Fudō Myō-ō 不動明王, as he is known in Japanese culture, is a Hindu deity from the Mahayana school of Buddhism. The Myō-ō are a group of war-gods that represent the power to overcome passions. They were originally a Hindu deity group integrated into Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyo), in Japan.
Five Great Kings
The Godai Myō-ō (五大明王), or the Five Great Kings are a group of deities depicted as menacing figures with threatening postures which were captured in this manner to vanquish evil spirits and convert nonbelievers. They are seen completely engulfed in flames further emphasizing the idea of spiritual purification and the burning away of negative desire. Of the Five Great Kings, which serve the Nyorai, or the saintly Buddha figures most people know, Fudō Myō-ō is the central figure.
The Migration of Fudō Myō-ō
The first character of Fudō (不) means “not”, while the second character is made up of two characters meaning heavy move. So the full meaning translates as “not move” or more commonly in English – immovable. Acalanātha is the original Hindu name of the deity meaning “immovable protector”. Traveling from India to China in the Tang Dynasty, he became Budong , then to Japan as Fudō. The deity is also recognized in Tibetan and Nepalese culture as Akshobhya.[blockquote align=”center”]The Fudō Myō-ō vow is to battle evil with compassion working for the protection of true happiness.[/blockquote]
In Esoteric Buddhism, he is an incarnation of Dainichi “Great Sun- Buddha of Cosmic Light” and carries a ‘kurikara’ sword in his right hand representing wisdom slicing through ignorance and a rope ‘kensaku’ in his left hand representing the binding of demons. Fudō Myō-ō is depicted having an all-seeing open third eye and is either standing or seated on a solid, immovable rock ‘banjakuza’. Two popular representations of the deity show one with a closed left eye with the teeth biting the upper lip, and the other with two fangs with one pointing up and the other one down. The tooth pointing upwards represents the strength of desire to rise upward in service of the truth and the one pointing downward represents an undying compassion for those struggling in body and spirit.
Fudō Myō-ō often is seen with smaller deities, Kongara and Seitaka, and is one of the thirteen deities of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. His skin is a blueish black color representing his force of will to draw beings into worship, so he literally teaches until ‘blue-in-the-face’. The knotted hair is the hairstyle of a servant and is tied in seven knots that fall off to the left side of his face.
The Fudō Myō-ō vow is to battle evil with compassion working for the protection of true happiness. Followers pray to him to recover from illness, for safe traveling and good fortune. On the 7th day of mourning after a death, Fudō Myō-ō is the deity that assists the departed in becoming buddhas.
19 Characteristics of Fudō Myō-ō
- He is an incarnation of Dainichi Nyorai.
- His Mantra has the four letters : a ro kan man .
- He usually lives in a world of fire.
- He has the figure of a fat young man, rather unpleasant.
- He has seven knots in his hair and a lotus blossom on top of them.
- On his left shoulder a plait of hair hangs
- The wrinkles on his forehead look like water waves.
- The left eye is closed, the right one wide open. – eyes
- He bites his right upper lip with the lower teeth and his left lip protrudes.
- He has his mouth shut
- He carries a three-pronged sword in his right hand.
- He carries a rope in his left hand.
- He eats the leftover food of ascetic monks.
- He stands or sits on a throne of stone.
- His body color is of an unpleasant black-blue-
- His look is fierce and threatening.
- He has a fiery Garuda bird on his halo.
- A Kurikara Dragon is wrapped around his sword.
- He has two child acolytes by his side.
Fudō Myō-ō in Ninjutsu
The symbolism of Fudō Myō-ō in samurai and martial arts culture can be seen in many different forms. Weapons and armor were adorned with the deities symbol as a means of protection and victory in battle. Once such integration can be found at the Buddhist temple on Mount Takao, formally known as Takao-san Yakuo-in Yuki-ji, and more commonly as Yakuo-in.
Founded in 744 by order of Emperor Shomu, the temple was restored in 14th century by Shugen Daitoku from Mount Daigo in Kyoto which had close connections to Shugendo (mountain asceticism). While performing an intense goma fire ritual dedicated to Fudō Myō-ō in which 8,000 goma sticks burned, Daitoku recieved a vision of the deity Izuna Daigongen, another form of Fudō Myō-ō. After receiving this vision, Daitoku made this deity the principle image used in in their Buddhist practice and Yakuo-In flourished as a Shugendo center. It was on this mountain where legend tells of tengu, who could have been direct messengers of Fudō Myō-ō, that taught Shugendo monks who in turn taught the Ninjutsu they learned to the monks and whoever else they saw fit to teach.
The idea of Fudō is also found in martial systems such as Kyokushinkai Karate and was a principle used by one of the most famous Japanese swordsman of all time; Miyamoto Musashi. The integration is also seen in Zazen and meditation under cold waterfalls which are believed to be useful in purifying and fortifying the mind.