Yaksa Generals

A Little More Information

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The twelve warriors of Bhaisajyaguru

Bhaisajyaguru also commands twelve warriors (sometimes considered as Yaksas or titans), called Shinsho in Japan (or Daisho in the Butzsuzo-zu-i). They are believed to protect the faithful by presiding over the day-light hours, the months and the directions of space. They are twelve, or sometimes only nine, generals whose armies wage war on sickness. These twelve warriors are also representative of the twelve vows of Bhaisajyaguru. They are said to command the 80,000 pores of the skin, thus defending the health of the faithful in the name of Bhaisajyaguru. Although described in Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese texts, the attributes assigned to them, as well as their colours (and sometimes their names), may vary. The paintings of central Asia (from Khara-khoto especially) represent them as Indian Yaksas, with fierce expressions, adorned like Devas or Asuras: they are then considered as the guardians of space (Dikpalas). Particularly in China and Japan, they are also treated as the guardians of the four cardinal points (Lokapalas or Caturmaharajas), as warriors in armour. They are rarely represented inde-pendently of Yakushi Nyorai, without whom they would have no existence. They are (in the order given by the Butsuzo-zu-i and the Bukkyo Daiji-ten):

They are usually represented standing, in armour, in a martial or menacing stance, helmeted or with their hair in spikes, wearing a fierce expression. In Japan, after the Kamakura period (1185—1333), these twelve warriors were sometimes confused (or associated) with the twelve animals (Juni Shi) of the twelve-year cycle.

Source: Louis Frederic Flammarion Iconographic Guides: Buddhism 1995 ISBN 2-08013-558-9

Also: For a good commentary on the Yaksha Generals see Birnbaum’s The Healing Buddha – index has quite a few references.

Compiled by Kevin and Elizabeth Morris, Malta
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Notes from "The Healing Buddha"

The Twelve Yaksa Generals

When Sakyamuni revealed the sutra on the Buddha of Healing, there were twelve .yaksa generals in the assembly at that time. According to Indian tradition, yaksas are fierce spirit-beings who often cause diseases through demonic possession. These warrior generals, each having seven thousand yaksas in his troop all took refuge in the Three Jewels, aspiring to aid all sentient beings. They vowed especially to aid all who circulate Bhaisajya-guru-sutra. and all who accept and hold to the name that Buddha of Healing. They and their troops pledged to and protect such persons, freeing them from pain and suffering and easing their path. They also recommended a simple ritual invoking the Buddha of Healing, in order to cure disease.


At that time in the assembly, there were Twelve Great Yaksa Generals seated together in the meeting. Their names are:
Kumbhira, Vajra, Mihira, Andira, Anila, Sandila, Indra, Pajra, Makura, Kinnara, Catura, and Vikarala. Each of these Twelve Yaksa Generals has seven thousand yaksas in his troops.

They raised their voices together and addressed the Buddha: "O Lord, we now, having received the Buddha's awesome force, have been granted the hearing of the name of the Master of Healing, the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagata. Never again will we have the fear of sinking into a woesome path. Together, we all have the same thought: we will take utmost refuge in the Buddha, the Teachings, and the Order. We aspire to bear responsibility to do acts of righteous benefit, enrichment. peace and joy for all sentient beings, no matter in what village, town, capital, or forest grove of retirement they dwell.

" As to those who circulate this sutra or who further accept and hold to the name of the Master of Healing. the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagata and revere and worship him, we will cause them to be freed from all suffering and difficulties. All the desires of these persons will be caused to be fulfilled. Those who seek release from the distress of illness should also read and recite this sutra. Taking a five-coloured rope, they should knot our names into it, untying the knots when their wishes are fulfilled." At that point, the Lord praised all the Great Yaksa Generals saying: "Excellent, excellent, Great Yaksa Generals! When you think of repaying the merciful blessings of the Lord Master of Healing, the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagata, you should ever serve all sentient beings in the way you have described, bringing to them blessings and benefits, peace and joy."


Further, the Twelve Yaksa Generals grouped below the Buddha and Bodhisattvas in the Assembly, thought perhaps related to the twelve vows of Bhaisajya-guru, may also especially be related to the twelve astrological houses, and the twelve time-periods (two hours each) of the day, as was believed by the Chinese and Japanese. Thus, with the twelve astrological houses, the two luminaries, and the sky filled with stars, we have in the Celestial Assembly of the Buddha of Healing an image of time and space in harmony.
This indeed is related to healing, for a healthy person feels in harmony with things, and he who is supremely healthy (that is, enlightened) enters into a profound harmony, which in some traditions is called "cosmic consciousness."

See M. W. de Visser's charts relating the Twelve Yaksas to zodiacal signs in Ancient Buddhism in Japan, vol. II (Leiden: l935). pp. 551-553. Japanese iconographic drawings reflecting T'ang Chinese traditions often depict the Twelve Yaksas with a different animal astrological symbol in the head-dress of each general. From around the twelfth century they became associated with the twelve horary animals represent the twelve divisions of heaven in ancient Chinese astronomy: rat (Kumbhira), ox (Vajra), tiger (Mihira), rabbit (Andira), dragon (Anila), snake (Sandilya), horse (Indra), sheep (Pajra), monkey (Mahoraga), rooster (Sindura), dog (Catura), boar (Vikarala). Each animal represents one year of a twelve year cycle; it also represents a day in a twelve day cycle, and a two hour period in each day, and a compass direction.

News on the reappearance of the HEALING BUDDHA
The Healing Buddha by Raoul Birnbaum is being made available through a print on demand company called Lightning Press, a subsidiary of Ingrams Books. You might try locating the book at www.amazon.com or amazon.co.uk or placing an order through your local bookstore.
The Healing Buddha
by Raoul Birnbaum, John Eaton Calthorpe Blofeld
Our Price: $31.00
Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours.
Paperback - 289 pages (December 1989) Shambhala Publications; ISBN: 157062612X

Thanks to Teresa Fulp for letting us know