Godai Bosatsu (Five Great Bodhisattava) (五大菩薩)

Godai Bosatsu are a kind of combination of Bosatsu (those who are engaged in ascetic training in pursuit of the truth and enlightment) that are objects of worship and construction of statues in Buddhist society. This is the combination of principal Bosatsu, picked up from many Bosatsu depicted in Ryokai-mandala (Vajradhatumandala), which is valued by Esoteric Buddhism, but there is no prominent work other than the statues at To-ji Temple in Kyoto City, as mentioned below.

In the Lecture Hall of To-ji Temple (Kyoogokoku-ji Temple) in Kyoto, there is a three dimensional Mandala, which consists of 21 statues, that was made by the initiative of Kukai. Those statues enshrined at the Lecture Hall are categorized into the Nyorai (Tathagata) group, the Myoo (vidya-raja) group and the Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) group respectively. Kongokai-gobutsu (Gochi Nyorai (Five Wisdom Nyorai, Tathagatas)), of which the principal statue is Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana), is enshrined at the center of the Hall, Godai Myoo (Five Great Myoo), of which the principal statue is Fudo Myoo (Acala, one of the Five Wisdom Kings), is enshrined on the observers' left (west) and Godai Bosatsu is enshrined on the observers' right respectively. Godai Bosatsu enshrined at the Lecture Hall of To-ji Temple consist of 5 Bosatsu statues, namely Kongouharamitsu (Vajraparamita), Kongosatta (Vajrapani, the Diamond Being), Kongoho Bosatsu (Vajraratna Bodhisattava), Kongoho Bosatsu (Vajragarbha Bodhisattava) and Kongogo Bosatsu (Vajrakarma Bodhisattava).

Many Gobutsu (Gochi-nyorai) and Godai Myoo are seen throughout Japan but Godai Bosatsu which combine Kongouharamitsu, Kongosatta, Kongoho Bosatsu, Kongoho Bosatsu and Kongogo Bosatsu are only rarely enshrined at temples other than To-ji Temple and its authority is also unknown. It is commonly believed that Kukai created Godai Bosatsu by himself based on Kongocho-kyo Sutra (or Vajrasekhara Sutra, one of the basic sutra of Esoteric Buddhism) and Nio-kyo Sutra (or the Sutra of Benevolent Kings, a sutra that advocates guarding the nation by Buddhism), but there is also a view that it is traceable to Esoteric Buddhist art during the period of the Tang Dynasty in China.

Among Godai Bosatsu at To-ji Temple, Kongoharamitsu is the head Bosatsu of 'Shiharamitsu' (four paramita) placed at the east, west, south and north of Dainichinyorai in Vajradhatu Mandala. According to Vajradhatu Mandala, Kongosatta is the head of the Shishingon Bosatsu placed around Ashuku-nyorai at the east and similarly Kongoho Bosatsu, Kongoho Bosatsu and Kongogyo Bosatsu are the heads of Shishingon Bosatsu (Four Attendant Bodhisattva) placed around Hosho Nyorai (Ratnasambhava) at the south, Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) at the west and Fukujoju N-nyorai (Amoghasiddhi) at the north, respectively. From the above, it is obvious that each of the Godai Bosatsu corresponds to one of the Gobutsu.

The Sanrinshin (the three wheel-embodiments) theory of Esoteric Buddhism advocates that 'Buddha' has three figures called Jishorinjin (embodiment of the wheel of own-nature), Shoborinjin (embodiment of the wheel of the true Dhara) and Kyoryorinjin (embodiment of the wheel of injunction). According to this theory, Jishorinjin represents the truth and the state of enlightment itself and corresponds to Gobutsu, Shoborinjin represents the one preaching the truth and corresponds to Godai Bosatsu and Kyoryorinjin represents the one forcibly guiding people who cannot be educated by preaching and corresponds to Godai Myoo, respectively. Statues enshrined at the Lecture Hall of To-ji Temple make up a three dimensional mandala that represents such Esoteric Buddhist philosophy in the form of three dimensional sculptures.

[Original Japanese]