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Prince of Wisdom

Legends and stories

Manjushri is the bodhisattva of wisdom and insight, penetrating into the fundamental emptiness, universal sameness, and true nature of all things. Manjushri, whose name means "noble, gentle one," sees into the essence of each phenomenal event. In its essential nature, nothing has a fixed existence separate in itself, independent from the whole world around it. The work of wisdom is to see through the illusory self-other dichotomy, our imagined estrangement from the world. Studying the self in this light, Manjushri's flashing awareness realizes the deeper, vast quality of self, liberated from all our unquestioned, fabricated characteristics.

With his relentless commitment to uncovering ultimate reality, Manjushri embodies and represents the paramita of prajna, the perfection of wisdom. He is one of the most prominent bodhisattvas in all the Mahayana sutras and is may be based on a historical person associated with Shakyamuni Buddha.

Insight is gained by going within, seeing the fundamental. The energy exemplified by Manjushri is about pulling wisdom out of the depths of oneself, about being an open channel for the awakening of buddhahood to express itself. Manjushri's wisdom arises not from external knowledge or accomplishment but from within. It is an endowment always available to us, awaiting our settling into and uncovering this deeper awareness.

One of the earliest bodhisattvas, Manjushri was popular in India by the fourth century, if not earlier, and was included in the first depictions of a bodhisattva pantheon in the fifth and sixth centuries. Images of Manjushri appeared in Japan by the early eighth century.