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Skanda (Buddhism)

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অবলোকিতেশ্বর
Chinese:  韋馱 (Wei Tuo)
Japanese:  韋駄天 (Idaten)
Vietnamese:  Vi đà
Information
Venerated by:  Mahayana
Attributes:  Dharma protection

Skanda (Ch. 韋馱菩薩; Wei Tuo Pu Sa), Wei Tuo, and sometimes called Veda, or Idaten (韋駄天) in Japan, is regarded in Chinese Buddhism as a devoted guardian and an honored bodhisattva of Buddhist monasteries who guards the Dharma and the objects of the Dharma. He is also sometimes called "Wei Tuo Zun Tian Pu Sa" (meaning Honored Bodhisattva Wei Tuo) because he is one of the twenty-four celestial guardian deities. He is the General-in-Chief of the thirty-two heavenly generals who serve under the Four Heavenly Kings.

In most Chinese temples, his image faces the statue of the Buddha in the main shrine. In others, he is on the far right of the main shrine, whereas on the left is his counterpart, Guan Yu, known as Sangharama. In Chinese sutras, his image is found at the end of the sutra, a reminder of his vow to protect and preserve the teachings.

According to legends, Skanda was the son of a virtuous king who had complete faith in Buddha's teachings. When the Buddha entered nirvana, the Buddha instructed Skanda to guard the Dharma. It was his job to protect members of the sangha when they are disturbed by Mara, the tempter, and also to resolve conflicts amongst members of the sangha.

A few days after the Buddha's passing and cremation, evil demons robbed his relics. Skanda's vow of protecting the faith and Dharma was proven when he managed to defeat the evil demons and returned the relics.

Skanda in Chinese legends

Skanda at Miaoying Temple

Skanda at Beijing Miaoying Temple

There are no official stories about how Skanda was accepted into the traditional Chinese Buddhist pantheon. However, it is generally accepted that Skanda's features were adapted from a Chinese deity who appeared in the Chinese classical Ming novel Canonization of the Gods.

Some suggest that Skanda may have come from Hinduism as the war deity Kartikeya, who bears the title Skanda. Others point out that Skanda might also be a manifestation of Vajrapani, a Vajrayana bodhisattva who bears some relations to Skanda because they both wield vajras as weapons and are portrayed with flaming halos. He may also be connected through Vajrapani through a theory to his connection to Greco-Buddhism, as Wei Tuo's image is reminiscent of the Heracles depiction of Vajrapani.

Wei Tuo as a general and Miao Shan's lover and admirer

When the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was reincarnated as the princess Miao Shan, Skanda (known as Wei Tuo in this story) was one of her cruel father's generals. He loved Miao Shan but realized he could not possibly be a proper partner to her, since she was a pure person.

However, Wei Tuo was inspired by Miao Shan's kindness so he decided to stay faithful and devoted to Miao Shan, even if she wasn't his wife. The two escaped Miao Shan's father, and the general-suitor helped build Miao Shan a temple and a kingdom of her own. Soon however, the cruel king found them and killed them both.

The general, because of his devotion to Guan Yin, transformed into a bodhisattva himself, who vowed to always serve and protect Guan Yin. His appearance as a Chinese general is the direct forbear to his connection with Miao Shan.

Wei Tuo as a warrior

Another story says that Miao Shan was told to be killed by her grandmother. Her grandmother forced Miao Shan to commit suicide by leaping into the sea because she was thought to have been an incarnation of a demon, when in fact she was not. The emperor told a loyal soldier named Luo Ping to pretend to throw Miao Shan to the ocean. He brought her with Yin Ma, the mother of Wei Tuo to her village. Years passed, an evil fish demon came. A disloyal soldier named Huo Yi, was sent from the fish demon to kill Miao Shan. The fish demon wanted revenge on Miao Shan because she was the incarnation of Ci Hang Da Shi, a Buddhist deva that put her in a lotus pond.

Huo Yi and his troops went to the village where Miao Shan and Wei Tuo lived and fought. Huo Yi's son killed Wei Tuo. After Miao Shan became the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, she made Skanda a bodhisattva guardian. He became a bodhisattva because he took care of Miao Shan and loved her as a sister.

According to the lunar calendar, his birthday is at the 3rd day of the 6th lunar month.

Appearance

Skanda is described as a young man fully clad in the armor and headgear of a Chinese general, and is usually leaning on a vajra staff. Skanda can also be seen as Vajrapani, who bears some relation to him. Also, Skanda, though only a deva, is very often addressed as a Bodhisattva. This is attributed to the fact that Skanda will attain Bodhi in the very distant future.

Wei Tuo Men (School)

Wei Tuo Men is a school of Qi Gong, Kung Fu, Meditation and holistic health. It is from the Southern Shaolin Temple of originally Fu Jian Provence. Its full name is Shaolin Wei Tuo Jin Gang Hu Fa Men (Shaolin Wei Tuo Diamond Protector of Law School). The Qi Gong forms consist of the Five Element Drills. The elements are Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. The corresponding drills are: Leopard Drill (aka 8 Minute Drill), Eagle Drill, Dragon Drill, Crane Drill, and Tiger Drill.

Its first Master was Tong Jue who was a member of the Ming Dynasty. When the Qing took power he left for the safety of the Temple. He became so good at understanding qi (life energy) he started his own style. The 9th Master of the Lineage was Master Ji Kuei and the 10th Heir is Master Si Tu, Jie. His disciple and designated future 11th Heir is Master Jonathan Snowiss.

See also

ja:韋駄天

ru:Сканда (бодхисаттва) sv:Skanda (buddhism) ta:கந்தர் (பௌத்தம்) zh:韋馱

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