MANJUSHRI, BODHISATTVA OF WISDOM, 2008
pastel and ink on paper
37.5 x 28.5 inches (frame)
Manjushri is one of the bodhisattvas introduced in the Mahayana sutras. He is renowned for his wisdom and the qualities of his speech and voice, and is noted for bestowing intelligence, wisdom, eloquence, and memory to his devotees. He has the power of discriminating wisdom, discriminating between correct and incorrect views and beneficial and non-beneficial actions. His sword vanquishes ignorance; it is also a sword of quick detachment and a symbol of enlightened will; his purpose is to lead beings into inquiry where they can discover the true nature of reality, the concept of emptiness.
Manjushri is shown holding the stem of a lotus flower in his left hand on which sits a flaming sword that represents his realization of wisdom which cuts through ignorance and wrong views. The sword is tipped with flames to show that it severs all notions of duality, cutting away delusion, aversion, and longing, to reveal understanding, equanimity, and compassion.
The book he holds at his heart in his left hand is the Prajnaparamita (the perfection of wisdom), the most revered text of Mahayana Buddhism—actually a group of about 40 texts composed between 100 BC and 600 AD. The book is in the form of oblong sheets that take their shape from the palm leaves on which the texts were originally written. The Prajnaparamita Sutra is also often personified as a female deity, the mother of all Buddhas.