shibutsu 四仏
KEY WORD : art history / iconography
Lit. the Four Buddhas.

1 The first four Buddhas said to have appeared during the current era of Buddhist time known as the Auspicious Aeon (Sk:bhadra-kalpa; Jp:kengou 賢劫). They also correspond to the last four of the Seven Buddhas of the Past, kako shichibutsu 過去七仏. The four are: Kuruson 拘留孫, Kunagonmuni 拘那含牟尼, Kashou 迦葉, and *Shaka 釈迦.

2 A shortened form of shihou shibutsu 四方四仏 (Four Buddhas of the four directions). Mahayana Buddhism teaches that there are countless Buddhas existing in the past, present and future ages, and postulates the existence of an infinite number of world-systems, each with its own Buddha. These Buddhas came to be collectively known as the Buddhas of the Three Ages (of past, present and future) and Ten Directions (the four cardinal points, four intermediate directions, zenith and nadir) sanze jippou shobutsu 三世十方諸仏. Eventually, certain Buddhas and bodhisattvas came to be associated with particular directions. We usually find *Ashuku 阿しゅく or *Yakushi 薬師 in the east, *Amida 阿弥陀 in the west, *Miroku 弥勒 in the south, and Shaka in the north. The earliest example of a group of Four Buddhas, found in the KONKOUMYOUKYOU 金光明経 (Sk: Suvarnaprabhasa-sutra ;Golden Splendor Scripture, ca 4c), is: Ashuku (east), Houshou 宝生 (south), Muryouju 無量寿=Amida (west), and Tenkuon 天鼓音 (north). With the addition of a central Buddha there evolves particularly in Esoteric teachings (ca 7c) the concept of Five Buddhas gobutsu 五仏, which in turn develops into the five principal Buddhas of the main esoteric mandalas *mandara 曼荼羅---the *Taizoukai mandara 胎蔵界曼荼羅 and *Kongoukai mandara 金剛界曼荼羅. The central Buddha of both is *Dainichi 大日, while the four surrounding Buddhas differ somewhat. In the Taizoukai, in a clockwise direction starting from the east (right), they are: Houdou 宝幢, Kaifukeou 開敷華王, Muryouju, and Tenkuraion 天鼓雷音. In the Kongoukai they are Ashuku, Houshou, Muryouju, and Fukuu jouju 不空成就. Thus the concept of the Four Buddhas has played an important role in the development of the mandala.

*gochi nyorai 五智如来

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