Wisdom Library Logo

their history, iconography and progressive evolution through the northern Buddhist countries


Explanations of the Sanskrit (S.), Tibetan (T.), Chinese (C.), Mongolian (M.), and Japanese (J.) words used in the text.

Abhaya (S.) Mudra of Protection ('Blessing of Fearlessness') — the gesture of the right hand of the Buddha in the episode of the mad elephant. The arm is elevated and slightly bent. The hand is lifted, with the palm turned outward, and all the fingers are extended upward. Mudra of the Dipankara Buddha and of Amoghasiddha. (PI. vi, fig. c.)

Akasa (S.) Ether or void. According to Hodgson, dkdsa is

'established, governed, perfected by its own nature. All things are absorbed into it; it is uncreated or eternal; it is revealed by its own force; it is the essence of creation, preservation, and destruction; it is the essence of the five elements; it is intellectual essence . . . for infinite things are absorbed into it. The five colours are proper to it as well as the five Dhyani-Buddhas. From Vairocana proceeded akasa,

Alidha (S.) Attitude of drawing the bow. Attitude of Kurukulla.

Amrita (S.) Nectar of Life, called by the Chinese 'sweet dew'. v. Vajrapdni and kalasa.

Anjali (S.) mudra of Salutation. The aims are stretched upward, and both of the palms are turned upward with all the fingers extended. Attitude of Avalokitesvara (Tantra form) when holding a small image of Amitabha.

Ankusa (S.) Elephant goad.

Asana (S.)

1. Support of a god, or group of gods.

All of the Northern Buddhist divinities are represented either seated or standing on lotus supports, with but few exceptions. In Tibet and Nepal the lotus support is usually represented with two rows of petals, of which the outer row is turned down, while the inner row stands upright, thus representing an ufpala (blue lotus); but there may be more than two rows, and there are also examples, in Tibet, where all the petals stand upright, which is the usual form in Japan. In the temple paintings and frescoes from Central Asia, Kshitigarbha is sometimes represented (as well as the Dipankara Buddha) standing with a small lotus-flower under each foot.

According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddhas, when 'turning the Wheel of the Law', should be represented seated on a lion support (simkdsana). Manjusri may be seated on a throne supported by lions, instead of on a roaring lion. In the Chinese cave-temples of Yun-Kang and Long-men, Maitreya is seated on a lion-throne, European fashion, with the feet crossed. Yamantaka's throne may be supported by demons. Kuvera is sometimes seated on a kolbok, or dmna made of cushions.

The Vajrasana is the diamond throne on which the Buddha sat when meditating under the bodhi-tree, and the fact is indicated by a vajra lying before him on the lotus-throne. Instead of the vajra, there may be a svastika, marked on the throne, which probably refers to the esoteric doctrine of Buddha, for the svastika was adopted as a special symbol of the doctrine by several Buddhist sects.

2. A small support for the foot or feet of a god is also called asana, and is generally in the form of a small lotus-flower, with the stem attached to the lotus-throne. Maitreya, as Buddha, has usually no support for his two pendent feet, but as Bodhisattva each foot is supported by a small lotus-flower. The left foot of the green Tara has also a similar support, as well as the left foot of the Nio-i-rin Kwan-non in Japan. The left foot of Jambala may rest on a conch-shell, or a lai-bumpa which is supported by a lotus asana.

Some of the gods do not touch, directly, the lotus support.

Mahakala treads on one or two prostrate elephants.
Yama may stand on a man or a bull, or on a bull on top of a woman.
Yamantaka (eight legs) treads on eight birds under which are different animals.
Hevajra stands on animals and genii.
Samvara stands on a man and a woman.
Ts'angs-pa treads on a man and a prostrate horse.

3. An asana is also the position of the lower limbs of a god. In the ' adamantine ' pose the legs are closely locked with the soles of both feet apparent, while in the saliva attitude the legs are loosely locked and the soles of the feet scarcely visible. According to Waddell, this pose indicates the ' first emergence from meditation '. The attitude called rdjalUd or ' royal ease ' (by Hodgson, Lalita-dsana pose) is with the right knee raised, the left remaining bent in the usual position of a Buddha. In the ' enchanter's pose ' the left remains bent, while the right is pendent. Maitreya is seated with both of the legs pendent. The Nio-i-rin Kwan-non has the right foot supported by the left knee. The masculine Kwan-yin may also have this position in China when meditating upon the best means of saving mankind.

Asoka-flower. Attribute of the yellow Marlcl and of Kurukulla. The asoka-tree is called the tree of Consolation, and it was between the bod/d-tvee and the ah&a-tree that the Buddha was born. The asoka-flower is red, and should be represented somewhat like a rose in shape, with small jagged leaves.

Asura (S.) Lit. 'those who are not devas'. The asura are the mortal enemies of the devas.

Atapatra (S.) Parasol — symbol of the goddess Sitatapatra.

Aum! v. Om!

Beng (T.) Mace.

Bhagavat (S.) or Bhagavan. Epithet of a Buddha; lit. ' The Happy One '.

Bhikshu (S.) Buddhist monk. One who assumes the alarm staff (khakkhara) and beggingbowl (pdtra), and gives himself up to contemplation.

Bhumisparsa (S.) Mudra called 'witness' (lit. 'earth-touching'). The right arm is pendent over the right knee. The hand, with the palm turned inward, has all the fingers extended downward. The left hand lies on the lap, palm upward. This mystic gesture was used by Buddha to invoke the Earth-goddess as witness of his having resisted the temptation of Mara, god of Evil. It is also the mudra of Akshobhya. (PL VIII.)

Bija (S.) v. vija.

Bodhi (S.) Enlightenment.

Bodhi-druma (S.) Lit. 'Tree of Enlightenment'. Each Buddha has a special tree called his 'bo-tree' (or boddhi-tree), under which he is supposed to have been born, do penance, preach, and die. The 'bo-tree' under which Gautama Buddha is believed to have received bodhi is the figtree (Ficus religiosa), or, according to others, the banyan-tree (Pippala).

The Buddha is said to have seated himself in meditation under four different trees symbolizing the four stages of dhyana: under the fig-tree, the banyan-tree, the Mucalinda-tree (protected by the serpent), and the Rajayatana-tree.

Buddhasmarana (S.) Mudra of Salutation. The right hand is raised to a level with the head, with all the fingers extended upward, the palm outward.

Bum-pa (T.) v. kalasa.

Caitya (S.) or Stupa (T. Chorten). A Buddhist sanctuary.

In the open square of every vihdra (Buddhist monastery) there is a caitya dedicated to AdiBuddha and the five Dhyani-Buddhas. In Nepal, around the base (which may be square or quadrangular), are four niches, in which are placed the statues of the four Dhyani-Buddhas: Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddha. Vairocana is believed to occupy the interior, and in Java, according to Hodgson, his image is immured. Vajrasattva, the sixth Dhyani-Buddha, is never represented; hut as Adi-Buddha he is symbolized by the flame-shaped spike at the top of the caitya, in tbe centre of a moon-crescent (v. Vajrasattva).

In China, on the four sides of a pagoda, are placed stone images of the four great Bodhisattva:

  1. Ti-tsang (Kshitigarbha) on the south;
  2. Kwan-yin on the east;
  3. Wen-shu (Manjusri) on the west;
  4. P'u-hien (Samantabhadra) on the north.

The 'elemental' caitya of Tibet and Japan is made up of five parts superposed, representing the five elements. The lower structure which holds the relic is the first element, earth (garbha), and may be either bell-shaped or quadrangular. Above it is either a dome (if the lower structure is quadrangular) or a square capital (if the lower part is bell-shaped), which represents the second element, water. This part is surmounted by a tapering pinnacle, sometimes divided into thirteen step-like segments representing the thirteen Bodhisattva heavens, and is the third element, fire (v. PI. xix, fig. d). In the 'elemental' caitya the pinnacle is surmounted by a moon-crescent, representing the fourth element, air. In the centre of the moon-crescent is a /mya-shaped spike which represents the fifth element, ether.

There are, however, many variations of the caitya, especially in the upper part. The quadrangular cone often terminates, in Nepal, in a linga-shaped pinnacle which represents the Akanishtha Bhuvana of Adi-Buddha. This part is surmounted by a five-spoked umbrella, the spokes representing the five Dhyani-Buddhas; or there may be five umbrellas, one above the other. In Tibet the dome is usually inverted, being larger at the top than at the base (v. illus. in Waddell, Lamaism, p. 263).

Miniature caitya are often found in Tibet and Japan (PL XIII), and the cintamani is frequently replaced in Japan by a small caitya representing the Iron Tower in which were hidden the Buddhist Scriptures (v. Nagarjuna). As a symbol, it is held by Bishamon (the Japanese form of Kuvera) as well as by his Chinese form To-wen (v. PL liv), and by Ratnapani (PL xxix, fig. a), and MaricI (v. PL xl).

In the caves of Ellora, three circles placed side by side with the third on the top Ellora Icon, thus forming a triangle, symbolize a caitya as well as the Tri-ratna (v. Ratnapani).

Cakra (S.) Wheel, symbol of absolute completeness. In the Vedic times the wheel was symbolical of occult powers, but in Buddhism it symbolizes the Wheel of the Law, which turns twelve times, or three revolutions for each of the Four Noble Truths. It is represented with eight spokes (or multiples of eight), indicating the Eight-Fold Path of Self-Conquest.

The wheel is one of the sixty-five marks on the footprints of the Buddha, which, at Amaravati, are represented on the footstool below the vacant throne of the Buddha, behind which is also the Thousand-spoked Wheel of Victory. Buddhist legend relates that the Buddha, at his birth, took seven steps toward each of the four cardinal points, and thus indicated the conquering of the 'circle' or universe (v. temple painting in the Musee Guimet, Bacot Collection). The mystic mudra called dharmacakra represents the 'turning of the Wheel of the Law'.

In pre-Buddhist times a great ruler was called a 'Wheel King' (cakra-vartin), and at his investiture a golden wheel was believed to fall from heaven. The Pali term chakkavatti (chakka, wheel; vatti, ruler) was applied to the Buddha as the spiritual ruler of the world. In the earliest sculptures and frescoes the Master is symbolized by the Wheel, which is sometimes flanked by two gazelles. A trident may rise from the wheel (v. Trisula).

The wheel symbol was first represented as a sun-disc which developed into a full-blown lotus with the centre surrounded by eight petals, and from that it developed into a wheel with eight spokes.

The origin of the thousand-spoked wheel is also probably the sun and its rays. According to Hiuen-tsang, the 'diamond' throne (vajrasana) of the Buddha reposed on the circumference of a thousand-spoked wheel. (See illus. in Simpson, Buddhist Prayer Wheel, p. 48, fig. 12, and Havell, Indian Sculpture and Painting, PI. iv.) At the Buddha's Parinirvana, the thousandspoked wheel appeared outside of his coffin.

In Nepal the wheel of Vairocana is represented by the seed-vessel of the lotus, in the centre of which is the Nepalese Yin-yang.

The cakra is believed to symbolize Karma, 'a wheel of Fate that revolves relentlessly and ceaselessly'. It is the symbol of Maitreya, Vairocana, and Sitatapatra (when holding the parasol). Yama as well as Gon-po Bramzai wear it on the breast, and Sangdui has it in his head-dress. Ts'angs-pa may also hold the cakra.

Camara (S.) Tail of the yak used as a fly-whisk. Tantra symbol.

Campa (T). White flower with yellow centre, emblem of Maitreya, whose two symbols are supported by two campu flowers, of which he holds a stem in each hand. Campa is also the Tibetan name of Maitreya.

Candra (S.) Moon. The full moon is the special symbol of Sarva-nivarana-vishkambhin. Samvara has the crescent-moon in his head-dress, as does also Avalokitesvara when Simhanada. v. turya.

Capa (S.) Bow (of Mercy), attribute of Kurukulla, Cunda, (sixteen arms), Halahala-Avalokitesvara, and the red Marici.

Car ana (S.) Footprint. The footprints of MaBjusrI have an eye in the centre of the char an. The Buddha has the eight glorious emblems and the thousand-spoked wheel figured in his footprints. v. cakra.

Chodpan (T.) Five-leaved crown worn by the Northern Buddhist priests when worshipping the ' Eight Terrible Ones '.

Chorten (T.) Buddhist sanctuary, v. caiti/a.

Churi (S.) Knife. Tantra symbol.

Cintamani (S.) Lit. 'magic gem', which satisfies all desires (v. Mani). It is the special symbol of Kshitigarbha, Samantabhadra, Ratnapani, Ratnasambhava, and Mahakala, as well as of Jizo and the six-armed Nyo-i-rin Kwan-non. Avalokitesvara may also carry it, but rarely, and it is the accessory symbol of several other gods.

The cintamani is represented in several different ways. The mani, or jewels, may be nine in number, in which case they represent the nava ratna, or the nine jewels borrowed from Brahmanism. Or they may represent the sapta raffia, or seven precious jewels, much considered in Tibet and China (v. ratna). The mani may also be six, or only three in number (more frequent in Japan), representing the tri-ratna, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.

In the usual Tibetan representation of the cintamani, the mani are bunched together and are surrounded by a flame-shaped glory. They are represented like the profile of an elongated eyeball, and in Japan the three mani are often enclosed in a flaming pearl.

In China as well as in Japan the cintamani may take the form of a flaming pearl without the mani, the origin of which is possibly the luminous pearl sent to Miao Chen by the Dragon King of Sea (v. legend Miao Chen). In Japan, in the paintings, the flame around the pearl has three points, vaguely indicating a tri&ula. In the statues it may be without the flame, or represented with three lines of flames which meet at the top, dividing the pearl into three equal divisions (v. PI. xii, fig. b).

The flaming pearl may also take the place of the traditional form of the cintamani in Tibet (v. illustration of Mahakala, PI. l, fig. c).

In the frescoes discovered at Turfan by Herr von Le Coq, the Bodhisattva have the urna on the forehead and sometimes on the breast, outlined by a red flame, thus resembling the flaming pearl. Kshitigarbha is also represented in the frescoes from Chinese Turkestan holding a flaming pearl. In China Ratnapani may hold a pearl with a three-forked flame issuing from it. In Tibet the cintamani is represented in charms, supported by the airy horse, Lungta. The cintamani also takes the form of the stupa or caitya (v. Glossary).

According to the esoteric doctrine, the cintdmani, in pearl shape, is the symbol of the manas, the sixth sense. It is the ' glorious vesture of the soul ', the radiant vehicle of the divine essence which, united with matter, forms man. v. Yajradhdfu.

Dagoba (S.) Precious tower, v. caitya.

Damaru (S. and T.) Hand-drum. Tantra symbol supposed to be made of two half-skulls.

Danda (S.) Magic wand.

Dharani (S.) A magical prayer, or merely a suite of mystic syllables for the purpose of casting spells.

At the beginning and in the middle of a dharani is a mantra (see), and at the end is the mahatmya, or the purpose of the dharani; that is to say, for what particular thing the dharani is supposed to be efficacious — in bringing rain, or getting advantage over an enemy, or obtaining children, &c. (Illustration of dharani with miniature of the god to be evoked, PI. lxi.)

Dharma (S.) Buddhist Law. One of the Tri-ratna.

Dharmacakra (S.) Mudra of teaching. Lit. 'Law (dharma), wheel (cakra)', usually interpreted 'turning the Wheel of the Law'. In Tibetan it is called Thabdong-shesrab, lit. 'Wisdom-matter', or the union of the Spiritual with the Material.

The dharmacakra mudra varies somewhat according to the different schools and countries. The Indian mystic gesture is: the right hand at the breast, with the united tips of the index and thumb touching one of the fingers of the left hand, the palm being turned inward (for illustration see A. Foucher, Iconographie bouddhique, partie I, p. 88). In Tibet both hands are held against the breast with the left hand covering the right, but it may be below the right, which is upright, while the left is on a line with the fore-arm. (PI. xiv.) The Gandhara school differs considerably. The fingers of the right hand are closed, the palm turned inward. The index of the left hand is loosely held by the closed fingers of the right, while the thumb touches the closed fingers at the tip, and the other fingers of the left hand are loosely closed (Grunwedel, Buddhist Art in India, p. 173, and A. Foucher, L 'Art greco-bouddhique du Gandhara, p. 192). This gesture, in Japan, became the mudra of the Six Elements (v. Fairocana, and illustration, PL n, fig. a).

Dhyana (S.) Also called Samddhi. Mudra of meditation. The hands lie in the lap, the right on the left with all fingers extended, and the palms turned upward. In Japan the fingers are locked, with the exception of the thumbs and indexes, which touch at the tips and form the ' triangular ' pose (v. Vitarka). The indexes touch each other between the first and second joints, the palms being turned upward. (PI. xvin.)

Dhvaja (S.) Banner of Victory. Symbol of Vaisravana.

Dipa (S.) Lamp.

Dvipa (S.) Island.

Fuh-shou-kan (C.) A horned lemon, called by the common people in China 'Buddha fingers', from the finger-like tendrils of its base. It is sometimes in the hand of the Medicine Buddha.

Gaja (S.) Elephant, symbolizing 'care, caution, and a mighty dignity'. It is the support of Samantabhadra, and is represented in Tibet with one head, while in Japan, as support of Fugen, it has usually six tusks. The white elephant with six tusks symbolizes the reincarnation of the Buddha. The elephant support of Kongosatta has three or four heads. Mahakala treads on one or two elephants, and Samvara may have an elephant-skin over his shoulders. The elephant as a Northern Buddhist god is the demon Vinataku.

Garbhadhatu (S.) Matrix element, v. Fajradhdtu.

Ghanta (S.) Bell with vajra handle carried by Vajradhara, Vajrasattva, and Trailokya-vijaya.

Grigng (T.) Chopper. Tantra symbol.

Hinayana (S.) Lit. hina = small, yana = conveyance. In other words, the simplest vehicle of salvation, doctrine of Sakya-muni; v. Tri-yana.

Isvara (S.) Lit. 'Lord'. In Nepal Adi-Buddha was called Isvara by the Aisvarika sect.

Jambhara (S.) Lemon, symbol of Jambala, a form of Kuvera.

Jambu. A tree with triangular leaves, considered sacred by Northern Buddhists, v. Manjmri. Jndna (S.) Wisdom.

Kalasa (S.) (T. Ue-bum.) Vase believed to hold the amrila, or Water of Life. The special symbol of Padmapani is the vase which he usually holds by the neck, but it may also be supported by a lotus-flower, of which he holds the stem in his right hand. In the former case the vase is round, or oval if Indian, and pointed if of the Gandhara school, and without a base. If, however, the kalaia is supported, it has a base and generally a spout.

The feminine Kwan-yin may hold the vase, or have it at her side, and in it (or held in her hand) may be a willow-branch, with which she is believed to sprinkle around her the Nectar of Life which in China the kalaia is also supposed to contain.

The masculine form of Kwan-yin, both in China and Japan, often has a lotus-bud in the vase. The vase and the willow-branch, or lotus-flower (or bud) symbolize the mandala of the Two Parts, v. Vajradhatu.

Maitreya has the kalaia as an accessory symbol with the wheel. He rarely carries it, but it is supported by a lotus-flower at his left shoulder.

The goddess Vasudhara has the vase symbol, from which pour jewels.

Amitayus holds the ambrosia vase, which differs from the usual kalaia. It is low and has a cover, out of which issues an aioka-hvauch. From under the cover, falling in garlands around the vase, are strings of beads, representing sacred pills used in the ceremony of praying for long life. • UshnTshavijaya also carries a similar covered vase which is, however, much less ornamented.

Kuvera may have one nnder his arm, and his right foot is sometimes supported by an overturned kalaia.

Kalpa (S.) Period of time transcending calculation.

Kapala (S.) Skull-cup. A Tantra symbol carried by the Dharmaj fila, Yi-dam, and their iakti, and by the dakini. The origin of the skull-cup is probably found in the legend of Yamantaka (see), who, before waging war on Yama, killed the three robbers, and, making cups of their skulls, drank their blood. The kapala is represented filled with blood when in the hands of the gods, but in temple pictures it is sometimes filled with eyes, ears, and tongues of demons — offerings to the gods. In the skull-cups held by the various hands of Hevajra are animals and devas. In the Tantra ceremonies a skull-cup is filled with wine to represent the blood, and offered to the god. In the temples it is usually on a bronze stand with a bronze cover. (PI. lxh, fig. c.)

Khadga (S.) Sword, symbol of the enlightenment of the world, for

'as the sword cuts knots, so does the intellect pierce the deepest recesses of Buddhist thought'.

The khadga is the special symbol of Manjusri, either carried in his hand or rising out of a lotus-flower. Fudo, in Japan, also carries the sword, and it is held as accessory symbol by Cunda (sixteen arms).

Khakkhara (S.) (T. Khar-gil, J. Shakujo.) Sounding staff. The khakkhara was believed to be a purely Japanese symbol until temple banners and frescoes dating from the fifth century were found, in Chinese Turkestan, by Sir Aurel Stein at Tun-huang, and by Herr von Le Coq at Turfan, representing Kshitigarbha with the sounding staff. As Buddhism did not enter Japan until a. D. 552, this fact proves that the use of the khakkhara as a symbol came into Japan from Central Asia. It was practically never used as such in Nepal or Tibet.

Although the khakkhara is nowhere mentioned in the teachings of the Southern school of Buddhism, reference to it is found several times in the Mahayana Scriptures, and it is looked upon by the Northern Buddhists as one of the eighteen indispensable articles that a Bhikshu must possess.

According to the command of Gautama Buddha, the Bhikshu (mendicant Buddhist priest), when on a pilgrimage, must carry the khakkhara.

If the Bhikshu wishes to enter a dwelling he may not speak, hut after knocking, if it is asked who is there, the sounding staff is to be shaken.

Again, according to the Buddha, no life must be taken, and a Bhikshu, by shaking the khahkhara, warns all crawling life of his approach and thus avoids treading on them. It is also believed that if the Bhikshu shakes his sounding staff while walking through a thicket or grassy ground, all wild beasts and poisonous insects will be frightened and do him no harm.

The khahkhara is a long, hexagonal wooden statf, capped with a metal capital, which has a pagoda-shaped head with two, three, or four crotchets, into which four, six, or twelve loose metal rings are inserted.

The different numbers of metal rings have each a special meaning, according to the different teachings of Buddhism.

The staff carried by the Bhikshu should only have four metal rings, which represent the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering.

The staff with three crotchets and six rings was invented by Kasyapa Buddha, and is carried by the Bodhisattva, who, as a preliminary condition of their attainment of Buddhahood, must exercise the six Paramita, or Perfections.

The khahkhara with four crotchets and twelve metal rings was invented by Gautama Buddha, and can only be carried by Pratyeka Buddhas. The twelve rings represent the TwelveFold Chain of Causation.

It is claimed by certain Buddhist sects that the whole khahkhara signifies Mount Sumeru, and that each part of the staff has its special meaning, but the explanation, although extremely complicated, resolves itself into this, that the metal part represents the Garbhadhatu and Vajradhatu, or the Mandala of the Two Parts, v. Vairocana.

The khahkhara is practically never used as a symbol in Tibet, but is carried by Ti-tsang in China and by Jizo and Fuku kenjaku in Japan.

Khantsig (T.) Small shrine several stories high. v. siupa.

Khar-gil (T.) v. khahkhara.

Khatvanga (S.) Magic stick which is believed to have been invented by Padmasambhava and is carried by him, as well as by the Dakini. The top of the khatvanga is composed of an ambrosia vase, on which reposes a vajra, or double vajra, above which are two Buddha heads and a skull superposed. The skull may be surmounted either by a vajra placed upright, or a trimla, which latter form is usually carried by Padmasambhava. According to Grunwedel, khatvanga have been found in Tibetan temple paintings which have rings hanging from the lower vajra like the khakkhara.

Kichi-jo-kwa (J.) Pomegranate, symbol of the goddess Hariti, and may also be carried by the Japanese Tara.

Kin-kang (C.) Diamond; v. vajra.

Kolbok (M.) Cushions piled one on top of the other forming a seat, in general use in Mongolia for Buddhist priests, the number indicating the rank. Vaisravana may be represented seated on a kolbok.

Kongo (J.) Diamond; v. vajra.

Lai-lumpa (T.) Tibetan low flat vessel, symbol of perfection in abstract thought, object of contemplation used by the Lama priests when meditating.

Lakshana (S.) The thirty-two superior marks (mahapurusha lakshana) of a Buddha are:

  1. a protuberance on the skull (ushnisha);
  2. the hair, glossy black, arranged in short curls, each curl turning from left to right;
  3. the brow is broad and smooth;
  4. between the eyebrows is a little ball (urnd) or tuft of hair, shining like silver or snow;
  5. the eyelashes are like those of a bull;
  6. the eyes brilliant black;
  7. he has forty teeth of perfectly equal size;
  8. they lie close to one another;
  9. and are dazzling white;
  10. his voice resembles Brahma's;
  11. he has an exquisite sense of taste;
  12. the tongue is large and long;
  13. the jaws are those of a lion;
  14. the shoulders and arms are perfectly rounded and full;
  15. ??
  16. the space between the shoulders is filled out;
  17. the skin has a tinge of gold colour;
  18. the arms are long, and when he stands upright the hands reach to the knees;
  19. the upper part of the body is like that of a lion;
  20. his figure is like that of a banyan-tree (Ficus religiosa);
  21. only one hair grows from each pore;
  22. these little hairs curl from above towards the right;
  23. nature has concealed the marks of sex;
  24. the thighs are well rounded;
  25. the legs are like those of a gazelle;
  26. the fingers and nails are long;
  27. the heel is elongated;
  28. the instep is high;
  29. the feet and hands are delicate and slender; 30, the fingers and toes have a web between;
  30. ??
  31. under the soles of the feet appear two shining wheels with a thousand spokes;
  32. the feet are flat and stand firm.

For the eighty inferior marks (anuvyanjana-lakshana) see Grunwedel, Buddhist Art in India (English translation), p. 161.

Lungta (S.) Airy horse which supports the cintdmani — considered indispensable on charms, especially by the nomadic Tibetan tribes.

Madhyamayana (S.) Lit. (Madhyama) middling, (yana) conveyance, doctrine founded by Nagarjuna. v. Tri-yana.

Mahayana (S.) Lit. (mahd) great, (yana) conveyance. The real founder of the Mahayana system is unknown. In the first century a.d. the Mahdyana-sraddhotanda-sastra was written by Asvaghosha. In the second century the Mahayana system was developed by Nagarjuna and took a definite form. v. Tri-yana.

Mala (S.) Generally translated as rosary, but is possibly symbolical of the necklace of pearls referred to in the ' Lotus of the Good Law', when the Akshayamati Bodhisattva, addressing the Buddha, says:

'World Honoured One, let me now present an offering to the Bodhisattva Kwan-shai-yin' (Avalokitesvara).

Then, loosening from his neck an entire pearl necklace of the value of 100,000 pieces, he presented it to the Bodhisattva as a reigious offering, but Kwan-shai-yin refused it until the Buddha begged him to accept it.

He then

'accepted the necklace and, dividing it into two parts, presented one part to Sakya-muni and the other part to the stupa of the Buddha Prabhutaratna'

(Beal, Catena, p. 389).

The mala is the special symbol of Avalokitesvara as well as that of his Chinese manifestation Kwan-shi-yin. It may also be carried by Prajfiaparamita (four-armed), Cunda, and Vasudhara.

Mandala (S.) Magic circle geometrically subdivided into circles or squares, in which are painted Buddhist symbols and divinities, v. Vairocana and vajradhdtu (illus., PI. xvi).

Mani (S.) A jewel. According to Eitel, it is

'a fabulous pearl which is ever bright and luminous, therefore a symbol of Buddha and of his doctrine'.

v. cintamani and the Legend of Miao Chen. In the Kama-sastras the name mani is applied to the male principle, v. Om.

Mantra (S.) Short mystic formula, often meaningless. It figures at the beginning and in the middle of a dhdrani, and i3 believed, when recited, to be most efficacious, v. Om.

Meru (Mount) v. Sumeru.

Mudra (S.) Mystic pose of the hand or hands. According to Eitel,

'a system of magic gesticulation consisting in distorting the fingers so as to imitate ancient Sanskrit characters of supposed magic effect'.

The use of the mudra, as well as the mantra, was introduced into Japan by Kobo Daishi, and is only used by the Shin-gon sect.

Muni (S.) Saint or sage, one who is inspired.

Naga (S.) Mythical serpent-god. v. Nagas.

Naga pushpa (S.) v. campa.

Naga-taru (T.) Naga-tree (eight-branched coral), seen usually in the Tibetan temple pictures. In the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Berlin there is a large naga-tree in wood, painted to represent coral, and on each branch there is a small Buddha.

Nakula (S.) Mongoose — attribute of Kuvera (v. s.).

Namahkara (S.) Mudra of Prayer. The hands are at the breast in the devotional attitude, with the palms and fingers touching. It is the special mudra of Avalokitesvara when with more than two arms.

Nirvana (S.) Nirvana, according to the Northern Buddhist, is not annihilation after death, but the extinction of all worldly desires,'the blowing out of the flame of selfish longing'. To arrive at Nirvana is to reach the highest stage of bliss, since it is an escape from the ever-turning wheel of transmigration.

Norbu (T.) Jewel, v. ratna.

Nyorai (J .) Lit. 'Lord'.

Om! Om, the mystic syllable of A-u-m, is venerated by the Brahmans as well as by the Buddhists. The most devout esteem it to be too sacred to be uttered aloud, the word being only formed by the lips.

In the Svayamlhu-Purana it is written that when all was void ' the triliteral syllable Aum became manifest, the first created, the ineffably splendid, surrounded by all the radical letters (Vija-Akshara) as by a necklace '.

From Aum the alphabet was produced, called Malta Varna, the letters of which are the • seed of the universe '. v. vlja.

Adi-Buddha, at his will, proceeded from Om. ' In that Aum, he (Adi-Buddha), who is present in all things, formless and passionless, who possesses the Tri-ratna, was produced by his own will ' (Svayambhu-Purdna). According to the Namasanglti, the Adi-Buddha became manifest in the greatest Sunyata (void) as the letter A. In the Pujd-Khanda it is written that when all was Sunyata, Prajna Devi (Adi-Dharma) was revealed out of Akasa (ether) with the letter u. According to the Svayambhu-Purd?m, the vlja mantra of Sangha is m. Thus the letters A-u-m are the vija mantra of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. v. Tri-ratna.

The mantra generally begin with Om and end with hum. The most widely known mantra is the six-syllable one of Avalokitesvara, 'Om, mani padme, hum!' (v. Avalokitesvara and Vajradhatu). The Tibetans claim that it fell from the heaven in the fourth century a.d. In China and Japan there is a six-syllable mantra A-ba-ra-ka-ki-un. A corresponds with Om and un with hum. The Ni-o (v. s.) symbolize these two syllables.

Pada (S.) Absorption. Nirvana jiada, absorption into Adi-Buddha.

Padma (S.) (J. Ren-ge.) The pad-ma is a symbol of self-creation. Every Buddha and Bodhisattva being svayambhu, or self-existent, is supported by a lotus-flower to indicate his divine birth. The padma, as symbol of self-generation, was also adopted by the most important Buddhist sect in China, the Svabhavika, as their special emblem, with the tr'dula, indicating the Tri-ratna issuing from its centre (v. p. 5).

The lotus-flower is in itself a prodigy, being productive of itself, and, to use the words of Mr. Payne Knight, ' vegetating from its own matrix without being fostered in the earth. It was naturally adopted as a symbol of the productive power of the Waters upon which the active spirit of the Creator (Adi-Buddha) acted in giving life and vegetation to matter.'

At the beginning of the world Adi-Buddha manifested himself in the form of a flame rising from a lotus-flower. In the Nepalese paintings (see No. V in the library of the Institut de France) the stalk of the padma may rise from a triangle (v. tri-kona) lying on the seed-vessel of an eight-leaved lotus-flower; but the usual representation is rising from water.

According to the Nepalese legend, when the ancient Buddha Vipasyi went to Nepal, accompanied by his disciples, to worship the Svayambhu (Adi-Buddha), he thrice made the round of the lake, Naga Vasa. He then said several mantra over the root of a lotus, and, throwing it into the water, exclaimed:

'With time, this root shall produce a flower, then, from out of the flower, Svayambhu, the Lord of the Agnishtha Bhuvana, shall be revealed in the form of a flame; and then shall the lake become a cultivated and populous country.

(For legend see Hodgson, The Languages, Literature, and Religion of Nepal, p. 115.)

v. Manjusri.

The lotus-flower symbolizes the female principle. In the Salapatha Brahmana it is written, 'the lotus leaf is the womb', and in the mantra, 'Om! mani padme, hum!' the padma represents the Material and the mani the Spiritual elements, v. Om.

The padma in the hand of Padmapani denotes creative power. In Nepal and Tibet it is generally a full-blown lotus-flower; while in China and Japan the Kwan-yin and Kwan-non often hold a lotus-bud. If the padma is in the vase it represents the union of the Spiritual and the Material. The lotus-flower in the hand of ManjusrI represents the teachings of Buddha, replacing the usual book (Prajhdpdramitd); while in the hands of the Taras it symbolizes perfect purity, for although the padma may rise out of impure water, it remains undefiled.

The pink lotus-flower is represented full-blown, with the centre apparent. It is the special symbol of Padmapani and of the white Tara.

The blue lotus may either be represented with all the petals upright, or with several of the outside rows turned back. The centre is always hidden and the ulpala is almost invariably presented in profile. It is the special symbol of ManjusrI and the green Tara. The lotus-bud is a more frequent form in China or Japan than in Tibet.

"When the symbols are not held in the hands of the gods they are supported by lotus-flowers, of which the stems are held by the gods, and in that case the hands generally make a mystic gesture (mudra) as well.

The teachings of the Buddha were symbolized by a full-blown lotus-flower with eight petals, indicating the Eight-Fold Path of Self-Conquest. The lotus was also used to represent the Buddhist wheel, the eight petals being the eight spokes. In the paintings of the mandala (magic circles) there is usually an eight-petalled lotus-flower, in the centre of which is an important god, and on each petal an assistant, v. PL xvi, and mandala.

The lotus support of a Buddha, or Bodhisattva, if painted, is red; of a Dharmapala, pink. The fiercest forms of the Dharmapala are supported by a pink lotus with jagged petals, v. dsana.

The god, however, may not be on a lotus-throne, but have his divine birth indicated by a lotus-flower under each foot. In the paintings discovered at Tun-huang by Sir Aurel Stein the first steps of the Buddha are represented by lotus-flowers which sprang up under each foot as he walked; and Jizo (Kshitigarbha) is represented with a small yellow padma under one foot and a white one under the other.

In the frescoes found at Turfan, by Herr von Le Coq, the Dlpahkara Buddha is represented with a lotus-flower under each foot, while all the Bodhisattva stand on lotus-thrones.

The Northern Buddhists believe that in SukhavatI, the western paradise of Amitabha, there is a lotus-pond, and that whenever a Buddhist is born a lotus-bud rises to the surface of the water, and is believed to bloom or fade according to the life the Buddhist leads. v. Sukhavati.

The mantra of Avalokitesvara is 'Om, mani padme, hum!' 'Oh, the jewel (of creation) is in the lotus.' v. Om.

Parasu (S.) Axe. Tantra symbol.

Parinirvana (S.) Death of the Buddha.

Pasa (S.) Lasso, sometimes with a small thunderbolt at each end — symbol of Amoghapasa, Marici, Yamantaka, and Acala and Fudo.

Patra (S.) Begging-bowl carried by wandering Buddhist priests. The pdtra is often represented in the Buddha's left hand, possibly in reference to a Buddhist legend, which is the following: On the seventh day of the third month the spirit of a tree under which Buddha had for' seven weeks been in a state of samdd/ti (deep meditation) took notice of Buddha's long absence from food. Some travelling merchants passed at that moment, and their way being blocked by insurmountable objects, they asked the spirit of the tree to help them. He called their attention to the presence of the Buddha, and told them that they should offer him food.

The four Kings of the Devas (Lokapala) had four sweet-smelling bowls, which they filled with the barley mixed with honey that the merchants offered. Buddha took all the four bowls through fear of offending one of the kings, and, placing one on top of the other on his left hand, formed them into one (Edkins, Chinese Buddhism, p. 24). It is believed that when Maitreya comes upon earth as a Manushi Buddha the pdtra will again become four bowls.

The patra may also be carried by Amitabha, Avalokitesvara, and Mania.

Phurbu (J.) Lit. 'peg' or 'nail'. Tantra symbol supposed to prevent evil spirits from inflicting mischief. It is a dagger in form of an elongated triangle, and often has a very complicated handle, in which there is usually a head, believed to represent Hayagriva (Tamdin), who is looked upon as a special protector against malignant spirits.

Prajnika (S.) Atheistic triad: Buddha, Dharma, Sahgha.

Pratyeka (S.) A Buddha without master or disciples.

Preta (S.) (M. Birit.) Lit. 'hungry demon'. They have large stomachs, narrow months, and exhale fire, but cannot drink. The Pretas are believed to be visible only at night.

Pustaka (S.), or book, made originally of palm-leaves cut long and narrow, and held together between two pieces of flat wood of the same size and shape, the whole bound by a string.

The pustaka as a symbol represents the Prajndpdramitd, a treatise on Transcendent Wisdom, supposed to have been given to the Nagas by the Buddha to guard until mankind had become wise enough to grasp its profound truths.

Nagarjuna claimed to have received the book from the Nagas and to have founded the Mahayana school on its teachings, v. Nagarjuna.

The pustaka is the symbol of Manjusri, Avalokitesvara, and of the goddesses Prajnapfiramita, Cunda, and Vasudhara, and may be carried as an accessory symbol by other gods.

Rakshasa (S.) or Rakshas, demons that devour men. Invoked by sorcerers.

Ratna (S.) Jewel. The Sapta Ratna (M. dologa erdeni), or the seven Buddhist jewels, are:

  1. the golden wheel believed to fall from heaven on the investiture of a 'Wheel King', symbol of Perfection of the Law;
  2. a precious stone (rnani), symbol of the accomplishment of wishes;
  3. a royal consort (a noble woman) symbolizes the 'calming caress';
  4. the best horse (a white horse), symbol of prompt success in the acquisition of the cpialities of the Buddha;
  5. the best elephant, as bearer of 84,000 sacred books, symbolizes the infinite propagation of the religion;
  6. the best treasurer (civil officer), who by his generosity removes poverty, and by his justice assures the well-being of people; 7, the best leader (military chief), who with his sword of wisdom repels the enemies. (These last two are sometimes interpreted: 6, guardian spirits;
  7. soldiers and servants.) v. also Tri -ratna.

Ren-ge (J.) Lotus-flower, v. padma.

Renge-no-in (J.) Padma mudra or gesture of the lotus, v. Uttara-Bodhi.

Sadhana (S.) Formula for the invocation of a god, which must be carried out in the following manner:

On a certain day the Buddhist magician priest makes his proper toilet and goes out to a solitary spot, which, according to his humour, is either gay like a wood, or the confluence of two rivers, or to a place of cremation. He then seats himself on a spot already purified for the occasion, where he proceeds to invoke the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, offering imaginary or real flowers or perfumes. He begins by a confession of sins, pronounces his act of faith in the three jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sahgha), and, after deep meditation, succeeds in abolishing his own personality and identifying himself with the divinity which he wishes to invoke, proceeding according to the Sadhana.

As an example, the Simhanada Sadhana proceeds as follows:

He (the Buddhist priest) must see,
developed from the white syllable 'Om!', a moon disc;[1]
above this, from the white syllable 'Ah!', a white lion;
and above this, from the white syllable 'Am!', a white lotus,
on the heart of which he is to see the syllable 'Hrih!', white and shining.

Having developed all this, he must see himself in form of Sirphanfida, a body all white with two arms, one face, and three eyes; his hair in form of a tiara, his head-dress ornamented with a small image of Amitabha; crouched in Indian fashion, with one knee raised, seated on a lion covered with a tiger-skin, the five Dhyani-Buddhas emanating from his person. Having thus meditated on all this, tired of meditation, let the conjurer pronounce the formula of conjuration (A. Foucher, Iconographie bouddhique, partie II, p. 8).

The priest is then believed to be visited by the god, whereupon he presents the petition of his client.

Sakti (S.) (T. nus-ma), or the more popular expression yum (v. yab-yum). Female energy of a god.

Samadhi (S.) (Sam-a-dhi), lit. 'self-possessed'. The deepest form of abstract meditation.

Sangha (S.) The Buddhist community, or church. Esoteric sense, union, v. Tri-ratna.

Sankha (S.) Conch-shell, symbol of the preaching of the Buddha as well as of the feminine principle.

Sara (S.) Arrow (of confession), v. Capa.

Sarira (S.) (M. and J. shari.) Lit. particles of bones, relics, or ashes of a Buddha preserved in stupas and worshipped. They are sometimes called Dharmamrlra. v. tsa-fsa and thari-lo.

Shakujo (J.) v. khakkhara.

Shari-to (J.) Japanese shrine containing a Sari or Buddha bone. In the ninth century cremation was introduced into Japan, and in the ashes of Buddhist saints were found small cartilaginous balls which were looked upon as holy gems and kept as relics in crystal shrines.

Simha (S.) Lion — symbolizes ' boldness, bravery, and a fresh, eager, and advancing spirit ' — emblem of Vairocana. v. lakshana, 13 and 19.

Simhanada (S.) Lit. 'with the voice of a lion'. According to legend, the roarings are believed to awaken stillborn babes. A god seated on a roaring lion is believed to cure leprosy. Avalokitesvara (Kwan-yin), Manjusri, and Jambala may be Simhanada, as well as the female Kwan-yin and the green Tara. (v. Pis. xxxv and xxxvn.)

Simhasana (S.) Lion throne, v. dsana.

Skugsum (T.) v. Tri-kdya.

Stotra (S.) Buddhist hymn.

Stupa (S.) (J. sotoba.) Lit. 'precious tower' — a tower to hold relics, v. caitya.

Sukhdvati. The Western Paradise of Amitabha. The common people look upon Sukhavat! as equivalent to Nirvana, but, according to the Mahayana teachings, it is the last stage before Nirvana. M. de la Vallee Poussin calls it a ' Buddha field ' to prepare the souls for Nirvana. It is here that the Bodhisattva, who have not elected to acquire merit by becoming Manushi-Buddhas, sit on lotus-flowers and accumulate merit until they are eligible to Nirvana, v. Amitabha.

Sumeru (Mount) or Mount Meru — supposed highest peak of the Himalayas, and believed to be the centre of the universe. In the Bhadra Kalpavadana it is written: First air, then fire, then earth, and in the centre of the earth, Sumeru, the sides of which are the residence of the thirtythree millions of gods (Devatas). Sakra lives in his paradise which is on its summit, and its four sides are guarded by the four Lokapala.

Sunyata (S.) Emptiness, unreality, nothingness.

Surya. Sun, special symbol of Akasagarbha. The sun-disc and the moon are held by one of the twenty-one Taras as well as by Aryavalokitesvava, especially in China and Japan.

The sun-disc, surmounted by a trident, is called the surya-mani or sun-jewel (v. ciutdmani). In the Suryanama Sutra it is said that Buddha ' caused to issue from the summit of his head a flood of glory composed of a hundred precious rays ' (Beal, Catena, p. 424). The Nepalese Buddhas are sometimes represented with the surya-mani above the ushnisha. The symbol is also used in Nepal, issuing from a lotus-flower, to represent the Svayambhu or Adi-Buddha at the creation of the world, v. Trisula.

Sutra (S.) From the Sanskrit root siv, 'to sew', meaning to thread or string. In other words, a sutra is a bcdy of doctrine. It must be composed of words coming from the Buddha's own lips — words 'strung together' in form of a sermon.

Svabhava (S.) Lit. sva (own), bhava (nature), 'self-existent'. Adi-Buddha is called Svabhava by the Svabhavika sect.

Svastika (S.) The svastika is one of the sixty-five marks of Buddhahood found in the imprint of the Buddha's foot. On some of the images of the Buddha it is on his breast, and may also be represented before him on the lotus-throne. It is called by the Chinese sin-yin (heart-seal). As a Buddhist symbol it represents the esoteric doctrine of Buddha, and was adopted by several sects. The svastika, however, is found in many other countries, and is the subject of much controversy. (PI. it, fig. c, and PI. xvm, fig. a.)

Svayambhu (S.) Lit. 'spontaneity', or that which is self-existent. The Adi-Buddha is called Svayambhu.

Tantra (S.) Lit. 'treatise'. The Tantra, or mystic treatises, comprise twenty-two volumes. The Anuttara Tantra treats of the worship of the Active Producing Principle on which the TantraYoga system is based.

The Maha-Tantra system is a debased form of the Yoga-carya school, and made its appearance toward the end of the sixth century. The worship of the iakli, or female energy of the gods, began to influence the Mahayana system in the seventh century, and became very popular in Tibet and Mongolia, but was never adopted by the Chinese or Japanese in the yah-yum form.

The Tantra forms of the gods often have several heads, and always more than two arms. They may be peaceful, but are usually ferocious in aspect, in which case their symbols are warlike, and their ornaments are skulls and serpents. The most popular Tantra symbol, which is held by both the god and his sakti, is the kapala or skull-cup filled with blood, or with the eyes, ears, and tongues of demons.

Tarjani mudra (S.) Menacing with the index.

Tathagata (S.) Tathagata is the highest epithet of a Buddha, and is generally used for the seven principal Buddhas. It sometimes designates the Tri-kaya (v.s.).

There is a divergence of opinion as to the correct translation of the word.

  • Hodgson gives: 'Tatha, thus; gata, gone, or he who does not come again.' In other words, he who will have no more rebirths.
  • The Buddhist scriptures say, 'it does not come again'.
  • Remusat translates it as the 'avenu'.
  • Eitel gives: 'like — to come', or 'one who (in coming into the world) is like the coming (of his predecessors)'.
  • According to Waddell, 'similarly gone';
  • while Mead interprets Tathagata as 'He-who-has-reached-the-That-stage, meaning the state of Perfection'.

Hodgson says that the term should only be applied to Adi-Buddha, and alludes to his ' voluntary secession from the versatile world into that of abstraction'.

Thabdong-shesrab (T.) or union of Spirit and Matter, v. Dharmacakra.

Tri-kaya (S.) (T. Shugsum.) Three (Tri), bodies (kaya), a threefold embodiment. It is believed by some of the Northern Buddhist sects that a Buddha may live in three separate spheres at the same time.

According to Eitel (Handbook of Chinese Buddhism) there are three representations of Buddha:

  1. Statues, Teachings, Stupas.
  2. The historical Buddha unites in himself three hodily qualities:
    I. Nirmana-kaya — human, mortal, and ascetic;
    II. Sambhoga-kaya — body of Supreme Happiness;
    III. Dharma-kaya — abstract body.
  3. Buddha having passed through and existing in three forms:
    I. Sakya-muni on earth. — Earthly Buddha endowed with Nirmana-kaya, having passed through innumerable transformations on earth.
    II. Locana in Dhyana Sahgha. — Heavenly Dhyani-Bodhisattva endowed with Sambhogakaya of absolute completeness.
    III. Vairocana in Nirvana. — Dhyani-Buddha endowed with Dharma-kaya of absolute purity in Nirvana.

Tri-kona (S.) Triangle. The tri-kona is the symbol of the Tri-ratna, and, according to the secret doctrine of certain sects, represents the yoni, 'from which the world was manifest', the source of all things. The triangle is often found in Nepalese temples dedicated to the Jiuddha-saktis and figures in the Garbhadhdtu mandala immediately above the five-leaved lotus enclosure (v. Vajradhatu, Tri-ratna, and PI. xvi). The Japanese look upon the triangle as a flame-symbol — 'body of fire' (third element) — which destroys all that is impure.

The Buddha, according to Beal, once

'discoursed on the symbol "I" with three dots Ellora Icon arranged as a triangle resting on its base',


'used the triangle as a symbol of the embodied form of the Tathagata'.

When seated in dhyana-mudra the Buddha forms a perfect triangle resting on its base, and it is believed by Buddhists to have been his attitude in the womb of his mother. In the Garbhadhdtu mandala the triangle rests on its base, and, according to the esoteric doctrine, is the form which is symbolical of material essence.

The triangle with the point below is the symbol of the highest form of spirituality — the spiritual essence of Adi-Buddha.

Triloka (S.) The celestial, terrestrial, and infernal divisions of the versatile universe created by Brahma.

Trimurti (S.) Buddhist triad: ManjusrI, Avalokitesvara, and Vajrapani.

Tri-ratna (S.) The three jewels — Buddha, Dharma, Sahgha (Buddha, the Law, the Community). The three jewels are symbolized by the trisula, by the trilateral syllable a-u-m (v. Om!), and by the trikona.

In the Buddhist scriptures it is written that Adi-Dharma revealed herself from a point in the centre of the triangle.

From one side of the triangle she

'produced Buddha; from another side, Dharma; and from the third side, Sangha'.

Adi-Dharma is therefore the mother of the Buddha that issued from the first side (right side of the triangle. All the Buddhas are born from the right side of their mothers).

The Dharma that issued from the second side is the

'wife of the Buddha of the first side and the mother of the other Buddhas'.

(v. Hodgson, The Languages, History, and Religion of Nepal and Tibet, p. 87.)

According to the esoteric doctrine,

  • Buddha represents the spiritual essence, 'the efficient cause of all'.
  • Dharma is the material essence, the 'plastic cause' — 'a co-equal bi-unity with Buddha'.
  • Sahgha is the compound of Buddha and Dharma, 'the immediate operative cause of creation'.

Certain Northern Bnddhist sects interlink the doctrine of the Tri-ratna with that of the Trikaya, and look upon Dharma as the Dhyani-Buddha, and Sangha as the Bhyani-Bodhisatlva.

Trisula (S.) Lit. tri (three), sula (points), a three-forked flame which Burnouf believes to be the invocation of the 'highest'. The trisula, which is an emblem of Buddhism, is represented in the form of a trident, and may surmount a round object, which Beal believes to symbolize the sun with a flame or 'Empyrean above it'. use a a

There is much diversity of opinion in regard to the trisula.

According to d'Alviella,

'some have seen therein the monogram of Buddha; others, the symbol of Dharma, the Law, which sums up the doctrine of Buddhism; others, again, a representation of the tri-ratna, the threefold jewel formed by Buddha, his Law, and his Church '.

Sir George Bird wood claims that the trtiula stands for the Tree of Life, and by some it is looked upon as a symbol of lightning. According to Burnouf, it is merely one of the sixty-five signs of Buddhahood which adorn the impression of the Master's feet.

The Singalese Buddhas have a three-forked flame issuing from the ushnisha. The Svabhavika sect, a generally accepted school of Buddhism in China, took for its emblem a trtiula rising out of a lotus-flower (v. p. 5). The urna on the forehead of some of the Buddhas in the Turfan frescoes discovered by Herr von Le Coq have a red flame-glory forming three points. Among these Buddhist frescoes [2] is one of a trident surmounting an eight-spoked wheel, on either side of which is a gazelle, thus symbolizing the sermon of the Buddha in the deer-park at Benares.

Tri-yana (S.) Lit. 'three vehicles' — the Mahayana (great vehicle), the Madhyama-yana (middling vehicle), Hlnayana (lesser vehicle), the three Buddhist means of attaining Nirvana.

Tsa-tsa (M.) Moulds of Buddhist gods made of ashes of saints mixed with mud and corn. v. Sarira.

Tse-bum (T.) v. KalaSa.

Upayika (J.) Theistic triad — Dharma, Buddha, and Sangha.

Urna (S.) The urna is the fourth of the thirty-two superior marks of a Buddha, and is represented by a small, round protuberance above the bridge of the nose.

The Sanskrit word urna means 'tuft of hair', which, according to tradition, should be white and 'shine like silver'. It indicates a predestination to Bodhi.

In the Buddhist scriptures the Urna is referred to as follows:

'The countenance of Buddha was transfigured, while the tuft of hair on his forehead radiated forth a brilliant light'.

And again,

'Gautama was seated on a white lotus supported by a white elephant. From a white spot on his forehead shone a brilliant light which illuminated the universe'.

The Japanese believe that five colours radiated from the urna.

The urna is the divine eye — a sign of spiritual insight. According to Havell, it is the

'spiritual consciousness of soul-sight as distinguished from eyesight and intellectual perception'

(Ideals of Indian Art, p. 50).

Both the Buddhas and Bodhisattva have the urna on the forehead as well as, sometimes, on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The Bodhisattva on the frescoes brought from Turfan by Herr von Le Coq have the urna on the forehead and breast outlined by a red flame, thus resembling the flaming pearl (v. cintamani).

It is difficult to make out the origin of the urna unless it came from the superstition of the people of Northern India, who believed that if the eyebrows met over the bridge of the nose it was a sign of great mental superiority.

Ushnisha (S.) (T. Tsugior.) The protuberance on the skull of the Buddhas.

The ushnisha is the seat of the intellectual faculties — the receptacle of the divine manas of Buddha. The Platonists believed that the soul was centred in the head, which notion, according to Mead, was

'presumably the influence of the old Oriental mystic doctrine of Asia Minor or higher Asia'.

They further believed that the soul had a radiant vesture (Augoeides) which manifested itself 'spark-like'. If we accept the hypothesis that the ushnisha is the receptacle ol the manas of the Buddha, might not the flame, which is sometimes represented issuing from the protuberance, indicate the 'spark-like' radiance of the 'vesture of the soul'?

The ushnisha is the first and most important of the thirty-two superior signs of a Buddha, and probably the last acquired. In the Indian scriptures the Buddha at his birth, or in the different episodes of his life before his supreme Enlightenment, is not represented with the protuberance of the skull. It is not until he achieves Buddhahood under the Bodhi-tree that he is represented with the full-sized ushnisha. (v. the Buddhas.)

Ushnisha means 'turban' or 'dressed hair'. The Gandhara school never represented the Buddha with the protuberance on the skull, but with the long wavy hair drawn up on the top of the head in a cluster of curls, or a knot which concealed, or took the place of, the protuberance. They thus seem to have followed the Brahmanical representations of the Buddha, for the ninth avatar of Vishnu was represented with long hair arranged in a knot on the top of his head.

According to Buddhist tradition, which was followed by the Indian artists, the hair of the Buddha should be short, the curls falling from left to right, and the protuberance should also be covered with short curls.

The shape of the ushnisha varied somewhat in different countries.

In Nepal the protuberance was round on the top and placed nearer the forehead than in North-Eastern India, where it was represented more pointed in shape. The ushnisha of the Nepalese Buddhas was sometimes surmounted by a ball from which issued a flame. In the Suryanama sutra it is written,

'Buddha caused to issue from his head a flood of glory composed of a hundred precious rays'. [3]

In Tibet the protuberance was higher than in India, and often surmounted by a flaming pearl. There are examples of a small protuberance above the usual ushnisha, the whole surmounted by a pearl.

In. China and Japan the ushnisha was generally low and large at the base, sometimes with a tonsure on the top of the protuberance. The Tibetan type, however, was often followed. In Japan the ushnisha is called Fou-ken-tcho-so, or the 'invisible form of the skull'. It was believed that only the initiated were able to see the protuberance on the skull of a Buddha.

In Burma and Siam there was either a high, pointed flame issuing from a low ushnisha, or a spike-shaped head-piece, often elaborately ornamented, entirely covering the protuberance. In Cambodia the ushnisha was very pointed.

In Java the protuberance was either low and small at the base, or high and large at the base.

In Ceylon the ushnisha is usually very low, and the Buddha almost always has a three or fiveforked flame rising from the top of the protuberance. It is one of the characteristics of the Singalese Buddhas.

The protuberance of the skull, according to Grunwedel, was regarded as a sign of supernatural wisdom of a Buddha. According to Eitel the ushnisha was first a coil of hair, which later took the form of a protuberance on the skull. Schlagintweit claims that the Buddhist sculptors adopted the style of representing the Buddha with a coil of hair on the top of his head because it was the Brahmanical way of dressing the hair.

They thus

'conferred on their sublime Master this prerogative of the highest Indian caste'.

Utpala (S.) Blue lotus, v. padma.

Uttara-bodhi (S.) mudra of best perfection. (J. Renge-no-in.) All the fingers are locked (the palms turned underneath), with the exception of the thumbs and indexes, which touch at the tips, the fingers being extended upward. In Japan the second fingers are also often upright, while the other fingers are in the above pose. The attitude is emblematic of the lotus-flower, and is the mudra of Buddha, Liberator of Serpents, Avalokitesvara (p. 63 and PI. xx), Kwan-yin (PI. lxiv), and of Bato Kwan-non (PL xxxn, figs, c and d).

Vahana (S.) The mount of a god. The mount of Amitabha ????? is a peac?? ???? Akshobhya, Samantabhadra (Fugen) and Kango-satta i?????? is a lion; Ts'ans-pa, is a horse or dragon; Lhamo, is ??????????

Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Tara, and the female form of Kwan-yin, as well as Jambala, may be on a roaring lion. v. Simhandda.

Vajra (S.) (T. rdo-rje, M. vacir or ocir, C. kin-kang, J. kongo.) Lit. 'diamond', or that which is indestructible. Generally translated 'thunderbolt', or that which destroys but is itself indestructible. It is likened to the Mystic Truth which cannot be destroyed, or to Wisdom that destroys all passions.

The vajra is claimed by some to be of Western origin and an adaptation of the thunderbolt symbol held by Jupiter. The Assyro-Chaldean gods were represented holding a trident (v. triSula) with the points zigzag-shaped, representing lightning. In Mesopotamia the gods hold a double trident, which is also found in the caves of Ellora, as well as other parts of India, in the hand of Siva. The Northern Buddhists believe that Buddha wrested the vajra (double trident) from the Hindu god Indra, and adopted it as a Buddhist symbol with the slight change of closing the points of the darts. The Indian vajra with three darts is flat and the points do not touch. The Tibetan ' thunderbolt ' with four darts is round, and as the points are closed the two ends resemble lotus-buds in form. A fifth dart runs through the centre of the vajra, from end to end, making five darts, which represent the five bodies of the Dhyani-Buddhas.

In Japan the vajra [kongo), called cloko, has only one dart, which is four-sided. There is also a three-darted vajra, the san-ko, which resembles the Indian form in that it is flat and that the points are not closed. The five-darted kongo, the go-kb, differs from the Tibetan vajra in that all the five darts are outside. It is looked upon as representing the five elements as well as the five bodies of the celestial Buddhas.

Padmasambhava introduced the vajra into Tibet, and through his influence it became most popular. The priests adopted its use to exorcise devils, and it was also introduced into the ceremonies for worshipping Amitayus (v.s.).

In the esoteric doctrine the vajra is the mystic symbol of the linga, and the expression, 'in vajra attitude', is the attitude of yab-yum.

The vajra is the special symbol of Akshobhya and of Vajrapani. Vajradhara holds it in his right and the wyra-handled bell in his left hand, as does also Trailokyavijaya, Kongosatta, and Aizen-myo-o; Vajrasattva holds it balanced on his right hand, while the left hand holds the vajra-handhi bell on his hip. The vajra is carried as an accessory symbol by all the Yi-dam, but not by the Dharmapala.

Vajra-dhatu (S.) The mandala of the Two Parts (Vajra-dhatu and Garbha-dhatu) occupies a most important position in the teachings of the Yoga doctrine, v. mandala.

According to Kobo Daishi, who founded the Yoga school (Shin-gon) in Japan, the teachings of the mystic doctrine were too profound to be expressed by words, and could only be taught to the ignorant by means of illustrations. The 'Two Parts' are therefore represented by two diagrams, for details of which see Bunyin Nanjio, A Short History of the Twelve Japanese Sects, p. 88.

The Vajra-dhatu is the 'diamond' element. Vajra is here translated 'diamond' rather than 'thunderbolt', and represents the Spiritual world, or complete Enlightenment — the esoteric teachings of the Dharma-kaya as against the exoteric teachings of the Nirmana-kaya. It is the sixth element, the manas (mind), and is symbolized by the triangle with the point below (v. tri-kond), as well as by the full moon. It is located in the West, and is symbolized by the setting of the sun.

????????? or 'embryo' element - the Material World. It is likened ????????? ???cieved - its body, mind, &c. It is the vija mantra A, ??????????? ??cts and nourishes it. It is reason, form and the five ????????? ?her. It is symbolized by the triangle resting on its base, ????????? ??rbha-dhatu above the five-leaved lotus enclosure in the ?????? lotus (in reality, the sun) is also its symbol.

The location of the Matrix-element is in the East, and is symbolized by the rising of the sun.

The Vajra-dhdtu and Garliha-dhatu are one, for Wisdom cannot exist without Reason, nor Reason without Wisdom, and this is expressed by the Man/Jala of the Two Parts, as well as by the mudra of the Six Elements (v. Vairocana). The Union of the Spiritual and the Material is symbolized in Nepal by the flame rising from the lotus-flower or moon-crescent (v. Vajrasattva) and by the flame rising from the kalam as seen in the paintings on the inside of the covers of the MS. Add. 1643 in the University Library, Cambridge; in Tibet, by the aSoka branch in the ambrosia vase; in China, by the willow in the kalasa; in Japan, by the vajra issuing from the ambrosia vase (PI. xvi),and in both the Chinese and Nepalese yin-yaitg. (The Japanese yin-yang contains three segments.) The mantra, 'Om, mani padme, hum!' is an expression of the Mystic Union (v. Om), as is also the mudra of the dogmatic form of Avalokitesvara; and the Ni-o signify the Two Parts. In fact, the Yoga school of Mahayana Buddhism is founded on the One-nest of the Vajradhdtu and Garbhadhdtu.

Vajra-hum-kara (S.) Mudra of Buddha Supreme and Eternal. The wrists are crossed at the breast which indicates intensity, and the hands hold symbols, usually the vajra and ghantd. Special mudra of Vajradhara, Samvara, Trailokyavijaya, and of most of the gods when holding their Saktis.

Vajrasana (S.) v. Asana.

Vara (S.) or Varada. Mudra of Charity. The arm is pendent, with all the fingers extended downward, and the palm turned outward. Mudra of the Taras and of many gods.

Vihara (S.) Buddhist monastery.

Vija (S.) (J. Shu-ji.) Root, radix, seed. The germ of a mantra (v. s.) — a mantra-seed. A vija mantra is a letter or syllable used in casting spells and in the invocations of the gods (v. dharani and sadhana).

The elements came from the mjas. In the Pujd Kdnda it is written:

'from the vija of the letter Y, air;
from that of the letter R, fire;
from that of letter V (or B), water;
from that of the letter L, earth,
and from the letter A proceeded Akasa, or ether (v. Vajradhatu and Om).'

The most commonly known vija mantra is that of Avalokitesvara, 'Hri! ' which is a contraction for Hridaya or '(Sacred) Heart'.

Visvavajra (S.) Lit. 'doable-vajra', or thunderbolt, is the special symbol of Ushnishavijaya and Amoghasiddha and his sakti, Tara. Samvara has it in his head-dress, v. Vajra.

Vitarka (S.) mudra of argument. The dogmatic attitude is represented with the arm bent and all the fingers extended upward, except either the index or the ring finger, which touches the tip of the thumb, forming the 'triangular pose'. The palm of the hand is turned outward. Mystic gesture of the Taras and of the eight Bodhisattva. In Japan the mudra called semmui corresponds with the vitarka, the only difference being that the index and thumb do not touch at the tips. The thumb is pressed against the palm of the hand.

Yab-yum (T.) Lit. 'Father-Mother'. Attitude of a god (yab) when embracing his iakti {yum), also called 'in vajra attitude'.

Yaksa (S.) Demons in the suite of Kuvera.

Yana (S.) Vehicle, v. Tri-yana.

Yin-yang (C.) Lit. 'female-male', or the two first causes. The primal causati?????? a circle divided into two equal parts. In China the two ?????????. In Nepal they are divided by a wavy line (v.????????????? vol. xviii, PL. III). In Japan the corresponding ????????? tadpole-shaped segments.

Yoga (S.) From the Sanskrit root Yuj or 'union'. It?????????? Material, or communion with the Universal spi????? Two Parts. v. Vaiocana.

The Yoga is the practice of ecstatic meditation, and was introduced into Hinduism by Patanjali in the second century B.C. It was grafted on the Mahayana System by Asanga, in the middle of the sixth century a.d., introduced into China A.D. 720, and into Japan by Kobo Daishi in the ninth century.

Yogacarya (S.) Lit. 'school of Yoga'.

Zuchi (J.) Small Japanese travelling shrine in which is enshrined the image of a god.

first previous index next last

- Footnotes:


Platform on which the god is seated.


In the Museum fur Volkerkunde, Berlin.


Beal, Catena, p. 289.??????

first previous index next last

Article published on