthplace. Kuan-ting is the actual compiler of the three major works of Chih-i, and he also wrote the introductions to them. In 585 he was persuaded to return to Chin-ling to lecture on the sutras. In 587 he delivered the lectures which would become the Fa-hua wen-chu (Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra).

In 589, Chih-i left Chin-ling for Lu-shan in order to avoid the invading forces of the Sui dynasty which was in the process of uniting all of China. In 591, however, he visited Prince Yang Kuang, who would become the first emperor of the Sui dynasty, and administered the bodhisattva precepts to him and gave him a Dharma name. In return, Prince Kuang bestowed the title Chih-che (Wise One) upon Chih-i. After that, Chih-i returned to his homeland, Chiang-ling. In 593 and 594 respectively, Chih-i delivered the lectures which would become the Fa-hua hsuan-i (Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra) and the Mo-ho chih-kuan (Great Concentration and Insight). In 595 he returned to Mt. T'ien-t'ai and passed away there in 597. Kuan-ting became his successor and the second patriarch of the T'ien-t'ai school.

Chih-i's most important works are the Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, the Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, and the Great Concentration and Insight. His most important teachings include the three truths of the empty, the provisional, and the Middle Way; the "three thousand existences contained in single moment of thought"; the five flavors (or periods) of the Buddha's teaching; the eight teachings consisting of the four doctrinal teachings and the four methods of teaching; and his analysis of the Lotus Sutra into the theoretical section and the essential section. These teachings and many others gave T'ien-t'ai Buddhists the ability to make sense of the vast collection of Buddhist sutras and put them to practical use in the cultivation of meditation practice. In particular, the commentaries of Chih-i enabled T'ien-t'ai Buddhists and others to grasp the essential points and subtle teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

Icon: Chinese monk.

33. Namu Myoraku Daishi - Great Master Miao-lo, aka Chan-jan, aka Ching-hsi 711-782 CE - Chan-jan was the sixth patriarch of T'ien-t'ai Buddhism (if Chih-i is counted as the first, ninth if Nagarjuna is counted as the first). His birthplace was Ching-hsi, and he is sometimes given that name as well. He is named Miao-lo after the Miao-lo-ssu temple where he lived. He began to study Buddhism at the age of 20 under the fifth T'ien-t'ai patriarch, Hsuan-lang (673-754) but did not become a monk until he was 38. In his day, the T'ien-t'ai school had become moribund and was overshadowed by newer and more vital schools like Ch'an, Hua-yen, and the Consciousness Only teachings of the great traveler and translator Hsuang-tsang (602-664). Chan-jan revitalized the T'ien-t'ai school, refuted the claims of the rival schools, and wrote definitive commentaries on each of the three major works of Chih-i. Those commentaries are called: Annotations on the Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, Commentary on the Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, and Annotations on the Great Concentration and Insight.

Icon: Chinese monk.

34. Namu Dengyo Daishi - Great Master Dengyo, aka Saicho 767-822 CE - Saicho was the founder of the Japanese Tendai school. He was ordained at the age of 19 in 785 and immediately he retreated to Mt. Hiei. There he spent his time meditating, reciting and copying sutras, and studying the writing of Chih-i. In 804 he was sent by the Imperial court to China along with his disciple and translator Gishin (781-833), and there he was able to spend nine months studying T'ien-t'ai Buddhism with Tao-sui, the seventh patriarch of the T'ien-t'ai school, and Hsing-man, who was also a direct disciple of Chan-jan. Some of that time was spent on Mt. Hiei itself. Saicho also received the bodhisattva precepts of the Brahma Net Sutra from Tao-sui, some limited training in esoteric Buddhism, and a transmission in the Ox Head school of Ch'an Buddhism. He returned to Japan in 805 and set up two study tracks on Mt. Hiei - one for the practice of esoteric Buddhism and one for the practice of meditation. From 809 until 816, Saicho and Kukai exchanged teachings and assistance. But the relationship broke down when Kukai demanded that Saicho become his disciple if he wanted to study esoteric Buddhism in depth, and later when one of Saicho's disciples refused to return to Mt. Hiei because he preferred to study Shingon Buddhism under Kukai. Saicho is also renowned for the debate by way of letters and treatises that he conducted with the Hosso priest Tokuitsu beginning in 817. Saicho argued for the universality of the buddha-nature against the Hosso theory that people have different inherent natures, and that only some can attain buddhahood while others may not be able to attain enlightenment of any kind.

This debate only ended with Saicho's death. Starting in 818, Saicho began lobbying the Imperial court for the establishment of a Mahayana precept platform (kaidan) on Mt. Hiei based upon the Mahayana precepts of the Brahma Net Sutra. Permission was only granted a week after his death. Saicho died in 822. Gishin became his successor and the second patriarch of the Japanese Tendai school. In 823, the Emperor Saga renamed the temple on Mt. Hiei Enryakuji. In 866, the Emperor Seiwa bestowed the name Dengyo Daishi upon Saicho. This was the first time an emperor ever awarded the title Daishi (Great Master).

Icon: Japanese monk.

38. Nichiren (1222-1282 CE) - Nichiren Shonin is the founder of Nichiren Buddhism. He began to publicly declare and teach the chanting of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo on April 28, 1253 after many years of study and contemplation. His strongly worded critiques of those Buddhists who neglected or misrepresented the Lotus Sutra earned him the enmity of both the Buddhist establishment and the shogunate who patronized them. He suffered four major and several minor persecutions at their hands, but Nichiren never relented because he knew that it was the Lotus Sutra which could awaken people to the possibility of attaining buddhahood and seeing that this world itself is the pure land of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha. It was during his exile on Sado Island on April 25, 1273 that Nichiren wrote the Kanjin Honzon Sho which described the form the Omandala should take. On July 8 of that same year he inscribed the Omandala for the first time. The Shutei Mandala was inscribed in March of 1280, and it is the mandala that Nichiren chanted to before he passed away at the home of Munenaka Ikegami on October 13, 1282.

Nichiren's self-evaluation can be found throughout his writings. In the Kembutsu Mirai-ki (Testimony to the Prediction of the Buddha) he states that he is a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra (Hoke-kyo no gyoja). This means that he is the one who practices the Lotus Sutra just as it preaches and who experiences and thereby fulfills the predictions of the Buddha for the Latter Age of the Dharma found in the Lotus Sutra. Furthermore he states that he is an ordinary person at the second of the T'ien-t'ai's six stages of practice whereby one attains buddhahood. That stage is called "notional understanding" (myoji-soku) because it involves hears the Wonderful Dharma for the first time and takes faith in it. Nichiren equates this with the first of the five stages of practice to be undertaken after the Buddha's passing which is the stage of rejoicing at hearing the sutra. So on one level, Nichiren's sees himself as on the same level as all others who are hearing the Lotus Sutra and taking faith in it in the Latter Age of the Dharma. In the Kaimoku-sho (Open Your Eyes to the Lotus Teaching), Nichiren even states that he himself must have slandered the Lotus Sutra and persecuted its practitioners in his past lives, and that he was now making recompense for his sins in undergoing various persecutions for the sake of the Lotus Sutra in his present life. This would be the position of many of those who initially opposed him and then converted, or who were following him and also wondering why they had to undergo such hardships. So in many ways, Nichiren saw himself as the "every man" in the Latter Age of Degeneration.

After the Sado Exile, however, Nichiren also began to consider himself the appearance of Bodhisattva Superior Practice insofar as he was fulfilling the role of the Buddha's messenger in the Latter Age of the Dharma. Nichiren believed that in chapter 21, Shakyamuni Buddha specifically commissioned Bodhisattva Superior Practice and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth to spread the Odaimoku, the essential practice of the Lotus Sutra, in the Latter Age. Since no one else had appeared to do that, Nichiren concluded that he was either Bodhisattva Superior Practices' forerunner or perhaps the bodhisattva himself. In Yorimoto's Letter of Explanation, Nichiren writes in the persona of his own disciple Shijo Kingo who is trying to explain his faith in the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren's teachings to his feudal lord. In that letter, Nichiren says of himself: "...if the teaching in the sutra is correct, Nichiren Shonin is a reincarnation of Bodhisattva Visistacaritra (Superior-Practice), a practicer of the Lotus Sutra and a direct disciple of the Original and Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha (who attained Buddhahood in the remotest past, according to the essential part of the Lotus Sutra). Nichiren Shonin is a great leading master in the beginning of the fifth 500-year period after the Buddha's extinction." (The Shimoyama Letter)

More often, however, Nichiren simply suggests the relationship to Bodhisattva Superior Practice and goes on to extend the relationship to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth to all those who practice Odaimoku. The Shoho jisso-sho (True Aspect of All Phenomena), provides a very good example of this: "Nichiren alone took the lead in carrying out the task of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He may even be one of them. If Nichiren is to be counted among the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, then so must his disciples and lay supporters." Later in the same writing he says, "If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth, there is not the slightest doubt that you have been a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha from the remotest past."

So Nichiren thought of himself as an ordinary person who was fulfilling the mission of Bodhisattva Superior Practice for the Latter Age, and as Bodhisattva Superior Practice appearing to demonstrate how ordinary people can uphold the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Age. His position on the mandala is indicative of the position of all of us who stand before the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha and take faith in the Wonderful Dharma thereby taking part in the Ceremony in the Air.

In addition, Nichiren also thought of himself as having received two transmissions - an outer or historical one, and an inner or spiritual one. The outer one is referred to at the end of the Kembutsu Mirai-ki where he states: "I, Nichiren, of Awa Province, graciously received the teaching of the Lotus Sutra from three masters (Sakyamuni Buddha, T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo) and spread it in the Latter Age of Degeneration. Therefore, I add myself to the three masters, calling ourselves "four masters in three lands.'" (Writings of Nichiren Shonin, p.178) This is the line of transmission that runs from the historical Shakyamuni Buddha, to the Madhyamika teachings of Nagarjuna, through the T'ien-t'ai teachings of Chih-i, Miao-lo, and Saicho, and finally to Nichiren Shonin who at first acted as a reformer who was trying to restore the authentic teachings of the historical T'ien-t'ai school. Nichiren's debt to this historical transmission of those who taught and transmitted the Lotus Sutra down through the ages is indicated by the "lineage chart" at the bottom of the mandala and it is perhaps significant that Nichiren's name is amongst them.

But there is also the inner one which is the direct transmission of the Wonderful Dharma from the Eternal and Original Shakyamuni Buddha to his original disciples, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, in chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra. In Kanjin Honzon-sho (A Treatise Revealing the Spiritual Contemplation and the Most Venerable One) Nichiren writes:

"The manifestation of the ten divine powers in the twenty-first chapter on the 'Divine Powers' is for the sake of transmitting the five characters of myo, ho, ren, ge, and kyo to the four bodhisattvas Superior Practice, Limitless Practice, Pure Practice, and Steadily Established Practice, representing the host of bodhisattvas who had sprung from underground." Later on in the same work he says, "Then for the first time those bodhisattvas from underground appear in this world attempting to encourage ignorant people to take the five characters of myo, ho, ren, ge, and kyo, the excellent medicine of the Latter Age." He also says, "After all, the task of establishing the true honzon was reserved for the bodhisattvas from underground who had been entrusted to propagate the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Age."

Since Nichiren is the one who first propagated the Odaimoku and established the true honzon, one must conclude that Nichiren believed that he was able to do so because in his true identity as Bodhisattva Superior Practice the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha had directly transmitted the teachings to him so that he could act as the Buddha's messenger in the Latter Age. In this respect, Nichiren transcended the historical T'ien-t'ai school insofar as he was teaching what was reserved for the Bodhisattvas of the Earth in the Latter Age of the Dharma. In this sense, Nichiren is the first direct receiver and transmitter of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo to appear in the Latter Age, and it is perhaps significant that Nichiren's name is directly below the Odaimoku where it is in a position to directly receive and proclaim it.

Icon: Nichiren either sitting or standing with the rolls of the Lotus Sutra in hand and perhaps his juzu in another.

36. This Great Mandala was revealed for the first time in the world of Jambudvipa 2,220 odd years after the extinction of the Buddha .

41. March, the third year of Koan (1280)



The Shinto Deities

A Popular Dictionary of Shinto defines the kami as follows:

"Kami may refer to the divine, sacred, spiritual and numinous quality or energy of places, and things, deities of imperial and local mythology, spirits of nature and place, divinised heroes, ancestors, rulers, and statesman."

In Japan, a theory called honji-suijaku was created in order to explain the relationship between the kami of Shinto, and the buddhas and bodhisattvas of Buddhism. The term means "root essence and trace manifestation" and it was based on the Tendai teaching that the historical Buddha of the first half of the Lotus Sutra was the trace manifestation of the Eternal Buddha of the second half of the Lotus Sutra. The honji-suijaku theory was that the Shinto kami were actually temporary manifestations of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. In Foundations of Japanese Buddhism (Vol. II), Nichiren's relationship to the kami is summarized:

"Nichiren was confronted with the same problem all Kamakura leaders faced in respect to the role of the native gods. Like the founders of other movements, he instinctively identified the kami with the land of Japan itself and was keenly aware of the importance of the gods and folk beliefs to the masses, whom he sought to influence. In order to explain the role of the gods within his teachings, Nichiren used the honji-suijaku (true-nature-manifestation) theory. He considered every Shinto god commencing with the Sun Goddess to be a suijaku (manifestation) of the Eternal Shakyamuni of the Lotus Sutra and he also believed that the gods had an obligation to protect the followers of the Lotus, as well to punish their enemies. Faced with what he considered to be so many strange heresies dominating the land, Nichiren could merely conclude that the gods had abandoned the nation and returned to their heavenly abodes."

"Nichiren's attitude toward the native gods tended to be quite ambivalent. On Sado Island, observers who watched him cry out on a mountain top to the sun and moon, believed he had gone mad, but this was Nichiren's way of communing with the gods, imploring them to fulfill their obligation, and strike down the enemies of the Lotus and end the heresies prevailing throughout the land. He also scolded them for neglect of their duties. Thus he wavered between hostility when he considered them derelict, to the certain belief that they hovered above him and protected him against evil

Nichiren also may have felt that the Shinto kami were also local gods and therefore not as important as the more powerful Vedic devas who had been universalized through Buddhism. In The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra, a writing attributed to Nichiren, the Shinto kami are compared to the Vedic devas, and both kami and devas are said to be servants and protectors of the votary of the Lotus Sutra:

"Although I myself may be insignificant, I propagate the Lotus Sutra and therefore am the envoy of Shakyamuni Buddha. The Sun Goddess and Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, who are insignificant, are treated with great respect in this country, but they are only petty gods as compared with Brahma, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, and the four heavenly kings... As I am the envoy of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of the teachings, the Sun Goddess and Great Bodhisattva Hachiman should bow their heads before me, press their palms together, and prostrate themselves. The votary of the Lotus Sutra is attended by Brahma and Shakra on either side, and the gods of the sun and moon light his path before and behind."

37. Tensho Daijin - This deity is the Shinto sun goddess otherwise known as Amaterasu Omikami. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts relates the following information about her:

"The Sun Goddess in Japanese mythology, who was later adopted as a protective god in Buddhism. According to the oldest extant histories, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), she was the chief deity and also the progenitor of the imperial family. In many of his writings, Nichiren Daishonin views Tensho Daijin as a personification of the workings which protect the prosperity of those people who have faith in the True Law."

Dr. Barbara Mori of the California Polytechnic State University gives the following account of the story about Amaterasu Omikami according to the ancient Japanese myths:

"A long, long time ago, there was the female deity known as Amaterasu. One account says she was born from the god Izanagi when he used water to purify his left eye after a visit to the nether world. Another says she was born after intercourse between Izanagi and Izanami (Nihon Shoki 720). She was the sun goddess and assigned to rule the High Celestial Plain (Takamagahara). Later she sent her grandson, Ninigi no Mikoto, to pacify the Japanese islands, having given him the sacred mirror, sword and jewels that became the Imperial Regalia. His great-grandson became the first Emperor Jimmu. She had a beautiful garden in heaven. When she was around, birds sang merrily and flowers bloomed happily. She had a younger brother, Susanoo, who was a storm deity and very mischievous.

"One day Susanoo looked around his sister's garden, and finding no one around, had a bad idea to show off what he could do. He blew strong winds and scattered Amaterasu's beautiful flowers all over the area. Having seen her garden totally ruined by his misdeeds, Amaterasu was deeply saddened, and hid herself in a cave behind a thick, heavy rock door. The whole world became completely dark and very cold. Days and weeks passed without sun, and everybody became sick and depressed. One day a female deity said, "I cannot stand this anymore. I will dance to cheer you all." So she started dancing a lewd dance. Then musicians started playing enticing music with drums and instruments. The dance and the music were so outrageous that everyone began laughing out loud. It turned out to be a big party in the darkness.

"Meanwhile, behind the rock door in the cave, Amaterasu heard the strange noises outside and wondered what they were. She approached the door, and found that the noise was music. She felt that something interesting must be going on outside, so she came even closer to the door. Outside, the strongest deity was awaiting for that moment. as soon as he saw the first line of light coming through the rock door, he pulled on the door with his full strength. Amaterasu came out and shined again and order was restored. This was the beginning of the country of Japan." (

Nichiren apparently felt that it was very significant that there was a connection between his home in Awa where he first began to propagate the Odaimoku and an important shrine of Amaterasu Omikami. In the letter Reply to Niiama he states:

"Though it is a remote place, Tojo Village in Awa Province is like the center of Japan because the Sun Goddess resides there. Though in ancient times she lived in Ise Province, when the emperors came to have deep faith in Hachiman and the Kamo shrines, and neglected the Sun Goddess, she became enraged. At that time, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the general of the right, wrote a pledge and ordered Aoka no Kodayu to enshrine her in the outer shrine of Ise. Perhaps because Yoritomo fulfilled the goddess's wish, he became the shogun who ruled all of Japan. This man then decided on Tojo District as the residence of the Sun Goddess. That may be why this goddess no longer lives in Ise but in Tojo District in Awa Province...Out of all the places in the entire land of Jambudvipa, Nichiren began to propagate this correct teaching in Tojo District, in Awa Province in Japan."

In The Swords of Good and Evil which is attributed to Nichiren, is the following statement:

"Of all the many places in Japan, Nichiren was born in the province of Awa. It is said that the Sun Goddess first dwelt in this province, where she began exploring the land of Japan. An estate exists there dedicated to the goddess, who is the compassionate father and mother to all living beings in this country. Therefore, this province must be of great significance. What karma from the past caused Nichiren to be born in this same province?" (p. 452)

Icon: A Japanese noblewoman or nun.

39. Hachiman Daibosatsu - This Shinto deity presides over archery, agriculture, and other important parts of Japanese life. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts relates the following information about him:

"One of the main deities in Japanese mythology, along with Tensho Daijin (Sun Goddess). There are several views concerning the question of how he came to be worshipped. According to one explanation, in the reign of the twenty-ninth emperor, Kimmei, the god Hachiman appeared as a smith in Usa, Kyushu, the southern part of Japan, and declared that in a past life he had been Emperor Ojin, the fifteenth emperor of Japan. His aid was sought after in his capacity as the god of smiths when the great image of Vairochana was erected at Todai-ji temple in Nara, and from that time on, Hachiman came to be more and more closely associated with Buddhism. Early in the Heian period (794-1185), the imperial court named him Great Bodhisattva (Jap daibosatsu), an early example of the fusion of Buddhist and Shinto elements. Around the mid-ninth century Hachiman was revered as a protector of the capital, and later, with the rise of the samurai class, he was particularly venerated by the Minamoto clan. In the latter part of the twelfth century, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the founder of the Kamakura shogunate, built a Hachiman shrine at Tsurugaoka in Kamakura, and, with the spread of the samurai government, the worship of Hachiman as a protective deity of the villages became a predominant throughout Japan. In his writings, Nichiren Daishonin views Hachiman as a personification of the function which promotes the agricultural fertility of a land whose inhabitants embrace the Law."

In a letter called The Great Bodhisattva Hachiman which is attributed to Nichiren, the Kamakuran belief that Hachiman is a manifestation of Amitabha Buddha is denied and instead Hachiman is explicitly identified as a manifestation of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha. In fact, because the Japanese people insisted on identifying him with Amitabha Buddha, he burned down his shrine in Kamakura and returned to the heavens. The letter also refers to the legendary early 9th century oracle in which Hachiman is reputed to have vowed to protect the reign of one hundred emperors. The fall of the emperors to the bakufu (military government) seemed to have invalidated that oracle. However, if Hachiman was a manifestation of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha, then he was under no obligation to protect sovereigns who turned their backs on the Lotus Sutra and that is why Hachiman withdrew his protection from the emperors and bestowed it upon the shoguns instead. The assumption is that Hachiman only protects those with integrity who uphold the truth. The letter states:

"On considering this, we can see that, because persons who put their faith in the Lotus Sutra are following an honest doctrine, Shakyamuni Buddha himself will protect them. How then could it happen that Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, who is his manifestation, would fail to protect them?"

Nichiren also reportedly berated Hachiman at the Hachiman shrine in Kamakura just before the attempt to execute him at Tatsunokuchi. This incident is recounted in the writing called The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren's scolding illustrates his attitude towards Hachiman and the other gods:

"That night of the twelfth, I was placed under the custody of the lord of the province of Musashi and around midnight was taken out of Kamakura to be executed. As we set out on Wakamiya Avenue, I looked at the crowd of warriors surrounding me and said, 'Don't make a fuss. I won't cause any trouble. I merely wish to say my last words to Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.' I got down from my horse and called out in a loud voice, 'Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, are you truly a god? When Wake no Kiyomaro was about to be beheaded, you appeared as a moon ten feet wide. When the Great Teacher Dengyo lectured on the Lotus Sutra, you bestowed upon him a purple surplice as an offering. Now I, Nichiren, am the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in all of Japan, and am entirely without guilt. I have expounded the doctrine to save all the people of Japan from falling into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering for slandering the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, if the forces of the great Mongol empire attack this country, can even the Sun Goddess and Great Bodhisattva Hachiman remain safe and unharmed? When Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the Lotus Sutra, Many Treasures Buddha and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions gathered, shining like so many suns and moons, stars and mirrors. In the presence of the countless heavenly gods as well as the benevolent deities and sages of India, China, and Japan, Shakyamuni Buddha urged each one to submit a written pledge to protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra at all times. Each and every one of the gods made this pledge. I should not have to remind you. Why do you not appear at once to fulfill your solemn oath?' Finally I called out: 'If I am executed tonight and go to the pure land of Eagle Peak, I will dare to report to Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of the teachings, that the Sun Goddess and Great Bodhisattva Hachiman are the deities who have broken their oath to him. If you feel this will go hard with you, you had better do something about it right away!' Then I remounted my horse."

Icon: A Japanese samurai with bow and arrows or a monk with a beggar's staff (a staff with iron rings at the top).


Much Gratitude and thanks to all the contributors of this writing as follows. Special thanks to Michael McCormick for his scholarship and generosity for posting this on the Internet for all to study.

·        Aitken, Robert. The Gateless Barrier: The Wu-men Kuan (Mumonkan). New York: North Point Press, 1991.

·        Bocking, Brian. A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Surrey: Curzon Press, 1996

·        Callaso, Roberto. Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India. New York: Vintage International, 1999.

·        Cleary, Thomas. Stopping & Seeing: A Comprehensive Course in Buddhist Meditation. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc., 1997.

·        Cook, Francis H. Hua-yen Buddhism. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991.

·        Danielou, Alain. The Myths and Gods of India. Rochester: Inner Traditions International, 1991.

·        Donner, Neal and Stevenson, Daniel B. The Great Calming and Contemplation: A Study and Annotated Translation of the First Chapter of Chih-i's Mo-ho chih-kuan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.

·        Frederic, Louis. Flammarion Iconographic Guides: Buddhism. New York: Flammarion, 1995.

·        Getty, Alice. The Gods of Northern Buddhism. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1988.

·        Gosho Translation Committee (ed.-trans.). The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. Tokyo: Soka Gakkai, 1999.

·        Groner, Paul. Saicho: The Establishment of the Japanese Tendai School. Seoul: Po Chin Chai Ltd., 1984.

·        Hurvitz, Leon. Chih-i: An Introduction to the Life and Ideas of a Chinese Buddhist Monk. Bruxelles: Juillet, 1962.

·        Leighton, Taigen Daniel. Bodhisattva Archetypes: Classic Buddhist Guides to Awakening and their Modern Expression. New York: Penguin Arkana, 1998.

·        Matsuda, Tomohiro (ed.). A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts. Tokyo: Nichiren Shoshu International Center, 1983.

·        Matsunaga, Alicia. The Buddhist Philosophy of Assimilation. Tokyo: Sophia University in cooperation with Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1969.

·        Matsunaga, Daigan and Matsunaga, Alicia. The Buddhist Concept of Hell. New York: Philosophical Library, 1972.

·        McCormick, Michael. Dharma Flower: The Faith, Teaching, and Practice of Nichiren Buddhism. Unpublished Manuscript.

·        Murano, Senchu (tr.). The Lotus Sutra. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Shimbun Co. Ltd., 1991.

·        Murano, Senchu. Manual of Nichiren Buddhism. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Headquarters, 1995.

·        Nanamoli, Bhikkhu. The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1992.

·        Nichiren Buddhist Temple of San Jose. Lotus Seeds: The Essence of Nichiren Shu Buddhism. San Jose: Nichiren Buddhist Temple of San Jose, 2000.

·        Pruden, Leo M. (trans.). Abhidharmakosabhasyam. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1991.

·        Sadakata, Akira. Buddhist Cosmology: Philosophy and Origins. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Co., 1997.

·        Snodgrass, Adrian. The Matrix and Diamond World Mandalas in Shingon Buddhism. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 1988.

·        Stone: Jacqueline. Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

·        Suguro, Shinjo. Introduction to the Lotus Sutra. Fremont: Jain Publishing Co., 1998.

·        Tanabe, George Jr. Writings of Nichiren Shonin: Doctrine 2. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002.

·        Thera, Nyanaponika and Hecker, Hellmuth. Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1997.

·        Walshe, Maurice. The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995.

·        Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundation. New York: Routledge, 1989.

·        Yajima, Taikyo (tr.) The Shimoyama Letter. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Overseas Propagation Promotion Association, 1996.

·        Zimmer, Heinrich. Philosophies of India. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974.


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