Manjusri: Wikis


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Sanskrit:  Mañjuśrī, মঁজূশ্রী
Chinese:  文殊, 文殊師利
Japanese:  Monju, Monjushuri
Tibetan:  Jampelyang
Korean:  Munsu
Vietnamese:  Văn-thù-sư-lợi
Venerated by:  Mahayana, Vajrayana
Attributes:  Great wisdom

Manjusri (Ch: 文殊 Wénshū or 文殊師利菩薩 Wénshūshili Púsà; Jp: 文殊菩薩 Monju; Tib: འཇམ་དཔལ་དབྱངས། Jampelyang; Nepalese: मंजुश्री Manjushree) is a bodhisattva (emanating enlightened being) in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions of Buddhism.

Manjusri is the bodhisattva associated with wisdom, doctrine and awareness and in Vajrayana Buddhism is the meditational deity (yidam), who embodies enlightened wisdom. Historically, the Mahayana Buddhist scriptures assert that Manjusri was a disciple of Gautama Buddha, although there is no mention of him in the early Pali scriptures.

The Sanskrit term Mañjuśrī (मन्जुष्री) can be translated as "Gentle Glory"[1]. Mañjuśrī is also known by the fuller Sanskrit name of Mañjuśrī-kumāra-bhūta.[2 ]


In the Buddhist tradition

Statue of Manjusri (Monju) at Senkoji in Onomichi, Japan

Scholars have identified Manjusri as "the oldest and most significant mythic bodhisattva in the Mahayana tradition."[3] Manjusri is first referred to in early Mahāyāna texts such as the Prajñā-pāramitā Sūtras and through this association very early in the tradition he came to symbolize the embodiment of prajñā (wisdom).[2 ] Manjusri later figures extensively in many texts associated with Tantric Buddhism such as the Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa.[2 ] and the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti.

Together with the Buddha and fellow disciple Samantabhadra he forms the Shakyamuni trinity (Jp: Sanzon Shaka). In Tibetan Buddhism he sometimes is depicted in a trinity with Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani. Manjusri is mentioned in a number of Mahayana Buddhist sutras, particularly the Prajnaparamita Sutras. The Lotus Sutra assigns him a paradise called Vimala, which according to the Avatamsaka Sutra is located in the east. His consort in some Vajrayana traditions is Saraswati. He is also sometimes called Manjughosha.

Within Tibetan Buddhism, Manjusri is a tantric meditational deity or Yidam, and considered a fully enlightened Buddha. In the Shingon school of esoteric Buddhism, he is one of the thirteen deities to whom disciples devote themselves.

Manjusri leads the dragon king's daughter to enlightenment in the Lotus Sutra and he gives the second to last summation on emptiness in the Vimalakirti sutra. Je Tsongkhapa who founded the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism received his teachings from visions of Manjusri. He is one of the four great bodhisattvas of Chinese Buddhism, the four being: Kshitigarbha, Manjusri, Avalokiteshvara, and Samantabhadra. When he attains buddhahood his name will be Universal Sight. His pure land will be one of the two best pure lands in all of existence in all the past, present and future. Manjusri says in the "Manjusri Speaks on the Inconceivable State of Buddhahood" sutra that if Shakyamuni has attained buddhahood then he [Manjusri] has attained buddhahood. He is a dharmakaya bodhisattva, which means that unlike an ordinary 10th stage bodhisattva who still has a bit further to go before full enlightenment is attained, Manjusri has no further to go and can attain buddhahood at any time but has yet to achieve buddhahood because his Bodhisattva vows are not yet fulfilled.

It says in a sutra on Manjusri's attainment of Buddhahood that the benefits gained by keeping Manjusri's name in mind are superior to the benefits gained by keeping in mind the names of billions of Buddhas. This sutra can be found in "A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras".

Manjusri mantra

Chanting the Manjusri mantra:

Om A Ra Pa Cha Na Dhīh

is believed to enhance wisdom and improve one's skills in debating, memory, writing, explaining etc. "Dhih" is the seed syllable of the mantra and is chanted with greater emphasis.

In Japanese Shingon Buddhism, this mantra is transliterated and recited as:

On a raha-shanō


Yamantaka Vajrabhairav, British Museum
Manjushri statue next to prayer wheel. Lhalung Monastery, Spiti, 2004.

A male Bodhisattva, he is depicted wielding a sword tipped with the flames of enlightenment in his right hand, representing his realization of wisdom, which severs the conflict of duality. The scripture supported by the flower held in his left hand is the Prajnaparamita, representing his attainment of ultimate realisation and Enlightenment. Manjusri is frequently depicted in Chinese traditions as riding on the back of a lion.

Variations upon his traditional form as Manjusri include Guhya-Manjusri, Guhya-Manjuvajra, and Manjuswari, most of which are Tantric forms associated with Tibetan Buddhism. The two former appearances are generally accompanied by a shakti deity embracing the main figure, symbolising union of form and spirit, matter and energy.


Yamāntaka (meaning 'terminator of Yama i.e. Death') is the wrathful manifestation of Manjusri, popular within the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism.

In other Buddhist cultures


According to a legend, Nurhaci, a military leader of the Jurchen tribes in Northeast China and founder of what became the Chinese imperial Qing Dynasty, believed himself to be a reincarnation of Manjusri. He therefore is said to have renamed his tribe the Manchu.

In Nepalese mythology

According to Swayambhu Purana, the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake. It is believed that Manjusri saw a lotus flower in the center of the lake and cut a gorge at Chovar to allow the lake to drain. The place where the lotus flower settled became Swayambhunath Stupa and the valley thus became habitable.

The Newars of the Kathmandu Valley, who adhere to both Buddhism and Hinduism, revere him as the Bodhisattva of Wisdom.

In China

Bodhisattva Manjusri in Blanc-de-Chine, by He Chaozong, 17th century

Wutai Shan in Shanxi, one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism in China, which also had strong associations for Taoists, was considered by Chinese Buddhists to be the earthly abode of Manjusri.

Manjusri was said to bestow spectacular visionary experiences to those on selected mountain peaks and caves there. These made it a popular place of pilgrimage, but patriarchs including Linji and Yun-men declared the mountain off limits.[4]

Being in the North of China and revered, Mount Wutai was also associated with the Northern lineages of Zen.[5]

In some Taoist schools, Manjusri was said to be an ancient Taoist Immortal.

Master Sheng-yen (1988: p. 364) renders the 'Manjusri Sutra' or 'Prajna Sutra" (Chinese: 文殊說般若經; Wade-Giles: Wen-shu shuo po-jo ching) spoken by Manjuśri as saying to:

...contemplate the five skandhas as originally empty and quiescent, non-arising, non-perishing, equal, without differentiation. Constantly thus practicing, day or night, whether sitting, walking, standing or lying down, finally one reaches an inconceivable state without any obstruction or form. This is the Samadhi of One Act (I-hsing sanmei) 一行三昧.[6]


  1. ^ Lopez Jr., Donald S. (2001). The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to its History and Teachings. New York, NY, USA: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-069976-0 (cloth) P.260.
  2. ^ a b c Keown, Damien (editor) with Hodge, Stephen; Jones, Charles; Tinti, Paola (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9 p.172.
  3. ^ A View of Manjushri: Wisdom and Its Crown Prince in Pala Period India. Harrington, Laura. Doctoral Thesis, Columbia University, 2002
  4. ^ *See Robert M. Gimello, "Chang Shang-ying on Wu-t'ai Shan," in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China:, ed. Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 89–149; and Steven Heine, "Visions, Divisions, Revisions: The Encounter Between Iconoclasm and Supernaturalism in Kōan Cases about Mount Wu-t'ai," in The Kōan, pp. 137–167.
  5. ^ Heine, Steven (2002). Opening a Mountain: Koans of the Zen Masters. USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513586-5.  
  6. ^ Sheng-Yen, Master (聖嚴法師)(1988). Tso-Ch'an. Source: [1]; (accessed: August 6, 2008) p.364

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