One of the most popular deities in Japan, and the most commonly depicted of the heavenly kings, Fudπ, whose name means “Immovable,” represents resolute and immovable determination. Fudπ is the supreme barrier against evil and subduer of forces hostile to the Buddhist Law. He is the direct envoy of Dainichi Nyπrai and is his avatar. Fudπ is portrayed carrying a sword and a rope to bind evildoers. His body is usually black or blue. His eyes are staring, and his facial expression is fierce. He is also often portrayed as having two long fangs projecting from his mouth. Fudπ stands or sits cross-legged on a rock, signifying his immobility and steadfastness, and is surrounded by flames. Fudπ is always accompanied by two young servitors; on his left is Kongara-dπji (“What is it about?” boy), who carries a lotus flower and stem signifying the Law, and on his right is Seitaka-dπji (Gangling youth), whose one hand shields his eyes while the other holds a gourd, signifying the cosmos or the emptiness of life.
Fudπ grants strength to withstand all perils and to overcome tribulations. Gyπja (Shugendπ ascetics) would invoke Fudπ’s name before engaging in austerities such as standing under waterfalls, walking across coals, or climbing swordblade ladders. He is also invoked during the goma fire ceremonies in Shugendπ practice and in the Tendai and the Shingon esoteric schools of Buddhism. He is the most active of all avatars of the Buddha.
Fudπ, paradoxically for his association with fire, is also the deity of waterfalls. This comes about because of his title as “the Immovable.” Shugendπ ascetics would appeal to him to aid them during periods of meditation under freezing mountain waterfalls, to keep them still and unmoving under the cold and pressure of the water.
Fudπ’s main shrine is at Narita City (near Tokyo’s international airport). The image enshrined there was made in China. The sage Kπbπ Daishi was told in a dream that it wanted to travel to Japan, and when he returned home he brought it with him. It was deposited at Takao-zan, a mountain temple about 40 miles from the fishing village of Edo (now modern Tokyo). During the Masakado rebellion, the statue was brought close to the rebel headquarters, and a fire ritual was performed before it for three days, as consequence of which the rebel was defeated. The statue indicated it wished to stay in the neighborhood to continue to subdue evil. The emperor had lots cast for the site of a sumptuous temple, and Narita won. The temple houses a sword donated by Emperor Shujaku, which banishes insanity and evils of possession by foxes.
- Eliot, Sir Charles Norton Edgcumbe. 1959. Japanese Buddhism. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
- Frank, Bernard. 1991. Le pantheon bouddhique au Japon. Paris: Collections d’Emile Guimet. Reunion des musees nationaux.
- Macgovern, William Montgomery. 1922. An Introduction to Mahâyâna Buddhism, with Especial Reference to Chinese and Japanese Phases. London: Kegan Paul and Co.
Handbook of Japanese Mythology written by Michael Ashkenazi – Copyright © 2003 by Michael Ashkenazi