Glossary: buddhism - deity

Search glossary

Amida Nyorai (阿弥陀如来)

Also known as: Amitabha, Buddha of Infinite Light and Life

A celestial buddha described in the scriptures of the Mahayana school of Buddhism who became a buddha after achieving infinite merits from good deeds in countless lives as a monk named Dharmakara. He created the Pure Land, where those who called upon him could go after rebirth and be instructed in the Dharma, thereby becoming bodhisattvas and buddhas in their turn.

Bishamonten (毘沙門天)

Also know as: Bishamon, Tamonten, Vaiśravaṇa, Kubera

Bishamonten is one of the 12 Deva Guardians, the protector of the North and the most powerful of the Four Heavenly Kings. He is the god of warfare and warriors, sometimes called the "black warrior"; black is his symbolic color, and winter is the season over which he presides. He is often depicted as warrior with a crown on his head, a pagoda in one hand and a trident in the other. He punishes those who do evil and is also the guardian of the places where Buddha preaches. He is one who is all-knowing, who hears everything, who is always listening, and is completely versed in Buddha's teachings. He is one of Japan's Seven Deities of Fortune. The soldiers of his army are the powerful earth deities called Yaksha.

Bishamonten is also called "Tobatsu Bishamonten" (刀八毘沙門天), or "Eight-Sword Bishamonten", because of an error in translation passed down through the centuries. The original name, "Bishamonten of Tobatsu", pointed to a manifestation of Bishamonten which appeared in the Central Asian kingdom of Tou-po or Tobatsu (兜跋) to protect the capital city against invaders. Bishamonten in this form is depicted with a diadem on his head, four hands holding a key, a gem, a pagoda, and a halbert before him and eight arms holding eight swords around him.

Butsugen Butsumo (仏眼仏母)

A deification of the wise and virtuous eye of the Buddha, whose name literally means "Buddha-eye Buddha-mother". Since buddhas are 'those who are enlightened' by 'opening their eyes to the truth', Butsugen Butsumo, who 'opens people's eyes to the truth so that they may be reincarnated as buddhas', can thus be called a 'mother of Buddhas'. Her mantra is chanted at the eye-opening ceremonies of Buddhist statues.

She is generally depicted as a bodhisattva with a slight, joyful smile on her face and her hands cupped in the Hokkai mudra (also associated with Dainichi Nyorai).

Chiten (地天)

Also know as: Jiten, Prthivi

One of the 12 Deva Guardians who lives in the highest Heaven in the Plane of Desires, whose direction is downward. She is guardian of the earth, the mother goddess, and her counterpart is Bonten, who is guardian of the upward direction and creator of the universe.

Daigensui Myouou (大元帥明王)

Also known as: Āṭavaka

One of the Wisdom Kings, guardians of Buddhism, Daigensui Myouou is particularly worshipped in the secret teachings and is associated with protection of the country and conquest of enemies. In Sanskrit, his name means "Lord of the Forest." He was originally a child-eating demon who was converted by the Buddha to become protector and helper and one of the attendants of Bishamonten.

His shingon is transliterated as: Taritsu taboritsu paraboritsu shayanmei shayanmei tararasantan raenbi sowaka.

Daiitoku Myouou (大威徳明王)

Also known as: Yamantaka Vidya-raja, Conqueror of Death, Vajrabhairava, Rokusokuson (六足尊)—"Venerable Six-Footed One".

One of the Five Great Kings of Wisdom, whose direction is the west. He is the wrathful manifestation of Amida Nyorai and is represented with six faces, six arms, and six legs. He rides a sacred cow or buffalo and is worshipped as a god of victory. He fights pain, poisons, snakes, and dragons.

Sometimes represented with the makouin/bakouin, or "horse-mouth mudra" (馬口印).

His wisdom is the pratyaveksana-jnana (妙観察智), or "wisdom of wondrous observation".

Daijizaiten (大自在天)

Also known as: Mahesvara, Mahabharata, Shiva

One of the aspects of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, who was adopted into Buddhism as a protector of Buddhist teachings and one of the Juuniten. According to Esoteric Buddhism, he was vanquished by Gouzanze Myouou, the conqueror of earthly desires, for deluding earthly beings with his religious doctrines.

Dainichi Buddha (大日如来)

Also known as: Mahavairocana, Dainichi Nyorai, Vairocana, Daibutsu

Mahavairocana is the Cosmic Buddha who represents the center or zenith and is especially important to the Shingon school of Esoteric Buddhism. He was worshipped in Japan from as early as the Heian Period, and his Mahavairocana Sutra forms the basis for the rituals of the Shingon School.

Dainichi's characteristic hand gesture is the index finger of the left hand clasped by the five fingers of the right, symbolizing the unity of earth, water, fire, air, and spiritual consciouness.

Dairokuten Maou (第六天魔王)

Also known as: Mara, Devil King of the Sixth Heaven

Lit.: "Demon King of the Sixth Heaven". In Buddhist theology, the Dairokuten Maou is the Demon King who is the personification of delusion and evil, but is also a god who lives in Ten Dou, the highest of the Six Realms. From there he is able to manipulate and exploit beings in all the Realms of Desire, which include the lower five of the Six Realms, as well as the first six out of the twenty-eight heavens into which the the Realm of the Gods is divided. His primary purpose is to ensure that no one escapes the cycle of life and death by tricking them into believing that true happiness lies within the Six Realms.

Oda Nobunaga adopts this title for himself.

Daizuigu (大随求)

Also known as: Mahapratisara

Daizuigu is the wish-granting bodhisattva, one of the five protectress deities, who has four faces and eight arms holding a flaming golden wheel on a lotus, a stack of palm-leaf scriptures, a banner, a noose, a five-pronged vajra, a trident, a sword, and and a battle axe. She protects against sin, illness and danger.

Dakini (荼吉尼/茶枳尼/荼枳尼)

Also known as: Dakiniten (荼吉尼天)

Dakini is a Buddhist deity who was originally an Indian goddess of agriculture. She later became a goddess of gender and lust who ate human flesh or the human heart. She was subjugated by the God of Fortune and allowed to eat the hearts of the dead.

Dakini was originally associated with the jackle in India, but since jackles are not native to Japan, she became associated with the fox instead (it's said that she turned into a white fox after being subjugated by the God of Fortune). It's thought that the worship of Dakini was then meshed into the worship of spirit foxes that originally existed in Japan. The spells of Dakini, Dakiniten-hou, are among the strongest curse-spells.

Fudou Myouou (不動明王)

Also known as: Acala, Acalanatha Vidya-raja, The Immovable

Fudou Myouou is the chief of the Five Great Kings of Wisdom, whose direction is the center. He is the destroyer of delusion and protector of Buddhism; he is called The Immovable because he is unmoved by carnal temptations. He seeks to transform anger into salvation, and is usually depicted as a fiercely-scowling figure with a demon-subduing sword in one hand and a rope in the other. He is worshiped as a manifestation of Dainichi Nyorai.

Fukuukenjaku Kannon (不空羂索観音)

Also known as: Amoghapāśa

Fukuukenjaku Kannon is a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara (Kannon), a compassionate bodhisattva who is a savior from suffering. His name means "not empty/unerring net or lasso" and in this manifestation his eight or twenty arms hold symbolic articles such as the lotus blossom, arrow, bell, noose, prayer wheel, rosary, staff, or whisk. He is sometimes depicted wearing a deerskin.

Gakkou Bosatsu (月光菩薩)

Also known as: Candraprabha

Lit.: "Moonlight/Lunar Radiance Bodhisattva", a bodhisattva whose specialty is moonlight and good health, often seen with her sister Nikkou Bosatsu, the Sunlight Bodhisattva, with whom she serves Yakushirurikou Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha. They are also sometimes attendants of Kannon.

At the Toudai Temple in Nara, she stands to the left of Fukuukenjaku Kannon.

Godai Myouou (五大明王)

Also know as: godaison (五大尊)

Lit.: "Five Great Kings of Wisdom"; the five kings are fierce/wrathful deities who correspond to the five directions: Fudou Myouou is in the center, Gouzanze Myouou in the east, Gundari Myouou in the south, Daiitoku Myouou in the west, and Kongouyasha Myouou in the north. Their wisdom is contained in dharani and mantras.

The Five Wisdom Kings live in the Diamond Realm.

Gohou Douji (護法童子)

Also known as: Gohou Douji of the Sword

Lit.: "Dharma-protecting boy"; a variety of demon-deity in the service of Bishamonten who can be summoned by a high priest with mikkyou to do his bidding. They look like boys of 9 or 10 with red hair and golden skin who wear a thousand swords and ride on top of a magic wheel. Their power and skills are varied and depend on the power of their summoners.

In Mirage of Blaze, Takaya summons the Gohou Douji by writing Bishamonten's mantra on a piece of paper in Sanskrit and wrapping it around a dagger while chanting On beishiramandaya sowaka, then drawing Bishamonten’s seed syllable in the air above the blade before placing the fore- and middle fingers of his right hand against his forehead. He then touches the sword to his fingers, whereupon the paper ignites, and the Gohou Douji appears from the fire.

Jikokuten (持国天)

Also known as: Dhṛtarāṣṭra

Jikokuten, He Who Upholds the Realm, is one of the Four Heavenly Kings and guardian of the East. He is the god of music, and his symbolic weapon is the pipa (sometimes called the Chinese lute), which he uses to convert others to Buddhism. He is harmonious and compassionate and commands an army of Kendatsuba (celestial musicians) and Bishasha (vampire demons) to protect all beings.

Juuniten (十二天)

Also known as: 12 Celestial Beings, 12 Deva, 12 Deva Guardians

The highest-ranking deities of the highest heaven of the Plane of Desire who are particularly important to the Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism. The 12 Devas are guardians of the 12 directions: the eight cardinal and ordinal directions, up, down, sun, and moon. The twelve are: Bonten, Taishakuten, Suiten, Bishamonten, Enmaten, Katen, Rasetsuten, Ishanaten, Futen, Nitten, Gatten, Chiten.

Kannon (観音)

Also known as: Kanzeon, Kwannon (Japan), Kuan Shi Yin, Kuan Yin (China), Avalokiteśvara, Avalokiteshvara, Lokeshvara (India)

Kannon, represented in both male and female forms, is the Goddess and Bodhisattva of mercy, or Lord of Compassion whose name means "observing the sounds of the world". She is one of the most widely worshiped divinities in Japan and mainland Asia, and has many manifestations, such as Fukuukenjaku Kannon, Juuichimen Kannon, Juntei, Senjuusengan Kannon, etc. According to the Mahayana school of Buddhism, Kannon made a vow to listen to the prayers of all sentient beings in times of strife and to postpone his own perfect enlightenment until he has helped every being on earth achieve nirvana.

During the Tokugawa Shogunate, when Christianity was punishable by death in Japan, some underground Christian groups disguised the Virgin Mary as statue of Kannon; these statues are known as "Maria Kwannon".

Kishimojin (鬼子母神)

Lit.: Mother of Demon Children
Also known as: Karitei (訶利帝), Kariteimo (訶梨帝母), Hariti

Kishimojin was originally a cannibalistic demon who stole the children of others to feed her own children. The mothers of those children pleaded with Shakyamuni to save them. He agreed and hid away the youngest of Kishimojin's children, upon whom she doted. She searched the universe for him, but could not find him, and finally asked Shakyamuni for help. Shakyamuni admonished her and asked her to imagine the pain other mothers must feel when she stole away their children, whereupon Kishimojin vowed to protect all children from that day forward, and became the goddess of easy birthing and the protection and parenting of children.

Kishimojin's consort and the father of her children is Pancika, one of the 28 yasha generals in the army of Bishamonten.

Koumokuten (広目天)

Also known as: Virūpākṣa

Koumokuten He Who Sees All, is one of the Four Heavenly Kings and guardian of the West. He associated with serpents and water, and his symbolic weapon is a snake. He leads an army of Nāga, which include serpents and dragons.

Shitennou (四天王)

The Four Heavenly Kings are gods who watch over the four cardinal directions of the world. Each commands a legion of supernatural creatures to protect the world and Dharma, and fight evil.

They are:

- Jikokuten, the Watcher of the Lands, guardian of the East
- Zouchouten, Patron of Growth, guardian of the South
- Koumokuten, He Who Sees All, guardian of the West
- Bishamonten, He Who Hears All, chief of the Four Heavenly Kings and guardian of the North

Shoumen Kongou (青面金剛)

Also known as: Seishoku Daikongou Yasha (青色大金剛薬叉)
Lit.: Blue-Faced Vajra

A deity of healing who protects against disease. He is ruler of the East and is pictured as an angry deity with blue skin (due to taking the diseases of others into himself) and four or six arms holding, variously, a vajra, a ritual staff, a wheel (symbolizing Buddha's teachings), and a noose (symbolizing the triumph of Buddhism over evil). He is a fierce protector of Buddhism and repels the calamities of evil beasts, diseases, and thunder.

Due to his healing powers, he became associated with the rituals of the Koushin beliefs.

Zaou Gongen (蔵王権現)

A deity specific to Japanese Buddhism who is the protector of Shugendou. He is typically represented with three eyes, bristling hair divided into three parts, one leg raised, and an expression of rage on his face. He is bluish black in color. His right hand holds a three-pronged vajra, and his left hand forms the mudra of the sword.

Zouchouten (増長天)

Also known as: Virūḍhaka

Zouchouten, He Who Causes to Grow, is one of the Four Heavenly Kings and guardian of the South. He is the god of growth and leads an army of Kumbhāṇḍas, grotesque demons with huge stomachs and testicles as big as pots.