Manjushri is Transcendent Wisdom
The Manjushri story begins in the Prajnaparamita Sutra. This sutra about “The Perfection of Wisdom” was written over a course of 7 centuries between 100 BCE and 600 ACE. Manjushri has a strong presence in the Prajnaparamita Sutra and other important Mahayana Buddhist texts. In Sanskrit “prajna” means wisdom and “paramita” perfection. Indeed, he is considered the embodiment of transcendent wisdom.
Manjushri is also considered to be a high level bodhisattva similar to Avalokitesvara. This high rank is because he has already attained Buddhahood but has not fulfilled his vows. As a result, he remains a bodhisattva by choice. However, in Tibetan Buddhism he is considered to be a fully enlightened Buddha and also a “yidam” or meditational deity.
Manjushri’s Pure Land “Vimala”
Manjushri is believed to have a pure land of his own called Vimala. This pure land is one of the most sought after by devotees. It’s popularity is similar to Amitabha Buddha’s Sukhavati. Primary differences between these two pure lands is that Sukhavati is a western pure land and Vimala is in the far east. Additionally, the splendor of Manjushri’s pure land will not come to be until he ultimately becomes a Buddha. At that time, Vimala is expected to become one of the most magnificent pure lands.
Depictions In Buddhist Art
His name translates from Sanskrit as “gentle glory”. Ironically, Buddhist sculptures and paintings usually depict him holding a flaming sword in his right hand which he is swinging over his right shoulder. However, the depiction in this Manjushri statue should not be confused with brute force action taken in battle. Instead we are to believe it represents the gentle annihilation of ignorance and duality.
Additionally, his statues depict his left hand in front of his heart. Also, between his thumb and index finger he is holding the stem of a lotus flower. To emphasize wisdom, the lotus flower grows over his left shoulder with the Prajnaparamita Sutra resting on the blossom.
Alternate depictions of Manjushri show him seated on the back on a blue lion or on a lion skin. It implies that the mind is like a wild beast that can only be tamed with perfected wisdom. Additionally, he is sometimes holding a ruyi scepter in his right hand instead of a sword.
This important bodhisattva is also known by the longer name “Manjusrikumarabhuta”. This longer name means “Manjushri the youth” or “Prince Manjushri”. Therefore, depictions of him tend to be youthful and he can be misperceived as a teenager. Although the truth is that he is one of the oldest bodhisattvas. The secret to his youthful looks is that wisdom creates new perspectives. As a result, those who acquire transcendent wisdom begin to see the world in new ways and their youthful looks are renewed and preserved.
Mahayana Buddhists believe that Manjushri resides in his bodhimanda that is located on Wutai Shan in northern China. Wutai Shan was identified with the bodhisattva in ancient India since the 7th century ACE. His mountain home is considered to be one of the sacred mountains of Buddhism in China and it remains off limits. However, there is a 12th century temple that is a popular destination for devotees. Some scholars note that the Manchus of the Qing Dynasty took their name in honor of the bodhisattva.
Location of Wutai Shan
The common mantra is as follows: “om arapacana dhih”. However, the Manjushri mantra Tibetan pronunciation is a bit different and it goes: “Om a ra pa tsa na dhih”.
Each syllable has an important meaning. The explanation found in the “Sutra of Perfect Wisdom” is very vague and generalized. Fortunately, Khenchen Prachhimba Dorjee Rinpoche elaborates on the meaning of the syllables.
Om – This syllable is thousands of years old and has it’s origins in Hinduism. It’s use is similar to saying “amen” during Christian prayers or “amin” during Muslim ceremonies.
AH – Represents understanding the true nature of phenomenon.
RA – This syllable represents the understanding of emptiness from the “Hinayana” point of view. The master explains that it is suitable for those who have trouble understanding the emptiness principle. Hinayana is the original form of Buddhism that predated the Theravada Buddhist school. It is a pejorative term that is used mainly by Mahayana Buddhists to describe the early Theravada school. It is not certain why it was necessary to include a pejorative in the explanation.
PA – Represents the 2 types of meditation, Samatha and Vipassana.
TSA – This represents the importance of samsara and nirvana. The master teaches that the precise nature of samsara and nirvana is emptiness. Those who fail to understand the emptiness of samsara will experience suffering due to the misinterpretation of all mental and physical phenomenon.
NA – represents the Buddhist principle that all action has a reaction (Karma). Therefore, all good things that happen to us are the results of past wholesome deeds of body, speech and mind. Inversely, all negative things that happen to us are the result of unwholesome deeds of body, speech and mind.
DHIH – this is a seed syllable which can be used to purify Karma when it is repeated continuously.
Manjushri Mantra Benefits
The headline Manjushri mantra benefits include enhancement of wisdom, memory, speech and writing. These mantra benefits are sought after by students and those engaged in intellectual pursuits.
Additionally, the master concludes by explaining meditation helps us to gain real experience in following the path. This will help to induce changes in our mind and feelings. As a result, combining wisdom with our actions will enable us to assist sentient beings at the right place and time. Our reward is the happiness and courage we receive by successfully carrying out our virtuous intentions.