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Seishi Bosatsu (Bodhisattva)

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Seishi Bosatsu - 12th Century, Chuusonji Temple

Seishi Bosatsu, Seishi Bodhisattva, Daiseishi (Seishi 勢至 lit. = "to obtain strength")

English Japanese Chinese Sanskrit / Pali Korean Tibetan
Bodhisattva of Strength
Bosatsu of Wisdom
Seishi 勢至菩薩
Daiseishi 大勢至
Tokudaiseishi 得大勢至
Tokudaisei 得大勢
Shìzhì,
Shizhi,
Shih Chih,
Da Shì Zhì,
Ta-shih-chih
महास्थामप्राप्त
Mahasthamaprapta,
Mahāsthāmaprāpta,
Mahasthama
Daeseji bosal,
Dae Sae Zhi
세지
Phyag na rdo rje

Seishi appears in early Mahayana sutras, including the Immeasurable Life Sutra, the Meditation Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra. Seishi did not gain great popularity in India, but in China and Japan, Seishi's importance grew with the spread of the Pure Land sects devoted to Amida Buddha, for Seishi is one of the two main attendants (kyōji 脇侍) of Amida Buddha. The other is Kannon. In Japan, the three appear in a popular grouping known as the Amida Sanzon 阿弥陀三尊 (lit. = Amida Triad), with Amida in the center, Seishi to the right (representing wisdom), and Kannon to the left (representing compassion). Even today, the Pure Land sects of Japan are among the nation's largest and most popular. Nevertheless, in both China and Japan, Seishi has always been eclipsed in popularity by Kannon (the God/Goddess of Mercy).

Seishi is rarely represented in Japanese sculpture except for the Amida Triad. In triad artwork, Kannon's crown often contains a small image of Amida, which symbolizes compassion. Seishi's crown often shows a small water vase (suibyō 水瓶), which symbolizes wisdom, a virtue that is perhaps religiously less significant than compassion, and this may help to explain why Seishi is not widely revered outside of Japan's Pure Land traditions. Another reason may be the vast popularity once enjoyed by Monju Bosatsu (the Bodhisattva of Supreme Wisdom, the Wisest of the Bodhisattva).

Seishi is also one of the 13 Buddha 十三仏 (Jūsanbutsu) of the Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyō 密教) in Japan. In this role, Seishi presides over the memorial service held on the first-year anniversary following one's death. Seishi is also portrayed in the Rengebu-in 蓮華部院 section of the Womb World Mandala of Japan's Esoteric sects. In the Lotus Sutra, Seishi is listed among those who assembled on Eagle (Vulture) Peak to listen to the teachings of the Historical Buddha. Eagle Peak is located near the modern-day Indian city of Rajagrha, and is the spot where the Historical Buddha often preached.

Mantra

Japanese Mantra for Seishi Bosatsu

On Sanzansaku Sowaka (also Om Sanzansaku Sowaka)

Seishi in Japanese Art

Seishi Bosatsu, Wood, Northern and Southern Dynasties, 1336 - 1392, Hase Dera in Kamakura

Seishi Bodhisattva appears mostly in paintings and sculptures of the Amida Triad, where Amida Buddha is seated in the center, attended by Seishi on the right and Kannon on the left. Seishi is typically depicted with hands held together in prayer (gasshō mudra 合掌), or holding a lotus flower. Sometimes there is a water jar in Seishi's crown (suibyō 水瓶), which represents wisdom. Belief in Amida Buddha and Amida's Pure Land was popular among the Japanese court in the late Heian Period, but it was only in the Kamakura era that Amida faith became popular among the common people.

Raigō 来迎 (Heavenly Descent) & Raigō Artwork

山越阿弥陀図 - Yamagoe Amida, Lit. = Amida Coming Over the Mountain; Seishi at right, Kannon at left Hanging Scroll. Color on Silk. National Treasure of Japan. Kamakura Era, Treasure of Zenrin-ji Temple (Kyoto).

Raigō (Raigo) literally means "coming in welcome." Raigō artwork typically depicts Amida, Seishi, and Kannon descending from the Pure Land (heaven) on clouds to welcome the faithful into Amida's Pure Land of Utmost Bliss (Jp. = Jōdo, Jp. = Gokuraku; Skt. = Sukhavati). Seishi is also counted, along with Kannon, as one of the 25 Bodhisattva 二十五菩薩 (Jp. = Nijūgo Bosatsu) who are often depicted in Japanese paintings of Amida's decent. They join Amida in leading the faithful spirits of the departed back to Amida's Pure Land.

IMPORTANT STATUES OF SEISHI BOSATSU IN JAPAN

Source

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