Shichimen-tennyo (七面天女)

Shichimen-tennyo is the former name of Shichimen-daimyojin, a goddess whom followers of the Nichiren school of Buddhism believe protects the Lotus Sutra ('Hoke-kyo' in Japanese). Originally, Shichimen-tennyo was worshipped as the guardian goddess of Kuon-ji Temple at Mt. Minobu, the head temple of the Nichiren sect. Later, as the Nichiren school spread, she came to be enshrined as the goddess who protects the Lotus Sutra at Nichiren sect temples across Japan. The original deity is enshrined at Mt. Shichimen in Hayakawa-cho, Minamikoma-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture. The goddess is enshrined at a temple (Keishin-in Temple) located at the top of Mt. Shichimen, which is 1,982-meter high. Legend has it that Nichiro and Lord Sanenaga NANBU, disciples of Nichiren, climbed the mountain and performed the ceremonial division and transfer of Shichimen-daimyojin on the morning of October 13, 1297. Since ancient times, this mountain has been famous for Shugendo (Japanese mountain asceticism-shamanism incorporating Shinto and Buddhist concepts) and at the top of the mountain there is a large lake. The Ike no Okami enshrined at the edge of the lake is actually EN no Gyoja (a seventh century holy man said to be the founder of Shugendo).

It is said that a young girl who lived in seclusion on Mt. Minobu, often appeared to listen to sutra chanting and Buddhist sermons performed by Nichiren at the Koza stone (the stage on which Nichiren sat) in Myosekibo Temple; in fact she was a dragon living in Mt. Shichimen and she came to be enshrined as the guardian goddess of Kuon-ji Temple after being enlightened by Nichiren. The hontai (basic essence) of Shichimen-tennyo is said to be a dragon, Kisshoten (the Japanese version of Laksmi, the Hindu goddess of happiness, fertility, and beauty), or Benzaiten (the Japanese name for Saraswati, the Buddhist goddess of music, learning, eloquence, wealth, longevity, and protection from natural disasters). She is also said to have been Itsukushima-benzaiten of Miya-jima Island in Aki (also known as Itsuku-shima Island).

Shichimen-tennyo is often depicted as a Tennyo (Celestial Maiden) with one face and two arms holding a jewl and a key in her hands.

[Original Japanese]