Gathering of Deities


Gathering of Deities

Paintings / Kamakura

Kamakura period, 14th century

Color on silk



The Buddhist pantheon is populated by a number of Buddhas, each attended to by a fixed number of bodhisattvas and guardian deities. This horizontally-long painting depicts a variety of Buddhist deities and attendants within a mountainous landscape. Sakyamuni sits in the center surrounded by 16 guardian deities and Monju Bosatsu and Fugen Bosatsu, or Manjusri and Samantabhadra. To the viewer's right are 12 guardian deities standing with Yakushi Nyorai, Nikko Bosatsu and Gakko Bosatsu, or Bhaisajyaguru, Suryaprabha and Candraprabha in Sanskrit. To the viewer's left, meanwhile, 28 guardian deities flank the Thousand-armed Kannon, or Sahasrabhuja. Further down to the viewer's left, we see Jizo Bosatsu, or Ksitigarbha. He is accompanied by two clerks from hell. On the bottom right, Fudo Myoo, or Acalanatha, stands with two child attendants. The painting is also filled with several other Buddhas, guardian deities, priests and women. Some have very realistic countenances and seem to be portraying actual people.

Many paintings depict Buddhas with their attendants, but this work is unusual in the way it portrays multiple groupings together in the same composition. However, it is not clear what sources this gathering is based on. Sometimes, artists would paint Japan's ancient gods under the guise of Buddhist deities from India. For example, the Shinto god Hachiman was sometimes portrayed as Amida Nyorai, or Amitabha. Many paintings with multiple Buddhas are actually believed to be portraying multiple Shinto gods. Though we do not know for sure, this painting could also be a product of this uniquely-Japanese fusion of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs.

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菩薩 / / 文殊 / 本地

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