Senju Kannon (Thousand-Armed Goddess of Mercy) (千手観音)
Senju Kannon, sahasrabhuja aaryaavalokitezvara in Sanskrit, is a venerable entity of Bosatsu, Bodhisattva, which is worshipped in Buddhism.
Sahasrabhuja' means 'a thousand arms' literally. This name is a synonym of Durga, a goddess in Hinduism as well, and Senju Kannon is considered to be a transformed body of Kannon Bodhisattva, Kannon Bosatsu, which was established in India under influence of Hinduism. It is one of Roku Kannon (6 Kannon).
Sanmayagyo Symbol is an opened lotus (lotus flower in full bloom. A pair of shokatsu renge (slightly-opened lotus buds) of Sho kannon (Holy Deity of Mercy)) and renge-jo (on lotus) nyoi hoju (a sacred jewel, said to remove suffering, and capable of granting every wish). Shushi (Mikkyo, Esoteric Buddhism) (Shuji) is hriiH.
In Japanese there are various names such as 'Juichimen Senju Kannon' (Eleven-faced and thousand-armed kannon), 'Senju Sengen Kannon' (Thousand-armed and thousand-eyed kannon), 'Juichimen Senju Sengen Kannon' (Eleven-faced, thousand-armed and thousand-eyed kannon) and 'Senju Senpi Kannon' (Thousand-armed and thousand-elbowed kannon). The name of 'Senju-sengen' originates from the fact that it has one eye in each palm of a thousand arms. A thousand arms indicate the vastness of Kannon's mercy and power as endeavors to relieve every living things. The reason why Kannon Bosatsu have a thousand arms is written in "Senju-sengen Kanzeon Bosatsu Kodaienman Muge Daihishin Darani-kyo Sutra" (Nilakanta (ka) -sutra) translated by Gabon-Datsuma (Bhagavaddharma). Daihishin Dharani (Great Compassionate Heart Dharani) in this sutra has been recited at Zen sect temples in China and Japan up until the current time. As one of the Roku Kannon, it is said to provide salvation for the dead in Gaki-do (the Realm of the Hungry Dead), which is one the Rokudo (the six realms of existence). In addition, it is also said to relieve suffering in hell and control the achievement of various wishes and peaceful birth by showing that there is a benefit of no obstacle (無礙の大用) for relief of all living things.
There are various honorific names of Senju Kannon as above. Among Senju Kannon statues, there is a statue with 27 faces instead of 11 faces, so that 'Juichimen Senju-sengen Kannon' is not always true.
In addition, the designated name for national treasure and important cultural property based on the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties is unified to 'Senju Kannon.'
In Mandala (Mandala, or a diagram that depicts Buddhist deities according to certain geometric formats and illustrates the Buddhist world view) in Mikkyo, Kannon statues are classified to 'Renge-bu' (Lotus Family). It means that Senju Kannon is also called 'Rengeo' (lotus king) because it is a king of Kannon, so that the name of Rengeoin (the formal name of Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto) originates from this.
Features of Statue
Although there exist both seated statues and standing statues, and statues with a thousand arms actually, generally it has 11 faces and 42 arms (the statue of principal image of Buddha, at Dojo-ji Temple in Wakayama is an exception with 44 arms).
The 42 arms is explained as follows; the 40 hands except two clasped hands in prayer at the front of the breast relieve each of the 25 worlds, that is, '25X40=1,000.'
The '25 worlds' here means 'three realms and twenty-five forms of existence' in Buddhism which is a thought that there are 25 worlds from heaven to hell (it is considered that there are 14 forms in Yokkai (the realm of desire), 7 forms in Shikikai (the realm of form) and 4 forms in Mushikikai (the realm of non-form). Incidentally, 'Uchoten' means the heaven on the top of Twenty-five forms of existence.
The statue of principal image at Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto (seated statue) is a representative work of Tankei, a Busshi (a sculptor of Buddhist statues) in the Kamakura period and is a typical statue with 11 faces and 42 arms. The two hands among 42 hands are joined in prayer in front of the breast and in the other two hands brought together in front of stomach there is Hohatsu (a bowl used by Buddhist monks for meals, and as a begging bowl) (this is called Hohatsu-shu (hands for Hohatsu)). In the other 38 hands there are various Jimotsu (the hand-held attributes of a Buddhist image) such as Horin (Dharma-wheel (cakra)), Shakujo (pewter staff) and Suibyo (water jug). Jimotsu with 38 hands is different from statues and is not necessarily uniform. In addition, some Jimotsu were often lost through the years or changed to supply materials in later age.
The statue at the main hall of the Toshodai-ji Temple in Nara (standing statue), the statue of principal image in Fujii-dera Temple in Osaka and the statue of principal image in Juho-ji Temple in Kyoto are works which actually expressed a thousand arms. The statue at Toshodai-ji Temple, which is over 5 m high, has 42 big arms and many small arms (it is said that 953 arms remain) in the spaces between the big arms. The statue at Fujii-dera Temple has 40 big arms (with no Hohatsu-shu) and 1,001 small arms. When viewed from the front, the small arms of the statue in Fujii-dera Temple appear to be coming directly out of the body, but they are actually attached to two column supports that stand just behind the statue. The remaining traces of eyes painted on the palms of the large and small arms of the statue at Fujii-dera Temple demonstrate that the statue once had literally 'a thousand arms and a thousand eyes'.
Faith and Examples of Statues in Japan
While Senju Kannon statues are hardly found in India, there are remains in China such as Longmen Caves from the Tang Dynasty. In Japan, Senju Kannon began to be worshipped in an early age and it had been shaped into a statue since the Nara period before Kukai transmitted pure esotericism. It was known that Senju-do hall was built in Todai-ji Temple from 729 to 749 and Senju Kannon statue was placed in its Kodo (Lecture Hall) which does not exist now. Among existing works in Japan, the statue at Fujii-dera Temple, which is considered to have been made in the middle of the 8th century, is recognized as the oldest work, and the statue at Toshodai-ji Temple is a work from the end of the 8th century to the beginning of the 9th century. A badly damaged statue of Senju Kannon was discovered in the body of Kitamuki (north-faced) principal image, a hidden Buddhist statue, at Dojo-ji Temple in Wakayama, which seems to be the principal image from the early age of Dojo-ji Temple during the Nara period.
Besides these, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Sanjusangendo Temple and Kokawa-dera Temple, a pilgrim stamp office of the Saigoku (western part of Japan), are famous for enshrining Senju Kannon.
The principal image at Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto is a Buddhist image which is shown to the public only once in 33 years, and shows the original form to bring two arms together over the head among 42 arms, and is called 'Kiyomizu style.'
The principal image of Senju Kannon, a hidden Buddhist statue in Okunoin in the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, is a seated statue with rare 27 faces.
Jimotsu of Senju Kannon
Jimotsu of Senju Kannon is described in the sutras such as "Senju-sengen Darani-kyo Sutra" (Senju-sengen Kanzeon Bosatsu Kodaienman Muge Daihishin Darani-kyo Sutra), and actual statues and pictures have been basically made in accordance with the sutras.
Jimotsu in the Left Hand
Hogeki, a stick in the left hand of Senju Kannon. It is a three-pronged tipped weapon.
Kebutsu, a small statue of Buddha.
Hotaku, a small bell.
Shi renge (purple lotus)
Hossu, originally a tool to drive away insects such as flies.
Kensaku, a lasso.
Nichirin, 'nisshomani' (the ball of the sun) in the sutras.
Horin, expressed as 'Futai Kinrin' (literally, non-retrogression golden wheel) in the sutras.
Hora, a conch shell.
Gyokukan, also called 'golden ring.'
Some statues have 'Hosen' (bracelet) instead of this.
Dokuro-jo (literally, stick with a scull), seen in the right hand in some cases.
Gu Renge (red lotus)
Bohai, a kind of shield which expresses a dragon face.
Kuden (miniature shrine in a temple), described as 'Kuguden' (a palace where Buddha lives) in the sutras.
Goshikiun (five-colored clouds), seen in the right hand in some cases.
Hoko, described as 'Gushitetsukagi' (a kind of iron rod with a hook at the end) in the sutras. It is a weapon in the shape of a rod for which the tip bends at a right angle. Sometimes it is held in the right hand.
Hoken (treasured sword), Sankoken, a sword with three-pronged handles. Sometimes it is held in the right hand.
Hokyu (treasured bow), a pair of arrows (hosen) in the right hand.
Sobyo, also called 'gunji.'
It means a water jug.
Jimotsu in the Right Hand
Shakujo, a pair of 'Hogeki' in the left hand. It has some rings on the top of the staff and emits a sound when walking with it. Originally it was used to protect against poisonous snakes when walking around the countryside in India.
Chojo Kebutsu (faces of Nyorai (Tathagata) on the head of the statue)
Sankosho, a pestle of Buddhism with a grip at the center and three prongs at each end. The arm with this is called 'basarashu' (vajra) in the sutras.
Sho Renge (blue lotus)
Yoji, a branch of willow.
Yoji is also called 'yoryu.'
It is held in the left hand in some cases.
Gachirin, described as 'gesseimani' (the ball of the moon) in the sutras.
Hoju (sacred gem), described as 'Nyoi hoju' (wish-fulfilling jewel) in the sutras. It is held in the left hand in some cases.
Hokyo (sutra roll), also called 'kyokyo' (sutra box). It means Buddhist scriptures. It is held in the left hand in some cases.
Hoin (a seal used in Temples)
Budo means grapes.
Byaku Renge (white lotus)
Semui, the hand with no Jibutsu. It is held in the left hand in some cases.
Kongosho (Vajra club), also called 'Tokkosho' (a pestle with a single sharp blade at each end). It is a weapon with a grip at the center and sharp blades at each end. It is held in the left hand in some cases.
Eppu, 'a chopper' or 'an axe.'
It is held in the left hand in some cases.
Hosen, an arrow.
Kobyo, a Persian water jug.
It is also called 'Hobyo.'
In "Senju-sengen Darani-kyo Sutra" there is a description of the 40 arms including 'Gassho-shu' (praying hands) and 'Hohatsu-shu' in addition to the 38 arms with Jimotsu as above. Among actual Senju Kannon statues in Japan, many show the style of bringing two hands together in front of the stomach (on the knee in the case of seated statues) and putting Hohatsu on it. The 42 arms consist of two with Hohatsu and two clasped in prayer, in addition to the 38 arms with Jimotsu.
Representative Senju Kannon Statues in Japan
The statue at Eryu-ji Temple in Fukushima (standing statue) (important cultural property)
The principal image at Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto (standing statue)
The principal image at Okunoin of Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto (seated statue) (important cultural property)
The principal image in Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto (seated statue) (national treasure)
The statues at Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto (1,001 standing statues) (important cultural property)
The statue at Kyu-jikido (former dining room) of To-ji Temple in Kyoto (standing statue) (important cultural property)
The statue at kyu-kodo (old Lecture Hall) of Koryu-ji Temple in Kyoto (standing statue) (national treasure)
The statue at Hossho-ji Temple in Kyoto (standing statue) (national treasure)
The statue at Bujo-ji Temple in Kyoto (seated statue) (important cultural property)
The principal image at Fujii-dera Temple in Osaka (seated statue) (national treasure)
The statue at Kondo Hall (main hall of a Buddhist temple) of Toshodai-ji Temple in Nara (standing statue) (national treasure)
The statue at Kyu-shokudo (former dining room) of Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara (standing statue) (national treasure)
The principal image at Dojo-ji Temple in Wakayama (standing statue) (national treasure)
The statue at Daihio-in Temple in Fukuoka (seated statue) (important cultural property)