Skanda (Buddhism)

Skanda (Chinese:塞建陀, 室建陀), also known as Wei Tuo (Chinese: 韋馱) and Idaten (Japanese: 韋駄天) is a Mahayana bodhisattva regarded as a devoted guardian of Buddhist monasteries who protects the teachings of Buddhism. He is also sometimes called in the Chinese tradition "Hufa Weituo Zuntian Pusa", meaning "Honored Dharma Protector Skanda Bodhisattva", because he is the leader of the twenty-four celestial guardian deities mentioned in the Golden Light Sutra.

In Chinese temples, Skanda 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, Sangharama (personified as the historical general Guan Yu). 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 duty 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 stole 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
Ping Sien Si - 010 Wei hu (Skanda) (15948243350)
Sanskritस्कन्द
Skanda
Chinese韋馱天
(Pinyin: Wéituó Tiān)
韋馱菩薩
(Pinyin: Wéituó Púsà)
Japanese韋馱天いだてん
(romaji: Idaten)
Korean위타천
(RR: Wita Cheon)
MongolianАрван Хоёр Нууд
Thaiพระเวทโพธิสัตว์
Tibetanགདོང་དྲུག་
Wylie: gdong drug
VietnameseVi Đà Bồ Tát
Information
Venerated byMahāyāna, Vajrayāna
Dharma Wheel.svg Buddhism portal

Origins

Stories vary on how Skanda was accepted into the traditional Chinese Buddhist pantheon. Some have proposed that Skanda's features were adapted from a Chinese deity who appeared in the Chinese classical Ming novel Canonization of the Gods. However, the existence of illustrated Skanda images predating the Ming Dynasty set his origins back to an earlier period in the development of Chinese Buddhism.

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. Some suggest that Skanda may have come from Hinduism as the war deity Kartikeya / Muruga (Tamil), who bears the title Skanda. Others point out that Skanda might also be a manifestation of Vajrapani, a bodhisattva who bears some relations to Skanda because they both wield vajras as weapons, are portrayed with flaming halos, and are both heavenly protectors of Buddhism. Skanda may 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.

Although Skanda is only a deva, he is very often addressed as a bodhisattva.

As Miao Shan's lover

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 forebear to his connection with Miao Shan.

As a warrior

Another story says that Miao Shan was told to commit suicide by her grandmother. Her grandmother forced Miao Shan to leap 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 into the ocean. He brought her with Yin Ma, the mother of Wei Tuo, to her village. Years passed, when an evil fish demon came. A disloyal soldier named Huo Yi was sent by 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 the fish 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 the 3rd day of the 6th lunar month.

Gallery

Skanda detail heart sutra zhao mengfu.jpeg

Skanda as portrayed by Zhao Mengfu during the Yuan dynasty.

Skanda at Miaoying Temple

Skanda at Beijing Miaoying Temple

Weituo, Yonghegong Lamsery, Beijing

Wei Tuo at Yonghe Temple, Beijing

大池西林寺 (9)韋馱尊者

At Dachi Xinlin Temple (Penghu, Taiwan)

See also

Dharmapala

A dharmapāla (Wylie: chos skyong) is a type of wrathful god in Buddhism. The name means "Dharma protector or defender" in Sanskrit, and the dharmapālas are also known as the Defenders of the Law (Dharma), or the Protectors of the Law.

Kanda Shasti Kavasam

Kanda Shashti Kavacham or Skanda Sashti Kavasam (Tamil: கந்த சஷ்டி கவசம்) is a Hindu devotional song composed in Tamil by Devaraya Swamigal (born c. 1820), a student of Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, on Lord Muruga, the son of Lord Shiva, in Chennimalai near Erode. Tamil contains many ancient hymns in praise of deities. Kanda Sashti Kavasam was composed in the 19th century. The song has been composed in praise of the Lord, seeking to shower His grace.

Kataragama deviyo

Kataragama deviyo (also called: Skanda Kumara, Kartikeya, Sinhala: කතරගම දෙවියෝ) is a guardian deity of Sri Lanka. A popular deity who is considered to be very powerful, shrines dedicated to Kataragama deviyo are found in many places of the country. Sinhalese Buddhists believe him also as a divine patron of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. An ancient temple dedicated to God Kataragama, known as Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya is situated in the South-Eastern town of Kataragama in Monaragala District of Uva Province.

Today Ruhunu Maha Kataragama devalaya has become a temple which attracts and unites people of all religions and faiths. Thousands of devotees from Sri Lanka and other parts of the world visit this temple daily. Kataragama deviyo is identified with God Skanda of Hindu tradition, who is called as Murugan by the Tamil people. There is also an identical guardian deity of Mahayana Buddhism, known as Skanda. Theosophists identify Ruhunu Kataragama devalaya as a shrine which is dedicated to Sanat Kumara, the lord of humanity and the world.

Skanda

Skanda may refer to:

Skanda, a Hindu deity also known as Kartikeya and Murugan and Subhramanya

Skanda Purana, a Hindu Purana (Scripture) dedicated to the deity

Skanda (Buddhism), a popular Deva and/or Bodhisattva popular in Chinese Buddhism

Skande, also known as Skanda, a village and fortress in Georgia

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