The gods of northern Buddhism

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

by Alice Getty | 1914 | 98,662 words

Indispensable reference for art historians, scholars of Eastern philosophy and religion. Wealth of detailed scholarly information on names, attributes, symbolism, pictorial representations of virtually every major and minor divinity in Mahayana pantheon, as worshipped in Nepal, Tibet, China, Korea, Mongolia, and Japan. 185 black-and-white illustrat...

Chapter II - The Buddhas

Table II
The Buddhas I. Dipahkara Buddha.
II. Kasyapa.
III. Gautama Buddha.
IV. Maitreya [1] (The Coming Buddha).
V. Mania (Buddha of Medicine).


The Buddhas (Nirmana-Kaya) [2]

'The Buddhas who have been, are, and will be, are more numerous than the grains of sand on the banks of the Ganges' (Aparimita-Dharani).

The early Northern Buddhist school in Nepal adopted the system of 1,000 fictitious Buddhas, which so closely correspond to the 1,000 Zarathustras of the Zoroastrians that the system is believed to have originated in Persia. In this list appears for the first time the name of Amitabha, who became the fourth Dhyani-Buddha.

Hodgson gives a list of fifty-six Buddhas taken from the Lalita Vistara, in which the last seven Tathagata, called the 'Saptamanushi-Buddhas' (the seven human Buddhas), are:

  1. Vipasyi,
  2. Sikhi,
  3. and Visvabhu of the preceding kalpa,[3]
  4. and Krakucchanda,
  5. Kanakamuni,
  6. Kasyapa,
  7. and Sakya-muni of the present cycle.

Sometimes the Dipankara Buddha and Ratnagarbha were added, making a group of nine Buddhas.

Later on, there appeared a group of twenty-four mythical Buddhas, of whom the Dipankara Buddha (the first of the twenty -four) is the best known, and Gautama Buddha is added to this group, making twenty-five in all. Sometimes the last seven of the group (including Gautama Buddha) are reckoned as the seven Principal Buddhas, who, with the coming Buddha Maitreya, form a group of eight, and eight has remained a popular number among Buddhists for grouping the gods (the eight Bodhisattva, the 'eight Terrible Ones', &c).

The group of the five Manushi-Buddhas, [4] corresponding with the five DhyaniBuddhas and five Dhyani-Bodhisattva, became, however, the most popular in Nepal; and was adopted not only in Tibet, but in China and Japan, and has lasted up to the present day.

A Manushi-Buddha, according to the system of Adi-Buddha, is one who has acquired such enlightenment (bodhi-jnana) by his previous incarnations as Bodhisattva, that he is capable of receiving Bodhi, or Supreme Wisdom, a particle of the essence of Adi-Buddha. He has become a Tathagata [5] and can have no more rebirths, but at his death will attain Nirvana-pada, or absorption into the Adi-Buddha.

Those of the Northern Buddhist sects that did not adopt the system of Adi-Buddha, looked upon the Manushi-Buddha as a manifestation of, or an emanation from, the Dhyani-Buddha; or, according to the system of the Tri-kaya, as a distinct nature or body (kaya) representing the embodiment of intellectual essence.

The system of the Tri-kaya [6] supposed each Buddha to have three kaya or bodies — 'that is to say, three distinct natures, which might be said to be living in three spheres at the same time.

  1. On earth, as Manushi-Buddha — mortal and ascetic, having passed through innumerable transformations on earth and arrived at the Nirmana-kaya state of practical Bodhi (knowledge).
  2. In Nirvana, as Dhyani-Buddha — abstract body of absolute purity, in the Dharma-kaya state of essential Bodhi.
  3. In reflex in the Rupadhatu heavens as Dhyani-Bodhisattva, body of supreme happiness, in the Sambhoga-kaya state of reflected Bodhi. [7]

The kaya of a Manushi-Buddha is material, visible, and perishable. Being of human form, the Manushi-Buddha is born into the world and released from it by death. He did not, however, enter the world as a Buddha but as a Bodhisattva, nor did he reach the stage of Buddhahood until the moment when he attained Supreme Enlightenment, such as Sakya-muni under the Bodhi-tree

'After the Enlightenment',

according to M. de la Vallee Poussin, [8]

'nothing earthly, human, heavenly, or mundane remains of a Tathagata. Therefore his visible appearance is but a contrived or magical body . . . the unsubstantial body which remains of a Bodhisattva after he has reached Buddhahood.'

It was believed by the Mahayanists that when the Bodhisattva arrived at the stage of Bodhi, he would have acquired the thirty-two superior and eighty inferior outward marks [9] of a Buddha. In the Mahavastu it is written that the future Buddha would have all the outward 'signs' at his last rebirth; [10] but the representations of Sakya-muni as a child do not show the protuberance on the skull [11] (ushnisha) which is the most important and probably the last acquired of the thirty-two outward signs. Nor as an ascetic is he represented with the full-sized ushnisha. [12] It is only after his attainment of Supreme Wisdom that the representations of the Buddha show the fully-developed protuberance on the skull — the receptacle, presumably, of the divine mind (manas), which was thought too great to be held in a normalsized skull.

Although the different Mahayana sects disagreed as to the source of the divine intelligence, they were all of accord in believing that after the attainment of Bodhi the ' body ' of the Tathagata was animated by a divine force. This 'body of Transformation' (Nirmana-kaya) of the Manushi-Buddha has been variously explained. M. de la Vallee Poussin is of the opinion that it is a 'magical' body, in other words, an illusion; while Mr. G. B. S. Mead calls it the 'outer shell of the inner body of Transformation'. Might it not also mean the transformation of the 'body' of the Bodhisattva as he approaches Buddhahood — the acquiring (or developing) one byone, in his different rebirths, of the thirty-two superior and eighty inferior marks which are outward proofs of his inner progress toward Bodhi?

Certain Northern Buddhist sects designated the Tri-kaya by the triad 'Buddha, Dharma, and Sahgha'.

'Buddha' symbolized the generative power,
'Dharma' (or Prajna) the productive power, and their union produced
'Sangha' (DhyaniBodhisattva), the active author of creation.

The Manushi-Buddha is always represented in monastic garments without ornaments, and with the right shoulder and breast, or only the breast, bare, and with the urna, [13] ushnisha, and long-lobed ears. He is usually seated with closely locked legs, but may also be standing.

Suzuki, in his Outlines of Mahdyana Buddhism, writes:

'If we draw a parallel between the Buddhist and the Christian Trinity,

the Body of Transformation (Nirmana-kaya) may be considered to correspond to Christ in the flesh,
the Body of Bliss (Sambhoga-kaya) either to Christ in glory or to the Holy Ghost,
and Dharmakaya to the Godhead.'


Dipankara Buddha

(Buddha of Fixed Light) [14]

(T.) mar-me-mdsad (the illuminator or enlightener).
(M.) jula joqiaqci (the maker of light).
(C.) Ting-kuang-fo (). [15]

Mudra: abhaya ('blessing of Fearlessness'), vara (charity).
Colour: yellow.
Bodhi-tree: pulila.

In one of the innumerable past kalpas there lived a king called Arcishtra in the royal city of Dipavati. During the same kalpa, Dipankara was a Bodhisattva in the Tushita heaven, and, as the time had arrived for him to manifest himself as a Buddha, he descended to earth, and, finding the king Arcishtra [16] a suitable father, entered into the womb of his virtuous spouse Susila.

The Mahdvastu Avaddna goes on to relate that

'when in the throes of childbirth, she requested the king to send her to a lotus tank. When she arrived at the side of the tank, lo! an island (dvipa) sprang up in the midst of it. The Bodhisattva was born on the island. At the moment of his birth there was a miraculous manifestation of a large number of bright lamps (dipa), hence his name Dipankara.

On the second day of his birth Dipankara commenced his philanthropic tour round the earth, equally useful to gods and men. . . . Megha offered five lotus-flowers [17] to Dipankara and asked that he might become, in one of his future existences, equal to Dipankara in power and knowledge and in every good quality. His request was granted.

It was foretold on this occasion that Megha would become Buddha Sakya-muni of Kapilavastu.' [18]

The above legend has several variations. According to the BodhisattvdvadanaKalpalata, a Brahman, Sumati [19] by name, was present at the sacrifice of the King of Benares. The king's daughter, Sundari, saw the Brahman and became enamoured of him; but when he sternly rejected her suit, she became a Bhikshuni (Buddhist nun). Sumati then had a strange dream and repaired to Dvipavati, where dwelt the Buddha Dvipankara, [20] to ask for its interpretation. Therehe met the Bhikshuni, Sundari, who was carrying seven lotus-flowers of Utpala.

Now, the king had commanded that all the flowers in the surrounding country should be brought to the palace, for the Buddha Dvipankara was to pass through the city and the flowers were to be strewn in his path. Thus had Sumati hunted in vain for flowers to offer before the Buddha, and seeing that Sundari carried seven lotus-flowers, be begged them of her. She willingly gave them to him, at the same time praying that, in their next existence, he might be her husband. Sumati promised that such would be the case, and telling her he would offer two of the flowers in her name, prostrated himself before the Dvipankara Buddha. He then offered the flowers, which, according to some accounts, arose in the air and formed a baldachin over the Buddha's head.

Sumati then unbound his long hair and spread it on the ground before the Dvipankara Buddha, who, treading upon it, exclaimed,

'You shall become a great Buddha, Sakya-muni by name!' [21]

This incident, as well as that of the flowers, is a favourite one in Buddhist art.

According to Grunwedel, the Dipankara Buddha is the twenty-fourth teacher of Buddhist law before Sakya-muni, and the last four alone (with Maitreya added to them) belong to the present period. The Southern school accepts the list of twenty-four Tathagata, while the Northern Buddhists reckon the Dipankara Buddha as the fifty-second predecessor of Sakya-muni. Hodgson places him as the first Tathagata of the actual universe, and the ninth predecessor of Gautama Buddha. The most popular system, however, is the list of twenty-four Tathagata, with the Dipankara Buddha as the first and Gautama Buddha added as the twenty-fifth.

The Dipankara Buddha is believed to have lived 100,000 years on earth. According to Beal, he was 3,000 years on earth before finding any one worthy of hearing the divine truth. He then decided to convert the world and caused

'the appearance of a great city to proceed from his lamp and fix itself in space'.

While the people of Jambudvipa (India) were gazing upon this miracle, fierce flames were emitted from the four walls. Fear filled their hearts and they looked for a Buddha to save them. Then Dipankara came forth from the burning city, descended to Jambudvipa, seated himself on the Lion Throne, [22] and began to teach the Law. Legend claims that he remained another kalpa on earth 'turning the Wheel of the Law'.

In the Mahavastu the Tathagata is called 'Dipankara' (from dipa, meaning 'lamp'), [23] while in the BodMsattvavadana-Kdlpalata he is called 'Dvipankara' (from dvipa or island'). Either name applies to him, for he was born on an island and miraculous lamps burned at his birth. One can, therefore, understand his popularity on the islands of Java and Ceylon and at all Buddhist festivals celebrated by illuminations.

According to M. Foucher [24] many of the merchants who carried on commerce with China and the Southern islands were Buddhists. As it was their custom to put their cargo and equipage under the protection of a Buddha, he thinks it not unlikely that the Dipankara Buddha was looked upon as 'Protector of Mariners'. In the Saddharmapundanka [25] there is the description of a Buddha walking on the waves while his disciples remain in the boat, and in the caves of Ajanta there is a fresco depicting this scene. [26]

The Dipankara Buddha is represented in Java and Ceylon with the right hand in ahhaya mudra — gesture of protection, called 'blessing of Fearlessness'. He is always standing, with the monastic garment draped over the left shoulder, the folds being held by the left hand either at the shoulder or at his hip. The right shoulder is uncovered, which, according to M. Foucher, indicates an occasion of ceremony. One finds in India the statues of a Buddha much resembling those of the Dipankara Buddha in Ceylon and Java, but the right shoulder is generally covered and the folds of the garment are held below the hip. Like all Buddhas, Dipankara has the short, curly hair, the ushnisha, urna, and long-lobed ears.

In Siam, the Dipankara Buddha has either both hands in ahhaya mudra or the right only, while the left hangs against the folds of the monastic garment. (PI. vi. fig. c.)

The triad in Java is:

Manjusri — Dipankara Buddha — Vajrapani.

In Ceylon:

Avalokitesvara — Dipankara Buddha — Vaj rapani.

In Nepal and Tibet:

Sakya-muni — Dipankara Buddha — Maitreya, called the 'Three White Buddhas'.

The earliest images of Buddha in Japan resemble the Dipankara Buddha, with the exception that while the right hand is in abhaya [27] mudra, the left is in vara mudra, gesture of charity. The right shoulder is almost invariably covered.

In China, the Dipankara Buddha has always been popular, and is still worshipped there. In the cave temples of Yunkang [28] near Ta-t'ong-fou there are many examples, but only a few standing; the rest are all sitting with legs locked — with both the shoulders covered but with the breast bare, The right hand is in abhaya mudra, while the left generally holds the folds of the monastic garment either at the shoulder or on the left knee. In the Long-men temple caves there are also many examples much resembling those at Yun-kang.


Kasyapa [29] (Third Manushi-Buddha)

(The Keeper of Light)

(T.) hod-srun (luminous protector).
(M.) ghasiba (from the Sanskrit) or gerel-sakiqci (luminous protector).

Mudra: vara (charity).
Vahana: lion.
Colour: yellow.
Bodhi-tree: banyan.
Dhyani-Bodhisattva: Ratnapani.
Dhyani-Buddha: Ratnasambhava.
Manushi-Buddha: Kasyapa.

Kasyapa was Manushi-Buddha in the Jcalpa preceding that of Sakya-muni who had been his disciple in a former halpa, and whose eventual Buddhahood he had predicted. He lived on earth 20,000 years and converted 20,000 people.

It is believed that he is buried under Mount Kukkutapada, in Northern India, near Bodh-Gaya, and that when Maitreya comes upon earth as a Manushi-Buddha, he will go first to the mountain which will open miraculously. Kasyapa will then come forth and give to Maitreya the garments of a Buddha, after which his body will be consumed by holy fire [30] and he will enter Nirvana.

According to the Mahayana system, Kasyapa is the third Manushi-Buddha of the group of five, and the sixth of the group of seven ancient Buddhas.

Kasyapa is sometimes represented seated on a Lion Throne, and is always clothed like a Buddha. His right hand is in 'charity' mudra, and his left holds a fold of his monastic garment. The two folds held in the hand look like the ears of an animal.


Gautama Sakya-Muni [31] (Fourth Manushi-Buddha)

Siddhartha of Kapilavastu

The Supremely Happy One (Bhagavan or Bhagavat)

(T.) sha-kya thub-pa (the sage Sakya).
(M.) Sigemuni or Burqan (Buddha Sakya-muni).
(C.) Kiao-ta-mo () and Ju-lai.
(J.) Shakamuni

Mudra,: vitarka (argument), dharmacakra (turning the wheel ot the law), bhumisparsa (witness), or dyana (meditation).
Symbol: patra (begging-bowl).
Colour: golden.
Support: red lotus.
Bodhi-tree: Ficus religiosa.
Fourth Dhyani-Buddha: Amitabha.
Dhyani-Bodhisattva: Avalokitesvara.
Manushi-Buddha: Sakya-muni.

According to Buddhist tradition, Sakya-muni, after passing through 550 existences [32] as animal, man, and god, was born in the Tushita heaven as Bodhisattva in the kalpa preceding the present era. When the time came for him to manifest himself on earth and receive Buddhahood, it is believed that he descended to earth in the form of a white elephant with six tusks. Certain Buddhist sects, however, claim that Sakya-muni descended from the Tushita heaven on a ladder brought to him by Indra, and that the white elephant was only the dream of his mother, Maya.

The conception of Maya is variously treated by Buddhist writers. According to Satow, the Japanese Buddhists believe that

'Maya saw a golden pagoda on a cloud. The doors opened and she saw a golden Buddha within. A white elephant with a red head [33] and six tusks appeared, carrying on its head a white lotus, on which Buddha took his seat. From the white spot [34] on his forehead shone a brilliant light which illuminated the whole universe, and alighting from the white elephant, he passed into her bosom like a shadow.'

Maya's conception does not seem to have inspired the Indian sculptors to the same extent as the incidents of the birth of the Buddha; [35] of his first bath at which assisted the Naga gods; [36] or of his first steps, when lotus-flowers sprang from the earth under each foot as he walked; or of his flight into the wilderness and meditation under the Bodhi-tree, [37] his temptation by Mara, and of his Parinirvana or death. (PI. xn, fig. a, and PI. xiii, fig. d.)

Up to the first century of our era, the sculptors in India were still so strongly under the influence of the Buddha's teachings that they had made no image of him. In fact, according to M. Foucher, they succeeded in 'representing the life of Buddha without Buddha'.[38] In the panels of the famous stupa at Amaravati (North-west India), his birth and his presentation to the sage A£ita are represented by the imprints of his feet. On the Sanchi stupa his departure from the palace is depicted by a horse with its saddle empty. At the temple of Bodh-Gaya, his first meditation is symbolized by a vacant seat. At Barhut, according to M. Foucher, an inscription on the stupa explains that the personages depicted kneeling before a vacant throne are rendering homage to the very 'Happy One'.

As he was called a 'wheel king', [39] the Tathagata was sometimes represented by a wheel with eight spokes. If the sermon in the deer park at Benares was meant, the wheel was flanked on either side by a gazelle. [40] A ' bodhi ' tree, as well as a column topped by a trident, [41] symbolized his teachings. A ladder with footprints on the top and bottom rungs denoted his descent from the Tushita heaven, and a white elephant with six tusks his last incarnation.

According to Hiuen-tsang, the first image of the Buddha was made at the command of King Udayana, while the Tathagata was in the Trayastrimsa heaven, where he had gone to convert his mother to Buddhism. Upon his return to earth, after ninety days, the statue was completed. It was five feet high and was made from a precious sandal-wood called gosirsha. When the Buddha appeared before the statue it lifted itself in mid-air and saluted him, whereupon the Tathagata prophesied that Buddhism would spread to China one thousand years after his Parinirvana. [42] The Chinese Buddhists claim that the sandal-wood statue was taken to China by Kasyapa Matanga when he joined the Emperor Mingti's mission in the first century A. D., and that it was presented to the emperor.

According to other accounts [43] it was King Prasenajit who was the originator of Buddhist idolatry. He caused an image of Gautama to be made in 'purple' gold. It was five feet high. The Japanese Buddhists believe that this statue was made by the Buddha himself from gold brought from Mount Sumeru. Chinese history records a golden image of Buddha taken in a warlike expedition 122 B.C. in the Hieou-thou, a country beyond Yarkand, and sent to the Chinese Emperor.

At Lhassa, in the temple of the Dalai Lama, there is a gilt statue of the Buddha said to have been brought from China in the seventh century A. D. by the Chinese wife of the Tibetan king, Srong-tsan-gam-po, who was the daughter of the Chinese emperor.

The first image of Buddha in Japan was brought by a Chinese priest A. D. 534, and eighteen years later the Korean king sent to the Emperor of Japan a golden image of the Buddha, which is believed to be the statue now in the Zenkoji temple at Nagano.

The Indian images of the Buddha represent him with short locks, for, according to Buddhist tradition, Gautama, after his flight from the palace, drew forth his sword and cut off his long hair. In the Mahdvastu it is written that the hair was caught by the gods and carried to the Trayastrim&a heavens, where it was worshipped as a sacred relic. According to some accounts, they carried away his turban as well. [44] The Gandhara school never portrayed the Buddha, however, with short locks, but depicted the event by his taking off his turban and ear-rings. The short locks, following tradition, should curl from left to right [45] and were represented by the Indian artists in the shape of sea-shells. In China and Japan they sometimes took the form of round beads or sharp spikes.

He always has the mhnisha or protuberance on the skull, which is presumably the seat of the mams, or divine mind (soul) of the Buddha. It may be terminated by a round ornament [46] (the flaming pearl), or have, as in Nepal, a single flame issuing from it. In Ceylon, the flame is three or five-forked (v. PI. vi, fig. b), and in Siam it may be seven-forked. The Buddhas, however, in Siam, as well as in Burma, often have the ushnisha covered by an ornate head-dress which is tapering in shape and somewhat resembles a stupa (v. PI. viii).

There is usually the auspicious mark (urna) on the forehead of the Indian Buddha, and the lobes of the ears are long. The monastic garment is almost invariably draped over the left shoulder, leaving the right arm and shoulder bare, which fact indicates a ceremony of importance. In the early Indian images of the Buddha, the right hand is generally raised, the fingers extending upward, the palm turned outward, [47] while the left hand lies on the lap, with the palm turned upward. If seated, the legs are closely locked in the 'adamantine' pose; both feet apparent, the soles turned upward, sometimes marked by a wheel, or a button resembling the urna on the forehead. There may be, in Tibet, a svastika (but rarely) marked on the breast, or lying on the throne before the Buddha (PI. n, fig. c).

When the sculptor wished to indicate the sermon in the deer park at Benares, a wheel was apparent somewhere on the statue, but in later images the fact was indicated by a pose of the hands called dharmacakra [48] mudra (turning the Wheel of the Law).

Another early mudra or mystic pose of the hands of the Buddha was the dhyana mudra, representing his meditation (samadhi) under the Bodhi-tree. In this pose both hands lie on the lap, the right on top of the left, with the palms turned upwards, [49] and the figure, with the legs closely locked, formed a perfect triangle v. (Trikona).

As Buddha, 'Liberator of the Nagas' [50] (klu-dban-rgyal-po) , he may have either the dhyana mudra or a special pose [51] of the hands, held at the breast with all fingers locked except the indexes, which are raised and touch at the tips. Gautama Buddha may be represented either seated on the coils of a serpent with its hood of five or seven heads spread over him, or seated on a lotus throne with only the serpent's hood protecting his head. (v. PI. vi. fig. a, and PI. xi, figs, a and b.) According to Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha once sat near a lake absorbed in meditation.

The tutelary deity of the lake was the Naga king, Mucalinda, who

'wishing to preserve him (Buddha) from the sun and rain, wrapped his body seven times around him and spread his hood over his head, and there Buddha remained seven days in thought '. [52]

Buddha, invoking the earth to witness his resistance of the temptations of the spirit of evil, Mara, is represented by the bhumisparsa mudra. The right arm is stretched downwards, all the fingers are extended, the tips touching the earth, the palm turned underneath (v. Glossary and Pis. I and viii).

Buddha of the Vajrasana (diamond throne) [53] has also the bhumisparia mudra. He is awakening to the consciousness of Buddhahood from the state of Bodhisattva.

He is seated under the Bodhi-tree on the 'diamond' throne,

'supposed to be the centre of the universe and the only spot capable of supporting the weight of a Buddha and his thoughts'.

[54] The 'diamond' throne is sometimes indicated by a vajra lying in front of Buddha on the lotus throne. [55] The most beautiful example of Buddha of the Vajrasana is in the temple of Mahabodhi at Bodh-Gaya, where he is not only worshipped by the Buddhists, but also by the Brahmans, as one of the avatars of Vishnu, and there is a Vishnu mark on his forehead.

The Buddhas of the Gandhara sculptures show strong Hellenic influence. The features are Grecian. The hair, long and wavy, is caught up in a knot in place of the protuberance of the skull of the Indian images, (v. PI. xi, fig. c.) The unia is sometimes omitted, and the lobes of the ears are somewhat elongated by the weight of the ear-rings which he wore during his youth, but not to the abnormal extent characteristic of the Indian school. In the early images there is no moustache, but later statues have a slight moustache which one also sees in Japan and in China. In fact the Gandhara images of the Buddha may have both a moustache and, when in the ascetic form of Gautama, a beard. The right arm and shoulder are never bare, but are covered by the monastic garment draped in the Grecian fashion over the left shoulder.

It is this form of the Buddha that found its way from India into China and Japan, presumably via Khotan (Chinese Turkestan), where there was an art-loving court in the seventh century A. D. The celebrated painter, Wei-ch'i-I-song, of Khotan, lived at that time and was much at the Chinese court. It is believed to have been through his influence that the Gandhara school was introduced into China, where, however, the influence lasted but a few centuries, and into Japan, where it made a deep impression which has lasted till the present day.

Some of the statues of Buddha in China and Japan have a curious wavy line in the folds of the monastic garment, and Grunwedel explains that when the Buddha posed for the statue ordered by Udayana, the artist was so blinded by his glory that Buddha caused himself to be mirrored in the water so that the statue might be finished.

'The artist produced this reflection and thus the wavy lines of the robe are accounted for.'

Gautama Buddha is believed to have had thirty-two superior and eighty inferior marks of beauty. [56] The thirtieth of the thirty-two superior marks is:

'Webbed fingers and toes.'

In the Volkerkunde Museum, Berlin, there is a fresco, discovered by Herr von Le Coq at Turfan, Chinese Turkestan, which represents the Buddha with webbed fingers, the webbed part being painted bright red. In the collection of Buddhist divinities owned by Mr. Okura, of Tokyo, there is a life-sized statue of the Buddha, with wavy lines in the folds of the monastic garment draped in Grecian fashion and with the fingers and toes webbed. But although the draperies of the Japanese representations of the Buddha often indicate the influence of the Gandhara school, the features are never Grecian; and (with the exception of the eyes) closely resemble the Indian Buddhas with the long-lobed ears. The Buddha is never represented in Japan with Mongolian features and rarely with the right shoulder and arm bare, but the breast is sometimes uncovered and may be marked with a svastika. (v. PI. xviii, fig. a.)

Other examples of the historic Buddha found in China and Japan, and but rarely in Tibet, are:

  1. Buddha as a child, standing with the right arm pointing upward while the left points towards the earth. It represents Buddha immediately after his birth speaking his first words: 'Now for the last time am I incarnate.' (PI. vi, fig. d.)
  2. Buddha as an ascetic, sometimes standing, but generally seated with his right knee raised. He is represented very emaciated and often with moustache and beard (PL x, fig. c.)
  3. Buddha as entering into Nirvana. He is represented lying on the right side with his right hand under his head. He is often accompanied by his two favourite disciples, Sariputra and Maudgalyayana. (PI. xn, fig. a.)

The Buddhist formula is 'Buddha, Dharma, Sangha' (Buddha, — the Law — the Assembly). In China, Dharma and Sangha are personified and form a popular triad with the Buddha. They symbolize the generative power (Buddha), the productive power (Dharma), and the active power of creation (Sangha).

'Dharma' is represented with four arms. The normal ones are in namahhara (prayer) mudra — the other two hands hold respectively a rosary and a book.

'Sangha' is represented with two arms — one resting on the knee and the other holding a lotus-flower.

When the Buddha is in the centre with Dharma at the right and Sangha at the left, the triad is called the Upayika, or Theistic Triad. When Dharma is in the centre with the Buddha at the right and Sangha at the left, it is called the Prajnika or Atheistic Triad.

The statue representing Dharma seems to combine Avalokitesvara, god of Mercy, and Manjusri, god of Wisdom, by its mudra and symbols, for the namahkara mudra and rosary belong to the former, and the book, the Prajnaparamita, to the latter.

One also finds the Buddha in a triad with Maitreya and Avalokitesvara, as well as surrounded by the 'eight Bodhisattva'.


Maitreya (The Future Fifth Manushi Buddha)

(The Compassionate One).

(T.) byams-pa (pro. cam-pa) (kind, loving).
(M.) maijdari (from the Sanskrit).
(C.) Mi-lo-fo ().
(J.) Miroku

Mudra: dharmacakra (turning the Wheel of the Law), or vara (charity), and vitarka (argument).
Symbols: kalasa (vase), cakra (wheel).
Colour: yellow.
Emblem: campa (naga pushpa) [57] (white flower with yellow centre).
Distinctive marks: stupa in head-dress, scarf around the waist tied at left side.
Dhyani-Buddha: Amoghasiddha.
Dhyani-Bodhisattva: Visvapani.
Manushi-Buddha: Maitreya,
The Dhyani-Bodhisattva form of Maitreya belongs to the group of eight Dhyani-Bodhisattva.

Buddhist tradition divides the period between the death of Buddha and the manifestation of Maitreya in the actual universe into three divisions of time [58]:

  1. Period of 500 years, 'the turning of the Wheel of the first Law'.
  2. Period of 1 ,000 years, ' the law of images ' (Saddharma pratirupaka).
  3. Period of 3,000 years, 'the turning of the Wheel of the second Law', after which Maitreya will leave the Tushita heaven and come upon earth to 'establish the lost truths in all their purity'.

Sakya-muni is supposed to have visited Maitreya in the Tushita heaven when he appointed him to be his successor, and many Buddhist sages (arhats) are believed to have had communion with him, transporting themselves by supernatural means to the Tushita heaven to seek enlightenment on various religious points. The great Asanga, one thousand years after the birth of Buddha, ascended to the Tushita heaven, where he was initiated, by Maitreya, into the mystic doctrine of the Tantra, which he grafted on to the Mahayana school in the beginning of the sixth century. Maitreya is therefore looked upon, by certain sects, as the founder of the Tantra school.

He is the only Bodhisattva who figures in Southern Buddhism, and statues of him are found in Ceylon, Burma, and Siam, generally in company with Gautama Buddha. His worship was at its height in India, according to the accounts of the Chinese pilgrims, in the fifth century, and there are many statues of him in the Gandhara sculptures of that period. He is represented either seated as a Buddha with his long hair drawn up in a knot on the top of his head forming the ushnisha, his legs closely locked, and his hands in dharmacakra (teaching) mudra; or as a Bodhisattva, in which case he is standing, with his long hair hanging over his shoulders, while a part of it is caught up in a knot on his head. His hands form ' argument ' and ' charity ' mudra.

In the Indian sculptures, as Bodhisattva, he is standing. His hair is arranged mitre-shaped. His hands form the usual mudra, and in the left is a vase which is round, while in the sculptures of the Gandhara school the vase is oval or pointed in shape.

The early Mongolian images of Maitreya are also generally standing and hold in their hands, forming 'argument' and 'charity' mudra, the stems of flowers called 'campa', which, however, in the bronzes often resembles the lotus-flower. If painted, the campa is white with a yellow centre.

In Tibet, Maitreya is also represented both as Buddha and Bodhisattva. As Buddha, he has short curly hair, the ushnisha, urna, and long-lobed ears. He wears the monastic garment, with the right shoulder bare, and the hands are in dharmacakra mudra. He is seated, but the legs, instead of being locked, are both pendent, and the feet may be unsupported. He is the only divinity in the Northern Buddhist pantheon represented seated in European fashion. (PI. xv, fig. b.)

As Bodhisattva, he may be also seated with the legs closely locked, which, according to M. Foucher, [59] was possibly his attitude in the Tushita heaven when teaching the Arhats; but as Bodhisattva he is usually seated in European fashion with each foot resting on a small lotus-flower asana. (v. PL xv, fig. a.) He is represented as an Indian prince with all the Bodhisattva ornaments, and in the crown is generally a stupa-sh&ped ornament which is his distinctive mark, but he may be without a crown and have the stupa in his hair. His hands are in dharmacakra mudra and may be holding the stems of flowers supporting his two symbols, the vase and the wheel, on a level with his shoulders. (PL xv, fig. c.) He may be seated on a throne supported by lions and have five Dhyani Buddhas in the nimbus. (PL xiv.)

He may have an antelope skin over his left shoulder, in which case he is generally standing. His hands are in vitarka and vara mudra, and he either carries the vase, or the two symbols — vase and wheel — are supported by lotus-flowers on a level with each shoulder. It is in this latter attitude that he is represented in the group of 'eight Bodhisattva'. He never carries the wheel, which is always supported by a lotus-flower.

When the stupa is not well defined in the crown and he is standing with the hands in; 'argument' and 'charity' mudra holding the vase, with the antelope skin over the left shoulder, he resembles a form of Padmapani [60] and is extremely difficult to determine. Padmapani' s distinctive mark is a small image of Amitabha in his crown, but it may be missing.

Maitreya's two distinctive marks are a stupa in the crown and a scarf wound around the waist and tied on the left side with the ends falling to the feet; but these may be missing. According to Grunwedel, if all the distinctive marks are missing, one may call this form 'Maitreya', as he is a more popular deity than Padmapani.

The stupa in the crown of Maitreya is thought to refer to the belief that a stupa on Mount Kukkutapada near Bodh-Gaya covers a spot where Kasyapa Buddha is lying. When Maitreya leaves the Tushita heaven, he will go to the mountain, which will open by magic, and Kasyapa will give him the garments of a Buddha. [61]

In the Gandhara sculptures, Maitreya was represented much larger than his assistants. According to Hiuen-tsang, there is a statue of Maitreya at Dardu, north of the Punjab, in wood, which is one hundred feet high. It is believed to have been made by an artist whom the Lohan Madhyantika caused, by magic, to mount three times to the Tushita heaven to contemplate the form of Maitreya before carving the statue. [62]

The Chinese claim that Maitreya was thirty feet high. According to Edkins, in the province of Che-kiang there is a stone image of Maitreya forty feet high, and still another seventy feet high. At Peking in the Yung-ho-kung, there is a wooden image still higher.

The bronze and stone images of Mi-lo-fo (Maitreya) of the sixth century a.d. are usually standing, with the right hand in abliaya mudra, and the left in vara mudra. In the cave temples of Yun-kang and Long-men there are many examples of Maitreya seated European fashion, but the feet are crossed.

In Japan, he is seated with legs locked, his hands in dhyana mudra holding a vase, and in this form he somewhat resembles the Tibetan Amitayus.

Maitreya is found in a triad with Gautama Buddha and Avalokitesvara, and also with the goddesses, Kurukula and Bhrikutl.


Mania (rank of Buddha)

(The Supreme Physician).

(S.) Bhaysajaguru or Pindola.
(T.) sman-bla (pro. Mania) (supreme medicine).
(M.) ototi (prince of medicine) or bindwria (beryl).
(C.) Yao-shih-fo ().
(J.) Yaku-shi and Binzura sama.

Mudra: vara (charity), dhyana (meditation).
Symbols: patra (begging-bowl), myrobalans (T. A-ru-ra, a golden fruit). [63]
Colour: blue.

Mania, the Buddhist Aesculapius, is not only venerated in Tibet and Manchuria, but in China and Japan, where he is a most popular divinity. He is called the 'Healing Buddha', and is said to dispense spiritual medicine when properly worshipped. It is even believed in all these countries that an efficacious cure may be accomplished by merely touching the image.

In China he is worshipped under the name of 'Yao-shih-fo' (Bhaysajaguru), or Healing Teacher and Medical King. He is the ruler of the Eastern world and has two attendants, the Bodhisattva, Ji-kwang-pien-chau and Yue-kwang-pien-chau, who are believed to assist him in removing all suffering.

In Japan, as Yaku-shi, he is sometimes counted among the five Dhyani-Buddhas, taking the place of either Vairocana or Akshobhya. He is also one of the thirteen Buddhas of the Shingon sect, and is believed to look after the soul on the seventh week after death (v. Fudo). Yaku-shi is always placed inside the temple, and may be found in a triad with Amitabha and Gautama Buddha.

There is a popular form of Yaku-shi in Japan called 'Binzura Sama', which is worshipped by the common people as a veritable fetish. His head is usually covered by a hood, his hands with mittens, and there are often so many bibs around his neck, one on top of the other, that his face is scarcely visible. He is looked upon as Pindola, one of the sixteen Japanese Rakhan (Arhats), and is always placed outside of the temple or principal shrine, for the following reason:

'According to popular Japanese tradition he was expelled from the Sixteen for having violated the vow of chastity by remarking upon the beauty of a woman, and hence his usual situation outside the temple.' (Satow.)

It is also believed that, at Mania's request, the power of curing all ills was conferred on him by Gautama Buddha.

As a Buddha, he is represented with the urna, ushnisha, and short, curly hair. He wears the monastic robe, and is seated with the legs crossed. His left hand, lying in his lap in 'meditation' mudra, holds either a branch with the fruit, or the fruit alone, of the myrobalans, a medicinal plant found in India and other tropical countries. The fruit resembles a lemon and is five-sided, (v. PI. lx, fig. c.)

In Tibet, as Bodhisattva, he wears the five-leaved crown as well as all the usual ornaments, and is represented in paintings rather than in bronzes. In China and Japan, on the contrary, he is more usually found in bronzes; and while he wears the five-leaved crown, he is dressed like a Buddha and wears few ornaments. His symbols and mudra are the same as his form as Buddha. If painted, he is blue.

There is a group of eight medical Tathagata who are believed to have created the medicinal plants, and Mania is the most popular of this group. [64] They figure in Pander's Pantheon des TscJmngtscha Hutuktu, and Mania is represented (No. 142) as a Buddha holding a branch of the myrobalans on which is the fruit. If painted, three of the gods are red, and four yellow, while Mania is blue.


a. Gautama Buddha b. Gautama Buddha
c. Dipankara Buddha d. Gautama Buddha speaking his first words


Gautama Buddha (First bath given by Nagas)


a. Gautama Buddha b. Gautama Buddha
c. Gautama Buddha d. Gautama Buddha


Gautama Buddha


a. Gautama Buddha, Ascetic b. Gautama Buddha, Ascetic
c. Gautama Buddha, Ascetic d. Gautama Buddha, Ascetic


a. Buddha b. Gautama Buddha
c. Head of Gautama Buddha, Gandhara School


a. The Parinirvana of the Buddha
b. Manjusri
c. Juntei Kwan-non


a. Stupa containing prayers b. Gautama Buddha
c. Stupa d. The Parinirvana of the Buddha


Maitreya on a Lion Throne

Footnotes and references:


v. The Dhyani-Bodhisattva.


Body of Transformation.


v. Glossary.


Krakucchanda, Kanakamuni, Kasyapa, Sakyamuni, Maitreya. For the twenty-four mythical Buddhas, see R. S. Hardy, A Manual of Buddhism, p. 94.


v. Glossary.


v. Schmidt, Memoires de V Academic des Sciences de Saint-Petersbourg; Schlagintweit, Buddhism in Tibet; and de la Vallee Poussin, 'The Three Bodies of a Buddha', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Oct. 1906.


Eitel, Handbook of Chinese Buddhism. Sometimes a fourth body is given, the Svabhava-kaya. According to Hodgson, The Languages, Literature, and Religions of Nepal and Tibet, p. 92, there are five bodies, the last two being Mahasukha-kaya and Jnana-kaya.


'The Three Bodies of a Buddha', The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Oct. 1906.


lakshana; v. Glossary.


According to M. de la Vallee Poussin, the Bodhisattva would possess the marks in 'germ state' and 'ripen' them in course of his different reincarnations.


v. PI. vi, fig. d, and PL vn as well as illustration, A. Foucher, L'Art greco-bouddhique, fig. 155.


v. PI. x.


v. Glossary.


Eitel. According to E. Denison Ross, 'that makes a lamp or light'.


Beal. According to Edkins, ' Jan-teng '.


In the Mahdvastu his father is called Arcismat and his mother Sudipa.


These flowers are generally represented as growing on one stalk or stem (Beal).


R. Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Literature.


Or Sumedha, or Megha, one of the incarnations of Gautama Buddha.


Called Dipankara in the Mahavastu.


Herr von Le Coq discovered a fresco representing this scene in a temple at Turfan, Chinese Turkestan. It is now in the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Berlin.


Simhasana; v. Glossary.


His name is also translated in this sense in the Tibetan and Mongolian sacred books.


Iconographie bouddhique, vol. i, p. 80.


Lotus of the Good Law.


See miniature in the MS. Add. 1643 of the University Library, Cambridge.


v. Glossary.


v. plates of Chavannes, Mission archeologique dans la Chine septentrionale.


Kasyapa, lit. ' (one who) swallowed light '. In other words, 'the sun and moon which caused his body to shine like gold Eitel).


See B. S. Hardy, A Manual of Buddhism, p. 97.


Sakya, the mighty (the Sakya Sage).


Eitel gives ' 5,000 existences'.


In one of the miniatures in the MS. Add. 1643in the University Library, Cambridge, the Buddha is represented surrounded by four elephants with red heads.


urna; v. Glossary.


Every Buddha is born from the right side of his mother; v. miniature in the MS. Add. 1643 in the University Library, Cambridge.


v. the Nagas and PI. VII.


Each Buddha had his sacred tree under which he attained Buddhahood.


Debuts de I'art bouddhique, p. 8.


'A king who rules the world and causes the wheel of doctrine everywhere to revolve'


Symbol which is represented over the door of the entrance of every Buddhist temple in Tibet and Mongolia.


tritula; v. Glossary.


The Chinese, in order to fulfil this prophecy date back the birth of Buddha one thousand years.




A. Foucher, L'Art greco-bouddhique, p. 363.


One of the thirty-two superior marks of a Buddha. v. Lakshana. The priests of the Gelugs-pa sect always turn their prayer-wheels from left to right.


Cintamani, v. Glossary.


The abliaya mudra (v. Glossary) gesture of the Buddha in the episode of the mad elephant, v. miniature in theMS. Add. 1404 in the University Library, Cambridge.


Dharmacakra mudra, v. Glossary.


Also mudra of Amitabha.


Nagas, serpent gods.


v. Glossary renge-no-in.


Oldenberg, Life of Buddha, p. 23.


Vajra is here translated ' diamond ' in the sense of 'indestructible'.


A. Foucher, Iconographie bouddhique, p. 91.


PI. II, fig. c.


Laksltana, v. Glossary.


Foucher, Iconographie bouddhique, p. 113


Grunwedel, Buddhist Art, p. 181. Usual length of time given 5,000 years, in China 3,000.


Iconographie bouddhique, p. 113. (v. PI. III, fig. d.)


v. Padmapani.


v. Kasyapa.


Beal, Buddhist Records of the Western World, vol. i, p. 134.


Terminalia of botanists.


v. plate of tsoh-shin (frontispiece), where all the eight Tathagata are represented with the alarm staff (khakkhara).

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