Hindu Gods & Japanese Buddhism counterparts

Discussion in 'Research on Hinduism' started by Hindu, Feb 23, 2015.

  1. Hindu

    Hindu Member Staff Member

    There are literally hundreds of Hindu deities who were adopted into the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist pantheon, with nearly all Buddhist deities having a Hindu counterparts. Some of the most important are listed below. For a listing of 80+ Hindu deities and their Japanese counterparts, please see the TENBU(Skt. = Deva) page.

    Daijizaiten, Edo Era
    Gokokuji Temple 護国寺
    Photo: From temple

    Three Main Gods of Hinduism
    1. Siva. Śiva. The "Destroyer." Sanskrit = Mahesvara. Also transliterated in Japan as Makeishura 摩醯首羅. Lord of Cosmic Destruction. In Japan, Siva comes in various forms, including Daijizaiten 大自在天 and Ishanaten 伊舎那天.
    2. Brahma. Brahmā. The "Creator." Lord who created the world. In Japan, Brahma is known as Bonten 梵天, and is one of theTwelve Deva. Often shown together with Taishakuten 帝釈天(Skt. = Indra or Sakra).
    3. Visnu, Vishnu. Viṣṇu. The "Preserver." Represents ultimate reality, the all-pervading essence. In Japan, Vishnu appears in numerous forms, including Bichuten 毘紐天 (Bichūten), Mishichiju 微瑟紐 (Mishichijū), and Ungyo 吽形 (Ungyō), the latter the closed-mouth Nio Guardian who protects the entrance to the temple. Vishnu's mount is the bird-man deity known in Japan as Karura 迦楼羅. His wife in Hindu myths is the Buddhist deity known in Japan as Kichijoten 吉祥天 (Kichijōten) or Kudokuten 功徳天, the goddess of fortune and merit. In Esoteric Buddhism, he appears as a divinity in the outer court 外金剛部院 (Jp. = Gaikongōbuin) of the Taizokai 胎蔵界曼荼羅 (Taizōkai) mandala. He has many different names, including 那羅延天 (Skt. Nārāyana), 納拉辛哈 (Skt. Narasimha) and 婆藪天 (Skt. Vasudeva

    Kankiten Statue
    Near Nishi-Arashi 西新駅
    Photo: This J-site

    Other Major Hindu Deities & Japanese Counterparts

    • Indra or Sakra. A major Hindu god who serves as king of the gods on Mt. Sumeru (Jp. = Shumisen 須弥山), and as a protector of the Historical Buddha (Shaka 釈迦如来). Known as Taishakuten 帝釈天 in Japan, one of the Twelve Deva, and often shown together with Bonten (Skt. = Brahma).
    • Sarasvati. The Hindu goddess of learning, known asBenzaiten 弁財天 in Japan, where she is worshipped as the goddess of music, poetry, learning, and art. She is one of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods.
    • Myo-o 明王 (Myō-ō, or Mantra Kings). A class of Hindu deities incorporated into Buddhism. They appear in wrathful forms with furious faces, and multipe heads and arms to frighten non-believers into accepting the teachings ofDainichi Buddha 大日如来 (Skt. = Vairocana or Mahavairocana).
    • 12 Deva Guardians (Jp. = Jyuniten 十二天). Deities of the 12 directions in Esoteric Buddhism, including the four directions and four semi-directions, up and down, and sun and moon. Deva, a Sanskrit term meaning celestial being, is rendered as "Ten 天" in Japan (the latter literally means Heaven). The Deva are deities borrowed from Hindu mythology and adopted into Chinese and Japanese Buddhism as guardians of the monasteries of Esoteric Buddhist. They appear frequently in the Japanese mandala. Among the 12,Bonten (Brahma) and Taishakuten (Indra) serve in the highest position. Svastikah 卍

    Source: Bernard Faure, Symbolism of the Kasaya in Soto Zen. 1995, pp 335-369

    From Hinduism. Called Kyoji 胸字 (Kyōji) in Japan. It originated in India, and was often engraved on the chest of the Hindu deity Vishnu. It was incorporated by Buddhism and often appears on statues of the Buddha (Jp. = Nyorai 如来) and Bodhisattva (Jp. = Bosatsu 菩薩). It is also one of the 32 Marks of the Buddha (Sanjūnisō 三十二相). In Japan it represents the ”possession of all virtues” and is used as a symbol of Buddhist faith. This marking, when duplicated, turning one clockwise and the other counterclockwise, combines to form the Japanese character for FIELD 田, which symbolizes the “robe of the formless field of merit” -- a robe that is still sewn and worn by Japanese Buddhist clergy even today. See above chart for creating the “field” with two Kyoji.

    In Japan, the generic term for "Sanskrit" is Bonji (梵字) or Bongo (梵語). The Japanese word for Seed Syllable is Shuji 種字 (Sanskrit = Bijaksara). In Japan, Sanskrit seed syllables are written in a script called Shittan 悉曇 (Sanskrit = Siddham). In Japanese Buddhist statuary, Buddhist deities are typically assigned a special seed syllable, one that is often inscribed somewhere on the statue or halo. Deities are also assigned mantras (Jp. = Shingon 真言) that contain these seed syllables -- the mantra is a magical incantation, a secret prayer, a special chant used to invoke the essence of the deity. Furthermore, Japan's esoteric sects also employ a mandala called the Seed-Syllable Mandala (Shuji Mandara 種字曼荼羅), in which the deities are symbolized by their individual seed syllables. A special version of this mandala, known as the Shiki Mandara (Shiki Mandara 敷曼荼羅) is used in initiation rites among esoteric sects. The initiand casts a flower onto the spread-out mandala, and the seed syllable on which it falls then becomes the patron deity of the intiand.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2015
  2. Hindu

    Hindu Member Staff Member

    Kukai 空海 and Sanskrit in Japan
    Sanskrit seed syllables are easy to spot in Japan. They are found on Japanese Buddhist amulets, gravestones, religious statuary, mandala artwork, and other objects, both old and new. By tradition, the introduction of seed syllables to Japan is credited to Kukai (Kūkai; +774-835), also known as Kobo Daishi 弘法大師 (Kōbō Daishi), who studied the main Chinese calligraphic scripts and Sanskrit Siddam while visiting China in the early 9th century, and brought back copies of the Seed-Syllable Mandala (see prior paragraph). Today he acclaimed as one of the Three Brushes (Jp = Sanpitsu 三筆 or Three Great Calligraphers) of Japan. On his return from China, he founded Japan’s Shingon 真言 sect of Esoteric Buddhism 密教 (Mikkyō). He played an active role in many fields, performing rituals for the emperor, constructing a large reservoir in Shikoku for the common people, and establishing the first school for common citizens. His legend is riddled with folklore. He is credited with everything from inventing Japan’s kana script to introducing homosexuality. He is one of Japan’s most celebrated calligraphers, and supposedly published Japan’s first dictionary. He became a major patron of the arts, and reportedly founded hundreds of temples across Japan. The Shikoku Pilgrimage to 88 Sites is a popular pilgrimage attributed to Kukai.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2015

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