Goddess Benten Or Banzaiten




    Japanese goddess of love, Benten, sometimes known as Benzaiten. 



    Benten is the ruler of love, music, and the arts, and is shown as a lovely lady with eight limbs riding a dragon. 






    Benzaiten (shinjitai: or; kyjitai:, or, lit. "goddess of eloquence"), also known as Benten (shinjitai:; kyjitai: /), is widely worshipped as a Japanese Buddhist goddess descended mostly from Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of speech, the arts, and learning, with some qualities derived from Durga, the warrior goddess





    Benzaiten is the only female of the seven fortunate gods, and she is as much a Buddhist as she is a Shinto deity. 






    Actors, airline hostesses, artists, beauticians, composers, dancers, designers, directors, dramatists, entertainers, gamblers, models, musicians, painters, photographers, sculptors, sword makers, and writers are among the jobs Chiba associated with her. 

    Author Brian Bocking compares Benzaiten to Ichikishima-hime-no-mikoto, the principal deity of the Enoshima Jinja's three major temples. 






    Benzaiten is named after the Hindu goddess Sarasvati, and it is derived from Chinese translations of Buddhist sutras

    Sarasvati is the Hindu Goddess of wisdom, music, and the arts, and she is claimed to have been the wife of Brahma and Vishnu, who along with Siva make up Hinduism's sacred trinity. 




    Sarasvati is first mentioned in the Rig Veda, one of Hinduism's four holy books, which was compiled between 1500 and 1000 BC. 



    This phrase from Hymn 41 is arguably the most appropriate in the Benzaiten context:

    Sarasvat, greatest Mother, best of Rivers, best of Goddesses We have no notoriety, as it were, and dear Mother, grant us renown.

    All generations have a home in thee, Sarasvat, heavenly.

    Benzaiten Jinja in Japan are virtually all located near the sea, rivers, or lakes, or have their own in-ground lakes. 


    The next sentence from Hymn 61 makes a more dubious allusion to Banzaiten:

    Yes, this exquisite Sarasvat, with her golden road, is dreadful.

    Our eulogy refers to you as a foe-slayer.





    Sarasvati's "foe-slayer" might be understood as a reference to Sarasvati's killing of Vritra, the Hindu mythology's three-headed serpent/snake. 

    However, there is no further mention of this, and the conventional story puts Indra as Vritra's killer. 

    The three-headed serpent/snake transforms into a white snake in the Benzaiten mythology, which acts as her messenger. 

    The Kami-shinmei-tenso Jinja is a nice example of this.






    The Most Important Shrines Dedicated To Goddess Banzaiten



    Enoshima Jinja     江島神社        

    Kanagawa-ken, Fujisawa-shi, Enoshima 2-3-8    

    神奈川県藤沢市江の島2-3-8         

                           

    Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku jinja   銭洗弁財天宇賀福神社   

    Kanagawa-ken, Kamakura-shi, Sasuke 2-25-16

    神奈川県鎌倉市佐助2-25-16                

     

    Kiyomizu Benzaiten Sha     清水弁財天社

    Nagano-ken, Saku-shi, Iwamurada

    長野県佐久市岩村田


    Tenkawa DaiBenzaiten Sha     天河大辯財天社

    Nara-ken,  Yoshino-gun, Tenkawa-mura Tsubo-no-uchi 107

    奈良県吉野郡天川村坪内107



    The Enoshima Island in Sagami Bay, the Chikubu Island in Lake Biwa, and the Itsukushima Island in the Seto Inland Sea (Japan's Three Great Benzaiten Shrines) are all shrines dedicated to Benzaiten, and she and a five-headed dragon are the central figures of the Enoshima Engi, a history of the shrines on Enoshima written by the Japanese Buddhist monk K According to Kkei, Benzaiten is the third daughter of Munetsuchi's dragon-king, who is known in Sanskrit as Anavatapta, the lake that is at the heart of the globe according to an old Buddhist cosmological theory.

    Shrine pavilions called benten-d or benten-sha, or even whole Shinto temples, such as Kamakura's Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine or Nagoya's Kawahara Shrine, might be devoted to her.






    Sarasvati to Benzaiten, from India to Japan


    Sarasvati occurs in two sutras translated into Chinese: the Sutra of Golden Light (, Konkmy-ky) and the Lotus Sutra (, Myh-rengei-ky). 


    The former devotes a whole chapter (8) to her and is essentially a lengthy, drawn-out eulogy. 

    Her presence in the Lotus Sutra is referenced in almost every Benzaiten-related publication on the Internet, but I have been unable to locate it. 

    It's unknown when she initially emerged in Japan, although it was probably definitely during the 6th and 8th centuries AD. 

    Much of the Sutra of Golden Light, perhaps reflecting China's Confucian history, emphasizes the necessity for a knowledgeable ruler, and it was this component, defender of the state and people, with which Benzaiten was linked when she first arrived in Japan. 




    Originally, her name was spelled as  辯才天



    The first of these three characters denotes eloquence in speaking, and the second, gift. 


    Her name started to be recorded as she grew more naturalized, finally becoming one of the Seven Lucky Gods,  弁財天

    The first character of this name,, is a simplified version of and so signifies no meaningful difference, but the second character,, is completely distinct from and indicates wealth or riches, which is an admirably appropriate characteristic for a deity of luck. 

    Benzaiten is usually typically shown playing a biwa, which is a short-necked lute, and Lake Biwa, Japan's biggest freshwater lake, is one of her shrines. 







    Benzaiten was worshipped in Japan from the sixth to the ninth century, mostly via Classical Chinese translations of the Golden Light Sutra (Sanskrit: Suvaraprabhsa Stra), which has a portion dedicated to her. 



    Benzaiten became associated or even conflated with a number of Buddhist and local deities from the medieval period onwards, 

    1. including the goddess Kisshten (the Buddhist version of the Hindu Lakshmi, whose role as goddess of fortune was eventually ascribed to Benzaiten in popular belief), 
    2. the snake god Ugajin (the combined form of the two being known as 'Uga Benzaiten'), 
    3. and the kami Ichikishimahime. 

    She was also associated with nagas, dragons, and snakes because to her role as a water goddess. 


    She was later adored as a bestower of monetary prosperity and was included as one of the Seven Lucky Gods, in addition to being a patron of music and the arts (Shichifukujin).




    In Japanese art, Goddess Benzaiten is portrayed in a variety of ways. 


    She is often represented brandishing a sword and a wish-granting diamond (cintmai), similar to how Saraswati is pictured in Indian art with a veena. 

    Meanwhile, Durga's iconography is said to have inspired an iconographic formula depicting Benzaiten with eight arms wielding various weapons (based on the Golden Light Sutra). 

    Ugajin (a human-headed white snake) may also be seen above her head as Uga Benzaiten. 

    Finally, she is sometimes shown with the head of a serpent or a dragon.



    Benzaiten is a Shinto female kami with the name Ichikishima-hime-no-mikoto. 


    Tendai Buddhists believe she is the essence of the kami Ugajin, whose effigy she sometimes wears on her head with a torii. 

    As a result, she is often referred to as Uga Benzaiten or Uga Benten.

    Su, (typically read in Japanese as so) is the bja or seed syllable used to express Benzaiten in Japanese esoteric Buddhism, written in Siddha script. 






    Benzaiten's Mantras:


    Sanskrit: Oṃ Sarasvatyai svāhā

    Japanese: On Sorasobateiei sowaka

    Hiragana: おん そらそばていえい そわか[25]




    ~Kiran Atma




    References And Further Reading:




    1.  Ludvik, Catherine (2007). Sarasvatī: Riverine Goddess of Knowledge. From the Manuscript-carrying Vīṇā-player to the Weapon-wielding Defender of the Dharma. Brill. pp. 1–3.
    2. Kinsley, David (1998). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. pp. 10–13.
    3. Ludvik (2007). pp. 35-39.
    4. Faure, Bernard (2015). Protectors and Predators: Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 2. University of Hawaii Press. p. 164.
    5. Faure (2015). pp. 164-165.
    6. Ludvik (2007). p. 48.
    7. Griffith, Ralph T.H. (trans.). "Rig Veda, Book 6: Hymn LXI. Sarasvatī"Sacred Texts. Retrieved 2022-05-21.
    8. Griffith, Ralph T.H. (trans.). "Rig Veda, Book 10: Hymn CXXV. Vāk"Sacred Texts. Retrieved 2022-05-21.
    9. "金光明最勝王經 第7卷"CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripiṭaka Collection (漢文大藏經). Retrieved 2022-05-21.
    10. Faure (2015). pp. 165-166.
    11. Ludvik, Catherine (2004). "A Harivaṃśa Hymn in Yijing's Chinese Translation of the Sutra of Golden Light"Journal of the American Oriental Society124 (4): 707–734.
    12. "AryAstavaH - hymn to Arya"Mahabharata Resources Page. Retrieved 2022-05-21.
    13. Ludvik (2007). pp. 265-267.
    14. Faure (2015). pp. 168-169.
    15. "大毘盧遮那成佛神變加持經"CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripiṭaka Collection (漢文大藏經). Retrieved 2022-05-21.
    16. The Vairocanābhisaṃbodhi Sūtra(PDF). BDK English Tripiṭaka Series. Translated by Rolf W. Giebel. Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai; Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. 2005. pp. 33, 141.
    17. Faure (2015). p. 166.
    18. "大毘盧遮那成佛神變加持經 第1卷"CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripiṭaka Collection (漢文大藏經). Retrieved 2022-05-21.
    19. "大毘盧遮那成佛神變加持經 第2卷"CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripiṭaka Collection (漢文大藏經). Retrieved 2022-05-21.
    20. Pye, Michael (2013). Strategies in the study of religions. Volume two, Exploring religions in motion. Boston: De Gruyter. p. 279. ISBN 9781614511915OCLC 852251932.
    21. "大毘盧遮那成佛神變加持經 第4卷"CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripiṭaka Collection (漢文大藏經). Retrieved 2022-05-21.
    22.  Bocking, Brian (1997). A Popular Dictionary of Shinto - 'Benzaiten'. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7007-1051-5.
    23.  Itō, Satoshi: "Ugajin"Encyclopedia of ShintoKokugakuin University, retrieved on August 15, 2011
    24.  Ludvik, Catherine. “Uga-Benzaiten: The Goddess and the Snake.” Impressions, no. 33, 2012, pp. 94–109. JSTOR,  www.jstor.org/stable/42597966.
    25. "弁財天 (Benzaiten)"Flying Deity Tobifudō (Ryūkō-zan Shōbō-in Official Website). Retrieved 2022-05-22.
    26. Faure, Bernard (2015). Protectors and Predators: Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 2. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0824857721.
    27. Kinsley, David (1998). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 978-8-1208-0394-7.
    28. Ludvik, Catherine (2004). "A Harivaṃśa Hymn in Yijing's Chinese Translation of the Sutra of Golden Light"Journal of the American Oriental Society124 (4): 707–734.
    29. Ludvik, Catherine (2007). Sarasvatī: Riverine Goddess of Knowledge. From the Manuscript-carrying Vīṇā-player to the Weapon-wielding Defender of the Dharma. Brill. ISBN 978-9-0474-2036-1.