SEARCH     Home     Site Map    Symbolism    Calendar     Karmapa     News    DONATE

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.  

His Name

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. 

Manjushri's sword of discriminating wisdom is tipped with flames to show that it severs all notions of duality.  It can cut away delusion, aversion and longing, to reveal understanding, equanimity and 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
universe, where he dwells as the Buddha he actually is.  Since the 7th century, he has been inextricably linked to the 5 Sacred Peaks (Wu-tai Shan -- "Five-mountain Paradise," Tib: Riwo Tsenga) of China.  There, as Wen-Shu Shi-Li, Manjushri is depicted as a boy with his hair in 5 bunches ("5 peaks")   The northeastern Chinese location is still an important place of pilgrimage for Tibetans, Mongolians, Chinese and other Buddhists.

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. 

There is also a form with six pairs of hands. The third right has a sword on the double lotus. The fourth pair is in tarpana mudra (a homage with hands as if pointing to shoulders). The fifth pair sprinkles nectar from the vessel and the sixth pair is in dhyana mudra (meditation.) The third left hand holds the short sword surmounted by a vajra.

There is a female form, as well.


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.

Here, he is yellow having one face and four hands.  He holds in
the first right a blue sword of wisdom licked with flame and in the left at his heart, he holds a pink utpala flower; the blossom at ear-level  supports the Prajnaparamita, as above.  In the lower pair of hands are a bow and arrow.  On a multi-coloured lotus seat, he emanates pale yellow rays of light and also a green aura framed in dark green leaves and lotuses. 

Before him is a dark blue pool with waterfowl, and a pink lotus supporting various offerings. But also, at bottom left is White Manjushri, with one face, two hands, the right is bestowing while the left is for the sutra.  To the right is a standing blue-black Manjushri, with one face and two hands teaching, while holding stems of 2 lotuses bearing the sword and the Sutra. 


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:

"At the time of the Buddha Visvabhu (the third of the six Buddhas preceding Sakyamuni) Arya Manjusri's emanation Vajracarya Manjudeva, who was endowed with the five extraordinary powers, came to Nepal from the Five Peaked Mountain in China together with Varada (mChog-sbyin-ma), an emanation of Kesini (sKra-can-ma), and Moksada (gZugs-thar-sbyin-ma), an emanation of Upakeshini (Nye-ba'i Skra-can-ma), in order to see the Swayambhu Dharmadhatu Stupa.  Seeing that beings without supernormal powers were unable to worship the stupa in the middle of the lake, he cut a gorge and drained the waters in four days, only a small lake remaining.  Then through the Great Master's magical power the lotus, which was the sacred base of the attainment of the Swayambhu Stupa, was transformed into the stupa we know today. 

At the time of the Buddha Kanakamuni (gSer-thub, the fifth of the seven) the great scholar Dharma Sri Mitra (Chos-dpal bshes-gnyen), lacking knowledge of the Twelve Syllables (?) and on his way from Vikramasila to Manjusri's Five Peaked Mountain for knowledge, found Manjushri himself in the form of Vajracarya Manjudeva and received initiation into the Mandala of Dharmadhatu Vagisvari as the Swayambhu Stupa itself. 

At the time of the Buddha Kasyapa ('Od-srung, the sixth Buddha), Manjudeva, having accomplished his aim in the form of a vajracarya, took the body of a god and vanished into the sky like a flash of lighting, and returned to the Five Peaked Mountain . . .  . Santa [sic] Sri built a stupa to mark the spot where he had sat."

~ 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. 

Home ] Up ] Next ]

[ Manjushri ] Horse-king ]

16 Arhats ] Amitabha Sadhana ] Medicine Buddha ] Fat Buddhas ] 8 Bodhisattvas ] Heruka Chakrasamvara ] Vajrasattva ] Yamantaka ] Wrathful Deities ] Female Deities ]
Copyright 1998-2018 Khandro.Net All rights reserved. This Web site is designed with Firefox as browser but should be accessible to others. However,  if you eliminate underlining in your Preferences you could miss some of our links.