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Arapachana Manjusri

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Arapachana Manjushri is a meditational deity in Vajrayana Buddhism. He is generally classified as either Kriya or Charya Tantra.

In terms of function Manjushri is typically categorized as a wisdom deity - meaning a meditational deity that promotes the increase of wisdom, knowledge, memory, language skills, etc.

There are several different forms of Arapachana Manjushri and there are several forms of Manjushri that look like Arapachana but are not.

Arapachana as described in early texts is white in colour, but according to 12th and 13th century Kadampa and Sakyapa teachers can also be orange. Generally in Tibetan art the colour orange is not consistent between centuries and artists.

The colour of the deity is often described as orange like the rising sun. The variations can range from yellow, to tangerine, to bright orange.

The White Arapachana can be either solitary in appearance or have four retinue attendant figures.

The orange form of Arapachana is solitary.

Older art works for both painting and sculpture depict the left hand holding a book to the heart. Later art works depict the right hand holding the stem of a blue utpala flower at the heart with the blossom at the left ear supporting a book.

An early text describing the practice and rituals of Arapachana is the Siddhaikavira Tantra.

"...Arya Manjushri with a body orange in colour, having the colour of fresh saffron, one face and two hands.

The right holds aloft the sword of wisdom severing ignorance and in the left the stem of an utpala to the heart, blossoming at the ear with the Prajnaparamita book above.

With the feet seated in vajra posture, having jewel ornaments and upper and lower garments of silk, the hair tied to the left in five tufts - [some] loose; having the appearance of a youth of sixteen years.

A moon disc with the nature of light supports the back."

(Sakya Lotsawa Kunga Sonam (1485-1533), 23rd Throne Holder of Sakya. sGrub Thabs Kun bTus, vol.2, fol.258-261. Translated into English by (c)Jetsun Kusho Chimey Luding and Jeff Watt. May 1984).


Manjushri is the bodhisattva of transcendental wisdom and knowledge. He is the manifestation of the wisdom of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Manjushri is the Buddhist counterpart of the Brahmanical god Brahma, who is also depicted with a scripture (the Vedas).

Manjushri confers knowledge, intelligence, and retentive memory on his worshippers. The position occupied by Manjushri in the Buddhist pantheon is one of the very highest.

His mention as a bodhisattva occurs earliest in the Buddhist texts. His worship is widely prevalent among the Buddhists of the Northern Buddhist countries.

Manjushri is the patron deity of Nepalese Buddhism and is credited with draining the Kathmandu valley when it was great lake with a blow of his sword.

As the totality of transcendent wisdom, Manjushri is identified with primordial Buddha Svayambhunath and is the root teacher of Nepale Buddhist Chakrasamvara practice.

Those, who could not form any conception of him according to Tantric rites, attained perfection only by muttering his numerous mantras.

Manjushri is believed to have been a wandering ascetic and the Gandavyuha Sutra records the tradition that he came out of Pratishthanakutagraha and accompanied by Bodhisattvas of his status and other divinities, led his journey to Dakshinapatha.

Further it is also mentioned in the text about an assembly at Jetavana in which Manjushri, Samantabhadra, five thousand Bodhisattvas and Mahashravakas participated along with Buddha.

A Chinese tradition records that Gautama Buddha had informed Manjushri of his duty to turn the wheel of Law for the salvation of the Chinese and choose Panchshira (five-peaked) mountain in Shan-si province in china as his place of manifestation.

The association of Manjushri with China is also mentioned in the Svayambhu Purana.

The Purana mentioned that Manjushri which was his abode to Svayambhunath kshetra in order to pay his respect to Adi-Buddha who had manifested himself in lake Kalihrada, this is now the Nepal valley.

Manjushri erected a temple over the flame of fire and on a hillock nearby he made his own abode, and also a vihara still known as the Manjupattana.

Manjushri stayed there sometime and thereafter he returned home.

This tradition has led some scholars to propound the view that Manjushri was a historical character.

Aryamanjushri-mulakalpa and Sadhanamala describe a number of distinctive forms of Manjushri for worship and sadhana. The present form of Manjushri is known as Arapachana.

Several sadhanas in the Sadhanamala describe this form of Manjushri.

In this form he is to be seated in vajraparyankasana with two hands, right hand upraised with wisdom sword and the left with a manuscript, generally held near the chest, but in many manifestations he does not carry the scripture or book against the chest, but holds the stem of a lotus, which bears the book.

When he holds manuscript near the chest, he is accompanied by the four divinities, Keshini, Upakeshini, Chandraprabha and Suryaprabha and as the group of five originates from the five syllables, 'A', 'R', 'P', 'C' and 'N', the principal deity is called Arapachana.

Each syllable of Arapachana Manjushri's mantra has a symbolic meaning.

The symbolism of the letters is explained below:

A is the essence of all Dharma because it is un-produced in the beginning RA is the head of all Dharma because it is free from defilements PA is the chief of all Dharma because it expounds ultimate truth CA is the head of all Dharma because of the no-perception of disease and rebirth NA is the chief of all Dharma because it is from name (and form).

Thus these powerful five syllables, as mentioned above, are personified in the form of Arapachana Manjushri as the highest embodiment of the knowledge of all Buddhas.

The ARAPACHANA syllabary is mentioned in early Mahayana sutras, the Lalitavistara, the Gandavyuha, and Prajnaparamita.

In this painting Arapachana Manjushri is seated in vajraparyankasana on moon disk on stylized lotus flower. Manjushri has a smiling face and the complexion of his body is gold.

Manjushri brandishes a flaming wisdom sword in his right hand, and the left holds a stem of lotus flower which bears the book.

His hair is partially up in a knot and partially down on his shoulders. He wears a gold crown and ornaments of a prince.

Moreover he wears a flowing turquoise silk scarf with all-over flowers in gold and red dhoti with all-over stylized designs in gold. Manjushri here also wears a pink scarf, tied diagonally in his left shoulder.

There is an aureole and halo behind his body and head, respectively. The bottom center depicts auspicious peaceful offerings. The painting is suitable for sadhana and practices.