Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Manjushri, Arapachana (Main Page)

Manjushri Main Page

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- Holding a Book
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Video: The Sword & Book

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).

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Jeff Watt 2-2012 [updated 9-2017]

84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha: Siddhaikavīra Tantra (Siddhaika­vīra­tantram, dpa’ bo gcig pu grub pa zhes bya ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po)

Prajnaparamita Sutra
The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom

I, 9, 15. The Equipment with the Dharanis

And again, Subhuti, the Dharani-doors are the great vehicle of the Bodhisattvas, the great being. Which are they? The sameness of all letters and syllables, the sameness of all spoken words, the syllable-doors, the syllable-entrances. What then are the syllable-doors, the syllable-entrances?

1. [A]: The syllable A is a door to the insight that all dharmas are unproduced from the very beginning (ady-anutpannatvad);
2. RA is a door to the insight that all dharmas are without dirt (rajas);
3. PA is a door to the insight that all dharmas have been expounded in the ultimate sense (paramrtha);
4. CA is a door to the insight that the decease (cyavana) or rebirth of any dharma cannot be apprehended, because all dharmas do not decease, nor are they reborn;
5. NA is a door to the insight that the Names of all dharmas have vanished; the essential nature behind names cannot be gained or lost.

(The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom. Translated by Edward Conze. Luzac & Company, London: 1961. Page 148. University of California: 1975, 1984. Page 160).