Who's Who on the Gohonzon?

by Rev. Ryuei Michael McCormick

This Great Mandala is #81 in the GohonzonShu...

Fudo Myo-o

Aizen Myo-o

The most common Gohonzon issued by Nichiren Shu to its members (made of silk)

The Vidyarajas

Myo-o ~ Knowledge Kings

These esoteric deities are the kings of mystic knowledge who represent the power of the Buddhas to vanquish blind craving. They are known as the the kings of mystic knowledge because they wield the mantras, which are the mystical spells made up of Sanskrit syllables imbued with the power to protect practitioners of the Dharma from all harm and evil influences. The Vidyarajas appear in terrifying wrathful forms because they embody the indomitable energy of compassion which breaks down all obstacles to wisdom and liberation.

There are two groups of Vidyarajas which are well known. The most famous is the group of five led by Fudo Myo-o. These five are the emanations of the Buddhas of the four cardinal directions and the center which figure prominently in esoteric Buddhist practice. There is also a group of eight, which includes Aizen Myo-o, who are emanations of bodhisattvas.

The two Vidyarajas who appear on the Omandala are Achalanatha and Ragaraja, known in Japanese as Fudo Myo-o and Aizen Myo-o respectively. The are each represented by their respective bijas, "seed syllables" that embody their essence. In this case, the seed syllables are written in Siddham, a variant of Sanskrit. They are the only parts of the Omandala written in the form of Sanskrit bijas. According to Jacqueline Stone, Fudo Myo-o and Aizen Myo-o represent, "respectively, the doctrines of 'samsara is nirvana' (shoji soku nehan) and 'the defilements are bodhi' (bonno soku bodai)." (Original Enlightenment, p.277) The first principle means that nirvana is not another realm but the true reality of the world of birth and death. The second principle means that bodhi, or enlightenment, is not the eradication of the defilements, but their liberation and transmutation into the wholesome energy of the enlightened mind.

Fudo Myo-o and Aizen Myo-o are sometimes identified with the Ni-o, the Two Kings, who are a dual form of Mahavairochana Tathagata (Dainichi Nyorai), who is a personification of the Dharmakaya or universal body of the Buddha. As such, Fudo Myo-o represents the element of spirit or mind, the Diamond World Mandala, and subjective wisdom; while Aizen Myo-o represents the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and space, as well as the Womb World Mandala, and objective truth. Together the pair represent all of the things which are united in the universal life of the Buddha - body and mind, wisdom and truth, and the two mandalas. The Two Kings are often found guarding the main gates to temple and monasteries as fierce giant warriors.


The bija for Achalanatha Vidyaraja ~ Fudo Myo-o

The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism states:

"Chiefly represented in Japan, Fudo Myo-o, by his mystic name Joju Kongo, 'the eternal and immutable diamond', is the chief of the five great kings of magic science. The Sanskrit name for him, Acalanatha means 'immutable lord'. He is the Vidyaraja of the dark green or black body, the destroyer of the passions. In the doctrines of esotericism he is considered as a 'body of metamorphosis' (Nirmanakaya) of Vairocana, whose firmness of spirit and determination to destroy evil he personifies. His symbol is a vertically held sword around which winds a dragon (Japanese kurikara) surrounded by flames. His halo of flames is thought to consume the passions. He is described in many sutras and particularly in the Mahavairocana-sutra. He assumes 'faced with obstacles, the energy of the adept himself', thus demonstrating the power of compassion of Vairocana. His sword aids him to combat the 'three poisons': greed, anger, and ignorance. In the left hand he holds a lasso (pasa) to catch and bind the evil forces and to prevent them from doing harm. Fudo Myo-o, having taken a vow to prolong the life of the faithful by six months and to give them an unshakable resolution to conquer the forces of evil, is sometimes invoked in this respect as the 'prolonger of life'." (p.203)

The Guide also says:

"Due to his combative force, Fudo is invoked in many circumstances, chiefly against attacks of sickness - not because he is considered as a healer, but as an effective force to combat impurities and demons that cause illness. He is also invoked for protection against persons feared to be harmful and against spells cast by sorcerers. Fudo is also often considered as the defender of Japan against attack from external enemies. For all these reasons, he must be one of the Buddhist deities most often invoked in Japan, and also one of the most popular. The temples and sanctuaries dedicated to him are found throughout the countryside, in cities and at crossroads. Most of these temples belong to the Shingon and Tendai sects. Members of the Nichiren sect also worship him, mainly as the 'protector of the state'." (p.208)

Icon: A wrathful looking heavily muscled midnight blue monster with two prominent fangs sitting in full lotus posture on a rock and surrounded by flames. He holds an upright sword with a three pointed vajra handle in his right hand and a lasso with hooks in his left hand. He is dressed in green and red robes.


The bija for Ragaraja Vidyaraja ~ Aizen Myo-o

The Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Buddhism states:

"This Vidyaraja, who is venerated almost exclusively in Japan, is a deity of conception. He is the king of the magic science of attraction or of love. 'Aizen Myo-o represents in fact the amorous passion as it appears sublimated in the perspective of esotericism: victorious over itself, not by suppression as normally taught, but by a greater exaltation transmuted into a desire for Awakening.' He is sometimes identified with a ferocious form of Vairocana, although he is not one of the five great Vidyarajas. " (p.213)

The Guide also says:

"He is represented with a wrathful appearance. His colour is red, symbolizing the blood sweat of compassion. In his headdress is the head of a lion, symbolic of strength and of the five Great Buddhas. He has three eyes (to see the 'three worlds') and holds a lotus in the hand, symbolic of the calming of the senses, among other things. His other attributes are a bow and arrows. He has two round haloes included in a large 'burning wheel', red in colour. His half-open mouth reveals fangs." (p.214)

Finally, the Guide says:

"Aizen Myo-o is still venerated by the Japanese, and is often invoked in connection with petitions concerning love. Apart from this, he is not a popular deity except among artists, geishas and others in professions connected with matters of love." (p.214)

Icon: A wrathful looking heavily muscled red monster with sharp teeth, three eyes, and six arms sitting in full lotus on a lotus flower. One burning wheel forms an aureole around his head, and a larger one surrounds his body. He holds a bow and arrows, as well as a vajra and vajra bell, a lotus flower, and a pearl. He wears a lion in his headdress.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2002.

Lotus World by Rev. Ryuei
NewLotus World: an Illustrated Guide to the GohonzonNew
This portion of Nichiren's Coffeehouse was converted into a book to celebrate their 25th anniversary by the Nichiren Buddhist Temple of San Jose and the Rev. Ryuei Michael McCormick in 2005. Ryuei updated the text and it was illustrated by Matt Miller and Rika Williams. It is now the most comprehensive guidebook to Nichiren's Lotus Sutra Mandala in the English language and includes a framable 8.5x11 Pictoral Gohonzon of the Great Mandala of the Nichiren School!

If you have any questions, please Email Ryuei. To order this gem of a book, mail your check or money order for $20 (incl. shipping) to the Nichiren Buddhist Temple of San Jose.

Nichiren Buddhist Temple of San Jose
3570 Mona Way
San Jose, CA 95130

Table of Contents: The Odaimoku | The Buddhas | Four Bodhisattvas | Provisional Bodhisattvas | Esoteric Deities | The Shravaka Disciples | Vedic Deities | Four Heavenly Kings | More Devas... | Shinto Deities | Lineage Chart | Vedic Cosmology | Bibliography | GohonzonShu

More Articles by Ryuei
Odaimoku as Hua-t'ou
What is the Gohonzon?
Life of Nichiren Shonin
History of the Hokke-shu
Building the Treasure Tower
The Sole Efficacy of Odaimoku
Nam or Namu? Does it really matter?
Map of the Shutei Mandala
1. Dai Jikoku Tenno
2. Namu Muhengyo Bosatsu
3. Namu Jogyo Bosatsu
4. Namu Taho Nyorai
5. Namu Myoho Renge Kyo
6. Namu Shakyamuni Buddha
7. Namu Jyogyo Bosatsu
8. Namu Anryugyo Bosatsu
9. Dai Bishamon Tenno
10. Fudo Myo-o
11. Dai Nittenno (Sun)
12. Dairokuten Ma-o (Mara)
13. Dai Bontenno (Brahma)
14. Namu Sharihotsu Sonja
15. Namu Yaku-o Bosatsu
16. Namu Monjushiri Bosatsu
17. Namu Fugen Bosatsu
18. Namu Miroku Bosatsu
19. Namu Dai Kasho Sonja
20. Shakudaijannin Dai-o (Indra)
21. Dai Gattenji (Moon)
22. Myojo Tenji (Stars)
23. Aizen Myo-o
24. Daibadatta
25. Ashura King
26. Wheel Turning King
27. King Ajatashatru
28. Naga-raja (Dragon King)
29. Kishimojin (Demon Mother)
30. Jurasetsunyo
31. Namu Tendai Daishi
32. Namu Ryuju Bosatsu
33. Namu Myoraku Daishi
34. Namu Dengyo Daishi
35. Dai Komoko Tenno
36. "This Great Mandara was
for the first time revealed in the
Jambudvipa 2,220 and some years
after the extinction of the Buddha."

37. Tensho Daijin
38. The signature of Nichiren
39. Hachiman Dai Bosatsu
40. Dai Zocho Tenno
41. The 3rd month of the 3rd year
of Koan, Kanoe-tatsu

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