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Fudo Myo

The main deity of the Yamabushi

Myo is the name of the deities in Japan - lords of secret knowledge who protect people from demons. There are only five Myo – four of them protect the cardinal directions, and the central figure being Fudo Myo.

Fudo Myo is the main deity of the Yamabushi, a community of mountain ascetics. Yamabushi literally means "prostrating in the mountains". In the Shinto religion, mountains are considered sacred places where kami deities live and where the souls of the dead move. The Yamabushi teaching is quite ancient, the essence of which is based on a comprehension of nature, through meditation, breathing and physical practices, so that initially the Yamabushi were little connected with Buddhist monasteries.

Fudo Myo is one of the good deities who drives away evil spirits. Traditionally, Fudo Myo is depicted sitting on a huge stone, with a menacing expression on his face, two fangs facing both up and down, with tongues of flame behind his back. Fudo Myo is dressed in rags, holds the precious sword ‘ho-ken’ (the sword that cleaves ignorance) in his right hand and kensaku (a twisted rope with ring and prongs at the ends) in his left hand. Kensaku, used as an animal trap, was adopted by Buddhism as a symbol of the salvation of mankind. Although the image of Fudo Myo is quite detailed, he is still a symbolic spirit of enlightenment. He cuts down delusions with a sharp sword, catches evil thoughts with a net, and the fire behind Fudo Myo burns away bad karma.

Fudo Myo is also considered the god of fire; sitting among the flames, Fudo Myo symbolizes fortitude. Despite the formidable appearance, Fudo Myo is a defender and an assistant in achieving goals. His statues are often placed near waterfalls or deep in the mountains, in caves.

Fudo Myo and a young Date Masamune
Fudo Myo and a young Date Masamune

In the famous Kyoto Kiyomizu-dera temple there is an Otowa-no-taki waterfall, its three streams bringing success, love and longevity. Fudo Myo guards Otowa-no-taki, scaring away evil spirits.

One famous story about the founder of Sendai, Date Masamune, is associated with Fudo Myo. As a child, watching a statue of Fudo Myo in the temple, Masamune asked why the god look so fierce? The priest replied that with external ferocity, internally Fudo Myo is calm and serene. That meeting helped Masamune to form his main principle - the combination of external aggressiveness with inner calm. This incident is captured in the Date Masamune Historical Museum in Matsushima.

Fudo Myo was worshipped by such famous personalities of Japan as Uesugi Kenshin, who fought under the slogan 'Justice', and Saigo Takamori, known as "the last samurai". Saigo Takamori often visited the Meguro-fudoson Ryusenji Temple in Tokyo.

Fudo Myō in Enoshima Daishi temple
Fudo Myō in Enoshima Daishi temple

Fudo Myo statues are quite common. In Sendai, next to the famous Osaka Hachimangu Temple, lies Ryuhoji Temple, in the main hall in which there sits a statue of Fudo Myo. Also in Sendai, not far from Kumagane station lies Wakoin Fudosondo Temple and the Fudo Waterfall on the Hirose River.

Fudo waterfall in Sendai
Fudo waterfall in Sendai
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Elizabeth S 2 years ago
Ah, you've discovered Fudomyo! Some of the places I've gone to see images of Fudomyo are Shinshoji in Narita City and Koyasan. For a curious contrast, the Itabashi Fudoson in Ibaraki Prefecture is considered a protector of childbirth and child-rearing.
Elena Lisina Author 2 years ago
With such a face! :)))
Kim 2 years ago
I definitely feel like I've seen these kinds of statues before!
Kim 2 years ago
It's part of why I love this site...I always learn new things!

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