As we find our way along the way to enlightenment, trying to follow the path of wisdom we have heard about, we begin to make out an area ahead which is distinctly lighter. At first it is dim and unclear, but as we approach it becomes brighter. After a while, as we move more confidently and sure-footedly, it becomes a great light like the sun. Increasingly, this light seems to banish our ignorance like the sun dispelling dark clouds.
The light becomes even more golden and brilliant, until finally we can see its source. It is a figure, completely composed of golden-yellow light. It is a young man, perhaps sixteen years old, though there is a timeless youthfulness about him. He is sitting on a blue moon mat on a lotus throne. His well-proportioned body is adorned with precious jewels and colorful silks. He is handsome and smiling. With his right hand he gracefully and effortlessly wields a two-edged sword, around the tip of which can be seen dancing tongues of flame. The sword is there to cut off (and burn) the fetters of ignorance. The left gently grips the stem of which flowers into a pink lotus at his shoulder. This lotus supports a book (of wisdom) and over it stands another flaming sword.
Thus, following the path of Dharma, we have managed to come face to face with Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. Each and every aspect of his glowing countenance reverberates with the radiance of spiritual significance:
a). He is youthful, because wisdom is ever new and ever fresh.
b). He is handsome because wisdom involves aesthetic appreciation.
c). He is well-built because wisdom engenders true strength.
d). His face is smiling an intoxicated smile of self-absorbed bliss because with wisdom comes self-sufficiency and total contentment.
A Buddhist stupa in the upper left corner, modelled on Swayambunath stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal, clearly indicates the painting's provenance from the same area.
Of Related Interest:
Imaging Wisdom (Seeing and Knowing in the Art of Indian Buddhism)