Buddha’s words: #9 Wisdom, Manjushri and me

The word “wisdom” crops up a lot in The Dhammapada, and quite right too as it occupies one of 3 sections along with Moral Discipline and Mental Discipline in Buddha’s Eightfold Path. The two steps in this section are Right Intention and Right View which added together comprise “Wisdom”. What you might be interested to know is that within Buddhism there is a special person seen as the advocate and protector of Wisdom, and it isn’t Buddha!


Manjushri is recognised as the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, a bodhisattva being someone who is on the path to become a Buddha but will not do so until they have helped all other sentient beings to attain Nirvana. Our family have a long standing connection with Manjushri.

Without Manjushri, Kathmandu would not exist! The whole valley was once a lake, and legend tells us that it was Manjushri who used his flaming sword to slice open a gorge to allow the water to flow away. This gorge is called Chobar Gorge, a tourist spot we have visited a few times on our many family visits to my wife’s original home. 

Chobar Gorge

As the water left the valley, a lotus flower was seen on the first exposed hilltop and it was on the top of this hill that the Buddhist temple Swayambhu was built. This is my favourite place in all Nepal, a magical place of serenity, a place for mindfulness and meditation…… provided you are early enough in the morning to avoid the tourist groups!

Swayambhu temple, Kathmandu.

There is an area of Swayambhu which is dedicated to Manjushri. In its small centre there is a mini stupa surrounded by prayer wheels and a wooden shelter protecting visitors from the hot sun or monsoon rain. It was here, 13 years ago that our daughter Sharon was married to Michael in a beautiful and colourful Buddhist ceremony. You can’t get much closer to Manjushri than that!

In our home we have many symbols of our Buddhist spirituality, including small statues of Manjushri. In our kitchen-diner there is a narrow window in the south facing wall letting in a slot of sunlight across the day and in this window are two small statues of Manjushri on either side of a classic Buddha head.

Manjushri statues are characterised by his two attributes, the sword and the sacred text. The Sword is the weapon of wisdom as it slices through the veils of ignorance which refers to our inability to see the true reality of our existence. The sacred text contains all of the Buddhas teachings.

On my many morning visits to Swayambhu I would often hear Buddhist monks reciting Manjushri’s mantra in the attached monastery, presumably since there are many legends of gaining great wisdom following their devotion to Manjushri.

Prayer mantra dedicated to Manjushri

Om, Ah Ra, Pa Tsa, Na Dhih

“I view and acknowledge the reality of emptiness,
I draw on my inner wisdom,
I meditate so my bad karma and suffering melts away.”

Personal translation and interpretation of the Sanskrit

So, as you can see, “Manjushri and me“ go a long way back with many close associations to this day. Most days Dr C and I meditate twice, once early morning and once mid afternoon and in my own case the Manjushri mantra forms part of my 30 mins. Do you meditate? Do you use mantra, images, or just count your breaths?

Categories: Buddha

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