Slayford-Wei Article

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The History and Significance of the God Fudo Myoo

By: Lian Slayford-Wei

- quote
The mythology of Japan is somewhat unique to the absorption of Buddhism around the sixth century CE when it was introduced from China. At this time, Shinto was the primary religion but Buddhism was worshipped alongside Shintoism and eventually the two religions had a deep impact on the deities that were worshipped. Indeed, for scholars it can be somewhat difficult to determine whether some deities originally belonged to Shintoism or Buddhism.

Fudo-Myoo is the most important of the five great Japanese myoos; these are the equivalent of Indian Buddhism's vidyarajas, terrifying emanations of the five 'Great Buddhas of Wisdom'. In this role then, Fudo-myoo corresponds to the Buddha Dainichi-Nyorai and he was seen as the incarnation of this Indian Buddha. In this we can see the impact of Indian Buddhism on Japanese mythology.

Fudo-myoo was depicted as a terrifying face, which was half concealed by long hair. He is popularly portrayed with his feet standing apart, the left slightly in front of the right, and one hip higher than the other. In his right hand he holds a sword or ken. His face is characterized by the tenchi-gan arrangement of the teeth and eyes: the right eye is open and swollen, looking straight ahead, with the bottom right tooth pointing up; the left eye is downcast and narrowed while the top left tooth projects downward. Wrinkles are evident on his forehead and the hair is represented by diminutive seashell-fashioned curls.

The terrifying appearance of Fudo-myoo was believed to chase away sickness and exorcise evil spirits, especially at temples. He was extremely popular throughout the centuries with all people. One famous actor, Danjuro, revered this deity with great passion. It was written in the 1774 Yakusha zensho that "Danjuro I prayed to the Fudo at Narita temple and was blessed with a son, who later became Danjuro II. Because of the circumstances of his birth Danjuro II had, from his childhood days, deep faith in Fudo Myoo. Eventually he excelled and became a famous actor. The sacred mirror he presented to the temple is said to be still there.... During his lifetime he performed the Fudo role many times, always with great success. No other actor could charm audiences as he did in moments of non-acting. It was surely the power of Fudo Myoo. His eyes looked exactly like Fudo, frightening; the pupils would remain fixed for an extraordinarily long time. He was certainly inspired by the spirit of the god".

Fudo-myoo is believed to have been introduced around the ninth century CE, but made appearances in Chinese Buddhist iconography a century earlier. Here he was associated with the Chen-yen or Mi-chiao sect, which incorporated much of the magic ritual and spells of India's Tantric Buddhism. His worship in Japan took on many different forms, for example "there was a ritual in which an initiate would first purify body and spirit under a plunging waterfall, then build a fire on an altar-hearth, offer prayers, and perform austerities. Such burnt-offering ceremonies (goma) originated in India, were adopted by the Chinese, and continued by practitioners of Shingon in Japan".

- Bibliography:
Okada, Barbra Teri & Tsujimoto, Kanya (1979)
The Fudo-Myoo from the Packard Collection:
A Study during Restoration, Metropolitan Museum Journal, The Metropolitan Museum Bulletin.

- source : www.humanities360.com


. - Join Fudo Myo-O on facebook - Fudō Myō-ō .


. Pilgrimages to Fudo Temples 不動明王巡礼
Fudo Myo-O Junrei - Fudo Pilgrims .



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