Buddhist Statuary / 仏像

In Japan, Butsuzo / 仏像, Buddhist statuary, is classified into the 4 major following groups, Nyorai/如来, Bosatsu/菩薩, Myo-o/明王 and Ten/天.


Nyorai, called Tathagata in Sanskrit, literally meaning is one who has came from the truth. It is the highest title given to one who has attained enlightenment after the enduring rigorous training and practice.


- 大日如来 -

Dainichi Nyorai, called Mahavairocana in Sanskrit. The highest ranked Buddha in the center of the Esoteric Buddhism and all Buddhas are thought of as Dainichi Nyorai’s incarnation.
The chiken-in/智拳印 mudra is a unique signature by Dainichi Nyorai. It is a powerful mudra concentrating all energy and symbolizes deep wisdom. The right hand stands for Buddha and the left hand stands for the sentient beings, this meaning is that the wisdom of Buddha wraps the sentient beings.


- 釈迦如来 -

Shaka Nyorai/Buddha, called Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama in Sanskrit, is known as the founder of Buddhism in 6th century BC.
Many Shaka Nyorai statues are holding the semui-in/施無畏印 mudra, raising right hand with palm facing out, and the yogan-in/与願印 mudra, putting left hand with palm facing up.

Medicine Buddha

- 薬師如来 -

Yakushi Nyorai/Medicine Buddha, called Bhaisajyaguru in Sanskrit, offers help to believers suffering from hardships such as sickness and poverty. Yakushi Nyorai statue is said to have a benefit particularly for disease healing, and often has a medicine jar.


- 阿弥陀如来 -

Amida Nyorai/Buddha of infinite light, called Amitabha in Sanskrit. It is said to come and pick up one, who accumulated merit and recites the chant “Namo Amitaabha/南無阿弥陀仏”, in the end of the death, and take to blissful pure land/極楽浄土.

Bosatsu, called Bodhisattva in Sanskrit, literally meaning is one in search of enlightenment, is a Buddha of mercy that lives by the sentient beings and saves everyone equally. The common feature of Bosatsu statue is its feminine gentle expression and physical appearance.


- 弥勒菩薩 -

Miroku Bosatsu/Future Bodhisattva, called Maitreya in Sanskrit.
Maitreya is a bodhisattva (a trainee) who is now promised to become Buddha next to the Buddha/Shaka Nyorai. It is said to appear in this world in the future after 5.7 billion years after the Buddha's death, to realize enlightenment and to salvage a lot of people.


- 観音菩薩 -

Kannon Bosatsu/Guanyin/Goddess of Mercy, called Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit. There are many names such as Kannon Bosatsu, Kanseon Bosatsu, but in Japan it is commonly called "Kannon-sama" with familiarity. It is commonly known in English as Goddess of Mercy or mercy god, but it is depicted as both male and female and shows infinite transcendence beyond gender.
According to Lotus Sutra, Kannon Bosatsu is said to appear as transforming into a figure of 33 according to sentient beings in order to save them. This is called Fumonjigen/普門示現 by Kannon Bosatsu. The figure of 33 found in Sanjusangendo etc, comes from here.
For this reason, there are various forms of statues called Henge Kannon, such as Sho Kannon, Juichimen Kannon, and Senju Kannon, made by the doctrine of Esoteric Buddhism. And it is often expressed in a superhuman appearance.


- 地蔵菩薩 -

Jizo Bosatsu/Kshitigarbha, called Ksitigarbha in Sanskrit. After Buddha's death, the Buddha will be absent in this world until Maitreya Bodhisattva emerges, so during that time, Jizo Bosatsu will save sentient beings circling the Rokugo, six painful suffering worlds in which those who are lost circle around.
In Japan, in particular, it is regarded as a guardian of a children, and in general, it is called "Jizo san", "Jizo-sama" with familiarity.

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