Monju Bosatsu with Eight Sacred Sanskrit Syllables


Not on view

Monju (Sanskrit: Manjushri), the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, is seated on a lion against an ovoid nimbus edged with flames. He wears a crown decorated with eight miniature Buddhas and holds a sword and a long stemmed lotus flower supporting a vajra—a pronged implement with origins in Indian weaponry. In other manifestations of the bodhisattva, Monju’s lotus typically supports a Buddhist scripture, but here the vajra is an emblem of wisdom. Monju is surrounded by eight Sanskrit seed syllables, or sacred utterances symbolizing the eight guardian youths) from a mantra invoking him. Inscribed in the upper part of the painting is a verse praising Monju, dated to 1371 on the day following the arrival of winter. It says, “In the past, you were the bodhisattva Ryūshu, and in the future, you will become the Buddha Fuken, the patriarch of the Seven Buddhas, the mother who gives rise to wisdom [the Buddha], Great Master Monju!” The painting would have been used in rituals performed for the purpose of warding off natural disasters, and is said to have belonged to the temple Daigoji near Kyoto.

Monju Bosatsu with Eight Sacred Sanskrit Syllables, Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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