By Anthony Tribe (Dharmachari Anandajyoti)
I pay salutation to Ma~njugho.sa: by his favour the mind becomes bright.
Ma~nju'srii is one of the best-known and most important of the bodhisattvas of Mahaayaana Buddhism and is especially associated with the wisdom of awakening. He is often depicted as a beautiful youth, in keeping with the notion of the sense of freshness and newness of such liberating awareness, and is seated cross-legged on a lotus-flower throne, attired in princely silks and ornaments. In his right hand, raised above his head, he wields the symbol most distinctively his, a flaming sword of wisdom that cuts through the ignorance which binds sentient beings to a cycle of suffering and unhappiness. In his left hand, at his heart, he holds a book, a volume of the Perfection of Wisdom, representing both the source and embodiment of his awakened understanding.
Ma~nju'srii's popularity spans almost two millenia, beginning with his appearance in early Mahaayaana suutras in the first or second centuries CE. His fame as a source of inspiration, teaching and protection and as a focus for devotion and meditation spread from India throughout the whole classical Mahaayaana Buddhist world, to China, Korea, Japan and Tibet. His popularity continues today, not only within traditional Buddhist communities but also in contemporary 'western' Mahaayaana Buddhist traditions. American, European and Australasian Buddhists visualise Ma~nju'srii, recite his name and depict his form as part of their practice, seeing these as effective means of developing the insightful awareness (j~naana) that is at the heart of the Mahaayaana Buddhist perspective.
This article examines the two topics of Ma~nju'srii's origins and his portrayal in non-tantric Mahaayaana literature. The rather complicated question of Ma~nju'srii's origins is not ever likely to be settled conclusively. Nonetheless, I argue that Brahmaa Sanatkumaara is more likely to have had some influence on Ma~nju'srii's make-up than other figures previously proposed.
Although the main features of Ma~nju'srii's portrayal in Mahaayaana literature are clear, the account can be only partial at present. A number of early Mahaayaana suutras featuring Ma~nju'srii, which survive only in Chinese, have yet to appear in European translation. A perhaps unexpected emphasis that emerges from the present review is the regularity with which Ma~nju'srii appears as the wielder of far-reaching, and often inconceivable, miraculous power.
In what follows I tread a difficult line in writing for both a scholarly audience and for those whose focus on Ma~nju'srii is primarily one of practice. I have tried to keep the body of the text relatively free from technical discussion; nonetheless the second part may be initially more approachable for some. Since there is comparatively little material readily available on Ma~nju'srii the most important monograph on him to date is in French in an academic journal (Lamotte, 1960) part of my purpose in writing has been to make existing scholarship more widely known. Source references are supplied for those who wish to pursue topics further.
It is not possible to give a straightforward account of the origins of Ma~nju'srii, unlike a number of figures in the Buddhist or, indeed, Hindu tradition. He shows no obvious development in status comparable with that seen, for instance, in the figure of Vajrapaa.ni, who first appears as a yak.sa attendant of the Buddha, later becoming a bodhisattva and finally a Buddha under the name of Vajradhara. Ma~nju'srii does not appear in the Theravaada Pali canon or in any other non-Mahaayaana text. In the suutras of Mahaayaana Buddhism, Ma~nju'srii is found fully-formed as an advanced bodhisattva. Yet despite the lack of a clear ancestry, various influences have been perceived in his make-up and a number of theories proposed as to his origins.
The French scholar Marcelle Lalou has pointed to a number of affinities between Ma~nju'srii and a celestial musician (Skt. gandharva) called Pa~nca'sikha, who appears in both Sanskrit and Pali texts. Lalou argues that one such affinity is a similarity in meaning between the name Pa~nca'sikha and a term sometimes used to describe Ma~nju'srii's appearance, pa~ncaciiraka, "Possessing Five [Hair-]braids." Pa~nca'sikha means "Five-Crests" and this is taken by Buddhaghosa to refer to a way of styling the hair. He says that Pa~nca'sikha owes his name to the fact that he wears his hair in five tresses or braids in the fashion of young men. On this interpretation the name Pa~nca'sikha becomes a synonym of pa~ncaciiraka. However, "Five-Crests" does not necessarily refer to hair and Buddhaghosa's account should perhaps be treated with some caution. He could have been attempting to make sense of what was, for him, a puzzling name. Alternative explanations are possible; for example, 'crest' ('sikha) might denote the crest or peak of a mountain and the name Pa~nca'sikha might therefore allude to Pa~nca'sikha's geographical origins. (Evidence for such an interpretation is discussed in the following section.) At the same time, it may be true that there evolved a tradition of Pa~nca'sikha wearing his hair as Buddhaghosa describes. The eighth-century author Vilaasavajra also glosses the word pa~nca'sikha as referring to five hair braids.
Lalou points to another affinity between Ma~nju'srii and Pa~nca'sikha in the sphere of their qualities of voice and speech. In the Sakkapa~nha Sutta, Pa~nca'sikha acts as an intermediary between 'Sakra (ie. Indra), chief of the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three (P. Taavati.msa), and the Buddha. 'Sakra wants to speak to the Buddha but feels he is not easy to approach, so he asks Pa~nca'sikha to put the Buddha in an amenable mood by playing and singing to him. This Pa~nca'sikha does and, as a result, the Buddha praises Pa~nca'sikha and in so doing reveals an aptitude for aesthetic appreciation:
The sound of your strings combines well with the sound of your song, Pa~nca'sikha, as does the sound of your song with the sound of your strings. Also, the sound of your strings does not dominate the sound of your song, Pa~nca'sikha, neither does the sound of your song [dominate] the sound of your strings.
It is hardly surprising that Pa~nca'sikha, being a gandharva, is a good musician but here his singing or voice is praised as well. Ma~nju'srii, as is well-known, is renowned for his mellifluous speech, and many of his epithets and names refer to the qualities of his voice. Perhaps best-known of Ma~nju'srii's names is Ma~njugho.sa, "Sweet-Voiced;" he is also known as Ma~njusvara, which also means "Sweet-Voiced," and as Ma~njurava, "Of Sweet Sounds." His epithets include vaadiraaja, vaagii'svara and gii.spati, all meaning "Lord of Speech."
A third link between Ma~nju'srii and Pa~nca'sikha is that of youth. Pa~nca'sikha, as a god (deva), is both beautiful and perpetually young. Ma~nju'srii also tends to be envisaged in the form of a young man or youth, as is witnessed by his standard epithet kumaarabhuuta, which can mean both "being a youth" and "being a prince." It is not clear, however, that this affinity is of significance since Pa~nca'sikha is not portrayed as more youthful than other gods. Nevertheless, Lalou suggests that the popularity of both Pa~nca'sikha and Ma~nju'srii derives from a single mythic source, belief in a god who is eternally young. Whether or not this might be true for Pa~nca'sikha, in Ma~nju'srii's case such a proposal takes no account of his specifically Buddhist role as one of the most important bodhisattvas. No doubt youth would render Ma~nju'srii attractive and contribute to his appeal, but it is unlikely to have been the determining factor in his popularity; despite Ma~nju'srii's epithet kumaarabhuuta, youth is a characteristic shared by many figures in the Buddhist pantheon, especially bodhisattvas, not all of whom gained the popularity of Ma~nju'srii. Furthermore, in China, where Ma~nju'srii became particularly popular, especially in the T'ang period, he became renowned for appearing in the form of an old man or a beggar.
Finally, Pa~nca'sikha, like Ma~nju'srii, appears in the role of interlocutor, questioning and receiving replies from the Buddha. In the Mahaagovinda Sutta, Pa~nca'sikha approaches the Buddha, who is staying at the Vulture's Peak, and recounts events that he has witnessed in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, including the sight of Brahmaa Sanatkumaara manifesting as himself (ie. as Pa~nca'sikha)! The same story is found in the Mahaavastu where there is a section at the end, not found in the Pali version, in which Pa~nca'sikha has the role of interlocutor. This text depicts a closer relationship between 'Saakyamuni and Pa~nca'sikha than is found elsewhere, one which could be seen as paralleling or anticipating Ma~nju'srii's role as the major interlocutor in many Mahaayaana suutras.
Given these affinities in the areas of name, appearance, qualities and role, might Pa~nca'sikha be an earlier form of Ma~nju'srii? Such a theory has been proposed by David Snellgrove, who suggests that Pa~nca'sikha was initially called Pa~nca'sikha Ma~njugho.sa, where the term 'Ma~njugho.sa' is an epithet, referring to the quality of Pa~nca'sikha's voice. Later, Snellgrove argues, the name became reversed, becoming Ma~njugho.sa Pa~nca'sikha, where 'Pa~nca'sikha' is now the epithet of a figure whose name is Ma~njugho.sa. By this account Ma~njugho.sa must have been Ma~nju'srii's original name, a claim which had been made earlier by Louis de La Vallée Poussin. However, neither he nor Snellgrove give any reasons for this supposition nor do they cite any supporting evidence.
Snellgrove's account may seem plausible given the affinities between Pa~nca'sikha and Ma~nju'srii, but it is not free from difficulty. There is, firstly, a lack of textual evidence linking the names Ma~njugho.sa and Pa~nca'sikha. Snellgrove himself gives no textual support for his theory and as far as I have been able to ascertain, Pa~nca'sikha is never given the epithet Ma~njughosa in the Pali texts. Nevertheless, it may be that the king of the gandharva-s was so-called, at least on one occasion. A passage from the Diirghaagama, one of the Sanskrit recensions of the early Mainstream (non-Mahaayaana) Buddhist canon, describes the Himalayan mountain Gandhamaadana and states that,
Miao-yin (Ma~njugho.sa), king of the gandharva-s, surrounded by five hundred gandharva-s, lives there.
However, since this passage survives only in Chinese translation, the name Ma~njugho.sa is a reconstruction, so it is possible that the original Sanskrit was different.
A further difficulty in using this passage to sustain a link between Pa~nca'sikha and Ma~njugho.sa is that it refers to the king of the gandharva-s. There is no doubt that Pa~nca'sikha is a gandharva but it is not clear that he is king of the gandharva-s. He is is never referred to as such in the Pali texts. Certain passages describe individuals being reborn as Pa~nca'sikha, which suggests that the name denoted an office like that of ''Sakra', for the king of the gods as much as a particular individual. Sanskrit texts generally depict Pa~nca'sikha in the same way as the Pali texts do, as a well-known gandharva and as the name of an office.
In the Sakkapa~nha Sutta Pa~nca'sikha himself refers to one Timbaru as king of the gandharva-s. At the end of the sutta, 'Sakra rewards Pa~nca'sikha for his services in helping him speak with the Buddha by giving him Timbaru's daughter, Bhaddaa, with whom Pa~nca'sikha has fallen in love. 'Sakra also says that in the future Pa~nca'sikha shall be king of the gandharva-s, presumably because of his marriage to Bhaddaa. This promise of 'Sakra, noted by Lalou, may account for the tendency of writers to assume Pa~nca'sikha's kingship. Both Lamotte and John Brough so refer to him, though Lamotte cites no sources and implies that he is following Lalou, whereas Brough's article is unclear as to whether his source actually refers to Pa~nca'sikha as a king. Lalou does cite two instances of Pa~nca'sikha being described as king of the gandharva-s one in the tantric work, the Ma~nju'srii-muula-kalpa, "The Root Ordinance of Ma~nju'srii," and one in the suutra section of the Tibetan Kanjur and I have noted another in the Dharmadhaatu-vaagii'svara-ma.n.dala of Abhayaakaragupta's Ni.spanna-yogaavali. Such references, perhaps deriving their authority from the utterance of 'Sakra in the Sakkapa~nha Sutta, seem to be the exception rather than the rule, however. They can hardly be regarded as evidence from which one can safely conclude that it is Pa~nca'sikha who is named Miao-yin (possibly Ma~njugho.sa in Skt.) in the Chinese translation of the Diirghaagama quoted above.
Another difficulty concerns Snellgrove's claim that pa~nca'sikha is an epithet of Ma~nju'srii, or rather of his purportedly original name, Ma~njugho.sa. Snellgrove himself offers no examples, and Lalou never suggests that pa~nca'sikha is found as one of his epithets in arguing her case for the affinity between Pa~nca'sikha and Ma~nju'srii. As Lalou points out, Ma~nju'srii does have the epithet pa~ncaciira, and a version of this, pa~ncaciira-kumaara, "youth with five hair-braids," is preserved in the Saadhana-maalaa for a number of his visualised forms. In her study of Ma~nju'srii's iconography, Marie-Thérèse de Mallmann makes no mention of an epithet pa~nca'sikha. Though the term pa~nca'sikha does appear in association with Ma~nju'srii in the Ma~nju'srii-muula-kalpa, it is as the name of a symbolic hand gesture (mudraa) rather than as an epithet.
In an important tantric work centred on Ma~nju'srii, the Naamasa.mgiiti, "The Chanting of Names," pa~nca'sikha occurs as one of the 'Names' (naama). Generally, the 'Names' of the Naamasa.mgiiti are taken to be those of Ma~nju'srii, who is to be understood in this context as the Knowledge-Being Ma~nju'srii (Ma~nju'srii-j~naanasattva) rather than the bodhisattva. Verse 93 reads:
Crested, with a tuft of hair; an ascetic, with twisted hair locks; shaven headed; wearing a crown; five-faced; with five crests [of hair] (pa~nca'sikha); with five braids of hair for a crown.
The commentator Vilaasavajra takes the term pa~nca'sikha here to refer to five hair braids and this gloss, which was noted earlier, makes good sense given the context of the rest of the verse. Theoretically it would be possible to interpret pa~nca'sikha as a mudraa, though this seems unlikely to be the sense intended, and this may therefore count as an instance of pa~nca'sikha used as an epithet for a form of Ma~nju'srii, albeit a rarefied one. However, the 'Names' of the Naamasa.mgiiti include a wide range of terms that are not more usually associated with Ma~nju'srii. Thus, the existence of pa~nca'sikha as a 'Name' cannot be taken to imply that it is one of Ma~nju'srii's standard epithets. Equally, the Naamasa.mgiiti is a relatively late work, perhaps seventh century CE, and earlier examples of pa~nca'sikha as an epithet of Ma~nju'srii need to be found for Snellgrove's account to be tenable.
To summarise this rather complicated discussion, the relation between Ma~nju'srii and Pa~nca'sikha is at best tenuous. The affinities pointed to by Lalou are not as convincing as she would like them to be, and there is no real evidence that Ma~nju'srii as a figure derives from that of Pa~nca'sikha in the way that David Snellgrove suggests.
In the passage from the Diirghaagama quoted above, a mountain called Gandhamaadana was referred to as the home of the king of the gandharva-s, Miao-yin (possibly 'Ma~njugho.sa'). Gandhamaadana is part of a chain of Himalayan mountains which surround a lake known by the name Anavatapta in the Buddhist tradition and famous as the source of the rivers Ganges, Indus and Oxus. In the commentary to the Udaana the mountains and lake are itemised:
The lake Anavatapta is surrounded by five mountain peaks called, respectively, Sudar'sana, Citra, Kaala, Gandhamaadana, and Kailaasa.
Thus Gandhamaadana is part of a distinctive five-peaked pa~nca'sikha or pa~nca'siir.sa in Sanskrit group of mountains. The association of the term pa~nca'sikha with the region where the king of the gandharva-s and his retinue are reputed to live might suggest that Pa~nca'sikha, being a celebrated gandharva, could derive his name from the geographical features of this area. The Indian tradition generally took the Himalayas to be the home of gandharva-s and Pa~nca'sikha is also said to frequent them. In the Ma~njarii Jaataka of the Mahaavastu he visits a Himalayan hermit to persuade him to develop generosity, and in the Mahaamaayuurii he is said to live in Kashmir, the north-western region of the Himalayas close to (or containing) the five mountain peaks surrounding lake Anavatapta.
Ma~nju'srii is also associated with Gandhamaadana. In the short Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra, which is discussed and translated into French by Lamotte, he is described as visiting the Himalayas where he converts five hundred hermits (.r.si) to Buddhism. Some time later, Ma~nju'srii appears to enter final Nirvaa.na in a blaze of light and fire through his skill as an advanced bodhisattva. It is this event that gives the suutra its name. His remains are taken to the summit of a certain "Perfume Mountain" where, it is said, he will be honoured by innumerable deva-s, naaga-s and yak.sa-s. Perfume Mountain is identified by Lamotte as Gandhamaadana, "[Mountain] Intoxicating with Perfumes."
As Ma~nju'srii's popularity spread he came to be connected with mountains in other parts of the Buddhist world, notably Go's.r'nga in Khotan and Wu-t'ai shan, "Five-Terrace Mountain," in China. Both Go's.r'nga and Wu-t'ai shan also have lakes nearby and the Wu-t'ai shan complex, as its name indicates, has five peaks. This double association with five-peaked mountains may be no more than coincidence, but if Ma~nju'srii was already known by the epithet pa~ncaciira, locations also associated with the number five could have been seen as appropriate to him. Alternatively, Wu-t'ai shan may have appeared as a suitable abode for Ma~nju'srii because of an earlier association with the five-peaked region of Mt. Gandhamaadana.
iii. Brahmaa & Brahmaa Sanatkumaara
A figure who may have had some influence on the make-up of Ma~nju'srii is the god Brahmaa, who in the Hindu tradition is well-known for his activities of world-creation. Richard Robinson has noted that Ma~nju'srii and Brahmaa share the epithet Vaagii'svara, "Lord of Speech." Buddhist texts speak of 'Brahmaa-s' in the plural, referring to those who live in the highest of the realms of the gods, the Brahmaloka. The Pali Janavasabha Sutta describes the qualities of speech of a Brahmaa called Sanatkumaara, who is also a disciple of the Buddha. So that he can appear to the assembled gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, Brahmaa Sanatkumaara takes on the form of Pa~nca'sikha as he does, as noted earlier, in the Mahaagovinda Sutta and in this form, which is said to outshine the other gods in splendour, he proceeds to discourse on the Buddha's Dharma. The text describes his voice as "fluent, intelligible, sweet (ma~nju), audible, continuous, distinct, deep and resonant," and as one that communicates perfectly with the assembly but does not penetrate beyond it. One possessing a voice with these eight characteristics, the Sutta continues, is said to be 'Brahmaa-voiced' (brahmassara).
Brahmaa Sanatkumaara's great qualities of voice and speech are not his only link with Ma~nju'srii. His name Sanat-kumaara, meaning "Forever-a-youth," is almost identical to Ma~nju'srii's standard epithet, kumaarabhuuta, "Being a youth." One reason that Brahmaa Sanatkumaara is 'Forever-a-youth' is that, like all the gods, he never grows old. Buddhaghosa provides a more individual reason. In a former birth, Brahmaa Sanatkumaara practised meditation while still a boy with his hair tied in five knots (pa~ncacuu¬a) (in the fashion of boys) and was reborn into the Brahma world with his meditative state (jhaana) intact. That Ma~nju'srii also wears his hair in the manner of a youth is suggested by his epithet kumaarabhuuta; it is made explicit by the description pa~ncaciiraka, "Having Five Braids [of Hair]," discussed above.
As a candidate for having an influence in the make-up of Ma~nju'srii, the figure of Brahmaa Sanatkumaara has at least as good a claim as Pa~nca'sikha. The affinity of the names Sanatkumaara and Kumaarabhuuta is immediate and clear; no interpretation is required as it is with pa~nca'sikha and pa~ncaciiraka. Brahmaa Sanatkumaara's qualities of speech are more apparent and consonant with Ma~nju'srii's than are Pa~nca'sikha's. Furthermore, in the Janavasabha Sutta he is depicted not only as a disciple of the Buddha but as one who teaches the Dharma, acting in effect as the Buddha's spokesman just as Ma~nju'srii does. Also like Ma~nju'srii, he is able to employ magical powers in order to make his teaching more effective. The Janavasabha Sutta describes him as creating thirty-three forms of himself, one sitting at the couch of each of the gods; each form talks in such a way that each god thinks that only the figure of Brahmaa Sanatkumaara near at hand is speaking. Sanatkumaara is associated with wisdom elsewhere. In the Pali Sa.myutta Nikaaya he is referred to as the author of a verse praising wisdom (vijjaa) and in the braahmanical Chaandogya Upani.sad (bk. 7) he teaches Naarada the highest truth.
In Hindu Puråic literature, Brahmaa's consort is said to be the goddess Sarasvatii, patroness of the arts and of learning, and in some Buddhist contexts she is found as Ma~nju'srii's consort. Sarasvatii was an important figure in the Vedic period well before her connection with Brahmaa. As the goddess of the river along which Vedic learning developed, she became the inspirer of eloquence and was known as Vaagdevii, "Goddess of Speech." In the post-Vedic period Sarasvatii's role was not fixed: sometimes she is depicted as Vi.s.nu's consort, sometimes as Brahmaa's daughter as well as his consort. It is not clear, therefore, that her role as Ma~nju'srii's consort is calqued on her relationship with Brahmaa. Certainly, given the importance of speech in Ma~nju'srii's 'personality,' Sarasvatii would be an obvious choice as a consort. It should also be noted that Sarasvatii only appears as Ma~nju'srii's consort within the context of a later (and tantric) period of Buddhism, so that if there is any influence from Brahmaa here it comes after the formation of Ma~nju'srii's defining role and status as the bodhisattva of wisdom.
As well as suggesting that Ma~nju'srii has an affinity with Pa~nca'sikha, Lalou argues that he also has one with the Hindu god Kaarttikeya. The Hariva.msa, traditionally taken as an appendix to the Mahaabharata and concerned with the glorification of Vi.s.nu and K.r.s.na, identifies Brahmaa Sanatkumaara with Kaarttikeya, also known as Skanda and Kumaara. In the Ma~nju'srii-muulakalpa there is a description of a Kaarttikeya-Ma~nju'srii, to be depicted, according to the text, sitting upon a peacock, the usual throne of Kaarttikeya. The same work contains a mantra called Kaarttikeya-Ma~nju'srii, extolled as being particular to Ma~nju'srii. Ma~nju'srii is also given the epithet Kumaara, which Lalou takes as a borrowing from Kaarttikeya. Lalou concludes that Ma~nju'srii, "appears very much to be the Mahaayaanist equivalent of the brahmanical Kaarttikeya."
It is not clear whether Lalou is suggesting that Kaarttikeya is a prototype or antecedent of Ma~nju'srii. If the latter, her source references are rather too late: the Hariva.msa is usually dated to 300-500 CE and the figure of Ma~nju'srii is well established as a bodhisattva in Mahaayaana suutras translated into Chinese in the second century CE by Lokak.sema. As for the Ma~nju'srii-muulakalpa, it is a composite work, which as it stands cannot be earlier than the 8th century since it includes a history of Buddhism down to the beginning of the Paala dynasty. However, parts of it are very likely to be older and Wayman believes that some could go back to the 4th century. The Ma~nju'srii-muulakalpa certainly shows signs of being influenced by the braahmanical tradition, yet the composition of this text must post-date the period during which Ma~nju'srii appeared. The Ma~nju'srii-muulakalpa is also a tantric text, as the reference to a Kaarttikeya-Ma~nju'srii mantra indicates, and it is likely that, for whatever reason, Kaarttikeya-Ma~nju'srii represents a grafting of extraneous material onto a pre-existing figure.
If, on the other hand, Lalou is suggesting that Kaarttikeya parallels Ma~nju'srii in terms of make-up or 'personality', again evidence is lacking. Kaarttikeya has very little in common with Ma~nju'srii. The son of Agni, fostered by the K.rttikaas (the Pleiades, from whom his name, a patronymic, derives), Kaarttikeya becomes the chief battle god of the Hindu pantheon. Military exploits seem to be his major interest and although Ma~nju'srii is given, at least in the Ma~nju'srii-muulakalpa, the epithet Kumaara, in Kaarttikeya's case this appears to refer to his bachelorhood, a state resulting, according to most accounts, from his dislike of women. The common epithet Kumaara may help account both for the identification of Brahmaa Sanatkumaara with Kaarttikeya as well as for the evolution of a form of Ma~nju'srii dubbed Kaarttikeya-Ma~nju'srii. However, a shared epithet is insufficient a basis upon which to establish a structural parallel.
Benoytosh Bhattacharyya puts forward the thesis that Ma~nju'srii was a great man who brought civilization to Nepal from China and was subsequently deified. His textual source for this is the Svaya.mbhuu Puraa.na, which contains a legend that Ma~nju'srii came from China and created Nepal, at that time just the Kathmandu valley, by draining the lake that previously covered it. According to the legend, Ma~nju'srii was living in China on Mount Pa~nca'siir.sa ("Five-Peak") with a number of disciples when by supernormal means he gained the knowledge that the Self-Existent (svaya.mbhuu) AAdibuddha had manifested in Nepal on a hill near a lake called Kaalii (kaalihrada). Ma~nju'srii travels to Nepal with his disciples to pay homage to the AAdibuddha but discovers on arrival that the place where he has manifested is almost inaccessible because of the surrounding naaga-infested lake. Using the power of his sword, Ma~nju'srii cuts six valleys into the mountain range at the south of the lake, allowing it to drain away. At the same time he excavates a site for another lake, in which the naaga-s of Kaaliihrada are invited to take up residence. He then builds a temple for the AAdibuddha (on present-day Svayambhunath Hill) and makes a residence for himself nearby. After creating a king for the newly-formed land of Nepal from among his followers Ma~nju'srii returns to China where he soon becomes a divine bodhisattva, leaving his material body behind.
What is to be made of Bhattacharyya's interpretation of this material? Firstly the Svaya.mbhuu Puraa.na is not an early work: Winternitz has suggested that it may not predate the 16th century CE. Though the legendary material concerning Ma~nju'srii may of course be earlier, one of its central terms, svaya.mbhuu, "'self-existent," the name of the Buddha whose manifestation precipitated Ma~nju'srii's visit to Nepal, would hardly be in use before the 6th century. As they stand, therefore, the legends must be more recent than references to Ma~nju'srii found in suutras that can be dated by their translation into Chinese. Bhattacharyya here uses his source material rather uncritically. This is coupled, perhaps, with a predisposition to see bodhisattvas as deified humans and to read legends as elaborated and magicalised accounts of human happenings.
This account of Ma~nju'srii's origins is also rendered untenable by the work of John Brough, who shows that much of this legendary material concerning Nepal almost certainly originated in Khotan and was later attached to Nepal by Tibetans, possibly from about the 10th century CE. Brough illustrates in considerable detail how legends concerning Khotan parallel those dealing with Nepal. Two instances are particularly striking: firstly, the country of Khotan is also created by the draining of a lake. The Go's.r'nga Vyaakara.na recounts that 'Saakyamuni arrives at the hill of Go's.r'nga, and seeing a lake asks 'Saariputra and Vai'sraavana to give the land borders. This they do, using respectively a monk's staff and a lance, by draining the lake and transferring it and its inhabitants to another position nearby. Secondly, the same text recounts that Ma~nju'srii gave his special blessing and protection to a site on the hill Go's.r'nga upon which a monastery would later arise. Go's.r'nga was the chief centre of Buddhism in Khotan, as Svaya.mbhuu Hill was in the Kathmandu valley. Brough gives a number of reasons why Khotan should have priority as the provenance for these legends. There is not the space to detail them here, except to mention that the Svaya.mbhuu Puraa.na lists Go's.r'nga as an earlier name of Svaya.mbhuu Hill. Brough suggests that the reason why this cycle of legends should be transferred to Nepal may be connected with the name Li. Li-Yul was the old Tibetan name for Khotan ('yul' means 'land'), but after its disappearance as an independent kingdom there seems to have arisen some uncertainty about its location. By the time of the compilation of the Tibetan Kanjur, Li-Yul had become identified with Nepal. The legends associated with the land of Li could then become attached to Nepal and the Nepalese may have adopted these traditions as their own. Finally, the element in the Nepalese legend that tells of Ma~nju'srii coming from China could have come from China itself or even from India, as by the 7th century CE Indians thought of Ma~nju'srii as residing in China.
In summary, Ma~nju'srii's origins as a figure remain obscure, though his appearance in early Mahaayaana suutras indicates that they are probably Indian. His affinities with the gandharva Pa~nca'sikha are not as striking or as conclusive as Lalou and others suggest. The figure of Brahmaa Sanatkumaara, on the other hand, displays a rather more convincing kinship with Ma~nju'srii across a range of factors including name, appearance, role and associated qualities. An input from Kaarttikeya seems very doubtful, and the suggestion that Ma~nju'srii is a deified human from China is both historically and critically naive. Geographically, Ma~nju'srii has some association with Mount Gandhamaadana and there remains a possibility that the five-peaked range of which the mountain is a part may have influenced his subsequent connection with Wu-t'ai shan, "Five-Terrace Mountain," in China.
To say that Ma~nju'srii's origins as a figure are probably Indian is not, of course, to say that the origins of a cult of Ma~nju'srii are Indian. The geographical locus or loci in which a figure becomes popular may be far from where that figure itself originates. Whether or not there was any significant non-Buddhist contribution in the process of Ma~nju'srii's birth, he remains, as Louis de la Vallée Poussin has remarked, "an entirely Buddhist personage in definition if not in origin." The extent to which this is true will become clear when we turn to Ma~nju'srii's role in the literature of Mahaayaana Buddhism.
II. Ma~nju'srii's Role in Mahaayaana Literature
Who calms the flames of ambitions for one's own pleasure,
with the waters of long-cultivated compassion,
Who cuts the net of imaginative fabrications,
by seeing the reality of the profound as it is.
Tsong kha pa.
Given his prominence as a bodhisattva it is not surprising that there is a wealth of material in Mahaayaana literature concerning Ma~nju'srii. I have structured the following account by separating discussion of Ma~nju'srii's differing functions from that of his status. The two are, of course, closely connected: Ma~nju'srii's status allows him to act in particular ways. I should note that this examination of Ma~nju'srii's role in Mahaayaana literature is largely restricted to his depiction in Mahaayaana suutras. Except for the occasional reference, I do not deal with his role in Buddhist tantric literature.
i. Interlocutor and Spokesman
Ma~nju'srii has a role as interlocutor in many Mahaayaana suutras, particularly on questions dealing with wisdom and ultimate truth. He has this function in both the Saddharma-pu.n.dariika Suutra, "The Lotus of the True Teaching" (hereafter Lotus Suutra), and the Vimalakiirti-nirde'sa, "The Teaching of Vimalakiirti," both early suutras.
In the opening of the Lotus Suutra, Ma~nju'srii is enumerated first, before Avalokite'svara, in the assembly of bodhisattvas. He knows what the Buddha is about to do, whereas Maitreya does not. The Buddha, deep in meditation, has emitted a ray of light illuminating eighteen thousand Buddha-lands together with their presiding Buddhas. Maitreya, knowing that Ma~nju'srii has served innumerable Buddhas in the past and so may have witnessed such events before, asks him about their significance. Ma~nju'srii tells him they indicate that the Buddha is about to preach the Lotus Suutra itself.
In the initial chapters of the Lotus Suutra 'Saariputra, the early disciple of 'Saakyamuni particularly associated with wisdom, is the Buddha's interlocutor; not until chapters 12 and 14 does Ma~nju'srii appear in this role. In some respects Ma~nju'srii can be seen as 'Saariputra's Mahaayaana equivalent the bodhisattva foremost in wisdom. As a result, 'Saariputra's role shifts, so that he is often depicted in Mahaayaana suutras as embodying wisdom that is limited in scope and depth. For example, in chapter 12 of the Lotus Suutra a young naaga princess appears, revealed as having speedily become an irreversible bodhisattva thanks to Ma~nju'srii's teaching. 'Saariputra is astounded and doubts that such a thing could have occurred. How is such quick progress possible, especially in a female body? By way of an answer the princess, transforming herself into a male form, travels to another world-sphere and straightaway becomes enlightened for all to see.
In the Vimalakiirti-nirde'sa, Ma~nju'srii's role as interlocutor is more prominent. He is the only bodhisattva prepared to enquire after the lay bodhisattva Vimalakiirti's apparent ill-health, and their subsequent dialogue forms the core of the suutra. Again, 'Saariputra is portrayed as possessing an overly narrow perspective and, because of this, gentle fun is made of him on a number of occasions.
The role of being an interlocutor shades into that of becoming 'Saakyamuni's spokesman and articulator of teachings in his own right. Whereas in chapter 14 of the Lotus Suutra Ma~nju'srii does no more than ask the Buddha the opening question whose answer takes up the rest of the chapter, in the Vimalakiirti-nirde'sa he not only questions Vimalakiirti closely on subjects such as emptiness and compassion but also speaks at some length himself:
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakiirti said to the crown prince Ma~nju'srii, "Ma~nju'srii, what is the 'family of the Tathaagatas'?"
Ma~nju'srii replied, "Noble sir, the family of the Tathaagatas consists of all basic egoism; of ignorance and the thirst for existence; of lust, hate, and folly; of the four misapprehensions, of the five obscurations, of the six media of sense, of the seven abodes of consciousness, of the eight false paths, of the nine causes of irritation, of the paths of ten sins. Such is the family of the Tathaagatas. In short, noble sir, the sixty-two kinds of convictions constitute the family of the Tathaagatas!"
Vimalakiirti: Ma~nju'srii, with what in mind do you say so?
Ma~nju'srii: Noble sir, one who stays in the fixed determination of the vision of the uncreated is not capable of conceiving the spirit of unexcelled perfect enlightenment. However, one who lives among created things, in the mines of passions, without seeing any truth, is indeed capable of conceiving the spirit of unexcelled perfect enlightenment.
Noble sir, flowers like the blue lotus, the red lotus, the white lotus, the water lily, and the moon lily do not grow on the dry ground in the wilderness, but do grow in the swamps and mud banks. Just so, the Buddha-qualities do not grow in living beings certainly destined for the uncreated but do grow in those living beings who are like swamps and mud banks of passions. Likewise, as seeds do not grow in the sky but do grow in the earth, so the Buddha-qualities do not grow in those determined for the absolute but do grow in those who conceive the spirit of enlightenment, after having produced a Sumeru-like mountain of egoistic views.
Noble sir, through these considerations can one understand that all passions constitute the family of the Tathaagatas. For example, noble sir, without going out into the great ocean, it is impossible to find precious, priceless pearls. Likewise, without going into the ocean of passions, it is impossible to obtain the mind of omniscience.
In works such as Sapta'satikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa, "The Perfection of Wisdom in 700 Lines," and the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navyuuha Suutra, "The Suutra on the Array of Qualities of Ma~nju'srii's Buddha-Land," and also the Acintya-buddhavi.saya-nirde'sa, "The Teaching of the Inconceivable Scope of Buddha[hood]," Ma~nju'srii fully functions as 'Saakyamuni's spokesman. This is possible because of his status. Insofar as he is a bodhisattva already perfect in wisdom he can act fully on behalf of his presiding Buddha. Thus in the Acintya-buddhavi.saya-nirde'sa the Buddha asks Ma~nju'srii to teach:
At that time, Bodhisattva-Mahaasattva Ma~nju'srii and the god Sugu.na were both present among the assembly. The World-Honoured One told Ma~nju'srii, "You should explain the profound state of Buddhahood for the celestial beings and the Bodhisattvas of this assembly."
In the Sapta'satikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa Ma~nju'srii elaborates the meaning of Perfect Wisdom:
The Lord: Do you, Ma~nju'srii, reflect on the dharmas of a Buddha?
Ma~nju'srii: No indeed, O Lord. If I could see the specific accomplishment of the dharmas of a Buddha, then I would reflect on them. But the development of perfect wisdom is not set up through discriminating any dharma and saying that "these are the dharmas of ordinary people, these are the dharmas of Disciples, these are the dharmas of Pratyekabuddhas, these the dharmas of fully enlightened Buddhas". The son of good family who has given himself up to the Yoga of the development of perfect wisdom does just not apprehend that dharma which would allow him to describe these dharmas as dharmas of ordinary people, or as dharmas of those in training, or as dharmas of the adepts, or as dharmas of fully enlightened Buddhas. Because as absolutely non-existent I do not review those dharmas. Such a development, O Lord, is a development of perfect wisdom. And again, O Lord, the development of perfect wisdom neither benefits nor injures any dharma. For perfect wisdom, when developed, is not a donor of the dharmas of a Buddha, nor an eliminator of the dharmas of an ordinary person. Just that, O Lord, is the development of perfect wisdom where there is neither the stopping of the dharmas of an ordinary person nor the acquisition of the dharmas of a Buddha.
The Lord: Well said, well said, Ma~nju'srii, you who demonstrate this dharma which is so deep.
Another suutra in which Ma~nju'srii is depicted teaching the Perfection of Wisdom is the Su.s.thitamati-devaputra-parip.rcchaa, "The Questions of the god Su.s.thitamati." Here, in a dialogue between Su.s.thitamati and Ma~nju'srii, Su.s.thitamati asks if he can join Ma~nju'srii so that they might together cultivate pure conduct. Ma~nju'srii replies:
"Son of heaven, now, if you can take the lives of all sentient beings without using a knife, a cudgel, a large stick, or a stone, I will cultivate pure conduct with you."
Su.s.thitamati asked, "Great sage, why do you say this?"
Ma~nju'srii answered, "Son of heaven, regarding sentient beings, what do you think of them?'
Su.s.thitamati answered, "I think that sentient beings and all other dharmas are nothing but names and are all concocted by thoughts."
Ma~nju'srii said, "Son of heaven, I therefore say that now you should kill the thoughts of a self, of a personal identity, of a sentient being, and of a life, eliminating the thoughts of even these names. You should kill in this way."
Su.s.thitamati asked, "Great sage, what instrument should one use to kill [in this way]?"
Ma~nju'srii answered, "Son of heaven, I always kill with the sharp knife of wisdom. In the act of killing, one should hold the sharp knife of wisdom and kill in such a manner as to have no thought of holding the knife or of killing. Son of heaven, in this way, you should know well that to kill the thoughts of a self and a sentient being is to kill all sentient beings truly. [If you can do that,] I will give you permission to cultivate pure conduct."
This dialogue leads into the climax of the suutra, in which the Buddha employs Ma~nju'srii in a vivid piece of dramatic action which reiterates the theme of killing. Within the narrative structure of the suutra it has the effect of triggering the realisation of the Non-arising of Dharmas in a group of bodhisattvas who have been held back by being unable to forget their past negative actions.
At that time, in order to rid those five hundred bodhisattvas of mental discrimination, the World-Honoured One inspired Ma~nju'srii with his miraculous power; as a result, Ma~nju'srii rose from his seat, adjusted his robe, bared his right shoulder, and holding a sharp sword in hand, advanced straight toward the World-Honoured One to kill him.
Hurriedly, the Buddha said to Ma~nju'srii, "Stop, stop! Do not do the wrong thing. Do not kill me in this way. If you must kill me, you should first know the best way to do so. Why? Because, Ma~nju'srii, from the beginning there is no self, no others, no person; as soon as one perceives in his mind the [non-]existence of an ego and a personal identity, he has killed me; and this is called killing."
The Su.s.thitamati-devaputra-parip.rcchaa may well be source for the iconographic depiction of Ma~nju'srii with a sword (of wisdom) which he holds or which rests on a lotus blossom that he holds. I know of no earlier reference that associates Ma~nju'srii with a sword. The legend in the Svaya.mbhuu Puraa.na of Ma~nju'srii using his sword to drain the lake covering the Kathmandu valley must be later. That story assumes that Ma~nju'srii has a sword; the Su.s.thitamati-devaputra-parip.rcchaa gives a story that accounts for him holding one.
Ma~nju'srii does not appear in what is usually regarded as the earliest Perfection of Wisdom suutra, the A.s.tasaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutra, "The Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines," (hereafter A.s.ta). In the early part of the A.s.ta, however, no bodhisattvas are mentioned. 'Saakyamuni is attended by monks, with Subhuti and 'Saariputra among the principal interlocutors. In the Pa~ncavi.m'satisaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa, "The Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines," and the 'Satasaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa, "The Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 Lines," both placed by Conze in the second phase of the development of the Perfection of Wisdom literature (approx. 100300 CE), Ma~nju'srii is still only mentioned in passing. It is not until the Sapta'satikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa, cited above and given a date of composition of about 450 CE by Conze, that Ma~nju'srii has a speaking role.
As the bodhisattva of wisdom, Ma~nju'srii's low profile in the earlier major Perfection of Wisdom suutras is perhaps rather surprising. Yet to conclude that Ma~nju'srii is unimportant in early Perfection of Wisdom literature as a whole may be premature. Although he does not appear in the A.s.ta, he has active and important role in the Ajaata'satru-kauk.rtya-vinodana Suutra, "The Suutra on the Dispelling of Ajaata'satru's Misdeeds," a work written from a Perfection of Wisdom perspective. Here Ma~nju'srii's great magical power is extolled and exemplified, and he is said to have helped the Buddha on his way to awakening in the past. This suutra is known to have been translated into Chinese by Lokak.sema in the latter half of the second century CE (T. 626), making it one of the earlier Mahaayaana suutras. (For further discussion of the Ajaata'satru-kauk.rtya-vinodana see Part II 2.i, below.)
ii. Converter of Beings to the Buddhist Dharma
Though Ma~nju'srii is characteristically found discoursing on the emptiness of phenomena and stressing that on the ultimate level (paramaartha-satya) no-one saves anyone, a number of suutras nonetheless testify to Ma~nju'srii's compassionate activity. In chapter 12 of the Lotus Suutra Ma~nju'srii is recounted as having visited the underwater palace of Saagara, king of the naaga-s. A bodhisattva present in the assembly, Praj~naakuu.ta, asks Ma~nju'srii how many beings he has converted there. "The number is beyond dimension; it is incalculable", he replies, at which point,
numberless bodhisattvas, seated on jewelled lotus blossoms, welled up out of the sea and went to Mount G.rdhrakuu.ta where they rested in mid-air. These bodhisattvas had all been converted and conveyed to salvation by Ma~nju'srii, all had perfected bodhisattva-conduct, and all were discussing together the six paaramitaa-s.
It transpires that it is the Lotus Suutra that Ma~nju'srii has been teaching to the naaga-s and that of all those he has taught it is the naaga king's daughter who has made the best progress, the veracity of which 'Saariputra questions, as mentioned above.
A second instance which gives an example of Ma~nju'srii's activity as a converter of beings and which connects him with naaga-s is found in the Ga.n.davyuuha Suutra. At the opening of the suutra Ma~nju'srii travels to the human realm, coming to 'a great city in the south named Dhanyaakara.' He stays in the forest outside the city at a shrine built by past Buddhas where he is visited by millions of naaga-s who have left the ocean in order to hear the Dharma. As a result of Ma~nju'srii's teaching they cease to want to be naaga-s and, desiring the qualities of Buddhahood, are reborn either as gods or human beings, several thousand becoming irreversible bodhisattvas.
In the Ratnakaara.n.da Suutra there is an account of Ma~nju'srii converting followers of the Jain teacher Satyaka Nirgranthaputra. Satyaka is described as staying at Vai'saali with a large number of disciples whom the monk Puur.na has unsuccessfully attempted to convert to Buddhism. Taking up the challenge, Ma~nju'srii adopts a different stratagem. Using his magical powers, he creates five hundred (non-Buddhist) wanderers and, posing as their teacher and leader, goes with them to Satyaka. They all prostrate before him and ask to become his pupils, saying they have heard his praises from afar. By means of this subterfuge Ma~nju'srii and his 'disciples' enter Satyaka's camp and are able to work on gaining the confidence of his followers. When the time is ripe Ma~nju'srii expounds the Dharma to them and his words are so effective that five hundred of them experience the opening of the Dharma-Eye and eight thousand others generate the Awakening Mind (bodhicitta). At this key point Ma~nju'srii's five hundred 'disciples' fall to the ground and prostrate with a cry of "Salutation to the Buddha, Salutation to the Buddha". This ruse carries the day and the remaining Jains follow suit, also prostrating and crying "Salutation to the Buddha"!
Ma~nju'srii's psychic powers as a high-level bodhisattva are thus pressed into service in his work of converting beings to Buddhism. A further and more dramatic instance of this is seen in the Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra, a suutra that, apparently at least, is not about Ma~nju'srii's actual parinirvaa.na but one 'performed' by him out of compassion for living beings. At the opening of the suutra the Buddha emits a ray of light that illuminates and transforms Ma~nju'srii's dwelling place. Ma~nju'srii then appears in the assembly of the Buddha, attended by the spontaneous appearance of golden lotus flowers from the fingers and palms of his hands as he joins them in salutation. Ma~nju'srii throws the flowers towards the Buddha and they transform into a huge jewel-parasol within which appear innumerable Buddhas and bodhisattvas from throughout the different regions of space. The bodhisattva Bhadrapaala asks the Buddha about Ma~nju'srii:
"Fortunate One, this Ma~nju'srii, Prince of the Dharma, has already served hundreds of thousands of Buddhas and here, in the Sahaa world, he does the work of the Buddha and manifests his miraculous power in the ten regions. After how many aeons will he enter Parinirvaa.na?"
The Buddha replied to Bhadrapaala, "Ma~nju'srii has great friendliness and great compassion He dwells in the meditation (samaadhi) of the Heroic Progress ('suura'ngama) and by the power of this meditation he manifests at will, in the ten regions, the birth, going forth, enlightenment, final enlightenment and leaving of relics [of a Buddha]. All this is [performed] for the good of living beings. This worthy man stays for a long time in the [meditation called] Heroic Progress.
Four hundred and fifty years after the awakening of the Buddha he will go to Mount Himavat where he will preach to five hundred hermits, expounding the twelve kinds of sacred text. He will convert and ripen these five hundred hermits as a result of which they will become irreversible bodhisattvas [Then] he will return to the country of his birth, flying through the air.
There, in a wild marsh, seated under a Banyan tree with his legs crossed, he enters the Heroic Progress meditation and all the pores of his skin emit rays of golden light as a result of the strength of his samaadhi. This light illuminates beings susceptible to being converted in the worlds of the ten directions. Each of the five hundred hermits sees fire being emitted from the pores of their skin.
Ma~nju'srii's body then becomes like a mountain of gold. His height is six arm-spans; he is adorned with an aureole of light, surrounding him equally. Within this aureole can be seen five hundred [magically] created Buddhas, each with an entourage of five [magically] created bodhisattvas. Ma~nju'srii's head-dress is adorned with the precious jewel called 'Sakraabhilagna, which has five hundred different colours. In each of these colours there appears the sun and moon, the stars, the palaces of the gods and naaga-s and all the marvels of the world. Between his eye-brows is a white tuft of hair that turns to the right. [Magically] created Buddhas appear [from this] and enter the net of light. All of their bodies shine and they are surrounded with flames; within each of these flames are five precious jewels [and] each of these precious jewels is flaming and many-coloured. Within these colours appear [magically] created Buddhas and bodhisattvas, impossible to describe; in their left hands they hold alms-bowls; in their right hands they raise Mahaayaana scriptures."
The flames and lights of this vision also appear to constitute an act of self-cremation. When everything dies down only a beryl statue covered in miraculous marks remains, itself containing a Buddha-image made of gold at its heart. Not surprisingly, the Buddha says to Bhadrapaala, "This Ma~nju'srii possesses vast supernatural powers and an immense power of transformation, escaping all description".
In the Ma~nju'srii-vikrii.dita Suutra Ma~nju'srii converts a prostitute by taking on the guise of a handsome young man. This bodhisattva-activity contrasts with chapter 14 of the Lotus Suutra where the Buddha answers Ma~nju'srii's question concerning the behaviour appropriate for a bodhisattva. The Buddha's reply is largely a reiteration of the essentials of the monastic discipline (vinaya). There is a list of people with whom he despite the events of chapter 12 the bodhisattva here is very much male should not become familiar. The bodhisattva should keep away from women:
Not even for Dharma's sake does he become familiar or close. How much the less for anything else!
There is also a passage which enjoins the bodhisattva not to approach Jain monks with familiarity.
The example from the Ma~nju'srii-vikrii.dita Suutra illustrates the tension that sometimes exists between the pursuit of compassionate activity (upaayakau'salya) by the bodhisattva and the strict following of the precepts. There is, of course, precedent for Ma~nju'srii's conversion of the prostitute. Vimalakiirti engages in a wide range of worldly activity out of compassion in the Vimalakiirti-nirde'sa. In the 'Suura'ngama-samaadhi Suutra the aptly-named bodhisattva Maaragocaraanupalipta, "Undefiled by Maara's Sphere," makes love to two hundred goddesses dwelling in Maara's palaces by transforming himself into two hundred equally beautiful gods. Once satisfied they are receptive to hearing the Dharma.
iii. Spiritual Friend
A number of Mahaayaana suutras portray Ma~nju'srii either generally or in more specific and concrete terms as a spiritual friend (kalyaa.na-mitra). Thus, in the Ajaata'satruraaja Suutra the Buddha tells 'Saariputra that Ma~nju'srii is the spiritual friend of the bodhisattvas and in the Druma-ki.mnararaaja-parip.rcchaa, Druma, king of the Ki.mnaras, tells Ajaata'satru he has the great advantage of having Ma~nju'srii as a spiritual friend.
An important source for Ma~nju'srii's role as kalyaa.namitra is the Ga.n.davyuuha Suutra, which has for its theme the arising of the Awakening Mind (bodhicitta) and the subsequent spiritual journey towards the goal of awakening. At the same time, it is a story of transformation from seeing things as they are ordinarily seen (lokadhaatu), to seeing things as they are seen by advanced bodhisattvas (dharmadhaatu). The suutra follows the quest of Sudhana, the son of a rich merchant, who hears Ma~nju'srii teaching at Dhanyaakara (where he has been teaching the naaga-s) and as a result develops bodhicitta. Ma~nju'srii teaches him that the basis which identifies all bodhisattvas as such is the state of Complete Benevolence (samantabhadra), and then sets him to learn the nature of the life of the bodhisattva by seeking out spiritual friends who will teach and guide him. The emphasis on spiritual friendship pervades the Ga.n.davyuuha Suutra and is established at the outset by Ma~nju'srii's initial teaching to Sudhana,
Then, Ma~nju'srii, gazing like an elephant, said to Sudhana, "It is good that you follow spiritual friends, having set your mind on supreme enlightenment; that you should inquire into the practice of bodhisattvas, wishing to fulfil the path of bodhisattvas. Attending and serving spiritual friends is the beginning, the logical course, for the accomplishment of omniscience. Therefore you should tirelessly attend spiritual friends."
Ma~nju'srii thereby becomes the first of fifty-two spiritual friends that Sudhana visits. At the culmination of this pilgrimage Sudhana meets Maitreya who takes him into Vairocana's tower, the realm of perfect interpenetrability, the Dharma-Sphere (dharmadhaatu). Maitreya tells Sudhana that when he, Maitreya, attains awakening they will meet again together with "the spiritual friend Ma~nju'srii". Sudhana is sent off back to Ma~nju'srii for a final teaching on Complete Benevolence. Maitreya's final words to Sudhana constitute a remarkable eulogy to Ma~nju'srii:
Now go back to Ma~nju'srii and ask him how a bodhisattva is to learn and carry out the practice of bodhisattvas, enter the sphere of universally good practice, undertake and carry it out, expand it, follow it, purify it, enter fully into it and fulfil it. He will show you the real spiritual friend. Why? The best of vows of decillions of bodhisattvas is Ma~nju'srii's; vast is the outcome of the practice of Ma~nju'srii; measureless is the accomplishment of vows of Ma~nju'srii; ceaseless is Ma~nju'srii's achievement of the best virtues of all bodhisattvas; Ma~nju'srii is the mother of decillions of Buddhas; Ma~nju'srii is the teacher of decillions of bodhisattvas; Ma~nju'srii is engaged in the perfection of all beings; widespread is the name of Ma~nju'srii in all the worlds of the ten directions; Ma~nju'srii is the interlocutor in the assemblies of untold Buddhas; Ma~nju'srii is praised by all Buddhas; abiding in the knowledge of profound truth, Ma~nju'srii sees all things according to their true significance; Ma~nju'srii has ranged far into all modes of liberation; he is immersed in the practice of universally good bodhisattvas. He is the progenitor of spiritual friends, who makes you grow in the family of the enlightened, causes you to establish roots of goodness, shows you the provisions for enlightenment, introduces you to true benefactors, immerses you in all virtues, establishes you in the network of universal vows, causes you to hear of the accomplishment of all vows, shows the secrets of all bodhisattvas, and has similarly practiced the wonder of all bodhisattvas together with you in past lives.
Therefore when you go to Ma~nju'srii, do not be faint-hearted, do not become weary in receiving instruction in all virtues. Why? All the spiritual friends you have seen, all the ways of practice you have heard, all the modes of liberation you have entered, all the vows you have plunged into, should all be looked upon as the empowerment of Ma~nju'srii; and Ma~nju'srii has reached the ultimate perfection.
Ma~nju'srii's relationship with Sudhana in the Ga.n.davyuuha Suutra is immediate, practical and down-to-earth. In China, where this text became very popular, there was what D. T. Suzuki called a gradual 'secularization' of the great bodhisattvas. They are increasingly shown in paintings as inhabiting the ordinary world. In Ma~nju'srii's case this is likely to have been further encouraged by the identification of Wu T'ai shan, "Five-Terrace Mountain," as his principal earthly abode. There are numerous accounts of visions and encounters with Ma~nju'srii at Wu T'ai shan, where he was often said to take the form of an old man.
iv. Object of Meditation and Devotion
Ma~nju'srii is found in the Mahaayaana suutras not only as an interlocutor, spokesman, spiritual friend and converter of sentient beings. He is also portrayed as a bodhisattva worthy of veneration and devotion; keeping his name in mind and meditating upon his form is a way of acquiring both merit and insight. Two suutras that promote this aspect of Ma~nju'srii are the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navyuuha Suutra, "The Suutra on the Array of Qualities of Ma~nju'srii's Buddha-Land," and the Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra.
In the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navyuuha, the Buddha describes how, in the distant past, the Awakening Mind (bodhicitta) arose in Ma~nju'srii at a time when he was a universal king (cakravartin) who had gained much merit through making offerings to a Tathaagata named Meghasvara. As the universal king, Ma~nju'srii wonders how he should dedicate this merit; should he dedicate it to the end of becoming 'Sakra or Brahmaa, or to becoming a 'Sraavaka or a Pratyekabuddha, in his next life. The gods, knowing what is going through his mind, tell him that these aspirations are narrow and inferior and that he should rather engender the aspiration to highest awakening. When Ma~nju'srii, convinced by their words, visits Meghasvara to ask him how he should develop this aspiration, Meghasvara's short teaching is enough to arouse it in him. Ma~nju'srii rejoices and utters "a great lion's roar":
In the presence of the Lords, I beget
The Thought of Perfect Enlightenment,
And issuing invitation to all creatures,
I will save them all from the cycle of rebirth,
Beginning from this moment and henceforth,
Until I obtain the Highest Enlightenment,
I shall not permit ill-will or anger,
Avarice or envy, to occupy my mind.
I shall practice the Pure Life,
And renounce sin and base desire;
I shall imitate the Buddha
By rejoicing in the vow of Conduct.
Myself, I am not keen to reach
Enlightenment in some swift way;
I shall remain until the final end
For the sake of but a single creature.
I shall purify the innumerable
Inconceivable fields of the universe,
And from the taking of this [new] name, [henceforth]
I shall live in the ten directions.
Purifying the actions of
My body and speech entirely,
I shall cleanse my mind's activity as well;
No unvirtuous deed will ever be mine.
The Buddha, continuing to relate Ma~nju'srii's story, describes how, after many aeons, Ma~nju'srii goes on to achieve the realization of the non-arising of dharmas and to attain the ten stages of the bodhisattva as well as the ten powers of a Tathaagata: "he perfected every dharma of the Buddha-stage, but he never thought: 'I shall become a Buddha!'". It is revealed that Ma~nju'srii will nonetheless eventually become a Buddha and that he will be called Samantadar'sin ("Appearing Universally"), so-named since he will make himself visible to all the sentient beings in innumerable millions of Buddha-lands throughout the ten directions in space. All these beings will then be certain to gain supreme awakening. The Buddha adds that Ma~nju'srii's, ie. Samantadar'sin's, Buddha-land will contain the present Sahaa world within it.
Ma~nju'srii is asked what his Buddha-land will be like. After protesting that since he does not seek awakening the question is meaningless, Ma~nju'srii is persuaded to describe it by telling of the vows he has made concerning its adornment. He first recounts a vow designed to defer his awakening for an incalculable time and then continues:
Furthermore, World-Honoured One, I have vowed to combine the worlds of Buddhas as innumerable as the sands of the Ganges into a single Buddha-land and to adorn it with incalculable, intermingled, exquisite jewels. If I cannot do this, I shall never attain supreme enlightenment.
Ma~nju'srii goes on to say that he has vowed that his Buddha-land will have no women, 'Sraavakas or Pratyekabuddhas, but will be inhabited only by bodhisattvas born dressed in monastic robes and seated crossed-legged! It "will be free from the eight adversities, unwholesome dharmas, wrongdoing and prohibition, pain, annoyance, and unhappiness". It will be made of wonderful, rare and precious jewels, yet will be able to appear differently according to the wishes of individual bodhisattvas, and it will be possible for these different ways of appearing to coexist without interfering with one another. Thus it can appear as desired, whether made of gold, silver, crystal, lapis lazuli, agate or pearls, or of fragrant sandalwood or aloe wood. The usual sources of illumination are also absent:
My land will not be illuminated by the brilliance of suns, moons, pearls, stars, fire, and so forth. All the bodhisattvas there will illuminate hundreds of billions of myriads of Buddha-lands with their own lights. In my land, it will be daytime when flowers open and night when flowers close, and the seasons will change according to the bodhisattva's wishes. There will be no cold, heat, old age, illness or death.
If they wish, bodhisattvas in my land may go to any other land to attain enlightenment; they will attain it after descending from the Tu.sita Heaven when their lives come to an end there. No one in my Buddha-land will enter Nirvaa.na.
The last and paradoxical feature of Ma~nju'srii's future Buddha-land, that none of the bodhisattvas in it will enter Nirvaa.na, can be read as an aspect of Ma~nju'srii's own reluctance to gain enlightenment speedily. This reluctance springs from his compassion for living beings as witnessed in his original vows made before the Tathaagata Meghasvara at the time when he was a universal king.
Following closely on these descriptions of Ma~nju'srii's vows concerning his adornment of his future Buddha-land is a passage that is important from the perspective of promoting devotion to Ma~nju'srii.
Then, in the assembly, incalculable hundreds of thousands of billions of myriads of bodhisattvas said in unison, "He who hears the name of Samantadar'sin Buddha will obtain excellent benefits, let alone those who are born in his land. If a person has an opportunity to hear the doctrine of "The Prediction of Ma~nju'srii's Attainment of Buddhahood" explained and the name of Ma~nju'srii mentioned, he is meeting all Buddhas face to face."
The Buddha said to those bodhisattvas, "It is so, it is so, just as you say. Good men, suppose a person keeps in mind hundreds of thousands of billions of Buddhas' names. And suppose another person keeps in mind the name of the bodhisattva Ma~nju'srii. The blessings of the latter outnumber those of the former, let alone the blessings of those who keep in mind the name of Samantadar'sin Buddha. Why? Because even the benefits which hundreds of thousands of billions of myriads of Buddhas give to sentient beings cannot compare with those which Ma~nju'srii gives during one kalpa."
In contrast with suutras describing the Buddha-lands of Amitaabha and Ak.sobhya, the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navuuyha contains no account of how to gain future rebirth in Ma~nju'srii's Buddha-land. Although keeping his name in mind is said to lead to immense benefit, being equivalent to meeting all the Buddhas 'face to face', it is not said to lead to future rebirth in his [ie. Samantadar'sin's] Buddha-land. There may be a number of reasons for this omission. In Ma~nju'srii's case his vows have not yet been fulfilled, so that his Buddha-land is not a present option for rebirth. Moreover, the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navuuyha is more concerned, in its description of Ma~nju'srii's future Buddha-land, to extol the virtue and compassion of Ma~nju'srii as a present bodhisattva rather than as a future Buddha; recalling the name of Ma~nju'srii is more beneficial than recalling that of Samantadar'sin.
Exactly what keeping in mind the name of Ma~nju'srii involves and what sort of benefits can be expected to accrue from it are not spelled out in the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navyuuha Suutra. The Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra, however, is much more explicit. Towards the end of the suutra, after the account of Ma~nju'srii's 'parinirvaa.na' and the magical display of Buddhas and bodhisattvas within the lights and flames of his aureole (see above), 'Saakyamuni describes the benefits and results of meditating on and being devoted to Ma~nju'srii. Just hearing his name will lead to the subtraction of many aeons from one's stay in sa.msaara. Those who pay salutation to him and venerate him will be reborn into the family of the Buddha and will enjoy Ma~nju'srii's protection. Meditating on his form and on his teaching will lead to seeing him and gaining insight. Furthermore:
Those who are not able to see him should recite the 'Suura.mgama Suutra and say the name of Ma~nju'srii. In a period of between one and seven days Ma~nju'srii will come to them. If they are fettered by their previous actions they will see him in a dream. If those who see him in a dream are disciples ('sraavaka) at that time, then they will become Stream Entrants, Once-Returners or Non-Returners as a result of that vision alone. If they are religious wanderers (pravrajita) and they see Ma~nju'srii, then as soon as they see him, they will become Arhats in the space of a day and a night.
For [followers of the Mahaayaana] who firmly believe in the extended suutras (vaipulyasuutra) Ma~nju'srii, Prince of the Dharma, will expound the profound teachings to them in meditation or, if they are too distracted, he will explain the true meaning in a dream in order to engender certainty in them. Then, they will become irreversible bodhisattvas on the supreme path of the Mahaayaana.
For those who accumulate merit by reflecting on him or venerating him, Ma~nju'srii, Prince of the Dharma, will transform his body and, appearing poor, protectorless and in pain, he will appear before them. Indeed, those who reflect on Ma~nju'srii develop thoughts of kindliness, and developing these thoughts of kindliness, they are able to see him. In truth, that is why the wise should contemplate Ma~nju'srii's thirty-two major and forty-eight minor marks. Those who practice this meditation are rapidly able to see Ma~nju'srii, through the power of the Heroic Advance ('suura.mgama) [meditation]. Those who practice this meditation are true meditators; others are false meditators.
After the Nirvaa.na of the Buddha, all beings who have heard the name of Ma~nju'srii spoken and who have seen his image will escape unhappy destinies for one hundred thousand aeons. Those who remember and recite the name of Ma~nju'srii will not fall into the cruel fires of the Aviici hell, whatever their faults, but will always be reborn in the Pure Lands of other worlds; they will meet Buddhas, hear the Dharma and attain [the state of] receptivity concerning the non-origination of phenomena (anutpattikadharmak.saanti).
Devotion to Ma~nju'srii, then, whether by meditating on his form and teaching or by repeating his name, leads to seeing him, possibly to receiving teachings and to the gaining of appropriate spiritual insight. At the very least, the devotee can be sure of Ma~nju'srii's protection and freedom from a poor rebirth.
It may be useful to place this passage from the Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra within a broader context. The sorts of benefits described as well as the language used are found in other Mahaayaana suutras. A striking example, which parallels both the manner and time scale of appearance of the figure meditated upon, is found in the Pratyutpanna-samaadhi Suutra:
If he [the devotee] concentrates on the Tathaagata Amitaayus with undistracted thought for seven days and nights, then when seven days and nights have elapsed he shall see the Lord, the Tathaagata Amitaayus. If he does not see the Lord by day, then in a dream while sleeping the face of the Lord, the Tathaagata, will appear.
This 'seeing' of the figure meditated upon is found also in the Sapta'satikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutra where the Buddha tells Ma~nju'srii that to attain awakening quickly one should cultivate the "single-minded meditation (samaadhi)," a practice which involves concentrating one's mind on a Buddha and reciting his name single-mindedly. As a result, those who do this "will be able to see all the Buddhas of the past, present and future right in each moment."
These meditation practices, in which the mind is focused on a particular Buddha or bodhisattva, have their roots in the tradition of the Recollection of the Buddha (buddhaanusm.rti). This practice, going back to the earliest phase of Buddhism, involves bringing to mind or 'recollecting' the different qualities of the Buddha 'Saakyamuni. One of its results, according to Buddhaghosa, is that the meditator can come "to feel as if he were living in the Master's presence." A visual dimension to this experience, though not mentioned by Buddhaghosa, is suggested by other sources. For example, in the Pali Sutta Nipaata, there is a story of a Brahmin called Pi'ngiya, who because of old age is not able physically to accompany the Buddha. Nonetheless, Pi'ngiya does not feel separated from the Buddha because, "with constant and careful vigilance it is possible for me to see him as clearly as with my eyes, in night as well as day." This early account, which may predate formalised practice of buddhaanusm.rti, suggests that its early practice may have grown out of visualisation of the Buddha and his qualities.
The effects of the practice of buddhaanusm.rti were also seen as far-reaching, at least in some circles. Paul Harrison, in his study of buddhaanusm.rti in the Pratyutpanna-samaadhi Suutra, cites a non-Mahaayaana scriptural passage (aagama) which states that as a result of practicing one dharma, namely buddhaanusm.rti, one "shall have renown, achieve the great fruit, attain all good, acquire the taste of nectar, and reach the station of the unconditioned," and thereby "achieve magic power, eliminate distractions of thought, attain the fruit of the 'srama.na and arrive at Nirvaa.na."
Within the expanded Buddhological context of the Mahaayaana it would be a natural step to extend buddhaanusm.rti-type practices to Buddhas and their Buddha-lands, and thence to bodhisattvas.The Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra, by its contention that "those who practice this meditation [ie. on Ma~nju'srii] are true meditators; others are false meditators", may well be revealing here an awareness that these types of meditations were used in relation to figures apart from Ma~nju'srii. Some of these 'others' may have been meditating on Amitaayus ("Of Infinite Life"), referred to in the Pratyutpanna Suutra passage that so closely parallels the Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra. Any borrowing between these two suutras is likely to have been from the Pratyutpanna rather than vice versa. The dates of the Chinese translations suggest that the Pratutpanna was the earlier work; it was translated into Chinese by Lokak.sema in 179 CE and is among the earliest suutras introduced into China. The Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra, on the other hand, was not translated until over a hundred years later.
Awareness of the competing attractions of Amitaayus' Buddha-land is explicit in the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navyuuha Suutra. In this text, in which Amitaayus is known by the alternative name of Amitaabha, "Of Infinite Light," the Buddha reveals that at the time when Ma~nju'srii will achieve supreme awakening, becoming the Tathaagata Samantadar'sin, his Buddha-land will be incomparably more magnificent than Amitaabha's:
Supposing a person splits a hair into one hundred parts and, with one part, takes a droplet of water from a vast ocean. If he compares the droplet of water to the magnificence of Amitaabha's Buddha-land, and the remaining water of the vast ocean to the magnificence of Samantadar'sin's Buddha-land, the contrast will not suffice.
The Buddha also discloses that there are many more bodhisattvas in Ma~nju'srii's Buddha-land tban in Amitaabha's, despite the number of bodhisattvas and 'sraavakas in Amitaabha's Buddha-land being incalculable:
Good man, compare one kernel taken from a bushel of linseed from the kingdom of Magadha to the number of the 'sraavakas and bodhisattvas in Amitaabha Buddha's land, compare the kernels remaining in the bushel to the number of bodhisattvas in Ma~nju'srii's assembly when he attains supreme enlightenment even this contrast is inadequate.
The broader picture suggested by the Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra and the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navyuuha Suutra, therefore, is one of competing cults centred on different Buddhas and bodhisattvas, with that of Ma~nju'srii probably post-dating and to some extent modelling itself on that of Amitaabha. Ma~nju'srii's future Buddha-land is alluded to in a suutra called the Vimaladattaa-parip.rcchaa, "The Questioning of [the Bodhisattva] Pure Giving", where he is equalled in a discourse on wisdom by an eight year old girl. Her Buddha-land, it is said, will be more magnificent than even Ma~nju'srii's.
With the development of Buddhist tantra, Ma~nju'srii's role as an object of meditation expanded greatly. It is not difficult to see continuities between the Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra's recommendation to meditate on Ma~nju'srii's form and to repeat his name, and the standard structure of visualisation combined with mantra recitation found in texts giving instructions for tantric forms of meditation (saadhana). This is especially so when the figure is visualised 'in front' and the mantra consists in its name. Ma~nju'srii's popularity in tantric Buddhism is witnessed by the large numbers of saadhana-s (forty-one) devoted to him in the collection called the Saadhana-maalaa, "The Garland of [Visualisation] Practices."
Closely connected to Ma~nju'srii's role as an object of devotion and meditation is that of visionary inspirer. Ma~nju'srii is recorded as appearing, often in dreams, to the devotee or meditator. Again, this role can be seen as the natural development of Ma~nju'srii's depiction in the Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra. The Tibetan historians give a number of accounts of Ma~nju'srii appearing to Indian Buddhists, and the seventh century Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang tells a story of a certain 'Jina Bodhisattva' being persuaded by Ma~nju'srii not to gain awakening as an Arhat.
The function of protector (naatha) is closely linked to devotion, since protection reciprocates the attention given by the devotee. An instance of Ma~nju'srii appearing as a protector in a Mahaayaana scripture occurs in the Ma~nju'srii-parinirvaa.na Suutra where, as we have seen, Ma~nju'srii is commended as an object of devotion, and is depicted as giving the devotee his protection in future lives.
Ma~nju'srii's role as a protector is not one that appears to be especially emphasised in Mahaayaana suutra texts. In tantric Buddhism, however, and particularly in China and Tibet, this function increasingly comes into prominence. In company with Avalokite'svara and Vajrapaa.ni, Ma~nju'srii forms a well-known triad of protectors, one of the earliest examples of which is found in the Ma~nju'srii-muulakalpa. In the same text, Yamaantaka, later identified as a wrathful manifestation of Ma~nju'srii, is portrayed as being at Ma~nju'srii's service.
i. Bodhisattva of the Tenth Level
Ma~nju'srii is a bodhisattva of the tenth and final stage (bhuumi) of the bodhisattva path, and at this level he is joined by figures such as Avalokite'svara and Maitreya. As stated above, Ma~nju'srii's standard epithet kumaarabhuuta has a double sense, "[being] a youth" or "[being] a prince." Understood as 'prince' the term also has a technical meaning which indicates that its bearer has received consecration (abhi.seka) from the Buddha as crown prince (kumaara) of the Dharma, making him a tenth stage bodhisattva. The consecration gives him the powers of a Buddha, enabling him to be a Cloud of the Dharma (dharmamegha) that rains down the Buddha's teachings upon the world for its benefit. As well as 'Cloud of the Dharma' the tenth stage of the bodhisattva path is therefore also called the Stage of Consecration (abhi.seka-bhuumi).
From the point of view of an unawakened person, a tenth stage bodhisattva is indistinguishable from a Buddha. The Pa~ncavi.m'satisaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa says that "the bodhisattva, the great being, who is found in the tenth stage must be called, purely and simply, a Tathaagata." At this level the bodhisattva is able to enter the Heroic Advance meditation ('suura'ngama-samaadhi), only accessible to tenth stage bodhisattvas and Buddhas. This gives such bodhisattvas enormous powers that can be used in the service of suffering beings. They can appear as if they were traversing all the stages in the life of a Buddha birth, going forth, awakening, final Nirvaa.na etc. directing themselves anywhere in the ten regions of space. Tenth stage bodhisattvas can thus magically produce Buddha forms.
In the 'Suura'ngama-samaadhi Suutra Mahaakaa'syapa addresses the Buddha and claims that Ma~nju'srii has himself in the past acted in this way, appearing as a Buddha, sitting at the place of awakening (bodhima.n.da), turning the wheel of the Dharma, teaching beings and entering the state of final Nirvaa.na. The Buddha replies by describing the career of a Tathaagata called Naagakulottama who lived many aeons ago in a Buddha-land named 'Level' where he gained supreme awakening, turned the wheel of the Dharma and converted and spiritually ripened vast numbers of bodhisattvas:
The life-span of Naagakulottama was forty thousand years. Having worked for the welfare of the world with its gods and men, he entered great final Nirvaa.na (mahaaparinirvaa.na). Since his relics increased copiously, a huge number of stuupa-s were erected over them, worshipped by all beings.
After giving this account of Naagakulottama's life, 'Saakyamuni reveals that Naagakulottama was not really a fully awakened Buddha at all but in fact was "nobody else but Ma~nju'srii Kumaarabhuuta." Naagakulottama's awakening and final Nirvaa.na were only apparent. His whole life was an apppearance adopted by Ma~nju'srii for the benefit of the living beings of that region, a act of compassion made possible by his powers as a tenth stage bodhisattva.
Earlier in the 'Suura'ngama-samaadhi Suutra Ma~nju'srii describes how in the past, during an aeon called Virocana ("Illuminating") at a time when the Dharma had disappeared, he appeared as a Pratyekabuddha out of compassion for beings. In all the towns and villages of the region he was venerated as a Pratyekabuddha and offerings were made to him. By giving discourses and displaying miracles he was able to establish morally healthy roots of behaviour in innumerable people. For their sake he also feigned entry into final Nirvaa.na. Throughout that aeon, Ma~nju'srii enacted this whole cycle of appearing as a Pratyekabuddha, teaching and entering final Nirvaa.na, hundreds of thousands of times, enabling millions of beings to be saved. This story, as well as further demonstrating Ma~nju'srii's immense powers as a tenth stage bodhisattva, provides an unusual example of a Pratyekabuddha, or an apparent Pratyekabuddha, described as teaching.
Ma~nju'srii's magical powers are generally exercised for the purpose of converting beings and increasing their faith. His conversion of Jains through the creation of illusory disciples (Ratnakaara.n.da Suutra) and his conversion of a prostitute by appearing as a handsome young man (Ma~nju'srii-vikrii.dita Suutra) have been mentioned earlier (Part II, 1.ii). Use of magical powers can also be seen as a way of demonstrating the essential emptiness ('suunyataa) of phenomena; if nothing has any permanent and independent self-existence, then the boundaries of things are not fixed in the way that we usually take them to be. The material universe can be traversed and transformed at will by an advanced bodhisattva who has realised the truth of 'suunyataa. Ma~nju'srii, as a supreme exemplar of Buddhist wisdom, should be a master of magical power on a grand scale.
In the Acintya-buddhavi.saya-nirde'sa, the god Sugu.na, after hearing Ma~nju'srii teach the Dharma, asks him also to teach the gods of the Tu.sita heaven.
Ma~nju'srii immediately performed a miraculous feat that caused the god Sugu.na and all the others in the assembly to believe that they had arrived at the palace of the Tu.sita heaven. There they saw gardens, woods, magnificent palaces and mansions with sumptuous tiers of railings and windows, high and spacious twenty-storied towers with jewelled nets and curtains, celestial flowers covering the ground, various wonderful birds hovering in flocks and warbling, and celestial maidens in the air scattering flowers of the coral tree, singing verses in chorus, and playing merrily.
The Buddha reveals that they have not in fact gone anywhere at all, but that their experience is the result of Ma~nju'srii's miraculous powers. Sugu.na is amazed and praises Ma~nju'srii's abilities. But the Buddha continues:
Son of heaven, is this your understanding of Ma~nju'srii's miraculous power? As I understand it, if Ma~nju'srii wishes, he can gather all the merits and magnificent attributes of Buddha-lands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and cause them to appear in one Buddha-land. He can, with one fingertip, lift up the Buddha-lands below ours, which are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, and put them in the empty space on top of the Buddha-lands above ours, which are also as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. He can put all the water of the four great oceans of all the Buddha-lands into a single pore without making the aquatic beings in it feel crowded or removing them from the seas. He can put all the Mount Sumeru-s of all the worlds into a mustard seed, yet the gods on these mountains will feel that they are living in their own palaces. He can place all sentient beings of the five planes of existence of all the Buddha-lands on his palm, and cause them to see all kinds of exquisite material objects such as those available in delightful, magnificent countries. He can gather all the fire of all the worlds into a piece of cotton. He can use a spot as small as a pore to eclipse completely every sun and moon in every Buddha-land. In short, he can accomplish whatever he wishes to do.
Hearing this, Maara, disguised as a monk, sceptically demands to see Ma~nju'srii perform such feats, so the Buddha tells Ma~nju'srii he should display his miraculous powers there and then. Ma~nju'srii, entering samaadhi, does so and Maara is so impressed that he vows never again to obstruct the practice of the Dharma and reveals a spell (dhaara.nii) that will protect practitioners from other negative forces. The suutra closes with the Buddha congratulating Maara, saying that his eloquence is a manifestation of Ma~nju'srii's miraculous power.
Ma~nju'srii's miraculous power is also much in evidence in the Su.s.thitamati-devaputra-parip.rcchaa where he uses it to increase the size of the assembly so that more beings are able to hear the Buddha's teaching. First, in order to call together a host of bodhisattvas from other Buddha-lands,
Ma~nju'srii entered the Samaadhi of Adorning all with Undefiled Illumination. While in this samaadhi, he emitted a great light which illuminated Buddha-lands in the east as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, so that all those lands became mild, lustrous, clean, clear, spotless, and inexpressibly wonderful. The light also illuminated worlds in the other nine directions: in the south, the west, the north, the four intermediate directions, the zenith, and the nadir. As a result, all the dark, secluded places, cliffs, forests, great and small mountains became bright, limpid, and transparent.
The bodhisattvas ask their respective Buddhas the reason for this light and are told that it has been emitted by the great bodhisattva Ma~nju'srii who is about to question the Tathaagata 'Saakyamuni about a profound Dharma-door. The Buddhas praise Ma~nju'srii's virtue, wisdom and powers, and the bodhisattvas, not wanting to miss such an event, depart for the present world with their Buddhas' permission. Meanwhile, Ma~nju'srii has not yet left his own dwelling and is visited there by a host of gods including Su.s.thitamati, the figure who gives his name to the suutra. The gods cause heavenly coral tree flowers to rain down and form the shape of a giant stuupa, but Ma~nju'srii outdoes this by causing a floral net to spread over the whole universe; the net radiates light and rains down heavenly coral tree flowers. He then spontaneously creates a huge throne made of precious stones, upon which he sits and engages Su.s.thitamati in dialogue, discussing the nature of regression in bodhisattvas and the non-difference of Emptiness and the Tathaagata. Next,
By his miraculous powers, the bodhisattva-mahaasattva Ma~nju'srii produced from nothing thirty-two square, multi-storied, jewelled halls furnished with imperial carriages In the halls, there were wonderful precious couches covered with exquisite garments. On each couch sat a magically produced bodhisattva possessing the thirty-two auspicious signs of a great man.
Then, Ma~nju'srii, the host of gods and the magically produced bodhisattvas (on their seats, complete with halls and carriages) all go to join 'Saakyamuni's assembly. However, Ma~nju'srii disappears again in order to summon demon kings. What follows must surely have been composed with some humorous intent:
Meanwhile, Ma~nju'srii had entered the Samaadhi of Defeating Demons. Because of the power of this samaadhi, ten billion demon palaces in the billion-world universe immediately became dilapidated, old, and dark, and seemed about to fall to ruin. After undergoing these changes, the demons' palaces lost their splendour and were no longer liked by the demons. The demons saw their bodies become dull, decrepit, weak, and emaciated, and they had to walk with staffs; and the celestial maidens were transformed into old hags. Seeing these [changes], all the demons felt very distressed, and the hair on their bodies stood on end. They each thought fearfully to themselves, "What bizarre events and inauspicious signs are these occurring inside and outside of my body? Has the hour of death come and my karmic reward been spent? Are these the catastrophes heralding the destruction of the world at the end of the kalpa?"
Ma~nju'srii then creates ten million deva-s who appear before the demons. The deva-s tell them that the changes have been caused by Ma~nju'srii and suggest that they had better quickly go to see the Tathaagata 'Saakyamuni who is kind and compassionate. This they do and ask the Buddha for his protection, saying that hearing Ma~nju'srii's name makes them feel terrified as if they were going to die. The Buddha praises Ma~nju'srii, saying that he alone is able to accomplish this great feat and that he does it for the benefit of beings. On Ma~nju'srii's arrival (attended by even more deva-s, bodhisattvas, gandharva-s, and yak.sa-s) the Buddha persuades him to give the demons back their original forms. This Ma~nju'srii does, but only after extracting a promise from the demons that they will 'detest desire' and not become attached to the three realms.
It will be clear from this that the Su.s.thitamati-devaputra-parip.rcchaa has a strong narrative element combined with teachings which emphasise the perspective of the Perfection of Wisdom. Ma~nju'srii's unequalled miraculous power, and praise of him by the Tathaagatas of the ten directions and by 'Saakyamuni, indicate the supremacy of the Perfection of Wisdom. Its mastery gives him power greater than that of gods and demons, enabling him to convert them as well as ordinary humans.
The Perfection of Wisdom, and therefore Ma~nju'srii, has access to spheres that cannot be entered by ordinary 'Sraavakas and Pratyekabuddhas. This is vividly illustrated in a story found in the Ajaata'satru-kauk.rtya-vinodana Suutra, the miracle of the bowl, which has the effect of bolstering the failing confidence in the Dharma of a number of gods. The story may be summarised as follows.
Two hundred gods are having doubts about following the bodhisattva path. The Buddha reads their minds and forms a plan to save them: he magically creates a lay-disciple who appears holding a bowl of delicious food, which he offers to the Buddha. However, as the Buddha is about to eat, Ma~nju'srii rises and says, "Lord, if you do not give me some of this food, you will be guilty of ingratitude." Amazed by this behaviour, 'Saariputra asks how Ma~nju'srii can say such a thing. The Buddha replies, "Wait and I shall tell you," and throws the bowl to the ground. It sinks into the earth and drops through vast numbers of Buddha-fields, equal in total to seventy-two times the number of grains of sand in the river Ganges. As the bowl descends, all the Buddhas of the intermediate worlds see it passing downwards. Finally, it comes to rest in mid-air in the world called Avabhaasa, the Buddha-field of the Tathaagata Ra'smiraaja.
The Buddha asks 'Saariputra to fetch the bowl. 'Saariputra, disappearing from the assembly, enters ten thousand samaadhi-s and descends through ten thousand Buddha-fields but is unable to find the bowl. Mahaamaudgalyaayana, Subhuuti, and then five hundred monks, attempt to find the bowl using different numbers of samaadhi-s according to their abilities. They likewise fail in the task and so Subhuuti asks Maitreya to try, but Maitreya defers to Ma~nju'srii since he has greater meditational attainments. Thus Subhuuti requests the Buddha to ask Ma~nju'srii, which he does.
Ma~nju'srii thinks to himself, "Let me fetch this bowl without getting up from this seat or disappearing from the assembly." He enters a samaadhi called All-Pervasive and plunges his hand into the ground; his arm elongates and the hand passes through the Buddha-fields. As it descends the hand salutes the different Buddhas and a voice is heard enquiring after their health. From each hair pore on the arm millions of light rays are emitted; from each ray millions of lotus-flowers blossom and in the calyx of each flower sits a bodhisattva praising 'Saakyamuni. Each Buddha-field is convulsed with tremors, flooded with a blaze of light, and filled with parasols, flags and banners. Ma~nju'srii's hand continues descending until it appears above the bowl in the Buddha-field Avabhaasa.
Seeing bowl, arm and hand in mid-air, the bodhisattvas in Ra'smiraaja's assembly ask him what all this signifies. Ra'smiraaja informs them and also emits a ray of light from between his eyes that penetrates the intervening world-systems and makes 'Saakyamuni and his assembly visible to them. As the light-ray passes through the different world-systems it brings their occupants bliss and spiritual attainments. 'Saakyamuni's assembly, seeing light rays emerging from the ground, asks the meaning of it. By way of explanation, the Buddha emits a light-ray from the soles of his feet which makes Avabhaasa visible. Ma~nju'srii now grasps the bowl and brings it back up; as he does so the lights and lotus-flowers vanish. Ra'smiraaja's attendant bodhisattvas accompany the bowl on its journey. Ma~nju'srii then rises and presents the bowl to 'Saakyamuni.
The Buddha now answers 'Saariputra's original question by recounting an episode (avadaana) from the past. Long ago there was a Buddha called Aparaajitadhvaja whose world-system was called Anindya. One day, one of his disciples, a monk called J~naanaraaja, goes for alms. After collecting delicious food, a child, a merchant's son called Vimalabaahu, runs up to him asking for some of the food. J~naanaraaja gives him a little and the child follows him back to where Aparaajitadhvaja is staying. J~naanaraaja then gives the bowl to the child and tells him to offer it to the Tathaagata Aparaajitadhvaja. When Aparaajitadhvaja's bowl is filled some food remains, and so the boy offers it to the ninety-six thousand strong assembly. Yet still more food remains, enough to feed the entire assembly for seven days. The young boy, Vimalabaahu, realising the inexhaustible merit that is to be gained from making offerings to the Buddha, joins the Sangha and conceives the Awakening Mind.
Having finished the story, 'Saakyamuni reveals that at that time he was Vimalabaahu and that Ma~nju'srii was the monk J~naanaraaja. So he, 'Saakyamuni, developed the aspiration for awakening at the initiation of Ma~nju'srii. Likewise, adds 'Saakyamuni, all his Tathaagata qualities derive entirely from Ma~nju'srii's initiative. Furthermore, not only is this the case for his own qualities but also for those of all past Buddhas and for all those following the career of the bodhisattva in the present. Ma~nju'srii is the father and mother of the Buddhas and that is why he can charge 'Saakyamuni with ingratitude.
Hearing all this the two hundred gods regain their faith in the bodhisattva path and countless beings conceive the aspiration to full and perfect awakening. Also, the Buddhas from countless Buddha-fields in the ten directions send jewelled parasols as offerings to Ma~nju'srii and from these parasols are heard voices proclaiming, "What 'Saakyamuni says is true we too were all set on our path by Ma~nju'srii."
ii. Fully Awakened (Buddha)
The Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navuuyha Suutra contains a passage where Ma~nju'srii is asked why, since he has attained the ten stages of a bodhisattva, he does not attain awakening. He answers:
Good man, no-one realises enlightenment after he has achieved perfection in all Buddha-dharmas. Why? Because if one has achieved perfection in all Buddha-dharmas, he need not realise anything more.
Later, the suutra adds that he does not seek awakening because "Ma~nju'srii is no other than enlightenment and vice versa." So Ma~nju'srii would seem to be fully awakened. Yet at no point is he said to be a Buddha, despite the fact that full awakening is only possessed by a Buddha. The Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navuuyha Suutra was written within a self-conscious literary tradition in which Ma~nju'srii is depicted as the bodhisattva who, par excellence, embodies wisdom. Although he is indistinguishable from a Buddha, to portray him as such would jar with tradition. Another reason why Ma~nju'srii cannot be described as a Buddha is that he is present in 'Saakyamuni's Buddha-field, and Buddhas, as rediscovers of the path, arise just one at a time in any given Buddha-field.
Nevertheless, Ma~nju'srii's vow not to attain Buddhahood in haste indicates an ambivalence about the goal of Buddhahood in the Ma~nju'srii-buddhak.setra-gu.navuuyha Suutra. Though Buddhahood embodies full awakening, its attainment implies the subsequent entering of final Nirvaa.na and going beyond the reach of living beings. This latter could be construed as abandoning beings. So Ma~nju'srii will become a Buddha with a Pure Land, yet he does not seek awakening because he is already awakened as a bodhisattva. Ma~nju'srii's decision not to seek perfect awakening appears to be more than an expression of the shift in level of semantic analysis from conventional (samvt.ri-) to ultimate truth (paramaartha-satya) that is a familiar device in Perfection of Wisdom literature: there it is often asserted that awakening is not in fact a thing or entity that can be sought after.
The A'ngulimaaliiya Suutra states that Ma~nju'srii is actually a Buddha of the present, though not in our universe but in one called 'Always Happy' (Nityapramuditaa), so-named since in it the words 'old age,' 'disease,' and 'suffering' and hence their referents are unknown. Only the Mahaayaana is practiced there and it is always pleasant.
iii. Teacher of Buddhas
As we have seen, the Ajaata'satru-kauk.rtya-vinodana Suutra relates how the Buddha himself owed his initiation into the spiritual path to Ma~nju'srii and that it is due to Ma~nju'srii that he became a Buddha. The suutra also relates that innumerable other Buddhas were Ma~nju'srii's disciples in the past, and that in the future, innumerable Buddhas will likewise be led by his power and compassion. Thus:
In the same way that, in the world, all children have a father and a mother, so in the religion of the Buddha, Ma~nju'srii is the father and mother.
This description is reminiscent of that of the Perfection of Wisdom as the mother of the Buddhas in chapter 12 of the A.s.tasaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa. Praj~naapaaramitaa, the perfect wisdom that gives birth to awakening, later became personified as a female deity. Here, Ma~nju'srii, because of his association with wisdom, also adopts this function of spiritual progenitor.
In an influential text of later Indian Buddhism, the Naamasa.mgiiti, "The Chanting of Names," the depiction of Ma~nju'srii as the wisdom underlying awakening is elaborated more fully. Since it is a tantric work, the Naamasa.mgiiti falls outside the scope of the present discussion, though a few comments may be appropriate. In this text Ma~nju'srii is portrayed as the wisdom or non-dual awakened awareness (j~naana) embodied by every Buddha, and which also underlies every aspect of the Buddhist tradition that promotes the attainment of that awareness. Ma~nju'srii is thus referred to as 'Ma~nju'srii the Knowledge-Being' (Ma~nju'srii-j~naanasattva), and it is this figure, or his manifestations, whom the 'Names' (naama-) of the Naamasa.mgiiti name. Thus Ma~nju'srii the Knowledge-Being is:
Without beginning or end, Awakened (buddha); primordial Buddha (aadibuddha), free from [causal] connection; possessing the peerless eye of Awareness, stainless; embodiment of Awareness, a Tathaagata.
The text is able to exploit paradox. Thus, he is both "the progenitor of all the Buddhas," and "the supreme, foremost son of the Buddhas." He also "possesses the limbs of a youth, peerless in the three worlds," and yet is "an elder, an old man; lord of creatures." At the same time, he is "Yamaantaka, king of obstacles," "an Arhat," and "a bhik.su with senses controlled."
In the Naamasa.mgiiti, therefore, Ma~nju'srii the bodhisattva of wisdom becomes the wisdom of the bodhisattvas and also that of the Buddhas and any other embodiment of Buddhist wisdom. The depersonalising of the bodhisattva Ma~nju'srii, hinted at in suutras such as the Ajaata'satru-kauk.rtya-vinodana, is thus made explicit. Yet the early commentators on the Naamasa.mgiiti gave a visual form to Ma~nju'srii the Knowledge-Being in the saadhana-s they created, allowing the Ma~nju'srii who is found at the heart of all Tathaagatas to continue to be a focus of meditation, devotion and realisation.
III. Ma~nju'srii & the Compilation, Preservation and Promulgation
Mahaayaana commentators maintained that the Mahaayaana suutras were the authentic word of the Buddha. Nevertheless, they were aware that these scriptures did not appear in India until some centuries after the Buddha's final Nirvaa.na. In order to explain the time gap, a number of legends evolved to account for their compilation and subsequent preservation during the period prior to their appearance. Ma~nju'srii, with his high status as one of the great bodhisattvas, plays a part in these accounts.
In outline, the story concerning the compilation of the Mahaayaana scriptures runs as follows: at the same time as the five hundred Arhats gathered on G.rdhrakuu.ta to recite and compile the Non-Mahaayaana canon (tripi.taka), a gathering of bodhisattvas compiled the Mahaayaana suutras. In the Mahaa-praj~naapaaramitaa-upade'sa, a long Perfection of Wisdom commentary attributed to Naagaarjuna, it is Ma~nju'srii and Maitreya, aided by AAnanda, who creates a double so that he can be present at both meetings, that are the compilers. Moreover, in his Tarkajvaala, the ninth century Indian commentator Haribhadra mentions Ma~nju'srii as one of the principal compilers, together with Samantabhadra, Vajrapaa.ni (under his name Guhyakaadhipati, "Lord of the Guhyakas") and Maitreya. Some detail is added to this account by the Tibetan historian Bu ston, who says that tradition located the gathering of bodhisattvas to the south of Raajag.rha, on a (mythical) mountain named Vimalasvabhaava, where in an assembly of a million Ma~nju'srii recited the Mahaayaana Abhidharma, Maitreya the Vinaya, and Vajrapaa.ni the Suutras. Bu ston, in assigning the recitation of the suutras to Vajrapaa.ni, cites a passage by Haribhadra that refers to two scriptures where the Buddha names Vajrapaa.ni as the preserver and protector of Mahaayaana scriptures. Though the contents of the Mahaayaana Abhidharma are not specified, it makes sense to have Ma~nju'srii as its recitor; both are concerned with higher wisdom. According to the third Hua-yen patriarch, Fa tsang (643-712 CE), Ma~nju'srii compiled many Mahaayaana suutras including the Avata.msaka.
Fa tsang also gives an account of what occurred during the interval between the recitation of the Mahaayaana scriptures and their later promulgation. After the Buddha's final Nirvaa.na, he says, the followers of the Mahaayaana hid themselves while the non-Mahaayaanists contended for power. Since there was no-one to receive the Mahaayaana teachings, the scriptures remained in the palace of the king of the naaga-s until, six hundred years later, Naagaarjuna visited the naaga-s and learnt them by heart. On his return Naagaarjuna was able to proclaim them to the world.
The story of Naagaarjuna's visit to the naaga palace to recover Mahaayaana scriptures is found in a number of sources. More often than not it is part of the Perfection of Wisdom corpus that he finds, particularly the 'Satasaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa, "The Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 Lines," rather than the whole of the Mahaayaana canon. Usually Ma~nju'srii does not figure in the accounts of the depositing of the Mahaayaana suutras for safekeeping with the naaga-s, though one modern source does state that it was Ma~nju'srii who entrusted them with the 'Satasaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa for later recovery by Naagaarjuna. The Mahaayaana suutras are described as (re)appearing in a number of ways: some are found hidden in buildings, others are taught by individual bodhisattvas to individual humans (notably to Asa'nga by Maitreya). Taaranaatha reports a story of Ma~nju'srii, disguised as a monk, leaving a manuscript of the A.s.ta at the house of the king of O.divi.sa (Orissa). This, he says was the first appearance of the Mahaayaana in the human world after the Buddha's Nirvaa.na. Though, as we have seen (II, 1.i), Ma~nju'srii does not appear in the A.s.ta and has only a passing reference in the Pa~ncavi.m'satisaahasrikaa and 'Satasaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa, it is hardly surprising that the bodhisattva of wisdom should become associated with these wisdom texts.
In Ati'sa's autocommentary to his influential summary of the bodhisattva path, the Bodhipatha-pradiipa, "Light on the Bodhi[sattva] Path" (c. 1042 CE), he refers to Ma~nju'srii as Naagaarjuna's teacher. Did Ati'sa have any source in mind when he said this? As far as I can ascertain, none of the often colourful Tibetan or Chinese biographies of Naagaarjuna mention any relation between him and Ma~nju'srii. Taaranaatha records a number of instances where Ma~nju'srii appears to important figures but Naagaarjuna is not one of them. Also, Ma~nju'srii is not referred to in any of Naagaarjuna's works or, indeed, in any of the works of his pupil AAryadeva. Of course, Ati'sa may been speaking metaphorically and, in any case, it is understandable that he links Ma~nju'srii and Naagaarjuna. Ma~nju'srii is the embodiment of the Perfection of Wisdom, and Naagaarjuna is its most famous promulgator. Also, they both have associations with naaga-s and with the South of India.
Ati'sa's depiction of the relation between Ma~nju'srii and Naagaarjuna may well have been modelled on the famous one between Maitreya and Asa'nga. Certainly, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, these two pairs of figures came to represent the two fundamental and complementary aspects of the bodhisattva path. Ma~nju'srii and Naagaarjuna are associated with profound wisdom, whereas Maitreya and Asa'nga are linked with compassion, or 'extensive deeds' (referring to compassion's breadth of scope). Thus, the twentieth century teacher, Geshe Wangyal, writes:
Buddha taught two great paths: to the Bodhisattva Ma~nju'srii he taught the path of Profound View, and to the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the path of Extensive Deeds. After several hundred years, as Buddha had prophesied, these two paths were extended by Naagaarjuna and Asa'nga.
Tibetan Buddhism, in particular the dGe lugs tradition, came also to see Ma~nju'srii as the source of inspiration of the Madhyamaka school of philosophy. One reason for this was that Indian Maadhyamika thinkers such as Candrakiirti (c. 600660 CE), who contrasted their position with that of Yogaacaarins (especially as exemplified by Asa'nga), claimed to derive their approach from that of Naagaarjuna. If Naagaarjuna's teacher was Ma~nju'srii, then Madhyamaka thought could be traced to him. Ati'sa, who links Naagaarjuna with Ma~nju'srii, places himself in the Madhyamaka lineage:
The nectar of AArya Naagaarjuna's words filled AAryadeva, Candrakiirti, Bhavya [Bhaavaviveka] and 'Saantideva down to Bodhibhadra too; even on me a little has been sprinkled.
The link between the Madhyamaka school and Ma~nju'srii was further strengthened and refined by Tsong kha pa (13571419), the founder of the Tibetan dGe lugs school. Tsong kha pa's biography recounts his many visions of Ma~nju'srii, during which he would often ask Ma~nju'srii questions and receive advice, clarification and teaching in return. In one of the most striking visions, Ma~nju'srii's sword of wisdom extended from Ma~nju'srii's heart to Tsong kha pa's; along the sword, the nectar of the five wisdoms flowed, in rainbow colours, to its tip in Tsong kha pa's heart. At one point Ma~nju'srii tells Tsong kha pa that the latter no longer needs further advice on the correct view of emptiness, and adds that when he teaches he should adopt the perspective of Naagaarjuna and Ati'sa, that is, that of the Madhyamaka. Later, when he was on retreat and intensively studying Naagaarjuna's key work, the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa, "The Root Verses on the Middle [Way]," Tsong kha pa had a vision of Naagaarjuna with his disciples, AAryadeva, Buddhapaalita, Bhaavaviveka and Candrakiirti. In the vision, Buddhaapaalita placed his commentary to the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa on top of Tsong kha pa's head, giving him inspiration and blessing. Tsong kha pa took this to indicate that he should follow Buddhapaalita's understanding of Naagaarjuna. A feature of Buddhapaalita's commentary was his use of arguments that displayed the contradictory and unsatisfactory consequences (prasa'nga) of an opponent's position. This approach led, retrospectively, to the name Praasa'ngika-Madhyamaka being given to it as a Madhyamaka sub-school. Following Tsong kha pa, the dGe lugs adopted the Praasa'ngika-Madhyamaka standpoint; Ma~nju'srii could now be seen as the source of inspiration for not only the Madhyamaka in general but, more specifically, for the Praasa'ngika-Madhyamaka.
Nevertheless, it is neither entirely fair nor accurate to portray Ma~nju'srii as the supporter of the Madhyamaka but not of the Yogaacaara. As the bodhisattva of wisdom, Ma~nju'srii might be expected to support and promote the whole spectrum of attempts to articulate more systematically the Perfection of Wisdom teachings. Asa'nga and the Yogaacaara school can be seen as working within this context just as much as Naagaarjuna. Indeed, it is not clear that Asa'nga saw his approach as conflicting with that of Naagaarjuna. Taaranaatha comments that before Buddhapaalita and Bhaavaviveka, no-one had thought the doctrines of Naagaarjuna and Asa'nga were fundamentally different. It is not surprising, then, that Ma~nju'srii is recorded as having appeared to Yogaacaarins as well as to Maadhyamikas. In the instances reported by Taaranaatha, Ma~nju'srii appears about as many times to proponents of the two traditions. He appeared to the Maadhyamikas Buddhapaalita and 'Saantideva, but also to the Yogaacaarins Dignaaga and Candragomin.
Taaranaatha tells a story of a public debate at the great Buddhist university at Naalandaa between Candragomin, who was defending the Yogaacaarin position, and the Maadhyamika Candrakiirti. Before the debate began a procession formed for their ceremonial entrance into the university precincts. A statue of Ma~nju'srii was carried between them, and as they moved towards the gate, Candragomin glanced at the statue. It appeared to him as Ma~njugho.sa himself. Candragomin spontaneously uttered a hymn of praise and the statue, to the amazement of the onlookers, turned its head towards Candragomin as if to listen to him. As the debate progressed, Candrakiirti found that he was unable to defeat Candragomin, and it transpired that Candragomin was being taught every night in a temple by a stone image of Avalokite'svara. On discovering this, Candrakiirti presumably somewhat upset prayed to Avalokite'svara, who appeared in a dream and said, "You are already blessed by Ma~njugho.sa and so you are not in need of my blessings". The debate seemingly came to an end with neither side victorious.
Another story is told by the seventh century Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang. A certain 'Jina Bodhisattva' is persuaded by Ma~nju'srii not to gain awakening as an Arhat but to help living beings by teaching a Yogaacaarin scripture:
At this time Ma~nju'srii Bodhisattva, knowing his [ie. Jina Bodhisattva's] purpose, was moved with pity. Wishing to arouse him to the truth and to awaken him in a moment, he came and said, "Alas! how have you given up your great purpose, and only fixed your mind on your own personal profit, with narrow aims, giving up the purpose of saving all! If you would really do good, you ought to transmit and explain the rules of the Yogaacaarabhuumi 'Saastra of Maitreya Bodhisattva. By that you may lead and direct students, and cause them to receive great advantage.
That Ma~nju'srii appears to both Maadhyamikas and Yogaacaarins should be expected. He is, after all, the bodhisattva of a wisdom that, by its nature, transcends all verbalisation and conceptualisation. Such wisdom both liberates and sees the world as it truly is. According to the Ga.n.davyuuha Suutra, which speaks in visionary rather than philosophical terms, and in which, as we have seen, Ma~nju'srii plays a central role, the universe, when seen correctly is one that is simultaneously empty of inherent existence and which has pure consciousness as its ultimate ground; it is a luminous, radiant world, free from hard edges and one in which the bodhisattva wields inconceivable magical powers out of great compassion for all sentient beings.
In conclusion, we can say that Mahaayaana literature and, in particular, Mahaayaana suutras, portray Ma~nju'srii as 'an entirely Buddhist personage'. As a bodhisattva of the highest level, at the least, Ma~nju'srii is able to perform a wide range of functions. Perfectly equipped to teach living beings and convert them to Buddhism, he can be the Buddhas' spokesman and the perfect spiritual friend. Effectively indistinguishable from the Buddhas, he can also be a focus for devotion and meditation, bestowing protection from suffering and pain as a consequence.
'Saantideva, near the conclusion of his famous work on the path of the bodhisattva, the Bodhicaryaavataara, "Introduction to the Path of Awakening," in dedicating himself to a life of compassionate activity, sees that life figured in the person of the great bodhisattva of wisdom:
Just as Ma~nju'srii acts
Bringing about the well-being of all beings
Dwelling throughout space in the ten directions
So may I act.
© copyright retained by the author
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