According to Japanese Buddhist Culture, there is a Buddha or Bodhisattva to protect you upon birth. There is a corresponding Zodiac Protector for each Lunar Zodiac animal. The Zodiac Protectors engages in His vows that whoever prays to the respective Zodiac Protectors with faith would be blessed and protected by Him.
Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva 千手观音 / Protector of the Zodiac: Rat
Avalokitesvara is often depicted with multiple arms and heads, symbolizing the boundless compassion and ability to reach out to and assist countless beings simultaneously and to perceive the suffering of all. The Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara serves as an inspiration for Buddhists to develop and embody compassion and selfless service toward all sentient beings, ultimately working to alleviate suffering and lead them on the path to enlightenment.
Akasagarbha Buddha 虚空藏菩萨 / Protector of the Zodiac: Ox and Tiger
Akasagarbha is also known as Kṣitigarbha in Sanskrit. The name "Akasagarbha" translates to "Boundless Space Treasury" or "Garbha of the Sky," signifying the vastness and profundity of his wisdom and compassion. He is revered for granting his devotees the wisdom on their quest toward enlightenment. In Japan, he is also venerated for the ability to fulfill wishes. He is regarded as the patron of artisans and craftsman, as he can help devotees improve their memory, technical skills, and artistic talents.
Manjusri Bodhisattva 文殊菩萨 / Protector of the Zodiac: Rabbit
Manjushri embodies the wisdom aspect of enlightenment and is celebrated for his wisdom, knowledge, and the ability to cut through ignorance and delusion. Manjushri Bodhisattva plays a central role in the study and practice of the Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and is often invoked by practitioners for help in developing wisdom and clarity of thought. He is considered a guiding figure on the path to enlightenment and is revered by Buddhists seeking to overcome ignorance and gain a deeper understanding of the nature of reality. Manjushri's teachings emphasize that wisdom, combined with compassion, is a key to achieving spiritual awakening and helping others on the path to liberation.
Samantabadra Bodhisattva 普贤菩萨 / Protector of the Zodiac: Dragon and Snake
Samantabhadra represents the practice of virtue and the aspiration to benefit all sentient beings. He is traditionally depicted making vows in the presence of other Buddhas and bodhisattvas, promising to practice and uphold virtues, make offerings to Buddhas, and guide sentient beings to liberation. Also known as the “Great Conduct” Bodhisattva, he ncourages people to diligently practice the Buddhist precepts of charity, moral conduct, patience, and devotion.
Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva 大势至菩萨 / Protector of the Zodiac: Horse
Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva is often associated with Amitabha Buddha and is an integral figure in the Pure Land Buddhist tradition. He assists aspirants in their journey to be reborn in the Pure Land, where they can more easily attain enlightenment. Devotees in Pure Land Buddhism often turn to Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva, along with Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, as spiritual guides and protectors on their journey to be reborn in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha, where they can more effectively pursue the path to Buddhahood.
Vairocana Buddha 大日如来 / Protector of the Zodiac: Goat and Monkey
Vairocana represents the Dharmakaya, which is the ultimate, formless aspect of the Buddha's enlightenment. Dharmakaya transcends all distinctions and is considered the source of all other manifestations of the Buddha. Vairocana embodies the wisdom of the emptiness (shunyata) of all phenomena. This wisdom is at the core of Mahayana philosophy, emphasizing the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things.
Acala Bodhisattva 中央大胜不动明王 / Protector of the Zodiac: Rooster
Acala is regarded as a protector and a deity who helps to overcome obstacles, delusions, and hindrances on the path to enlightenment. He is typically depicted in a wrathful form to symbolize the power and determination to destroy ignorance, delusion, and attachments. He is often shown with a fearsome expression, surrounded by flames, and brandishing a sword. The flames that envelop Acala represent the purifying power of wisdom, which can burn away impurities and attachments, leaving behind the essence of enlightenment.
Amitabha Buddha 啊弥陀佛 / Protector of the Zodiac: Dog and Pig
According to Mahayana Buddhist sutras he was a king in the remote period of time. Renouncing his kingdom, he became a monk and was named Dharmakara, which means ‘Treasury of Dharma’. Inspired by the teachings of the then Buddha of that time, Lokesvaraja Buddha, who taught him the way to supreme enlightenment many aeons ago, he made forty eight great vows for the saving of the sentient beings. Since then, the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, after five aeons of self-cultivation, finally attained the Supreme Enlightenment and became the Buddha Amitabha. This means that his grand and infinitely compassionate vow is now a reality, the paradise known as Pure Land or Sukhavati has been established, suffering beings must and will be delivered if only they will have the full faith to call upon his name.
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