Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A (Very Limited) Buddhist Directory of Names

A brief directory of names as they are used on this site. It no where near as comprehensive as the number of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Heavenly Beings, Monks, and other individuals listed in the various sutras, let alone historical references, would comprise a list of thousands of names.

Shakyamuni Buddha

Amitabha Buddha

Maitreya Buddha

Vairocana Buddha

Medicine Buddha

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva

Manjushri Bodhisattva

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva

Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva








Hui Neng




Shakyamuni Buddha ...Siddhartha Guatama, the prince-turned-sage who is often known as "the Buddha", or Buddha Shakyamuni (sage of the Shakyas, the ethnic group into which Siddhartha was born). He is also referred to as the "historical Buddha" and in some cases as the Tathagata.

Amitabha Buddha ...Translates as "Buddha of Infinite Light", also known as Buddha Amitayus ("Buddha of Infinite Life") and in Japan as Amida. According to the Larger Sukhavati Sutra when he was the Bodhisattva Dharmakara he made several vows, including the vow to reveal a Buddha-field that would be a Pure Land of Bliss (a.k.a. Sukhavati) where those who recalled his vow by reciting his name could be reborn in order to live an enlightened life. Hence those who engage in Pure Land practice recited the name of Amitabha Buddha.

Maitreya Buddha ...Also known as the Future Buddha who according to some sutras will teach the Dharma after it has been forgotten for ages.

Vairocana Buddha ...Often known as the Supreme Buddha, he is often represented as embodying the wisdom of the Dharmakaya.

Medicine Buddha ...He is often shown with a medicine bowl as a symbol of this Buddha's skill in diagnosing illness and prescribing a cure, in particular the three poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance.

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva ...Sometimes known as the Bodhisattva of Compassion or "One who hears the cries of the World." This Bodhisattva is often depicted as holding a white lotus, a will branch, and/or a vase of water and is usually a part of a triad on Pure Land Buddhist altars on one side of Amitabha Buddha with Mahasthmaprapta on the other side. In some parts of Asia this figure is represented as a female called Kuan-Yin (Chinese), Kannon (Japanese), Quan-am (Vietnamese), or Kwanseum (Korean). In Tibet this figure has is thought of as male and identitied as Chenresig but may also have a female aspect (Green Tara).

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva ...Also known as "Universal Worthy" he is the Bodhisattva of Great Practice/Great Conduct who outlines his worthy and meritorious practice in ten vows described in the Avatamaska ("Flower Garland") Sutra. This figure is also known as Pu Hsien (Chinese), Fugen (Japanese), Pho-hien (Vietnamese), Pohyon (Korean). In Tibet this figure is known as Kuntuzangpo.

Manjushri Bodhisattva ...Known as the Bodhisattva of Great Wisdom. The Bodhisattva is sometimes depicted as holding a text of wisdom and a sword which cuts through delusion. This figure is also known as Wenshu (Chinese), Monju (Japanese), (Vietnamese), and Munsu (Korean). In Tibet this figure is known as Jambeyang.

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva ...The Bodhisattva of the Great Vow, specifically
the "vow to save the lowest". Also known as "Earth-Store" Bodhisattva, which literally translates as "Earth-Womb" but might be closer to "Earth-Storehouse". The vow to save the lowest refers to the vow made in the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth-Store Bodhisattva to save all of those who were lost and suffering in the hell realms. He is the only Boddhisattva depicted as a monk, with a six-ringed staff in one hand and a wish-fulfilling gem in the other. This figure is also known as Di Zang Wang (Chinese), Jizo (Japanese), Dia-tang-vuong (Vietnamese), and Chijang (Korean). This figures is known in Tibet as Sai Nyingpo.

Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva ...Also known as "Universal Goodness" she is the Bodhisattva of Great Strength and usually depicted as female, she is normally shown with a water jar adorning her crown and carrying a lotus bud in her palm. She is frequently part of a triad in Pure Land Buddhist altars, standing on one side of Amitabha Buddha with Avalokitesvara standing on the other.

Ananda ...A cousin of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni and one of his most respected and perceptive monks, he is featured in many important sutras such as the Diamond Sutra and the Larger Sukhavati Sutra.

Sariputra ...An accomplished scholar and debator he became of the Buddhas most trusted disciples and is featured in many important sutras such as the Heart Sutra and the Smaller Sukhavati Sutra.

Yasodhara ...The wife of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni who eventually became a
in the early Sangha.

Rahula ...The son of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, he became on of his most greatest disciples along with Ananda and Sariputra.

Devadatta ...A cousin of the Buddha who became a monk and Shakyamuni's disciple, his jealousy lead him to try to kill the Buddha and then to defame and discredit the Buddha in order to steal his disciples and start his own sangha. In the Lotus Sutra it says that Shakyamuni predicted that even Devadatta would realize enlightenment.

Putai ...May be also be known as Hotei (Japanese). He is the "fat Buddha" that is so popularly depicted on T-shirts and little Buddhist figurines. His name means "Cloth Bag", referring to the bag he is often represented as holding in his hand. He is sometimes identified as an incarnation of the Buddha Maitreya as a Chan monk. In Japan he was included as a god of luck, and is considered the patron of festive establishments (restaurants and bars).

Bodhidharma ...Also known as the First Ancestor of Chan (or First Patriarch of Zen), he traveled from India to China to teach the Dharma at the beginning of the 6th century, around 526 C.E. (to be clear Buddhism was already known and practiced in China at that time). He is often depicted as a blunt and powerful man with a scruffy beard and an incredible dedication to practicing and teaching the Dharma.

Hui Neng ...Also known as the Sixth Ancestor of Chan (or Sixth Patriarch of Zen), he was a poor woodcutter from the southern region of China, which at the time (7th century C.E.) was considered a barbaric and uneducated region. There is some debate over whether or not he was actually illiterate, but it is said he realized his enlightenment after overhearing a single line being recited from the Diamond Sutra. He went north to study with the Fifth Patriarch but because of his southern accent, lack of formal education, and working-man background, many considered him to be the medieval Chinese equivalent of a redneck or hillbilly. The Fifth Ancestor, Hung Jen , recognized Hui Neng's awareness and insight and secretly gave him his robe and bowl which marked Hui Neng as Hung Jen's successor and then told Hui Neng to flee south and hide out until the anger over his decision died down. Hui Neng is credited with the spread and popularity of Chan Buddhism in China and beyond.

Honen ...A Tendai Buddhist monk in 12th century (C.E.) Japan who was disatisfied with what he saw as the inability of Buddhism to be meaningful or practical to the common person who could not afford a formal education or to spend hours a day meditating or reading sutras (in this regard similar to Nichiren). While he did not deny meditation and other practices could not work, he doubted many people would ever succeed by that route, especially those who didn't have time to do them. He founded the Jodo Shu or Pure Land School and emphasized reciting the nembustu, that is, taking refuge in the name of Amida Buddha, as a practice within reach of everyone which would help them reach the Pure Land. Once there, they would be able to easily realize their enlightenment.

Shinran ...A disciple of Honen, his attempt to clarify the work of his teacher after Honen's death became the basis for a different school of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism known as Jodo Shinshu, or True Pure Land School. It is typically referred to simply as Shin Buddhism. In this school Amida has already made the effort to realize a Pure Land and ensure that all sentient beings could find it, so that reciting the nembutsu is more of a thanksgiving than a method for getting to the Pure Land.

Nichiren ...A Tendai Buddhist monk in 12th century (C.E.) Japan who was disatisfied with what he saw as the inability of Buddhism to be meaningful or practical to the common person who could not afford a formal education or to spend hours a day meditating or reading sutras (in this regard similar to Honen). He taught that the Lotus Sutra contained the essential message of all of the Buddha's teachings, the highest expression of the Dharma,
and that taking refuge in the name of the Lotus Sutra through recitation ("Namu Myoho Renge Kyo") was the primary method everyone should use to realize their enlightenment. Other schools and methods were described as ineffective and provisional and no longer necessary or helpful with the advent of this new teaching. Nichiren Buddhism is a uniquely Japanese tradition and is represented by schools such as Nichren Shu, Nichiren Shoshu, and Soka Gakkai.

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