Manjushri is a great Buddha and a bodhisattva. In Buddhist teachings, Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Wisdom is wise dominion—of yourself, your aura, your entire being. It is wise dominion of all affairs that are entrusted to you and of all individuals who come under your care.
Wisdom is the most esteemed virtue in Buddhism. The virtue of wisdom has been called the “Mother of all Buddhas,” because only wisdom can totally liberate one from suffering. Yet without love and allegiance to the will of God, wisdom itself is not sufficient.
Buddhists see Manjushri as a “herald of emancipation.” He is also revered as the patron of arts and sciences, the master of eloquence, and the principal guardian and patron of astrologers. Buddhist writers traditionally invoke Manjushri’s assistance, and they often begin their books with verses or prayers in his honor.
Buddhists appeal to Manjushri for intelligence, wisdom, mastery of the teaching, the power of exposition, eloquence and memory. He is the patron of literature who uses the Word consciously as a tool of liberation—as a sharp sword that cuts through ignorance. We can call to Manjushri for gentle or sweet enlightenment.
Though Manjushri is referred to as a bodhisattva, he is believed to have the enlightenment of a Buddha. Some traditions say he became a perfectly enlightened Buddha many aeons ago in another universe.
In Buddhist lore
According to Buddhist lore, Manjushri felt compassion for the people of China because they lived so far from India, where Lord Gautama had incarnated. He therefore took a vow to help the people of China and established his Pure Land in the Five-Mountain Paradise of northern China. A Pure Land is a spiritual realm or paradise presided over by a Buddha, a place created by Buddhas for their disciples that is ideal for their discipleship.
Some texts say that Manjushri also has a Pure Land in another universe, where he manifests as the perfect Buddha he actually is. His earthly Pure Land in northern China is a favorite site for pilgrims; devotees of Manjushri travel there, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. It is said that only those who are truly purified can see him. But even then, it takes a certain mastery to recognize him, because he often appears disguised as a poor man or an orphan.
For those whose karma prevents them from seeing him physically, he sometimes appears in dreams that may be out-of-body experiences, remembered clearly just before we reenter our bodies in the morning. One Zen master says, “There are some student monks who look for Manjushri at Five-Mountain Paradise, but they have already taken the wrong road. There is no Manjushri at Five-Mountain Paradise. Do you wish to know where he is? There is something this very moment at work in you, showing no tendency to waver, betraying no disposition to doubt—this is your living Manjushri.” In other words don’t look for him outside of yourself, look for him working inside of you within the very walls of your being.
The Sanskrit name Manjushri means “gentle glory” or “sweet glory.” In Tibetan iconography Gautama Buddha is often depicted with Manjushri on his left and Maitreya on his right. Manjushri represents the wisdom aspect of the bodhisattva ideal and Maitreya the compassion aspect. Thus, Maitreya and Manjushri represent two sides of the coin of the bodhisattva path.
Professor Robert Thurman writes, “There are different persons on different stages of the path at different times. Different teachings are elaborated for their benefit that emphasize wisdom or compassion. The team of Maitreya and Manjushri, heading the two main branches of the great tree of this philosophical tradition, assure [us] that the balance never goes too far in either direction.”
In Buddhist art, Manjushri is often portrayed as a handsome sixteen-year-old prince. His complexion is usually a golden yellow, and he holds in his left hand the stem of a blue lotus blossom. On the blossom rests a book representing one of the Prajna Paramita scriptures, which deal with the realization of prajna, or wisdom. With his right hand he wields a flaming sword of wisdom to vanquish all ignorance. This sword has been referred to as “a sword of quick detachment.”
The ascended master Manjushri says, “If you choose to recite my mantras, I will assist you in coming to the oneness of the mind of God.” The following are Manjushri’s mantras:
Om Ah Ra Pa Tsa Na Dhih is given to help develop wisdom, memory and the understanding of the scriptures. The final syllable, Dhih, is Manjushri’s bija, or seed syllable. The essence of a cosmic being is concentrated in his bija. The bija may be given alone or repeated as many times as possible after the final repetition of the mantra.
Om Wagi Shori Mum is given to increase the effectiveness of communication and to deliver the Word. It means “Hail to the Lord of Speech!” Manjushri is known as the Lord of Speech and is revered as a master of eloquence.
Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha invokes the wisdom of the Prajna-paramita scriptures and can also be given to Manjushri. It means “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone wholly beyond—Enlightenment, hail!” or “Proceed, proceed, proceed beyond, proceed completely beyond—be founded in enlightenment!” This mantra can propel us beyond illusion and the illusory self into Reality and the Real Self.
Advice for the path
I AM for your taking wise dominion over the earth and for your wise taking care of all resources available to you.
I AM for practicality. I AM for your making that which is the nearest right move, even though it be not the perfect move of the moment that you would prefer.
Above all, do not stagnate. Do what you can do within the hour, within the day, within the year. Plan well. But for God’s sake, do not do nothing! For this is not the age of do-nothingness for the chelas of Manjushri and Maitreya and Gautama. This is the age of accelerated doingness.
We see many on earth operating at high stress levels because they attempt to catch up with the workings of the mind of God within themselves, but they go about it in a human way, and thus, their bodies suffer. Sometimes, just when they are at the peak of their careers, they find that they must deal with problems in their physical bodies that are overwhelming.
I say, light the way! Be the lamplighters in the earth and know that the lighting of the way to balance in the four lower bodies is the great gift of kindness, the great gift of enlightenment that you can give to many....
I AM Manjushri, and I have a great sense of humor. And you will know that sense of humor in your own life if you give my mantras. For it is humor on the Path that truly delivers you from the all-too-serious levels of fallen angels.
Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Masters and Their Retreats, s.v. “Manjushri.”
- Marilyn M. Rhie and Robert A. F. Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet (San Francisco: Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1991), p. 20, 21.
- Manjushri, “You Have the Mind of God!” Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 37, no. 21, May 22, 1994.