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. In Sanskrit “prajna” means wisdom and “paramita” perfection. Indeed, Manjushri is the Bodhisattva who holds the Buddha’s wisdom and he has a strong presence in the Prajnaparamita Sutra and other important Mahayana Buddhist texts.
Manjushri is also considered to be a high level Bodhisattva similar to Avalokitesvara. This high rank is because he could have already attained Buddhahood, but he has not fulfilled his vows. Therefore, 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 of “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. As a result, its 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.
Indeed, 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.
Nepali Manjushri Statue
Depictions in Buddhist Art
The name “Manjushri” 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, this depiction of Manjushri 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.
Furthermore, Manjushri 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 instead of a sword.
Manjushri with “Ruyi” Sceptor
Manjushri’s Secret of Eternal Youth
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 most venerable 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.
Wutai Mountain – The Home of Manjushri
Mahayana Buddhists believe that Manjushri resides in his bodhimanda that is located on Wutai Shan in northern China. In ancient India, Wutai Shan was first identified with Manjushri in the 7th century ACE.
Unfortunately, the sacred mountain home of Manjushri is off limits to visitors. However, there is a 12th century temple that is a popular destination for devotees. Additionally, some scholars note that the Manchus of the Qing Dynasty often took their name in honor of the Bodhisattva.
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.
Manjushri Mantra Syllable Translation:
OM – This syllable is thousands of years old and has its origins in Hinduism. Additionally, its 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. However, 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. As a result, 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. Indeed, students who are pursuing intellectual enhancement will benefit from mantra meditation.
Furthermore, 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.