Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Knowledge. He is actually the male embodiment of Perfection of wisdom and is second in importance only to Avalokiteshvara in Mahayana tradition. Manjushri's name, often translated as "Beautiful Glory", may equally accurately be translated as "Beautiful Goddess". In the Tantric understanding, Manjushri is recognized as fully enlightened Buddha. He manifests in highly esoteric forms, such as Yamantaka or Vajrabhairava and Dharmadhatu Vagishvara Manjushri also embodies the full enlightenment of Vairochana and manifests the entire Dharma, or teachings of Buddhism. Manjushri ensures that human will gain knowledge and insights provided have faith in the Dharma. He cleaves the clouds of ignorance with wisdom and brings light into darkness. This darkness has a double meaning, and is thus also spiritual darkness and ignorance.
Manjushri is the patron deity of Nepalese Buddhism. He is identified with the primordial Buddha Svayambhu and is the root teacher of Nepalese Buddhist Chakrasamvara practice. Moreover the cult of Manjushri is popular in Northern Buddhist countries. They conceived him in various forms and worshipped him with various mantras. Those, who could not form any conception of him according to Tantric rites, attained perfection only muttering his numerous mantras; he is believed to have been a wandering ascetic and the Gandavyuha Sutra records the tradition that he came out of Pratishthanakutagara and, accompanied by Bodhisattvas of his status and other divinities, led his journey to Dakshinapatha. Further it is also mentioned in the text about an assembly at Jetavana in which Manjushri, Samantabhadra, five thousand Bodhisattvas and Mahashravakas are said to have been present along with Buddha. A Chinese tradition records that Gautama Buddha informed Manjushri of his duty to turn the Wheel of Law for the salvation of the Chinese and choose Panchashira (five-peaked) mountain in Shan-si province in China as his place of manifestation. The association of Manjushri with China is also mentioned in the Svayambhu Purana in which it is mentioned that Manjushri was a great saint with many disciples and followers. He came from mount Panchashira, which was his abode, to Svayambhunath Kshetra in order to pay his respect to Adi Buddha who had manifested himself as a flame of fire on a mountain in lake Kalihrada, which is now the Nepal Valley. Manjushri erected a temple over the flame of fire and on a hillock and nearby he made his own abode, and also a vihara still known as the Manjupattana, for his disciples. He did many pious deeds there. He returned home after putting everything in proper order and soon attained the divine form of a Bodhisattva, leaving his mundane body behind. This tradition has led some scholars to propound the view that Manjushri was a historical character who brought civilization to Nepal from China. Arya- Manjusri-Mulakalpa and Sadhanamala describe a number of distinctive forms of the god for worship.
The present form of Manjushri is known as Arapachana. In this form he is to seated in vajraparyankasana, the right hand upraised with the wisdom sword and the left holding a manuscript held near his chest. But in many manifestations as in the case of present painting he does not carry the book against the chest, but holds the stem of a lotus flower, which bears the book. In this painting ever graceful Manjushri is seated in vajraparyankasana on a moon disk on a lotus flower against a brilliant aureole and moon disk with natural vegetation. He has a smiling face and his body is painted golden instead of white or red, the contribution of this color bringing increased merit to the donor. His hair is partly upswept in a knot with decoration on it and partly falls on his shoulders. He is adorned with a jeweled crown with flowers and ornaments of a prince, flowing scarf and floral dhoti. One white silk scarf is tied diagonally in his left shoulder.
This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma. His Doctorate thesis being: "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.)".
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