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Bonji – Siddham

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Bonji” refer to specific letters or characters in Sanskrit, which is a language once spoken widely in ancient India. Sanskrit was considered a very sacred language, so much that it was used when transcribing sutras, dharanis and mantras in Buddhism, much like how Latin is used in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

In Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi was transmitted the mantras through his master Huiguo Acharya in Tang Dynasty China. At the time, Siddham was the foremost script used to represent the Sanskrit language. To this day, Shingon Buddhism is one of the few Buddhist lineages that continues to utilize Siddham in text and sound.

It is a trend to wear jewelry or beads that have specific Bonji carved on them. Each Bonji represents blessings and virtues of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.

The followings are the chart of Bonji characters, a Buddha representing birth year, and the seed mantra of the Buddha.


Bonji 11.jpg

One Thousand Arm Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
Year of Rat
Hrih

Lotus flowers come up from muddy water but they bloom beautifully. Their colors are not influenced by color of mud. We are also living in dirty world but One Thousand Arm Avalokitesvara guides us with her one thousand arms for us to live with pure heart. The mantra is “Om vajra dharma hrih.”


Bonji 2.jpg

Akasagarbha Bodhisattva
Year of Ox and Tiger
Trah

Akasagarbha Bodhisattva represents the infinite space of universe. He guides people by granting virtues, wisdom and compassion to people. The mantra is “Namo akasagarbhaya om arya camari mauli svaha.”


Bonji 3.jpg

Manjusri Bodhisattva
Year of Rabbit
Mam

This Bodhisattva is considered as the foremost in wisdom. There is a famous proverb, “If three people get together, wisdom of Manjusri will appears.” He bestows wisdom to us. The mantra is “Om a ra pa ca na.”


Bonji 4.jpg

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva
Year of Dragon and Snake
Am

This Bodhisattva represents the teaching of Six paramitas(giving, self restraint, patience, endeavor, meditation, and wisdom.) He also has a virtue to prolong our life. He is also called Vajramoghasamayasattva Bodhisattva. The mantra is “Om samayas tvam.”


Bonji 5.jpg

Mahastamaprapta Bodhisattva
Year of Horse
Sah

He guides us by illuminating a bright light of Wisdom. He saves people to lead them from defilement to awakening. He has tremendous power to save people of suffering. The mantra is “Om san jam jam sah svaha.”


Bonji 6.jpg

Mahavairocana Tathagata
Year of Ram and Monkey Vam

The sun shines upon all without discrimination. This Buddha bestows great light to all sentient beings. Mahavairocana of Vajradhatu realm wears a crown which has the five Buddhas figures and holds a mudra of Wisdom fists. This symbolizes firm and pure wisdom like a diamond jewel. The mantra is Om vajra dhatu vam.


Bonji 7.jpg

Acalanatha Vidyaraja
Year of Rooster
Ham

Acananatha Vidyaraja has a vow to guide people by cutting their trauma and suffering and leads them to awakening by binding their worldly desires. His figure is very wrathful and surrounded by fire flames and people think he is far away from Buddha class but this is the way that Buddhas save all people who need salvation. The mantra is “Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharosana sphotaya hum trat ham mam.”


Bonji 11.jpg

Amitabha Tathagata
Year of Dog and Boar
Hrih

This Buddha is called as Amitabha and Amitayus which mean infinite light and infinite life. This Buddha guides us to salvation by using compassion (life) and wisdom (light). The mantra is “Om amrta teje hara hum.”

Source

shingonjitemple.org