Beta version

Posted by myanmarpedia on September 27, 2007


Let us now consider these doctrines and take first the worship of
Bodhisattvas. This word means one whose essence is knowledge but is
used in the technical sense of a being who is in process of obtaining
but has not yet obtained Buddhahood. The Pali Canon shows little
interest in the personality of Bodhisattvas and regards them simply as
the preliminary or larval form of a Buddha, either Śâkyamuni[5] or
some of his predecessors. It was incredible that a being so superior
to ordinary humanity as a Buddha should be suddenly produced in a
human family nor could he be regarded as an incarnation in the strict
sense. But it was both logical and edifying to suppose that he was the
product of a long evolution of virtue, of good deeds and noble
resolutions extending through countless ages and culminating in a
being superior to the Devas. Such a being awaited in the Tushita
heaven the time fixed for his appearance on earth as a Buddha and his
birth was accompanied by marvels. But though the Pali Canon thus
recognizes the Bodhisattva as a type which, if rare, yet makes its
appearance at certain intervals, it leaves the matter there. It is not
suggested that saints should try to become Bodhisattvas and Buddhas,
or that Bodhisattvas can be helpers of mankind.[6] But both these
trains of thought are natural developments of the older ideas and soon
made themselves prominent. It is a characteristic doctrine of
Mahayanism that men can try and should try to become Bodhisattvas.

In the Pali Canon we hear of Arhats, Pacceka Buddhas, and perfect
Buddhas. For all three the ultimate goal is the same, namely Nirvana,
but a Pacceka Buddha is greater than an Arhat, because he has greater
intellectual powers though he is not omniscient, and a perfect Buddha
is greater still, partly because he is omniscient and partly because
he saves others. But if we admit that the career of the Buddha is
better and nobler, and also that it is, as the Introduction to the
Jâtaka recounts, simply the result of an earnest resolution to school
himself and help others, kept firmly through the long chain of
existences, there is nothing illogical or presumptuous in making our
goal not the quest of personal salvation, but the attainment of
Bodhisattvaship, that is the state of those who may aspire to become
Buddhas. In fact the Arhat, engrossed in his own salvation, is excused
only by his humility and is open to the charge of selfish desire,
since the passion for Nirvana is an ambition like any other and the
quest for salvation can be best followed by devoting oneself entirely
to others. But though my object here is to render intelligible the
Mahayanist point of view including its objections to Hinayanism, I
must defend the latter from the accusation of selfishness. The
vigorous and authoritative character of Gotama led him to regard all
mankind as patients requiring treatment and to emphasize the truth
that they could cure themselves if they would try. But the Buddhism of
the Pali Canon does not ignore the duties of loving and instructing
others;[7] it merely insists on man’s power to save himself if
properly instructed and bids him do it at once: “sell all that thou
hast and follow me.” And the Mahayana, if less self-centred, has also
less self-reliance, and self-discipline. It is more human and
charitable, but also more easygoing: it teaches the believer to lean
on external supports which if well chosen may be a help, but if
trusted without discrimination become paralyzing abuses. And if we
look at the abuses of both systems the fossilized monk of the Hinayana
will compare favourably with the tantric adept. It was to the
corruptions of the Mahayana rather than of the Hinayana that the decay
of Buddhism in India was due.

The career of the Bodhisattva was early divided into stages (bhûmi)
each marked by the acquisition of some virtue in his triumphant
course. The stages are variously reckoned as five, seven and ten. The
Mahâvastu,[8] which is the earliest work where the progress is
described, enumerates ten without distinguishing them very clearly.
Later writers commonly look at the Bodhisattva’s task from the humbler
point of view of the beginner who wishes to learn the initiatory
stages. For them the Bodhisattva is primarily not a supernatural being
or even a saint but simply a religious person who wishes to perform
the duties and enjoy the privileges of the Church to the full, much
like a communicant in the language of contemporary Christianity. We
have a manual for those who would follow this path, in the
Bodhicaryâvatâra of Śântideva, which in its humility, sweetness and
fervent piety has been rightly compared with the De Imitatione
Christi. In many respects the virtues of the Bodhisattva are those of
the Arhat. His will must be strenuous and concentrated; he must
cultivate the strictest morality, patience, energy, meditation and
knowledge. But he is also a devotee, a _bhakta_: he adores all the
Buddhas of the past, present and future as well as sundry superhuman
Bodhisattvas, and he confesses his sins, not after the fashion of the
Pâtimokkha, but by accusing himself before these heavenly Protectors
and vowing to sin no more.

Śântideva lived in the seventh century[9] but tells us that he follows
the scriptures and has nothing new to say. This seems to be true for,
though his book being a manual of devotion presents its subject-matter
in a dogmatic form, its main ideas are stated and even elaborated in
the Lotus. Not only are eminent figures in the Church, such as
Sâriputra and Ânanda, there designated as future Buddhas, but the same
dignity is predicted wholesale for five hundred and again for two
thousand monks while in Chapter X is sketched the course to be
followed by “young men or young ladies of good family” who wish to
become Bodhisattvas.[10] The chief difference is that the
Bodhicaryâvatâra portrays a more spiritual life, it speaks more of
devotion, less of the million shapes that compose the heavenly host:
more of love and wisdom, less of the merits of reading particular
sûtras. While rendering to it and the faith that produced it all
honour, we must remember that it is typical of the Mahayana only in
the sense that the De Imitatione Christi is typical of Roman
Catholicism, for both faiths have other sides.

Śântideva’s Bodhisattva, when conceiving the thought of Bodhi or
eventual supreme enlightenment to be obtained, it may be, only after
numberless births, feels first a sympathetic joy in the good actions
of all living beings. He addresses to the Buddhas a prayer which is
not a mere act of commemoration, but a request to preach the law and
to defer their entrance into Nirvana. He then makes over to others
whatever merit he may possess or acquire and offers himself and all
his possessions, moral and material, as a sacrifice for the salvation
of all beings. This on the one hand does not much exceed the limits of
_dânam_ or the virtue of giving as practised by Śâkyamuni in previous
births according to the Pali scriptures, but on the other it contains
in embryo the doctrine of vicarious merit and salvation through a
saviour. The older tradition admits that the future Buddha (_e.g._ in
the Vessantara birth-story) gives all that is asked from him including
life, wife and children. To consider the surrender and transfer of
merit (pattidâna in Pali) as parallel is a natural though perhaps
false analogy. But the transfer of Karma is not altogether foreign to
Brahmanic thought, for it is held that a wife may share in her
husband’s Karma nor is it wholly unknown to Sinhalese Buddhism.[11]
After thus deliberately rejecting all personal success and selfish
aims, the neophyte makes a vow (praṇidhâna) to acquire enlightenment
for the good of all beings and not to swerve from the rules of life
and faith requisite for this end. He is then a “son of Buddha,” a
phrase which is merely a natural metaphor for saying that he is one of
the household of faith[12] but still paves the way to later ideas
which make the celestial Bodhisattva an emanation or spiritual son of
a celestial Buddha.

Asanga gives[13] a more technical and scholastic description of the
ten _bhûmis_ or stages which mark the Bodhisattva’s progress towards
complete enlightenment and culminate in a phase bearing the remarkable
but ancient name of Dharmamegha known also to the Yoga philosophy. The
other stages are called: _muditâ_ (joyful): _vimalâ_ (immaculate):
_prabhâkarî_ (light giving): _arcismatî_ (radiant): _durjaya_ (hard to
gain): _abhimukhî_ (facing, because it faces both transmigration and
Nirvana): _dûramgamâ_ (far-going): _acalâ_ (immovable): _sâdhumatî_
(good minded).

The incarnate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of Tibet are a travesty of the
Mahayana which on Indian soil adhered to the sound doctrine that
saints are known by their achievements as men and cannot be selected
among infant prodigies.[14] It was the general though not universal
opinion that one who had entered on the career of a Bodhisattva could
not fall so low as to be reborn in any state of punishment, but the
spirit of humility and self-effacement which has always marked the
Buddhist ideal tended to represent his triumph as incalculably
distant. Meanwhile, although in the whirl of births he was on the
upward grade, he yet had his ups and downs and there is no evidence
that Indian or Far Eastern Buddhists arrogated to themselves special
claims and powers on the ground that they were well advanced in the
career of Buddhahood. The vow to suppress self and follow the light
not only in this life but in all future births contains an element of
faith or fantasy, but has any religion formed a nobler or even
equivalent picture of the soul’s destiny or built a better staircase
from the world of men to the immeasurable spheres of the superhuman?

One aspect of the story of Sâkyamuni and his antecedent births thus
led to the idea that all may become Buddhas. An equally natural
development in another direction created celestial and superhuman
Bodhisattvas. The Hinayana held that Gotama, before his last birth,
dwelt in the Tushita heaven enjoying the power and splendour of an
Indian god and it looked forward to the advent of Maitreya. But it
admitted no other Bodhisattvas, a consequence apparently of the
doctrine that there can only be one Buddha at a time. But the
luxuriant fancy of India, which loves to multiply divinities, soon
broke through this restriction and fashioned for itself beautiful
images of benevolent beings who refuse the bliss of Nirvana that they
may alleviate the sufferings of others.[15] So far as we can judge,
the figures of these Bodhisattvas took shape just about the same time
that the personalities of Vishnu and Śiva were acquiring consistency.
The impulse in both cases is the same, namely the desire to express in
a form accessible to human prayer and sympathetic to human emotion the
forces which rule the universe. But in this work of portraiture the
Buddhists laid more emphasis on moral and spiritual law than did the
Brahmans: they isolated in personification qualities not found
isolated in nature. Śiva is the law of change, of death and rebirth,
with all the riot of slaughter and priapism which it entails: Vishnu
is the protector and preserver, the type of good energy warring
against evil, but the unity of the figure is smothered by mythology
and broken up into various incarnations. But Avalokita and Mañjuśrî,
though they had not such strong roots in Indian humanity as Śiva and
Vishnu, are genii of purer and brighter presence. They are the
personifications of kindness and knowledge. Though manifold in shape,
they have little to do with mythology, and are analogous to the
archangels of Christian and Jewish tradition and to the Amesha Spentas
of Zoroastrianism. With these latter they may have some historical
connection, for Persian ideas may well have influenced Buddhism about
the time of the Christian era. However difficult it may be to prove
the foreign origin of Bodhisattvas, few of them have a clear origin in
India and all of them are much better known in Central Asia and China.
But they are represented with the appearance and attributes of Indian
Devas, as is natural, since even in the Pali Canon Devas form the
Buddha’s retinue. The early Buddhists considered that these spirits,
whether called Bodhisattvas or Devas, had attained their high position
in the same way as Śâkyamuni himself, that is by the practice of moral
and intellectual virtues through countless existences, but
subsequently they came to be regarded as emanations or sons of
superhuman Buddhas. Thus the Kâraṇḍa-vyûha relates how the original
Âdi-Buddha produced Avalokita by meditation and how he in his turn
produced the universe with its gods.

Millions of unnamed Bodhisattvas are freely mentioned and even in the
older books copious lists of names are found,[16] but two, Avalokita
and Mañjuśrî, tower above the rest, among whom only few have a
definite personality. The tantric school counts eight of the first
rank. Maitreya (who does not stand on the same footing as the others),
Samantabhadra, Mahâsthâna-prâpta and above all Kshitigarbha, have some
importance, especially in China and Japan.

Avalokita[17] in many forms and in many ages has been one of the
principal deities of Asia but his origin is obscure. His main
attributes are plain. He is the personification of divine mercy and
pity but even the meaning of his name is doubtful. In its full form it
is Avalokiteśvara, often rendered the Lord who looks down (from
heaven). This is an appropriate title for the God of Mercy, but the
obvious meaning of the participle _avalokita_ in Sanskrit is passive,
the Lord who is looked at. Kern[18] thinks it may mean the Lord who is
everywhere visible as a very present help in trouble, or else the Lord
of View, like the epithet Dṛishtiguru applied to Śiva. Another form
of the name is Lokeśvara or Lord of the world and this suggests that
_avalokita_ may be a synonym of _loka_, meaning the visible universe.
It has also been suggested that the name may refer to the small image
of Amitâbha which is set in his diadem and thus looks down on him. But
such small images set in the head of a larger figure are not
distinctive of Avalokita: they are found in other Buddhist statues and
paintings and also outside India, for instance at Palmyra. The Tibetan
translation of the name[19] means he who sees with bright eyes. Hsüan
Chuang’s rendering Kwan-tzǔ-tsai[20] expresses the same idea, but the
more usual Chinese translation Kuan-yin or Kuan-shih-yin, the deity
who looks upon voices or the region of voices, seems to imply a verbal
misunderstanding. For the use of Yin or voice makes us suspect that
the translator identified the last part of _Avalokiteśvara_ not with
_Îśvara_ lord but with _svara_ sound.[21]

Avalokiteśvara is unknown to the Pali Canon and the Milinda Pañha. So
far as I can discover he is not mentioned in the Divyâvadâna,
Jâtakamâlâ or any work attributed to Aśvaghosha. His name does not
occur in the Lalita-vistara but a list of Bodhisattvas in its
introductory chapter includes Mahâkaruṇâcandin, suggesting
Mahâkaruna, the Great Compassionate, which is one of his epithets. In
the Lotus[22] he is placed second in the introductory list of
Bodhisattvas after Mañjuśrî. But Chapter XXIV, which is probably a
later addition, is dedicated to his praises as Samantamukha, he who
looks every way or the omnipresent. In this section his character as
the all-merciful saviour is fully developed. He saves those who call
on him from shipwreck, and execution, from robbers and all violence
and distress. He saves too from moral evils, such as passion, hatred
and folly. He grants children to women who worship him. This power,
which is commonly exercised by female deities, is worth remarking as a
hint of his subsequent transformation into a goddess. For the better
achievement of his merciful deeds, he assumes all manner of forms, and
appears in the guise of a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, a Hindu deity, a
goblin, or a Brahman and in fact in any shape. This chapter was
translated into Chinese before 417 A.D. and therefore can hardly be
later than 350. He is also mentioned in the Sukhâvatî-vyûha. The
records of the Chinese pilgrims Fa-Hsien and Hsüan Chuang[23] indicate
that his worship prevailed in India from the fourth till the seventh
century and we are perhaps justified in dating its beginnings at least
two centuries earlier. But the absence of any mention of it in the
writings of Aśvaghosha is remarkable.[24]

Avalokita is connected with a mountain called Potala or Potalaka. The
name is borne by the palace of the Grand Lama at Lhassa and by another
Lamaistic establishment at Jehol in north China. It reappears in the
sacred island of P´u-t´o near Ningpo. In all these cases the name of
Avalokita’s Indian residence has been transferred to foreign shrines.
In India there were at least two places called Potala or Potalaka–one
at the mouth of the Indus and one in the south. No certain connection
has been traced between the former and the Bodhisattva but in the
seventh century the latter was regarded as his abode. Our information
about it comes mainly from Hsüan Chuang[25] who describes it when
speaking of the Malakuta country and as near the Mo-lo-ya (Malaya)
mountain. But apparently he did not visit it and this makes it
probable that it was not a religious centre but a mountain in the
south of which Buddhists in the north wrote with little precision.[26]
There is no evidence that Avalokita was first worshipped on this
Potalaka, though he is often associated with mountains such as Kapota
in Magadha and Valavatî in Katâha.[27] In fact the connection of
Potala with Avalokita remains a mystery.

Avalokita has, like most Bodhisattvas, many names. Among the principal
are Mahâkaruna, the Great Compassionate one, Lokanâtha or Lokeśvara,
the Lord of the world, and Padmapâni, or lotus-handed. This last
refers to his appearance as portrayed in statues and miniatures. In
the older works of art his figure is human, without redundant limbs,
and represents a youth in the costume of an Indian prince with a high
jewelled chignon, or sometimes a crown. The head-dress is usually
surmounted by a small figure of Amitâbha. His right hand is extended
in the position known as the gesture of charity.[28] In his left he
carries a red lotus and he often stands on a larger blossom. His
complexion is white or red. Sometimes he has four arms and in later
images a great number. He then carries besides the lotus such objects
as a book, a rosary and a jug of nectar.[29]

The images with many eyes and arms seem an attempt to represent him as
looking after the unhappy in all quarters and stretching out his hands
in help.[30] It is doubtful if the Bodhisattvas of the Gandhara
sculptures, though approaching the type of Avalokita, represent him
rather than any other, but nearly all the Buddhist sites of India
contain representations of him which date from the early centuries of
our era[31] and others are preserved in the miniatures of

He is not a mere adaptation of any one Hindu god. Some of his
attributes are also those of Brahmâ. Though in some late texts he is
said to have evolved the world from himself, his characteristic
function is not to create but, like Vishnu, to save and like Vishnu he
holds a lotus. But also he has the title of Îśvara, which is specially
applied to Śiva. Thus he does not issue from any local cult and has no
single mythological pedigree but is the idea of divine compassion
represented with such materials as the art and mythology of the day

He is often accompanied by a female figure Târâ.[33] In the tantric
period she is recognized as his spouse and her images, common in
northern India from the seventh century onwards, show that she was
adored as a female Bodhisattva. In Tibet Târâ is an important deity
who assumes many forms and even before the tantric influence had
become prominent she seems to have been associated with Avalokita. In
the Dharmasangraha she is named as one of the four Devîs, and she is
mentioned twice under the name of To-lo Pu-sa by Hsüan Chuang, who saw
a statue of her in Vaisali and another at Tiladhaka in Magadha. This
last stood on the right of a gigantic figure of Buddha, Avalokita
being on his left.[34]

Hsüan Chuang distinguishes To-lo (Târâ) and Kuan-tzǔ-tsai. The latter
under the name of Kuan-yin or Kwannon has become the most popular
goddess of China and Japan, but is apparently a form of Avalokita. The
god in his desire to help mankind assumes many shapes and, among
these, divine womanhood has by the suffrage of millions been judged
the most appropriate. But Târâ was not originally the same as
Kuan-yin, though the fact that she accompanies Avalokita and shares
his attributes may have made it easier to think of him in female

The circumstances in which Avalokita became a goddess are obscure. The
Indian images of him are not feminine, although his sex is hardly
noticed before the tantric period. He is not a male deity like
Krishna, but a strong, bright spirit and like the Christian archangels
above sexual distinctions. No female form of him is reported from
Tibet and this confirms the idea that none was known in India,[36] and
that the change was made in China. It was probably facilitated by the
worship of Târâ and of Hâritî, an ogress who was converted by the
Buddha and is frequently represented in her regenerate state caressing
a child. She is mentioned by Hsüan Chuang and by I-Ching who adds that
her image was already known in China. The Chinese also worshipped a
native goddess called T’ien-hou or T’ou-mu. Kuan-yin was also
identified with an ancient Chinese heroine called Miao-shên.[37] This
is parallel to the legend of Ti-tsang (Kshitigarbha) who, though a
male Bodhisattva, was a virtuous maiden in two of his previous
existences. Evidently Chinese religious sentiment required a Madonna
and it is not unnatural if the god of mercy, who was reputed to assume
many shapes and to give sons to the childless, came to be thought of
chiefly in a feminine form. The artists of the T’ang dynasty usually
represented Avalokita as a youth with a slight moustache and the
evidence as to early female figures does not seem to me strong,[38]
though _a priori_ I see no reason for doubting their existence. In
1102 a Chinese monk named P’u-ming published a romantic legend of
Kuan-yin’s earthly life which helped to popularize her worship. In
this and many other cases the later developments of Buddhism are due
to Chinese fancy and have no connection with Indian tradition.

Târâ is a goddess of north India, Nepal and the Lamaist Church and
almost unknown in China and Japan. Her name means she who causes to
cross, that is who saves, life and its troubles being by a common
metaphor described as a sea. Târâ also means a star and in Puranic
mythology is the name given to the mother of Buddha, the planet
Mercury. Whether the name was first used by Buddhists or Brahmans is
unknown, but after the seventh century there was a decided tendency to
give Târâ the epithets bestowed on the Śaktis of Śiva and assimilate
her to those goddesses. Thus in the list of her 108 names[39] she is
described among other more amiable attributes as terrible, furious,
the slayer of evil beings, the destroyer, and Kâlî: also as carrying
skulls and being the mother of the Vedas. Here we have if not the
borrowing by Buddhists of a Śaiva deity, at least the grafting of
Śaiva conceptions on a Bodhisattva.

The second great Bodhisattva Mañjuśrî[40] has other similar names,
such as Mañjunâtha and Mañjughosha, the word Mañju meaning sweet or
pleasant. He is also Vagîśvara, the Lord of Speech, and Kumârabhûta,
the Prince, which possibly implies that he is the Buddha’s eldest son,
charged with the government under his direction. He has much the same
literary history as Avalokita, not being mentioned in the Pali Canon
nor in the earlier Sanskrit works such as the Lalita-vistara and
Divyâvadâna. But his name occurs in the Sukhâvatî-vyûha: he is the
principal interlocutor in the Lankâvatâra sûtra and is extolled in the
Ratna-karaṇḍaka-vyûha-sûtra.[41] In the greater part of the Lotus he
is the principal Bodhisattva and instructs Maitreya, because, though
his youth is eternal, he has known many Buddhas through innumerable
ages. The Lotus[42] also recounts how he visited the depths of the sea
and converted the inhabitants thereof and how the Lord taught him what
are the duties of a Bodhisattva after the Buddha has entered finally
into Nirvana. As a rule he has no consort and appears as a male
Athene, all intellect and chastity, but sometimes Lakshmî or Sarasvatî
or both are described as his consorts.[43]

His worship prevailed not only in India but in Nepal, Tibet, China,
Japan and Java. Fa-Hsien states that he was honoured in Central India,
and Hsüan Chuang that there were stupas dedicated to him at
Muttra.[44] He is also said to have been incarnate in Atîsa, the
Tibetan reformer, and in Vairocana who introduced Buddhism to Khotan,
but, great as is his benevolence, he is not so much the helper of
human beings, which is Avalokita’s special function, as the
personification of thought, knowledge, and meditation. It is for this
that he has in his hands the sword of knowledge and a book. A
beautiful figure from Java bearing these emblems is in the Berlin
Museum.[45] Miniatures represent him as of a yellow colour with the
hands (when they do not carry emblems) set in the position known as
teaching the law.[46] Other signs which distinguish his images are the
blue lotus and the lion on which he sits.

An interesting fact about Mañjuśrî is his association with China,[47]
not only in Chinese but in late Indian legends. The mountain
Wu-t’ai-shan in the province of Shan-si is sacred to him and is
covered with temples erected in his honour.[48] The name (mountain of
five terraces) is rendered in Sanskrit as Pancaśîrsha, or Pancaśikha,
and occurs both in the Svayambhû Purâṇa and in the text appended to
miniatures representing Mañjuśrî. The principal temple is said to have
been erected between 471 and 500 A.D. I have not seen any statement
that the locality was sacred in pre-Buddhist times, but it was
probably regarded as the haunt of deities, one of whom–perhaps some
spirit of divination–was identified with the wise Mañjuśrî. It is
possible that during the various inroads of Græco-Bactrians,
Yüeh-Chih, and other Central Asian tribes into India, Mañjuśrî was
somehow imported into the pantheon of the Mahayana from China or
Central Asia, and he has, especially in the earlier descriptions, a
certain pure and abstract quality which recalls the Amesha-Spentas of
Persia. But still his attributes are Indian, and there is little
positive evidence of a foreign origin. I-Ching is the first to tell us
that the Hindus believed he came from China.[49] Hsüan Chuang does not
mention this belief, and probably did not hear of it, for it is an
interesting detail which no one writing for a Chinese audience would
have omitted. We may therefore suppose that the idea arose in India
about 650 A.D. By that date the temples of Wu-t’ai-Shan would have had
time to become celebrated, and the visits paid to India by
distinguished Chinese Buddhists would be likely to create the
impression that China was a centre of the faith and frequented by
Bodhisattvas.[50] We hear that Vajrabodhi (about 700) and Prajña (782)
both went to China to adore Mañjuśrî. In 824 a Tibetan envoy arrived
at the Chinese Court to ask for an image of Mañjuśrî, and later the
Grand Lamas officially recognized that he was incarnate in the
Emperor.[51] Another legend relates that Mañjuśrî came from
Wu-t’ai-Shan to adore a miraculous lotus[52] that appeared on the lake
which then filled Nepal. With a blow of his sword he cleft the
mountain barrier and thus drained the valley and introduced
civilization. There may be hidden in this some tradition of the
introduction of culture into Nepal but the Nepalese legends are late
and in their collected form do not go back beyond the sixteenth

After Avalokita and Mañjuśrî the most important Bodhisattva is
Maitreya,[53] also called Ajita or unconquered, who is the only one
recognized by the Pali Canon.[54] This is because he does not stand on
the same footing as the others. They are superhuman in their origin as
well as in their career, whereas Maitreya is simply a being who like
Gotama has lived innumerable lives and ultimately made himself worthy
of Buddhahood which he awaits in heaven. There is no reason to doubt
that Gotama regarded himself as one in a series of Buddhas: the Pali
scriptures relate that he mentioned his predecessors by name, and also
spoke of unnumbered Buddhas to come.[55] Nevertheless Maitreya or
Metteyya is rarely mentioned in the Pali Canon.[56]

He is, however, frequently alluded to in the exegetical Pali
literature, in the Anâgata-vaṃsa and in the earlier Sanskrit works
such as the Lalita-vistara, the Divyâvadâna and Mahâvastu. In the
Lotus he plays a prominent part, but still is subordinate to Mañjuśrî.
Ultimately he was eclipsed by the two great Bodhisattvas but in the
early centuries of our era he received much respect. His images are
frequent in all parts of the Buddhist world: he was believed to watch
over the propagation of the Faith,[57] and to have made special
revelations to Asaṅga.[58] In paintings he is usually of a golden
colour: his statues, which are often gigantic, show him standing or
sitting in the European fashion and not cross-legged. He appears to be
represented in the earliest Gandharan sculptures and there was a
famous image of him in Udyâna of which Fa-Hsien (399-414 A.D.) speaks
as if it were already ancient.[59] Hsüan Chuang describes it as well
as a stupa erected[60] to commemorate Sâkyamuni’s prediction that
Maitreya would be his successor. On attaining Buddhahood he will
become lord of a terrestrial paradise and hold three assemblies under
a dragon flower tree,[61] at which all who have been good Buddhists in
previous births will become Arhats. I-Ching speaks of meditating on
the advent of Maitreya in language like that which Christian piety
uses of the second coming of Christ and concludes a poem which is
incorporated in his work with the aspiration “Deep as the depth of a
lake be my pure and calm meditation. Let me look for the first
meeting under the Tree of the Dragon Flower when I hear the deep
rippling voice of the Buddha Maitreya.”[62] But messianic ideas were
not much developed in either Buddhism or Hinduism and perhaps the
figures of both Maitreya and Kalkî owe something to Persian legends
about Saoshyant the Saviour.

The other Bodhisattvas, though lauded in special treatises, have left
little impression on Indian Buddhism and have obtained in the Far East
most of whatever importance they possess. The makers of images and
miniatures assign to each his proper shape and colour, but when we
read about them we feel that we are dealing not with the objects of
real worship or even the products of a lively imagination, but with
names and figures which have a value for picturesque but conventional

Among the best known is Samantabhadra, the all gracious,[63] who is
still a popular deity in Tibet and the patron saint of the sacred
mountain Omei in China, with which he is associated as Mañjuśrî with
Wu-t́ai-shan. He is represented as green and riding on an elephant. In
Indian Buddhism he has a moderately prominent position. He is
mentioned in the Dharmasangraha and in one chapter of the Lotus he is
charged with the special duty of protecting those who follow the law.
But the Chinese pilgrims do not mention his worship.

Mahâsthâmaprâpta[64] is a somewhat similar figure. A chapter of the
Lotus (XIX) is dedicated to him without however giving any clear idea
of his personality and he is extolled in several descriptions of
Sukhâvatî or Paradise, especially in the Amitâyurdhyâna-sûtra.
Together with Amitâbha and Avalokita he forms a triad who rule this
Happy Land and are often represented by three images in Chinese

Vajrapâṇi is mentioned in many lists of Bodhisattvas (_e.g._ in the
Dharmasangraha) but is of somewhat doubtful position as Hsüan Chuang
calls him a deva.[65] Historically his recognition as a Bodhisattva is
interesting for he is merely Indra transformed into a Buddhist. The
mysterious personages called Vajradhara and Vajrasattva, who in later
times are even identified with the original Buddha spirit, are further
developments of Vajrapâṇi. He owes his elevation to the fact that
_Vajra_, originally meaning simply thunderbolt, came to be used as a
mystical expression for the highest truth.

More important than these is Kshitigarbha, Ti-tsang or Jizō[66] who in
China and Japan ranks second only to Kuan-yin. Visser has consecrated
to him an interesting monograph[67] which shows what strange changes
and chances may attend spirits and how ideal figures may alter as
century after century they travel from land to land. We know little
about the origin of Kshitigarbha. The name seems to mean Earth-womb
and he has a shadowy counterpart in Akâśagarbha, a similar deity of
the air, who it seems never had a hold on human hearts. The Earth is
generally personified as a goddess[68] and Kshitigarbha has some
slight feminine traits, though on the whole decidedly masculine. The
stories of his previous births relate how he was twice a woman: in
Japan he was identified with the mountain goddess of Kamado, and he
helps women in labour, a boon generally accorded by goddesses. In the
pantheon of India he played an inconspicuous part,[69] though reckoned
one of the eight great Bodhisattvas, but met with more general esteem
in Turkestan, where he began to collect the attributes afterwards
defined in the Far East. It is there that his history and
transformations become clear.

He is primarily a deity of the nether world, but like Amitâbha and
Avalokita he made a vow to help all living creatures and specially to
deliver them from hell. The Taoists pictured hell as divided into ten
departments ruled over by as many kings, and Chinese fancy made
Ti-tsang the superintendent of these functionaries. He thus becomes
not so much a Saviour as the kindly superintendent of a prison who
preaches to the inmates and willingly procures their release. Then we
hear of six Ti-tsangs, corresponding to the six worlds of sentient
beings, the gracious spirit being supposed to multiply his personality
in order to minister to the wants of all. He is often represented as a
monk, staff in hand and with shaven head. The origin of this guise is
not clear and it perhaps refers to his previous births. But in the
eighth century a monk of Chiu Hua[70] was regarded as an incarnation
of Ti-tsang and after death his body was gilded and enshrined as an
object of worship. In later times the Bodhisattva was confused with
the incarnation, in the same way as the portly figure of Pu-tai,
commonly known as the laughing Buddha, has been substituted for
Maitreya in Chinese iconography.

In Japan the cult of the six Jizōs became very popular. They were
regarded as the deities of roads[71] and their effigies ultimately
superseded the ancient phallic gods of the crossways. In this martial
country the Bodhisattva assumed yet another character as Shōgun Jizō,
a militant priest riding on horseback[72] and wearing a helmet who
became the patron saint of warriors and was even identified with the
Japanese war god, Hachiman. Until the seventeenth century Jizō was
worshipped principally by soldiers and priests, but subsequently his
cult spread among all classes and in all districts. His benevolent
activities as a guide and saviour were more and more emphasized: he
heals sickness, he lengthens life, he leads to heaven, he saves from
hell: he even suffers as a substitute in hell and is the special
protector of the souls of children amid the perils of the underworld.
Though this modern figure of Jizō is wrought with ancient materials,
it is in the main a work of Japanese sentiment.


[Footnote 5: In dealing with the Mahayanists, I use the expression
Śâkyamuni in preference to Gotama. It is their own title for the
teacher and it seems incongruous to use the purely human name of
Gotama in describing doctrines which represent him as superhuman.]

[Footnote 6: But Kings Hsin-byu-shin of Burma and Śrî Sûryavaṃsa Râma
of Siam have left inscriptions recording their desire to become
Buddhas. See my chapters on Burma and Siam below. Mahayanist ideas may
easily have entered these countries from China, but even in Ceylon the
idea of becoming a Buddha or Bodhisattva is not unknown. See _Manual
of a Mystic_ (P.T.S. 1916), pp. xviii and 140.]

[Footnote 7: _E.g._ in Itivuttakam 75, there is a description of the
man who is like a drought and gives nothing, the man who is like rain
in a certain district and the man who is Sabbabhûtânukampako,
compassionate to all creatures, and like rain falling everywhere.
Similarly _Ib._ 84, and elsewhere, we have descriptions of persons
(ordinary disciples as well as Buddhas) who are born for the welfare
of gods and men bahujanahitâya, bahujanasukhâya, lokânukampâya,
atthâya, hitâya, sukhâya devamanussânam.]

[Footnote 8: Ed. Senart, vol. I. p. 142.]

[Footnote 9: The Bodhicaryâvatâra was edited by Minayeff, 1889 and
also in the _Journal of the Buddhist Text Society_ and the
_Bibliotheca Indica_. De la Vallée Poussin published parts of the text
and commentary in his _Bouddhisme_ and also a translation in 1907.]

[Footnote 10: The career of the Bodhisattva is also discussed in
detail in the Avatamsaka sûtra and in works attributed to Nâgârjuna
and Sthiramati, the Lakshaṇa-vimukta-hṛidaya-śâstra and the
Mahâyâna-dharma-dhâtvaviśeshata-śâstra. I only know of these works as
quoted by Teitaro Suzuki.]

[Footnote 11: See Childers, _Pali Dict._ s.v. Patti, Pattianuppadânam
and Puñño.]

[Footnote 12: It occurs in the Pali Canon, _e.g._ Itivuttakam 100.
Tassa me tumhe puttâ orasâ, mukhato jâtâ, dhammajâ.]

[Footnote 13: See Sylvain Lévi, _Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra_: introduction
and passim. For much additional information about the Bhûmis see De la
Vallée Poussin’s article “Bodhisattva” in _E.R.E._]

[Footnote 14: Eminent doctors such as Nâgârjuna and Asanga are often
described as Bodhisattvas just as eminent Hindu teachers, _e.g._
Caitanya, are described as Avatâras.]

[Footnote 15: The idea that Arhats may postpone their entry into
Nirvana for the good of the world is not unknown to the Pali Canon.
According to the Maha Parin-Sutta the Buddha himself might have done
so. Legends which cannot be called definitely Mahayanist relate how
Piṇḍola and others are to tarry until Maitreya come and how Kâśyapa
in a less active role awaits him in a cave or tomb, ready to revive at
his advent. See _J.A._ 1916, II. pp. 196, 270.]

[Footnote 16: _E.g._ Lotus, chap. I.]

[Footnote 17: De la Vallée Poussin’s article “Avalokita” in _E.R.E._
may be consulted.]

[Footnote 18: Lotus, _S.B.E._ XXI. p. 407.]

[Footnote 19: sPyan-ras-gzigs rendered in Mongol by Nidübär-üdzäkci.
The other common Mongol name Ariobalo appears to be a corruption of

[Footnote 21: A maidservant in the drama Mâlatîmâdhava is called
Avalokita. It is not clear whether it is a feminine form of the divine
name or an adjective meaning looked-at, or admirable.]

[Footnote 22: _S.B.E._ XXI. pp. 4 and 406 ff. It was translated in
Chinese between A.D. 265 and 316 and chap. XXIV was separately
translated between A.D. 384 and 417. See Nanjio, Catalogue Nos. 136,
137, 138.]

[Footnote 23: Hsüan Chuang (Watters, II. 215, 224) relates how an
Indian sage recited the Sui-hsin dhârani before Kuan-tzǔ-tsai’s image
for three years.]

[Footnote 24: As will be noticed from time to time in these pages, the
sudden appearance of new deities in Indian literature often seems
strange. The fact is that until deities are generally recognized,
standard works pay no attention to them.]

[Footnote 25: Watters, vol. II. pp. 228 ff. It is said that Potalaka
is also mentioned in the Hwa-yen-ching or Avatamsaka sûtra. Tibetan
tradition connects it with the Śâkya family. See Csoma de Körös,
Tibetan studies reprinted 1912, pp. 32-34.]

[Footnote 26: Just as the Lankâvatâra sûtra purports to have been
delivered at _Lankapura-samudra-malaya-śikhara_ rendered in the
Chinese translation as “in the city of Lanka on the summit of the
Malaya mountain on the border of the sea.”]

[Footnote 27: See Foucher, _Iconographie bouddhique_, 1900, pp. 100,

[Footnote 28: Varamudra.]

[Footnote 29: These as well as the red colour are attributes of the
Hindu deity Brahmâ.]

[Footnote 30: A temple on the north side of the lake in the Imperial
City at Peking contains a gigantic image of him which has literally a
thousand heads and a thousand hands. This monstrous figure is a
warning against an attempt to represent metaphors literally.]

[Footnote 31: Waddell on the Cult of Avalokita, _J.R.A.S._ 1894, pp.
51 ff. thinks they are not earlier than the fifth century.]

[Footnote 32: See especially Foucher, _Iconographie Bouddhique_,
Paris, 1900.]

[Footnote 33: See especially de Blonay, _Études pour servir à
l’histoire de la déesse bouddhique Târâ_, Paris, 1895. Târâ continued
to be worshipped as a Hindu goddess after Buddhism had disappeared and
several works were written in her honour. See Raj. Mitra, _Search for
Sk. MSS_. IV. 168, 171, X. 67.]

[Footnote 34: About the time of Hsüan Chuang’s travels Sarvajñâmitra
wrote a hymn to Târâ which has been preserved and published by de
Blonay, 1894.]

[Footnote 35: Chinese Buddhists say Târâ and Kuan-Yin are the same but
the difference between them is this. Târâ is an Indian and Lamaist
goddess _associated_ with Avalokita and in origin analogous to the
Saktis of Tantrism. Kuan-yin is a female form of Avalokita who can
assume all shapes. The original Kuan-yin was a male deity: male
Kuan-yins are not unknown in China and are said to be the rule in
Korea. But Târâ and Kuan-yin may justly be described as the same in so
far as they are attempts to embody the idea of divine pity in a

[Footnote 36: But many scholars think that the formula Om manipadme
hum, which is supposed to be addressed to Avalokita, is really an
invocation to a form of Śakti called Maṇipadmâ. A Nepalese
inscription says that “The Śâktas call him Śakti” (_E.R.E._ vol. II.
p. 260 and _J.A._ IX. 192), but this may be merely a way of saying
that he is identical with the great gods of all sects.]

[Footnote 37: Harlez, _Livre des esprits et des immortels_, p. 195,
and Doré, _Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine_, pp. 94-138.]

[Footnote 38: See Fenollosa, _Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art_ I.
pp. 105 and 124; Johnston, _Buddhist China_, 275 ff. Several Chinese
deities appear to be of uncertain or varying sex. Thus Chun-ti is
sometimes described as a deified Chinese General and sometimes
identified with the Indian goddess Marîcî. Yü-ti, generally masculine,
is sometimes feminine. See Doré, _l.c._ 212. Still more strangely the
Patriarch Aśvaghosha (Ma Ming) is represented by a female figure. On
the other hand the monk Ta Shêng (c. 705 A.D.) is said to have been an
incarnation of the female Kuan Yin. Mañjuśrî is said to be worshipped
in Nepal sometimes as a male, sometimes as a female. See Bendall and
Haraprasad, _Nepalese MSS_. p. lxvii.]

[Footnote 39: de Blonay, _l.c._ pp. 48-57.]

[Footnote 40: Chinese, Man-chu-shih-li, or Wên-shu; Japanese, Monju;
Tibetan, hJam-pahi-dbyans (pronounced Jam-yang). Mañju is good
Sanskrit, but it must be confessed that the name has a Central-Asian

[Footnote 41: Translated into Chinese 270 A.D.]

[Footnote 42: Chaps. XI. and XIII.]

[Footnote 43: A special work Mañjuśrîvikrîḍita (Nanjio, 184, 185)
translated into Chinese 313 A.D. is quoted as describing Mañjuśrî’s
transformations and exploits.]

[Footnote 44: Hsüan Chuang also relates how he assisted a philosopher
called Ch’en-na (=Diṅnâga) and bade him study Mahayanist books.]

[Footnote 45: It is reproduced in Grünwedel’s _Buddhist Art in India_.
Translated by Gibson, 1901, p. 200.]

[Footnote 46: Dharmacakramudra.]

[Footnote 47: For the Nepalese legends see S. Levi, _Le Nepal_,

[Footnote 48: For an account of this sacred mountain see Edkins,
_Religion in China_, chaps. XVII to XIX.]

[Footnote 49: See I-tsing, trans. Takakusu, 1896, p. 136. For some
further remarks on the possible foreign origin of Mañjuśrî see below,
chapter on Central Asia. The verses attributed to King Harsha (Nanjio,
1071) praise the reliquaries of China but without details.]

[Footnote 50: Some of the Tantras, _e.g._ the Mahâcînakramâcâra, though
they do not connect Mañjuśrî with China, represent some of their most
surprising novelties as having been brought thence by ancient sages
like Vasishṭha.]

[Footnote 51: _J.R.A.S._ new series, XII. 522 and _J.A.S.B_. 1882, p.
41. The name Manchu perhaps contributed to this belief.]

[Footnote 52: It is described as a Svayambhû or spontaneous
manifestation of the Âdi-Buddha.]

[Footnote 53: Sanskrit, Maitreya; Pali, Metteyya; Chinese, Mi-li;
Japanese, Miroku; Mongol, Maidari; Tibetan, Byams-pa (pronounced
Jampa). For the history of the Maitreya idea see especially Péri,
_B.E.F.E.O._ 1911, pp. 439-457.]

[Footnote 54: But a Siamese inscription of about 1361, possibly
influenced by Chinese Mahayanism, speaks of the ten Bodhisattvas
headed by Metteyya. See _B.E.F.E.O._ 1917, No. 2, pp. 30, 31.]

[Footnote 55: _E.g._ in the Mahâparinibbâna Sûtra.]

[Footnote 56: Dig. Nik. XXVI. 25 and Buddhavamsa, XXVII. 19, and even
this last verse is said to be an addition.]

[Footnote 57: See _e.g._ Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, I. 239.]

[Footnote 58: See Watters and Péri in _B.E.F.E.O._ 1911, 439. A temple
of Maitreya has been found at Turfan in Central Asia with a Chinese
inscription which speaks of him as an active and benevolent deity
manifesting himself in many forms.]

[Footnote 59: He has not fared well in Chinese iconography which
represents him as an enormously fat smiling monk. In the Liang dynasty
there was a monk called Pu-tai (Jap. Hotei) who was regarded as an
incarnation of Maitreya and became a popular subject for caricature.
It would appear that the Bodhisattva himself has become superseded by
this cheerful but undignified incarnation.]

[Footnote 60: The stupa was apparently at Benares but Hsüan Chuang’s
narrative is not clear and other versions make Râjagṛiha or Srâvasti
the scene of the prediction.]

[Footnote 61: Campa. This is his bodhi tree under which he will obtain
enlightenment as Sâkyamuni under the _Ficus religiosa_. Each Buddha
has his own special kind of bodhi tree.]

[Footnote 62: _Record of the Buddhist religion_, Trans. Takakusu, p.
213. See too Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, II. 57, 144, 210, 215.]

[Footnote 63: Chinese P’u-hsien. See Johnston, _From Peking to
Mandalay_, for an interesting account of Mt. Omei.]

[Footnote 64: Or Mahâsthâna. Chinese, Tai-shih-chih. He appears to be
the Arhat Maudgalyâyana deified. In China and Japan there is a marked
tendency to regard all Bodhisattvas as ancient worthies who by their
vows and virtues have risen to their present high position. But these
euhemeristic explanations are common in the Far East and the real
origin of the Bodhisattvas may be quite different.]

[Footnote 65: _E.g._ Watters, I. p. 229, II. 215.]

[Footnote 66: Kshitigarbha is translated into Chinese as Ti-tsang and
Jizō is the Japanese pronunciation of the same two characters.]

[Footnote 67: In _Ostasiat. Ztsft_. 1913-15. See too Johnston,
_Buddhist China_, chap. VIII.]

[Footnote 68: The Earth goddess is known to the earliest Buddhist
legends. The Buddha called her to witness when sitting under the Bo

[Footnote 69: Three Sûtras, analysed by Visser, treat of Kshitigarbha.
They are Nanjio, Nos. 64, 65, 67.]

[Footnote 70: A celebrated monastery in the portion of An-hui which
lies to the south of the Yang-tse. See Johnston, _Buddhist China_,
chaps, VIII, IX and X.]

[Footnote 71: There is some reason to think that even in Turkestan
Kshitigarbha was a god of roads.]

[Footnote 72: In Annam too Jizō is represented on horseback.]


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: