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A totally wonderful
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Japanese spelling for Taishakuten
TAISHAKUTEN, TAISHAKU, 帝釈天
SANSKRIT = ŚAKRA DEVA, INDRA

Lord of the Center, Commander of Four Heavenly Kings
Rules Heaven of 33 Gods (Skt. = Trayastrimasha)


ORIGIN = Hindu deity incorporated into Buddhism.
Member of the TENBU, SHITENNŌ, JUNITEN, DEVA, NIJŪHACHI BUSHŪ.
Governs the Shitennō (Guardians of East, West, North, South).

Japanese Mantra

おん しゃきらや そわか

On Shakiraya Sowaka
(also Om Shakiraya Sowaka)

Translation
OM, HAIL ŚAKRA DEVA

Shakiraya = Japanese
 transliteration of Sanskrit Śakra

Taishakuten - Mask photo courtesy of Kyoto National Museum, Heian Period
Taishakuten Mask, Heian Era
Kyoto National Museum

Sanskrit for Taishakuten -- ii

 Sanskrit Seed
for Taishakuten

Pronounced
ii in Japan

Taishakuten, Wood with gold leaf, Heian Era 10th Century, Houryuu-ji Temple
Taishakuten
Wood with gold leaf
Heian Era, 10th Century
Hōryūji Temple 法隆寺, Nara

spacerTaishakuten 帝釈天 is known in Sanskrit as Indra, Śakra, Sakradevanam Indra (Śakra-devānām Indra), or Shakra Devanam Indra. Positioned in Center. Buddhists in Tibet, China, and Japan have adopted Taishakuten as their guardian deity. In India, Indra was the ruler of the gods of the Veda. Not only was he the mightiest of gods, but also the god of storms, thunder, and war.

Once incorporated into Buddhism, Taishakuten becomes one of its greatest protectors. Said to live in the Palace of Correct Views (Jp. = Zenkenjō 善見城) located in the Trayastriṃśas (Skt.) Heaven on the peak of Mt. Shumisen 須弥山 (Mt. Sumeru or Mt. Meru, the mythical home of the Historical Buddha, the center of the Buddhist universe). There he governs the other 32 gods of that heaven, and is served in particular by the Shitenno (Four Heavenly Kings). He is also known as a god of wealth in Japan.

Taishakuten defends both deities and humans against all that is evil. Able to revive those slain in battle, Taishakuten has attributes of both a creator and a sun god. In the Rig Veda are found more hymns to Indra's dedication than any other. In his home, he let no suffering or sorrow pass. At his court the Gandharva (Kendabba) entertained. Taishaku is, in some ways, similar to Zeus in Greek mythology. 

In Japanese artwork, Taishakuten is often depicted riding an elephant. This reflects his Hindu origin, for in India an elephant serves as the mount of Indra. In India, Indra often rides an elephant with 33 heads and 33 tusks named Erawan (Airavata). In Buddhist traditions, this symbolizes the 33 gods of the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Erawan, however, is often depicted as a three-headed elephant in artwork. The elephant is also closely associated with Shaka Nyorai (the Historical Buddha). According to Buddhist mythology, when Shaka was 72 years old, his cousin and brother-in-law, the malevolent Devadatta, hoped to displace the Buddha and take over leadership of the Sangha (Buddhist community). Devadatta released an elephant maddened with alcohol upon the Buddha, but the elephant was struck by Shaka's spiritual power and fell prostrate before him. Some art historians claim this is the origin of the Semui-in Mudra (the “Fear Not” hand gesture) found commonly throughout Asia on statues of the Buddha. In other lore, Queen Maya, the mother of the Historical Buddha, dreamt of an elephant before giving birth to the Buddha. In his prior lives, it is said, the Buddha was once an elephant. Elephant symbolism is also found in Japanese artwork of Fugen Bosatsu, who is commonly depicted riding an elephant as described in the Lotus Sutra.


More on Elephant Symbolism.
In India, the Hindu god Ganesh (also Ganesha; in Japan called Kankiten) is portrayed with the head of an elephant, and assists believers in overcoming all obstacles -- akin to the force of an elephant crashing through the jungle. The son of Parvati, Ganesh removes every difficulty and is invoked at the start of any new enterprise. The elephant may also symbolize unrestrained passion. In Japan, the elephant is also closely associated with Fugen Bodhisattva, who is often portraying sitting atop the beast, which symbolizes the overcoming of obstacles. In Japanese artwork, the Buddhist deity Taishakuten (Sanskrit = Indra) is likewise depicted frequently riding an elephant. 

 

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Taishakuten - Hase Dera in Kamakura (life-size stone statue)  Taishakuten, Clay with gold leaf, Houryu-ji Temple, Nara Era 8th Century  Taishakuten, 9th Century, Toji Temple
Left: Modern stone statue of Taishakuten, Hase Dera, Kamakura
Center: Taishakuten, Clay with gold leaf, 8th C., Hōryūji Temple 法隆寺, Nara,
Right: Taishakuten, 9th Century, Tōji Temple 東寺, Kyoto

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