Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

East Asia

In Japan the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, who will be the final Buddha and at present out of his ‘divine compassion’, bhadra, is spreading around ‘enlightening wisdom’, samanta. He is pictured as a young man seated on an elephant, which is usually white and has six tusks, and either he carries a lotus flower, like the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, or he has his hands joined together. Of particular appeal to women in medieval Japan was Fugen-bosatsu, who in the thirteenth century appeared to a monk as a courtesan, thereby revealing that Buddahood was potential in all beings. Today the bodhisattva is little worshipped.

It was Samantabhadra who initiated Sudhana to full and perfect enlightenment. This young Indian ascetic had visited all the places and people connected with the Buddha, shortly after Sakyamuni passed into nirvana. His was the first spiritual quest in a world lacking the living, physical Buddha; hence the link with the heavenly bodhisattva. Sudhana is the archetypal pilgrim, and remains the pattern for Buddhists living in the present age. Having learned of the Buddha's life and work from Manjusri, the vanquisher of death, Sudhana wandered from place to place, practising ever greater austerities, till he came finally into the presence of Maitreya, the future Buddha. Passed on to Samantabhadra at last the earnest pilgrim achieved illumination. The quest of Sudhana appears prominently in the reliefs of the vast stupa of Borobudur in Java. This monument, dating from the eighth and ninth centuries, was erected at a time when Mahayana replaced Hinayana as the form of Buddhism on the island. Borobudur may mean simply ‘many Buddhas’.

Subjects: Religion.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.