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Buddhist Deity: Kongorikishi

By Devik Balami at
Buddhist deity: Kongorikishi

Buddhist Deity- Kongorikishi is two enraged, muscular guardians of the Buddha standing at the entrance of many temples which houses Buddha statues. These Buddhist deities are seen only in the Buddhist temple that follows East Asian Buddhism. It is believed that the Bodhisattvas, Kongorikishi is Dharmapala manifestations of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani, the oldest and most powerful Mahayana Buddhist deity. Apart from the manifestation of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani, the Kongorikishi are also seen as the manifestation of Mahasthamaprapta, the Bodhisattva of power that represents Amitabha Buddha in Pure Land Buddhism and as Vajrasattva in Tibetan Buddhism.

According to Japanese tradition, and as mentioned in Pali Canon and Ambattha Sutta, the Bodhisattva Kongorikishis traveled with Gautama Buddha to protect him and remained his guardian. The other names for this Bodhisattva are Niomon in Japan, Henghaer Jiang in China, Genumgangmun in Korea.

Iconography of Buddhist Deity: Kongorikishi

Kongorikishi usually represented in a pair that stands on either side of the entrance gate of Buddhists temple. Among them, the right statue is called as Misshaku Kongo and the left one is Naraen Kongo.

The Right statue, Misshaku Kongo is also called Agyo and has his mouth open. It represents the vocalization of the first grapheme of Sanskrit Devanagari which is pronounced as "a". This Buddhist deity is a symbol of overt violence. He has a vajra mallet in his hand and bares his teeth. The alternative names for Misshaku Kong are Milijeok geumgang in Korea, Miji Jingang in Mandarin Chinese, and Mat Tich Kim Cuong in Vietnamese.

The left statue, Naraen Kongo is also called Ungyo and has his mouth closed. It represents the vocalization of the last grapheme of Sanskrit Devanagari which is pronounced as "hum". This Buddhist deity is depicted as either bare-handed or wielding a sword. He symbolizes latent strength, holding his mouth tightly shut. The alternative names for Naraen Kongo are Narayeon geumgang in Korean, Naluoyan Jingang in Mandarin Chinese, and Na la Dien Kim Cuong in Vietnamese.

These two characters together symbolize the birth and death of all the beings. Sometimes, both the figures of Kongorikishi are combined together to form into one complete figure. When they are infused together then the figure is better known as Shukongoshin, which literally means vajra wielding spirit. The alternative names for Shukongshin are Shikkongojin in Japan, Jip geumgang sin in Korea, ZhiJingang Shen in Mandarin Chinese and chap Kim Sang than in Vietnam.

It is believed that the iconography of this Buddhist deity was more influenced by the Greek hero Heracles in the past. It is mainly because there was a cultural influence in the art and culture of that period and also the Greek god, Heracles was used in the Greco-Buddhist art to represent Vajrapani, the protector of the Buddha. The deity was carved as the Greek hero in the early period representing Greco Buddhist art but later it was localized as it was spread in South-East Asian countries. We can see localized statues guarding various Buddhist temple.

Nio Zen Buddhism

The Zen monk, Suzuki Shosan advocated a practice Nio Zen Buddhism for the nirvana. He chose Nio Zen Buddhism over Nyorai Zen Buddhism. He recommended that practitioners should meditate on Nio and even adopt their fierce expressions and martial stances in order to cultivate power, strength, and courage when dealing with adversity.

Suzuki Shosan explains Nio as a menacing God. He wields the vajra and can crush the enemies. He vibrates with energy and spiritual power, and these power can be absorbed from him in times of the need. Suzuki further explains that we should depend on him and pray to him because he will protect us as he protects the Buddha.