From The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen translated by Michael H. Kohn; © 1991 by Shambhala Publications, Inc. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., www.shambhala.com
Skt. (Jap., Monju), lit., “He Who Is Noble and Gentle”; the bodhisattva of wisdom, one of the most important figures of the Buddhist pantheon. He first appears in the Ārya-mañjushrī-mūlakalpa, a work dating from before the 4th century. Usually Mañjushrī is iconographically depicted with two lotus blossoms at the level of his head, on which his attributes—a sword and a book of the prajñāpāramitā literature—are placed. These attributes stand for the wisdom embodied by Mañjushrī, which dispels the darkness of ignorance.