Manjushri is a bodhisattva associated with Vairochana (Tibetan: nangpar nangdze,) the Buddha Resplendent, who is like the sun in glory at its zenith [highest position.] He is the patron bodhisattva of the Kadampa (ie. Gelugpa) denomination, famous for its students of the written word -- scholars or geshes.
The Sanskrit name Manju-shri is variously interpreted to mean "wonderfully auspicious," or "sweetly glorious." However, in Tibetan his name Jampel-yang (contracted to Jamyang) means "gentle friend." In Chinese, he is called Wen Shu Shi Li; in Japanese, Monju.
Another epithet is Vakishvara (Lord of Speech) and it is this aspect of Manjusri that associates him with a great historical teacher known as Manjughosha (the sweet-voiced.)
Manjushri is viewed both as a historical bodhisattva, and as an emanation of Vairochana, ("Berotsana," Tibetan: nangpar nangdze, Jap.: Dainichi Nyorai) the primordial white Buddha who is compared to the sun -- his nature is "everywhere-pervading." He manifests as a bodhisattva to provoke investigation into such topics as Emptiness (or, void-ness,) free will, and the nature of the self.
When the primordial buddha Vairochana vowed to emanate throughout the universe as the princely
and ever-youthful, bodhisattva of Wisdom, his purpose was to lead beings in an inquiry
whereby they could discover the true nature of reality. For that reason,
he is usually depicted displaying the two tools essential to that investigation:
in his right hand he wields the double-edged sword of logic or analytic
discrimination and in his left, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, the text of the
teaching on Emptiness. This teaching is fundamental to all forms of
Buddhism and for that reason it is often called "Mother of All Buddhas."
It is cushioned on the lotus of Compassion.
Sometimes he is depicted with his hands making the gesture of teaching at the level of his heart. Often we see him with a double set of arms, which combines internal and external qualities.
MaŮjushrÓ is either seated on a lion or on an elephant . Both animals are associated a fully enlightened buddha. However, as a bodhisattva, he is depicted as a sixteen-year old youth. This is a confirmation of the fact that wisdom is not merely associated with maturity and age, but it is a direct consequence of anyone's logical inquiry into the true nature of reality.
In the sutras, MaŮjushrÓ is described as inhabiting a Pure Land (or,
"heaven") in another
About the Basic Mantra of Manjushri
OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHIH! [In some accents, TSA is sounded Cha]
This Manjushri mantra, which includes between Om and Dhih the names of 5 letters, is believed to enhance learning and the skills or, wisdoms, of explaining, debating, writing, memory, and so on.
According to one Manjushri sadhana, we repeat the DHIH as often as possible in the one, same breath while visualizing a golden-orange DHIH on our tongue from which millions of other DHIHs spring, to be swallowed and fill the body purifying all negative energy and stains, especially the shadow of ignorance. There are physical and subtle-body benefits to this, too.
The seed syllable DHIH does have a meaning, though this is not always the case with mantra sounds. DHIH has an extremely ancient connection with manifestation of form using vibration or sound. It appears in the Rig Veda where it stands for vision such as that preceding an intentional act of generation or creation.
Appearance of Arapacha Manjushri
As Arapatsa Manjushri who embodies the wisdom of all the buddhas, he features in a prediction technique (Tib.: Mo) developed in the 19th century by Jamgon Mipham (1846-1912) primarily from the Kalachakra Tantra and "The Ocean of Dakinis." It makes use of the AH RA PA TSA NA DHI mantra in conjunction with a 6-sided die.
It seems that the 9 year-old son of Jnanadharma was being picked on by orthodox brahmin boys. His father consulted with the Bengali mahasiddha, Jetari (a contemporary of Atisha) who gave him the practice of Arapacha Manjushri to help him, and the boy faithfully did that practice.
His mother, one evening, passed by his room which was glowing with such a bright orange light that she thought it might be on fire. Rushing in hysterically, she disturbed him or else, they say, he might have been able to stay in samadhi (one-pointed concentration) for 7 days and accomplished remarkable feats. Nevertheless, he was granted a view of the Bodhisttava's glowing face, and thus befriended by Manjushri, the boy had no further problems.
Jampal Tsanju (Tib.) is the designation for popular forms of Manjushri in which he is shown seated on a lotus in padmasana. He has one head and four hands holding a sword, the Prajnaparamita ( book) and a bow and arrow. He is pink or white with one face and four hands. There is also a three-faced form. He smiles with his eyes half closed in meditation. The first pair of hands form anjali mudra against his chest and the second pair are as if holding a bowl, or clasped over the crown of his head.
Namasangiti ("Chanting the Names") is the title of the tantric Praises to Manjushri and is also used to refer to this deity. There is a translation of the tantra The Manjushri Nama Sangiti by Alex Wayman (1985) with Sanskrit and Tibetan texts set side by side.
As Yamantaka, Manjusri assumes a fierce blue-black bull-headed form to defeat Yama, god of death: Once, a holy man, practicing meditation in a cave, was the unintentional witness of the slaughter of a stolen bull by two thieves. When they became aware of his presence, they immediately beheaded him too. To their terrified amazement, the victim reached out and, lifting the dripping head of the bull with his outstretched hand, he set it in place of his own severed head.
His vengeful intent led him to devour the thieves, but also awakened an insatiable thirst for human blood which threatened the entire population of the area. The people appealed to Manjushri who, assuming a fiercer form even than that of Yama, put an end to the bloodshed.
Khyabje Trijang Rinpoche said that Manjusri also manifests as a worldly guardian deity.
Manjushri in Kathmandu, Nepal
The legend of Manjushri's connection with Swayambhu Stupa in the Kathmandu Valley has at least 3 versions:
~ Chokey Nyima, in Dowman's ABuddhistGuide to the Power Places of the Kathmandu Valley.
Unfortunately, today the waters of the sacred gorge are black and foul-smelling due to pollution.
Dai-anichi Nyorai: The great Japanese Buddha statue that is perhaps the best-known image of Buddha in the world is of this still, meditating form -- eyes lowered, hands in lap, knuckles touching.