Monju-Manjushri’s teaching of the Lotus Sutra and conversion of the Dragon King’s daughter, and the inhabitants of the Dragon King’s Palace

 

Mañjuśrī (known as ‘Monju’ to the Japanese) has been identified by scholars as the oldest and most significant bodhisattva in Mahāyāna literature. He is one of the Four Great Bodhisattvas of Chinese Buddhism, the other three being: Bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha, Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, and Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. Mañjuśrī (Skt: मञ्जुश्री) is a bodhisattva associated with transcendent wisdom (Skt. prajñā) in Mahāyāna Buddhism. In Esoteric Buddhism he is also taken as a meditational deity. The Sanskrit name Mañjuśrī can be translated as “Gentle Glory”. Mañjuśrī is also known by the fuller Sanskrit name of Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta. Read more here.

Mañjuśrī is known in China as Wénshū (Chinese: 文殊 or 文殊菩薩). Wutai Shan in Shanxi, one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism in China, which also had strong associations for Taoists, is considered by Chinese Buddhists to be his bodhimaṇḍa. He was said to bestow spectacular visionary experiences to those on selected mountain peaks and caves there. The Lotus Sūtra assigns him a pure land called Vimala, which according to the Avataṃsaka Sūtra is located in the East. His pure land is predicted to be one of the two best pure lands in all of existence in all the past, present and future.

“In the sutras, Mañjushrî is described as inhabiting a Pure Land (or, “heaven”) in another universe, where he dwells as the Buddha he actually is.  Since the 7th century, he has been inextricably linked to the 5 Sacred Peaks (Wu-tai Shan — “Five-mountain Paradise,” Tib: Riwo Tsenga) of China.  There, as Wen-Shu Shi-Li, Manjushri is depicted as a boy with his hair in 5 bunches (“5 peaks”)   The northeastern Chinese location is still an important place of pilgrimage for Tibetans, Mongolians, Chinese and other Buddhists.”– Khandro.net

The Mage 髷 = Chignon or topknot is associated especially with Monju Bosatsu 文殊菩薩, one that rose to prominence with the emergence of the Shingon 真言 and Tendai 天台 sects of Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyō 密教) in the Heian period. [As with the 5  peaks symbolism of Wutaishan] the five kinds of wisdom important to the Shingon sect, which in turn relates to the five elements of earth, water, fire, air (wind), and space (ether). There are other forms of Monju as well, those based on the number of hair knots (one, five, six, or eight), with each form providing protection against different dangers, with Ikkei Monju (one-knot Monju), for example, guarding against still childbirth and rain. The specific Japanese terms for the number of knots include Ikkei Monju 一髻文殊 (one-knot Monju), gokei monju 五髻文殊 (five-knot Monju ), Rokkei Monju 六髻文殊 (six-knot Monju) and Hakkei Monju 八髻文殊 (eight-knot Monju) (Source: JAANUS)

Manjusri is considered central to the Cult of Celestial Bodhisattvas, see Paul Harrison’s Manjushri and the Cult of the Celestial Bodhisattvas. In iconography, Monju is also sometimes portrayed with four messengers (Shikenzoku 四眷属) and eight youthful attendants (Hachidai Dōji 八童子), or crossing the sea (tokai渡海) with four attendants.  

It is said that Monju can be traced back at least to the 4th century AD in China, but Anthony Tribe in his article “Cult of Manjusri“, he examines the evidence of Manjusri:

In HIS STUDY  “The Indian Buddhist Iconography”, Benoytosh Bhattacharyya reports that no image of Mañju’srii has been found from Gandhaara or Mathuraa. 4 Lamotte adds that there is no trace of him either at Amaraavatii or Naagaarjunako.n.da. 5Hsüan-tsang mentions only one image of Mañju’srii in the record of his pilgrimage and David Snellgrove comments that in India there is no identifiable image of Mañju’srii, possibly before the sixth century.

Yet the evidence, both from the records of the Chinese pilgrims and from surviving images, indicates that his iconographic depiction is not especially late in relation to that of other Bodhisattvas.

Hsüan-tsang notes many images of Maitreya and Avalokite’svara. Taaraa, however, is mentioned by him only twice, and the single reference to Mañju’srii is of a shrine dedicated to him at Mathuraa. 8 Shrines of other Bodhisattvas are referred to without being named. Hsüan-tsang, though a Mahaayaanist of the Yogaacaara school, is particularly interested in sites and legends related to episodes in the life or previous lives of ‘Saakyamuni and in the lives of his major disciples. He records these in detail. Snellgrove suggests that the reason for the lack of reference to images of Mañju’srii and other Bodhisattvas by Hsüan-tsang is that such figures were not fully distinguished iconographically at that time. He argue that commonly accepted iconographic differentiation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is likely to occur much later than the appearance of the suutras that can be seen as reflecting their popularity in particular circles.

Such an account of the evidence from Hsüan-tsang’s diaries is supported by the iconographic evidence that does survive. In addition to Gandhaara and Mathuraa, Mañju’srii is unknown at Ajantaa, where work on the caves continued into the seventh century. He is found, however, in Ellora (7th-10th century), along with Taaraa, Avalokite’svara, Maitreya and Sarasvatii (cave 10), as well as in the monastic ruins of Ratnagiri in Orissa (6th-12th century). Snellgrove points to a period of some five hundred years from the beginning of the second century CE where images cannot be firmly classified as either non-Mahaayaanist or Mahaayaanist. Whereas the early cave temples and sculptures at Karla, Bhaja and Bedsa are clearly non-Mahaayaanist and the images from Naalanda and Ratnagiri are Mahaayaanist, the works at Ajantaa (where scenes primarily relate to the former lives of ‘Saakyamuni) and Naasik, which fall into the middle period, cannot be clearly identified one way or the other. Images of Maitreya, as the Buddha-to-be, would be acceptable to both traditions as would those of Avalokite’svara, according to Snellgrove.  So, up to and possibly including the end of the sixth century, only the following Buddha and Bodhisattva images are individually distinguished: ‘Saakyamuni, in various poses as either Buddha or Bodhisattva; Diipa.nkara, the Buddha before whom ‘Saakyamuni vowed to become a Buddha; Maitreya; and Avalokite’svara. Vajrapaa.ni is still represented as a yak.sa. Identifiable images of Mañju’srii and Taaraa appear towards the end of the period – a period that begins with the appearance of the earliest images and which is probably approximately contemporary with the earliest Perfection of Wisdom sËtras.

So Mañju’srii’s appearance as a distinctive iconographic form, although relatively late if considered in relation to his description as the Bodhisattva of wisdom in suutras, is not late if contrasted with the emergence of the iconographic forms of other Mahaayaana Bodhisattva figures. Excepting Avalokite’svara, he and Taaraa are the first to appear.”

He is considered the Lord of Speech and a great teacher – Manjughosha (the ‘sweet-voiced’). Manjusri makes an appearance in the Lokaanuvartanaa-suutra (LAn), in which he plays the part of the Buddha’s interlocutor nad in which he asks the Buddha to explain the supramundane or transcendental (lokottara) nature of the Awakened Ones. In Lokak.sema’s version he is referred to at the beginning and at the end simply as the bodhisattva Manjusrii (Wenshushili pusa (Wenshushili pusa 文殊師利菩薩).  In the Lotus Sūtra, Mañjuśrī’s claim to fame is also due to his role in leading the Nāga King’s daughter to enlightenment. See below:

The Lotus Sutra, translated by Burton Watson

Chapter Twelve: Devadatta

At that time the Buddha addressed the bodhisattvas, the heavenly and human beings, and the four kinds of believers saying: “Immeasurable kalpas in the past, I sought the Lotus Sutra without ever flagging. During those many kalpas, I constantly appeared as the ruler of a kingdom who made a vow to seek the unsurpassed bodhi. His mind never wavered or turned aside, and in his desire to fulfill the six paramitas he diligently distributed alms, never stinting in heart, whether the gift was elephants or horses, the seven rare articles, countries, cities, wife, children, maidservants, or his own head, eyes, marrow and brain, his own flesh and limbs. He did not begrudge even his own being and life. At that period the human life span was immeasurably long. But for the sake of the Law this king abandoned his kingdom and throne, delegated the government to the crown prince, sounded drums and sent out proclamations, seeking the Law in four directions and saying, ‘Who can expound the Great Vehicle for me? To the end of my life I will be his provider and servant!’

“At that time there was a seer who came to the king and said, “I have a Great Vehicle text called the Sutra of the Wonderful Law. If you will never disobey me, I will expound it for you.’

“When the king heard these words of the seer, he danced for joy. At once he accompanied the seer, providing him with whatever he needed, picking fruit, drawing water, gathering firewood, setting out meals, even offering his own body as a couch and seat, never stinting in body or mind. He served the seer in this manner for a thousand years, all for the sake of the Law, working diligently acting as a provider and seeing to it that the seer lacked for nothing.”

At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

I recall those departed kalpas of the past
when in order to seek the great Law,
though I was the ruler of a worldly kingdom,
I was not greedy to satisfy the five desires
but instead struck the bell, crying in four quarters,
“Who possesses the great Law?
If he will explain and preach it for me
I will be his slave and servant!”
At that time there was a seer named Asita
who came and announced to this great King,
“I have a subtle and wonderful Law,
rarely known in this world.
If you will undertake religious practice
I will expound it for you.”
When the king heard the seer’s words
his heart was filled with great joy.
Immediately he accompanied the seer,
providing him with whatever he needed,
gathering firewood, fruit and wild rice,
presenting them at appropriate times with respect and
reverence.
Because the wonderful Law was then his thoughts
he never flagged in body or mind.
For the sake of living beings everywhere
he diligently sought the great Law,
taking no heed for himself
or for the gratification of the five desires.
Therefore the ruler of a great kingdom
through diligent seeking was able to acquire this Law
and eventually to attain Buddhahood,
as I will now explain to you.

The Buddha said to his monks: “The king at that time was I myself, and this seer was the man who is now Devadatta. All because Devadatta was a good friend to me, I was able to become fully endowed with this six paramitas, pity, compassion, joy, and indifference, with the thirty-two features, the eighty characteristics, the purple-tinged golden color, the ten powers, the four kinds of fearlessness, the four methods of winning people, the eighteen unshared properties, and the transcendental powers and the power of the way. The fact that I have attained impartial and correct enlightenment and can save living beings on a broad scale is all due to Devadatta who was a good friend.”

Then the Buddha said to the four kinds of believers: “Devadatta, after immeasurable kalpas have past, will attain Buddhahood. He will be called Heavenly King Thus Come One, worthy of offerings of right and universal knowledge, perfect parity and conduct, well gone, understanding the world, on itself worthy, trainer of people, teacher of heavenly and human beings, Buddha, World-Honored One. This world will be called Heavenly Way, and at the same time Heavenly King Buddha will abide in the world for twenty medium kalpas, broadly preaching the Wonderful Law for the sake of living beings. Living beings numerous as Ganges sands will attain the fruit of arhatship. Immeasurable numbers of living beings will conceive that desire to become pratyekabuddhas, living beings numerous as Ganges sands will conceive a desire for the unsurpassed way, will gain that truth of birthless-ness, and will never regress. After Heavenly King Buddha enters parinirvana, his Correct Law will endure in the world for twenty medium kalpas. The relics from his whole body will be housed in a tower built of the seven treasures, sixty yojanas in height and forty yojanas in width and depth. All the heavenly and human beings will take assorted flowers, powdered incense, incense for burning, paste incense, clothing, necklaces, steamers and banners, jeweled canopies, music and songs of praise that offer them with obeisance to the wonderful seven- jeweled tower. Immeasurable numbers of living beings will attain the fruits of arhatship, numerous living beings will become enlightened as pratyekabuddhas, and unimaginable numbers of living beings will conceive a desire for bodhi and will in reach the level of no regression.”

The Buddha said to the monks: “In future ages if there are good men or good women who, on hearing the Devadatta Chapter of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, believe and revere it with pure hearts and harbor no doubts or perplexities, they will never fall into hell or the realm of hungry spirits or of beasts, but will be born in the presence of the Buddhas of the ten directions, and in the place where they are born they will constantly hear this sutra. If they are born among human or heavenly beings, they will enjoy exceedingly wonderful delights, and if they are born in the presence of the Buddha, they will be born by transformation from lotus flowers.”

At that time there was a bodhisattva who was among the followers of Many Treasures World-Honored One from the lower region and whose name was Wisdom Accumulated. He said to Many Treasures Buddha, “Shall return to our homeland?”

Shakyamuni Buddha said to Wisdom Accumulated, ‘good man, wait a little while. There is a bodhisattva named Manjushri here whom you should see. Debate and discuss the wonderful Law with him, and then you may return to your homeland.”

At that time Manjushri was seated on a thousand-pedaled lotus blossom big as a carriage wheel, and the bodhisattvas who had come with them were also seated on jeweled lotus blossoms. Manjushri had emerged in a natural manner from the palace of the dragon king Sagara in the great ocean and was suspended in the air. Proceeding to Holy Eagle Peak, he descended from the lotus blossom and, having entered the presence of the Buddhas, bowed his head and paid obeisance to the feet of the two World-Honored Ones. When he had concluded these gestures of respect, he went to where Wisdom Accumulated was and exchanged greetings with him, and retired then retired and sat at one side.

Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated questioned Manjushri, saying, “When you went to the palace of the dragon king, how many living beings did you convert?”

Manjushri replied, “The number is immeasurable, incapable of calculation. The mouth cannot express it, the mind cannot have fathom it. Wait a moment and there will be proof.”

Before he had finished speaking, countless bodhisattvas seated on jeweled lotus blossoms emerged from the Ocean proceeded to Holy Eagle Peak, where they remained suspended in the air. These bodhisattvas all had been converted and saved by Manjushri. They had carried out all the bodhisattva practices and discussed and expounded the six paramitas with one another. Those who had originally been voice-hearers expounded the practices of the voice-hearer when they were in the air, but now all were practicing the Great Vehicle principle of emptiness.

Manjushri said to Wisdom Accumulated, “The work of teaching and converting carried out that in the ocean was as you can see.”

At that time Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated recited these verses of praise:

Of great wisdom and virtue, brave and stalwart,
you have converted and saved immeasurable beings.
Now those in this great assembly,
as well as I myself, have all seen them.
You expound the principle of the true entity,
open up the Law of the single vehicle,
broadly guiding the many beings,
causing them quickly to attain bodhi.

Manjushri said, “When I was in the ocean I constantly expounded the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law alone.”

Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated questioned Manjushri, saying, “This sutra is a profound, subtle and wonderful, a treasure among sutras, a rarity in the world. Are there perhaps any living beings who, by earnestly and diligently practicing this sutra, have been able to attain Buddhahood quickly?”

Manjushri replied, “There is the daughter of the dragon king Sagara, who was just turned eight. Her wisdom has keen roots and she is good at the understanding the root activities and of living beings. She has mastered the dharanis, has been able to accept and embrace all the store house of profound secrets preached by the Buddhas, has entered deep into meditation, thoroughly grasping the doctrines, and in the space of an instant conceived the desire for bodhi and reached the level of no regression. Her eloquence knows no hindrance, and she thinks of living beings with compassion as though they were her own children. She is fully endowed with blessings, and when it comes to conceiving in mind and expounding by mouth, she is subtle, wonderful, comprehensive and great. Kind, compassionate, benevolent, yielding, she is gentle and refined in will, capable of attaining bodhi.”

Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated said, “When I observe Shakyamuni Thus Come One, I see that for immeasurable kalpas he carried out harsh and difficult practices, accumulated merit, piling up virtue, seeking the way to the bodhisattva without ever resting. I observe that throughout the thousand-million fold world there is not a single spot tiny as a mustard seed where this bodhisattva failed to sacrifice body and life the sake of living beings. Only after he had done that was he able to complete the bodhi way. I cannot believe that this girl in the space of the instant could actually achieve correct enlightenment.”

Before his words had come to an end, the dragon king’s daughter suddenly appeared before the Buddha, bowed her head in obeisance, and then retired to one side, reciting these verses of praise:

He profoundly understands the signs of guilt and good fortune
and illuminates the ten directions everywhere.
His subtle, wonderful pure Dharma body
is endowed with the thirty-two features;
the eighty characteristics
adorn his Dharma body.
Heavenly and human beings gaze up in awe,
dragons and spirits all pay honor and respect;
among all living beings,
none who do not hold him in reverence.
And having heard his teachings, I have attained bodhi –
the Buddha alone can bear witness to this.
I unfold the doctrines of the Great Vehicle
to rescue living beings from suffering.

At that time Shariputra said to the dragon girl, “You suppose that in this short time you have been able to attain the unsurpassed way. But this is difficult to believe. Why? Because a woman’s body is soiled and defiled, not a vessel for the Law. How could you attain the unsurpassed bodhi? The road to Buddhahood is long and far-reaching. Only after one has spent immeasurable kalpas pursuing austerities, accumulating deeds, practicing all kinds of paramitas, can one finally achieve success. Moreover, a woman is subject to the five obstacles. First, she cannot become a Brahma heavenly king. Second, she cannot become the king Shakra. Third, she cannot become a devil king. Fourth, she cannot become a wheel-turning sage king. Fifth, she cannot become a Buddha. How then could a woman like you be able to attain Buddhahood so quickly?”

At that time the dragon girl had a precious jewel worth as much as the thousand-million-fold world which she presented to the Buddha. The Buddha immediately excepted it. The dragon girl said to Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated to the venerable one, Shariputra, “I presented the precious jewel and the World-Honored One accepted it – was that not quickly done?”

They replied, “Very quickly!”

The girls said, “employ your supernatural powers and watch me attain Buddhahood. It shall be even quicker than that!”

At that time the members of the assembly all saw the dragon girl in the space of an instant change into a man and carry out all the practices of a bodhisattva, immediately proceeding to the Spotless World of the south, taking a seat on a jeweled lotus, and attaining impartial and correct enlightenment. With the thirty-two features and the eighty characteristics, he expounded the wonderful Law for all living beings everywhere in the ten directions.

At that time in the saha world to a the bodhisattvas, voice-hearers, gods, dragons and others of the eight kinds of guardians, human and non-human beings all from a distance saw the dragon girl become a Buddha and preach the law to all the human and heavenly beings in the assembly at that time. Their hearts were filled with great joy and all from a distance paid reverent obeisance. Immeasurable living beings, hearing the Law, understood it and were able to reach the level of no regression. Immeasurable living beings received prophecies that they would gain the away. The Spotless World quaked and trembled in six different ways. Three thousand living beings of the saha world remained on the level of no regression. Three thousand living beings conceived a desire for bodhi and received prophecies of enlightenment. Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated, Shariputra and all the other members of the assembly silently believed an accepted these things.

Who is Longnu, the “Chinese” Dragon King’s Daughter:

Longnü (traditional Chinese: 龍女; simplified Chinese: 龙女; pinyin: Lóngnǚ; Sanskrit:nāgakanya; Vietnamese: Long nữ), translated as Dragon Daughter, along with Sudhana are considered acolytes of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara in Chinese Buddhism. However, there are no scriptural sources connecting both Sudhana and Longnü to Avalokiteśvara at the same time. However, it is suggested that the acolytes are representations of the two major Mahāyāna texts, the Lotus Sūtra and the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, in which Longnü and Sudhana appear, respectively

Longnü is depicted in the 12th Chapter of the Lotus Sūtra (Skt. Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra) as being full of wisdom and achieving instant enlightenment. In the Lotus Sūtra,Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva speaks of her, saying:

There is the daughter of the nāga king Sāgara who is only eight years old. She is wise; her faculties are sharp; and she also well knows all the faculties and deeds of sentient beings. She has attained the power of recollection (Skt. smṛti). She preserves all the profound secret treasures of the Buddhas, enters deep in meditation, and is well capable of discerning all dharmas. She instantly produced the thought of enlightenment (Skt. bodhicitta) and has attained the stage of nonretrogression. She has unhindered eloquence and thinks of sentient beings with as much compassion as if they were her own children. Her virtues are perfect. Her thoughts and explanations are subtle and extensive, merciful, and compassionate. She has a harmonious mind and has attained enlightenment.

However, the Buddha’s disciple Śāriputra does not believe that a woman can attain buddhahood.[4] In response, the nāga maiden offers a pearl to the Buddha, symbolizing her life and ego, and he accepts it.[5] She then instantly transforms into a perfected male bodhisattva, and then attains complete enlightenment.[5]

In some other sutras she offers the pearl to Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva.

***

Who is the Dragon King?

Eight dragon kings, (sometimes interchangeable with “Demons”), were actually mentioned in the Lotus Sutra, many of whom would have been known to or captured the imagination of those who were part of the sutra world in those days.
King Sagara was among the eight that was significant in Japanese folklore and to Buddhist followers. The Dragon Kings A, B, C are particularly well known in Japan.

“B. The Demons in the Introduction of The Lotus Sutra –

All these demons are spiritual forces that are found in nature, in animals as well as in human beings. They are all constituents of our human nature. These spiritual beings include:

1. The Dragons, or Serpents (Nagas): These are spiritual forces that are associated with water. They control rivers, lakes and seas, and they dwell deep in the ocean. In spring they take to the sky and in winter they enter into the ground. They include the cyclonic forces of nature, whether they are material or spiritual. They control storms and the wild & instinctive forces of nature.

The Introduction of The Lotus Sutra mentions Eight Dragon Kings:

A. & B. The Dragon Kings Nanda (‘Rejoicing’) & Upananda (‘Blessedness’, ‘Felicity’) are said to be brothers, responsible for the rains that nourish the land. They were said to bring joy and good fortune to Magadha, particularly when they appeared in times of drought and famine.  Chih-I said they personify the first two of the ten stages of the Bodhisattva path, bestowing joy and performing good deeds

C. The Dragon King Sagara (‘Ocean’) resides in the depths of the ocean (the realm of the ocean also includes the atmosphere – see the Vasus for an explanation of the ‘realms of the gods’). Chih-I said that this Dragon King personifies the ocean that is the perfection of wisdom (S. Prajna Paramita) and the greatness of emptiness.

D. The Dragon Kings Vasuki (‘Many Heads’) is the dragon of many heads. In terms of water, thus would include all the different bodies of water including lakes, ponds, streams, etc. Chih-I said that this Dragon King personifies the samadhi of manifesting different incarnations, the observation of that which is temporary and the distinguishing of the limitless different teachings and practices of the Dharma.

E. The Dragon King Taksaka (‘Many Tongues’ or ‘Forked Tongue’) refers to the dragon that has a forked tongue and can be poisonous. In terms of water this refers to the rivers, streams and brooks that are branched off from each other but in reality feed into each other. Chih-I said that this Dragon King personifies the power of words that that can be both divide and bring together. This Dragon King also personifies unobstructed eloquence in the teaching of the Dharma.

F. The Dragon King Anavatapta (‘Without Heat’) – The Dragon of the great cool lake. Anavatapta is the name of a lake in the Himalaya Mountains (now Manasarovar) that was said to have a five-pillared pagoda. The lake is said to be able to cool the scorching fires that come from the dragons of the nether realms, just the Calm can cool the flames of suffering and emotional distress and the five conditions of mortality.

G. The Dragon King Manasvin (‘Great Life’, ‘Great Will’ or ‘Great Power’) is a Dragon-King that is coiled up ready to be unleashed when necessary. As such it refers to the great potential power of water that can be harnessed to bring great benefits. Chih-I said that this personifies the potency that comes from the great boundless embodiment that is proper Observation of the Middle Way.

H. The Dragon King Utpalaka (‘Dark Lake’) lives the dark swamp where the lotus blossoms grow. Chih-I said the Lotus Blossom represent the cause of enlightenment, the muddy water the source of life (this mortal realm of Life & Death), and this Dragon King the Samadhi of The Lotus Sutra.

The Dragon King Sagara also figures prominently in The Flower Garland (Avatamsaka) Sutra. The following is a quote from the Chih-I‘s The Great Calm-Observation (C. Mo-Ho Chih-Kuan, J. Maka Shikan), which cites a passage from The Flower Garland Sutra on the Sagara Dragon.

dragon king’s daughter

[竜女] ( Jpn ryunyo )

Also, dragon girl or naga girl. The eight-year-old daughter of Sagara, one of the eight great dragon kings said to dwell in a palace at the bottom of the sea. According to the “Devadatta” (twelfth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the dragon girl conceived the desire for enlightenment when she heard Bodhisattva Manjushripreach the Lotus Sutra in the dragon king’s palace. When Manjushriasserts that she is capable of quickly attaining the Buddha wisdom, Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated challenges him, saying that even Shakyamuni attained enlightenment only after fulfilling the bodhisattva practice for many kalpas, and that she cannot become a Buddha so easily. Just then the dragon girl appears in front of the assembly and praises Shakyamuni Buddha. Shariputra then speaks to her, saying that women are subject to the five obstacles and are incapable of attaining Buddhahood. At that moment, she offers a jewel to the Buddha, transforms herself into a male, and instantaneously perfects the bodhisattva practice. She then appears in a land to the south called Spotless World and mani-fests the state of Buddhahood without changing her dragon form. With the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics of a Buddha, she preaches the Lotus Sutra to all living beings there.The dragon girl’s enlightenment has important implications. First, it refutes the idea of the time that women could never attain enlightenment. Second, it reveals that the power of the Lotus Sutra enables all people equally to attain Buddhahood in their present form, without undergoing kalpas of austere practices. Perhaps the social circumstances in which the Lotus Sutra was compiled did not allow the dragon girl to be depicted as attaining Buddhahood without first becoming a male. But the transformation occurred instantaneously, not in the next life, and in this respect differs significantly from that of other, provisional teachings, which hold that a woman must be reborn as a man and then practice bodhisattva austerities for innumerable kalpas in order to become a Buddha. See also dragon deity.

The article “The Story of The Dragon King’s Daughter” suggests why the story has resonated particularly with women, especially with women of Heian Japan … since women were traditionally “barred from entering most temples and it was thought that they could never escape the realm of enlightened existence”:

“The Sanskrit word “naga” actually refers to the King Cobra snake, but the Chinese translated it as dragon. In Buddhism, the Nagas are supernatural beings who live on Mount Semuru and in the depths of the ocean. It was from the underwater Naga Kings that Nagarjuna (“dragon-tree”) is said to have received the Mahayana sutras.

The story of the Dragon King’s Daughter is the lone example in Buddhist literature of a mortal being becoming a Buddha, with the notable exception of the Buddha himself. It’s meant to convey the universality of Buddha-nature. And it’s about a woman becoming a Buddha, which is significant not only for the statement it makes but also because it came out of a patriarchal culture that tended to view women as inferior.

… By the way, the jewel given to the Buddha by the Naga princess represents her precious life.”

Furthermore, the Dragon King palace and his daughter feature in many other Japanese folktales involving visitors to the Undersea Dragon King’s palace and a union with his daughter.

King Sagara as a historical or legendary Vedic or Surya dynasty king

King Sagara can be traced to a historical Vedic king belonging to solar lineages. According to The Mahabharata translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1883 -1896), ‘There was born in the family of the Ikshaku tribe, a ruler of the earth named Sagara, endued with beauty, and strength…” —  Book 3: Vana Parva: Tirtha-yatra Parva: Section CVI, p. 228

“King Sagara is one of the greatest kings of the Suryavansha in the Satya Yuga, also known as the Ikshvaku dynasty, he has two wives, one a princess of the Vidarbha, and the other from royal lineage of Sivi [1] He was an ancestor to King Dasharatha and Lord Rama(Incarnation of Sree Vishnu)…. King Sagara performed a horse sacrifice (Ashwamedha yajna) to prove his supremacy.”

In 38th chap of Valmiki Ramayana first epic of India, Sage Vishvamitra narrates the legend of Sagara, the earliest King of Ayodhya and Rama’s forefather, who is childlessness, but who begets sixty thousand sons of merit and one son of demerit. Emperor Sagara is the one who brought celestial Ganga onto the surface of earth…

Describing that legend of Kaartikeya to Rama, the descendent of Kaushi, namely sage Vishvamitra has further spoken this best sentence worded melodiously to Rama, the descendent of Kakutstha.

“Once there was a valiant an virtue-souled king of Ayodhya named Sagara, who is without offspring, as such he was longing for offspring. The daughter of King of Vidarbha, renowned by name Keshini, is the eldest wife of Sagara, and she was virtue-minded, and an advocate of truth. The daughter of Arishtanemi, namely sage Kashyapa, and who is also the sister of Garuda, the Divine-Eagle-vehicle of Vishnu, is the second wife of Sagara, who is known by the name Sumati. Reaching the Himalayan Mountains along with his two wives that great King Sagara practised asceticism on a mountain called Brugu-prsravana for progeny.

The Mt. Brugu-prsravana is said to be among Himalayan range on which the kindness of Sage Bhrigu is ever- flowing.

“On completion of a hundred years of ascesis, and when the Sage Bhrugu is worshipped with asceticism, that sage who is a prominent one among the patrons of truth bestowed a boon to Sagara.

” ‘Oh, merited one, you will achieve very admirable progeny, and oh, best one among men, you will also acquire an unparalleled renown in the world. One of your wives will mother a son who enriches your dynasty, oh, dear sire, and the other mothers sixty thousand sons.’ Said Sage Bhrigu to Sagara.

Highly gladdened are the daughters of kings of Vidarbha and Aristanemi, i.e., the queens of Sagara, and on making palm-fold in supplication at the sage who is speaking that way, and on gaining the grace of that sage they spoke to him.

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