Commonly referred to as The Great Three Bodhisattvas, it is based on the three foundation of Buddha practices: Wisdom, Compassion, and the Power of Enlightened Activity. The three lords pledged to stay in Samsara until all sentient beings are rescued, and they are
- Manjushri: Bodhisattva of Wisdom
- Avalokiteshvara: Bodhisattva of Compassion
- Vajrapani: Bodhisattva of Power
The great bodhisattvas Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani, were all renowned to the majority of Buddhist practitioners all across the Himalayas by the end of the 8th century. During the same period, many deities were in the Himalayan region. These three bodhisattvas, however, stand out as important figures for both ordinary people and monastic elites. These immortal bodhisattvas have nearly attained nirvana, but out of compassion, they hold off to help others break the rebirth cycle.
Source: Enlightenment Thangka
Manjushri: The Wisdom Bodhisattva
He signifies wisdom, unconstrained by conceptions or knowledge. Esoteric Buddhism reveres him as the "Meditational Deity". In Sanskrit, he is referred to as 'Prajna,' meaning 'gentle glory' and 'He who is noble and gentle.' He is the Bodhisattva with the most powerful understanding according to Mahayana Buddhism.
Manjushri, also known as the Bodhisattva of Great Wisdom, is one of the most prominent figures in Mahayana Buddhism. This Buddhist prince achieved enlightenment eons ago. He vowed to return to the dharma as a bodhisattva to share the teachings of the Buddha about voidness and selflessness. He is also one of Shakyamuni Buddha's chief disciples. Manjushri is mentioned in numerous intellectual talks by Shakyamuni Buddha. The Kathmandu Valley in Nepal was emptied by Manjushri in one of the most well-known tales, making it suitable for human habitation.
Iconography of Manjushri:
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To emphasize the idea of knowledge, he is portrayed as a sixteen-year-old kid in the Buddhist pantheon. He is depicted holding the fiery sword of wisdom with his right hand and with his left hand, he holds the Prajnaparamita book. The ideas come from the development of intellectual brilliance, which cuts straight to the core of reality rather than from simple experience. Manjushri appears in five distinct Tantric manifestations, which are as follows:
- Simhanada Manjushri
- Tikshna Manjushri
- Arapacana Manjushri
- Vimala Manjushri
- Jnanasattva Manjushri
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One of the most recognized illustrations of Manjushri is the depiction of the deity emblemed in the flaming sword holding his right hand. Here the significance of the sword is the mind's ability to free sentient beings from the chains that keep them trapped in the cycle of misery and delusion.
Flames are always symbolling of change in Buddhist art; his wisdom does not eradicate ignorance in the traditional sense but instead transforms it into Wisdom. The flames hint that the sword is not a literal one.
Manjushri's other significant characteristic is a lotus stem holding a book, which is held in his left hand. This book is the Perfection of Wisdom, the wellspring of his insight and a physical representation of it. The book is kept close to the heart in many forms.
Benefits of Reciting Manjushri Mantra:
The significance of chanting Manjushri's mantra is to increase their wisdom and develop their debate, memory, writing, and other literary skills.
Although OM is to embody the essence of the five pearls of knowledge, it can also signify awareness of the cosmos as a whole. This phrase, which often precedes a mantra, should be understood: "My mind and heart are open to the truths that follow."
A, ra, pa, ca, and na are the first five letters of the 42-letter syllabary known as the Arapacana. In the Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, the significance of each word is described as follows:
- A brings about the realization that all dharmas are unproduced from the start (adya-anutpannatvd).
- Realizing that all dharmas are pure is made possible by RA (rajas).
- The realization that all dharmas have been fully articulated is made possible through PA (paramartha).
- The realization that no dharma decline (cyavana) or rebirth can be understood because all dharmas do not decrease is made possible by CA.
- The realization that all dharmas' names (nama) have vanished and that the fundamental nature behind names cannot be acquired or lost is made possible by the practice of NA.
Avalokiteshvara: Bodhisattva of Compassion
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Avalokiteshvara is one of the most renowned figures in Buddhism. In Sanskrit, he is referred to as Avalokita- 'looking on,' ishivara-‘lord'. In Chinese Guanyin or Kuan-yin (Wade Giles Romanization), in Japanese- Kannon and, in Buddhism, and primarily in Mahayana Buddhism, the Bodhisattva ("buddha-to-be") of infinite compassion and mercy.
He is highly regarded in both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. He fully reigns among Bodhisattvas because of its essence, which may be defined as either male or female. Avalokiteshvara is said to be a male in Tibet and is known by the name Chenrezig.
Chenrezig is a Tibetan word that means to look at anything with compassion. He is supposed to embody the compassion of all the Buddhas, and when he looks out at people with that profound care, one cannot help but be moved. We can notice how serene and kind his pictures are. The thousand-armed, eleven-faced Chenrezig is regarded as the essence of all his manifestations.
Multiple manifestations of him are revered in many Buddhist traditions. There are Two-armed Red Avalokiteshvara, four-armed Red Avalokiteshvara, four-armed White Avalokiteshvara, Standing Avalokiteshvara,1000 armed Avalokiteshvara, and others.
Mantra of Avalokiteshvara:
The Mantra of Avalokiteshvara, "Om Mane Padme Hum," is one of the most popular mantras in Buddhism that Practitioners chant all around the world. Anyone who hears this calming sound is reported to become reliant on it. This mantra in the form of music is frequently played at Buddhist temples and Gumbas, which as a result, attracts every devotee. With prayer beads in their hands, many people chant this mantra. It is thought that reciting it with complete focus and faith can change a person.
Om: It is composed of three letters, A, U, and M. Om signifies Buddha's pure body and mind. It is believed to be the sound/ vibration of the universe that gives divine energy and cleanses away one's ego.
Ma: This represents helping sentient beings to let go of their attachment to temporary pleasures and feelings of jealously.
Ni: It helps us to cultivate patience with both ourselves and others while dissolving our attachments to desire. The word Mani translates to 'Jewel'
Pad: It encourages determination while dissolving our attachments to the countless prejudices and biased thoughts we hold.
Me: It helps us cultivate our cognitive skills while releasing our attachments to being possessive. The word Padme means lotus that represents wisdom.
Hum: It signifies the unity of all beings eliminating hatred, and aggression, and signifies enlightenment.
Vajrapani: Bodhisattva of Enlightened Activities
In Sanskrit, Vajra means 'thunderbolt/ diamond,' and Pani means 'in the hands.' He is one of the earliest Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism. He is believed to be the manifestation of a self-born Buddha, 'Aksobhya' and thought to be the Nagas' guardian. The mythical Garuda, which resembles a hawk, is the traditional nemesis of Nagas, which are half-human, half-serpent monsters. Vajrapani so occasionally adopts the appearance of a bird to mislead Garuda. Because of his connections to the Nagas, who regulate the rain, and to Indra, the Hindu deity of rain, he is invoked during droughts.
Iconography of Vajrapani:
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Vajrapani is portrayed as having a dark blue shade. Most people believe he receives this color from Aksobhya, the leader of the Vajra Family. However, this color also resembles a thunder cloud, which in the grand scheme represents his thunderous fury as well as his ancestry as a God of Thunder. Being portrayed as wrathful does not just mean that he rages without having any other traits. He actually stands for so much more than he is given credit for and embodies the strength, vitality, and fearlessness of the Buddhas.
He adopts the warrior stance, which is probably well-known to Hatha Yoga practitioners. Vajrapani is frequently pictured dancing wildly within a halo of flames. This is supposed to depict the awakening's transformational force. He is holding a vajra in his right outstretched hand and a demon-binding lasso in his left. With a loincloth woven from tiger hide slung around his hips, Vajrapani may be seen. He wears a Bodhisattva crown with five points.
The crown is adorned with five skulls. He has a snake wrapped around his neck and strange jewelry hanging from his abdomen.
Clouds and rain are frequently connected with snakes and dragons. They are consistent with Vajrapani's roots as a thunder god. Although Vajrapani appears to be angry, he is actually devoid of hatred since he is an embodiment of an enlightened mind.
Mantra of Vajrapani
Vajrapani's mantra, which refers to his name, is straightforward. It basically consists of the phrase "wielder of the thunderbolt," placed between the mystic Om and Hum. Despite how straightforward it may seem, the potency of this mantra allows us to connect with the unstoppable energy that Vajrapani represents. Of course, having a certain affinity with Vajrapani is helpful in this situation. However, the mantra's tone is already quite energizing.
Wisdom, Compassion and Power:
As the "Lords of the Three Worlds", the bodhisattvas Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani are revered in Tibet together. It isn't easy to pinpoint this tradition's beginnings in the Himalayas. In fact, this iconography was well established by the 14th century, when this manuscript cover depicting Manjushri flanked by Vajrapani and Avalokiteshvara was carved.
The core Buddhist principles of wisdom, compassion, and power are embodied by the great bodhisattvas Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani. While they each came into existence on their own, over time, the philosophies they stand for attracting the attention of the entire Buddhist monastic community, and as a result, they are mentioned in a number of Mahayana works. These three bodhisattvas did not become important deities deserving of solitary worship until the 8th century, in tandem with the popularization of Vajrayana traditions. These bodhisattvas gained prominence in the Himalayan regions of Tibet and Nepal, and several representations of them were commissioned. These visuals eventually expanded to include a variety of tantric forms.
These three bodhisattvas became revered at a popular level in the shape of three stupas that provided protection to nearby communities starting in at least the 17th century, if not much earlier. Together revered, these "Three Great Protectors" gave the faithful access to pure awareness, free from the illusion caused by ego charged with enlightenment energy.