Introduction to Buddhas & Bodhisattvas Page Two

THE MEDICINE BUDDHA

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BHAISAJYAGURU / YAKUSHI NYORAI

     The second major Honzon deity among the 88 temples of Shikoku Island is called Yakushi Nyorai in Japanese, and is referred to as Bhaisajyaguru in Sanskrit. In Japanese his full name is Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai, he is the Lord or chief Buddha of the Pure Land of Bliss in the eastern quarter of Heaven. His name "Yakushi", literally means "Medicine Professor". Yakushi made twelve vows or resolutions, the seventh one being the resolution that he would disperse the illness of any person who called upon his name. "If my name be called for, I will cure any sick person, whose body and soul shall instantly feel tranquil and free from a sickly feeling". He is assisted by his two trusted attendants Nikko and Gakko, and has also under his jurisdiction twelve divine generals (Juni shinsho), who represent his twelve great vows.

     He is many times (and most popularly) portrayed carrying a pot of medicines in one hand, and it is from this pot that he dispenses healing medicines. These medicines heal both the sickness of body and the sickness of mind. Yakushi Nyorai is not depicted in the Vajaradhatu (Kongo-kai) Mandara, nor in the Garbhadhatu (Taizo-kai) Mandara.

     In Tibetan images, he is depicted beautifully in his own Mandala, aptly called The Medicine Buddha Mandala. The Mandala itself has many layers of esoteric meaning which unfold as one moves forward on the healing path of the bodhisattva; in conjunction with appropriate guidance, teachings and practices.

 

Senju Kannon Bosatsu

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(AVALOKITESVARA OF A THOUSAND HANDS)

     Senju Kannon is probably the most popular portrayal, out of the many Avalokitesvara / Kannon grouping of deities in Esoteric Buddhism. The image is of feminine nature with a thousand arms, which hold many symbols / tools / mudras. Senju Kannon has a strong affinity with us and vice-versa, due to the suffering we endure and her continuous work for our salvation and relief.

     The original name of this deity is Sahasrabhujasranetra or Senju-sengen Kannon which means the One Who has a Thousand Hand and Eyes. It is believed that this work is done via the various symbols / tools / mudras held in her hands. In some of the hands, one may observe an eye. It should be noted that in the uppermost hands she carries effigies of the sun and the moon.

     Senju Kannon may also appear in alignment with Amitabha Tathagata, residing in the Western Pure Land. It is said that if you recite her mantra you clean your mind, to then enhance your innate Buddhahood and manifest your undefiled nature.

 

Kokuzo Bosatsu (Äkäsagarbha)

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Wood, Edo Period, 18th cent.

     This bodhisattva represents the concepts of infinite merit and the infinite void.  It is believed that praying to this bodhisattva will increase one's memory.  He is also believed to grant wisdom. Kokuzo Bosatsu was one of the first deities to he represented in sculpture in Japan, (this image, of course, is of a later date). The hand gestures (mudra) are the opposite of the Great Buddha.  The right hand symbolizes the desire to end suffering, and the left hand welcomes those who suffer.

Photo by Eisuke Ueda                        Copyright Todaiji.Temple




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