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Protectors and PredatorsGods of Medieval Japan, Volume 2$
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Bernard Faure

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839314

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839314.001.0001

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Earthly Powers

Earthly Powers

Bishamonten, Daikokuten, Enmaten

(p.17) 1 Earthly Powers
Protectors and Predators

Bernard Faure

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter focuses on three devas—Bishamonten, Daikokuten, and Enmaten—that transformed Japanese Buddhism, emphasizing their demonic origins and ambiguous nature. For all their differences, these three gods shared strong affinities with one another. In the Bishamonten section, after examining traditional descriptions of the god as a martial deity, tamer of demons, god of wealth, and symbol of the north, I draw out the implicit chthonian and demonic characteristics that are expressed in figures such as Tohachi Bishamon and the dual-bodied Bishamon. In the Daikokuten section, I briefly describe as a domestication the complex process by which the flesh-eating Mahākāla (the Great Black One, the dark aspect of the Hindu god Śiva) eventually became the pot-bellied god of fortune Daikokuten. In the Enmaten section, I examine the transformation of the Indian dharma king Yama into a Chinese judge of hell, and the coexistence of the two images in Japanese esoteric Buddhism.

Keywords:   Devas, Bishamonten, Mahākāla, Daikokuten, King Yama, Buddhist underworld, protecting deities, Buddhist demons, earth-deity, mandalas

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