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Mañjuśrī

Mañjuśrī (Jap., Monju, Tib., ʾJam.paʾi.d-byangs). A great bodhisattva of the Mahāyāna tradition of Buddhism closely associated with learning, knowledge, and transcendental wisdom (prajñā). Mañjuśrī is prominent in Buddhist Tantra and is frequently invoked in ritual and depicted in mystic diagrams and maṇḍalas. In iconography he is portrayed with the sword of wisdom in his right hand and a book to his left-hand side. In Tibet, great teachers are often regarded as incarnations of Mañjuśrī, e.g. Tsong Khapa. He also appears in angry form, and as a yidam of that sort, is especially important in Gelugpa.

Mañjuśrī's name means Gentle Holy One, yet he has a terrifyingly wrathful form as the bull-headed Yamāntaka (Slayer of Death), who as Vajrabhairava has been chief protector of the Geluk since his sādhana (ritual practice) was institutionalized by Tsong Khapa. Vajrabhairava—the most common form of Yamāntaka—is blue-black in colour with eight wrathful heads surmounted by a ninth, peacefully smiling Mañjuśrī. That Mañjuśrī as the wisdom-overcoming-death should be wrathful is understandable by the nature of the task, but that a certain amount of wrathfulness is necessary in simply dealing with one's own ignorance is also suggested by the symbolism of the sword in his peaceful aspect.

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