There is a story told about Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. A small temple in China offered food for one month in the spring to everyone who wanted some. No one was excluded – the poor and the rich, the monk and the lay person, the small child and the old woman – all came to receive food from the monks at this temple. Usually a gift to the temple was given – perhaps a few coins or some flowers. On this day, a young pregnant woman entered the compound with her two children and a dog. Her clothes were patched and dirty as were the clothes on her children and she moved across the temple compound slowly as though burdened by life. As she approached the food, she saw that people were giving alms to the temple master, but, of course, she had nothing to give. Pulling a small knife from her belt, she cut off her ponytail and approached the master. “Please master, this is all I have to give. Don’t refuse it.” The master looked at her curiously and asked her where she was from. She said, “I am from where I am from. Please may we have some food.” The master was taken back by her response, but went and retrieved 3 bowls of food. When she was finished eating, she pointed to her dog and said, “He is also hungry. Would you please give him something to eat?” The master lost his temper and told her that she was asking too much and berated her in front of everyone for being greedy! At this, the young woman turned into Manjushri and the dog turned into the lion that sits at his feet. Manjushri began to teach everyone about the non-discriminating mind that treats all things equally, going beyond love and hate and acting with True Compassion. The master was ashamed and when Manjushri left, he took the hair given him by the young woman and enshrined it in a pagoda. The Hair Pagoda is still in place to this day and is visited by many people.
In our chant, Homage to the Three Jewels, Manjushri is known as Dae Ji Mu Su Sari Bosal. His name means “Gentle Glory” and he is usually depicted with a flaming sword that cuts through our delusions. There are many stories about Manjushri and a few of our kong-ans as well. But Manjushri is the wisdom within us. It is Manjushri that awakens us to begin seeking answers to our hearts deepest question. It is Manjushri that helps us to awaken to our own true nature – this “don’t know mind” that is apparent in all things. It is Manjushri who awakens our natural compassionate nature and helps us see through the delusion of our separateness. It is Manjushri that helps us to cut through the veil of our karma – our desires, our anger and our ignorance. Each one of us is already Manjushri embodied.