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Major Figures in Buddhist Art and Literature

Buddhist art and literature are filled with countless fabled and iconic characters--buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities and demons. Here are guides to who these beings are and what they represent.
  1. Buddhas of the Pali Canon (2)
  2. Glossary of Art and Icons (22)
  3. Symbols of Buddhism (8)
  4. The Trikaya (11)
  5. Tibetan Deities (7)

Big Buddhas: An Image Gallery
A photo gallery of the world's biggest Buddha statues, including the Leshan giant of China, the Monywa reclining Buddha of Burma, and the Ushiku standing Buddha of Japan.

Five Major Bodhisattvas
Bodhisattvas work to bring all beings to enlightenment. Countless transcendent bodhisattvas are found in buddhist art and literature, but these five are among the most important.

Mara, Lord of Death
The demon Mara plays a role in many stories of the Buddha and his monks, and in particular the story of the Buddha's enlightenment. This article discusses Mara's origins and what he represents in Buddhism.

Manjushri Bodhisattva
Manjushri is one of the most important iconic figures of Mahayana Buddhist art and literature. He represents prajna, wisdom that is not confined to conceptual knowledge.

Jizo Bosatsu
Jizo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) is one of the most beloved figures of Japanese Buddhism. He is known in particular as the protector of deceased children.

Photo Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Art
Mark Schumacher's Online Guide to Japanese Buddhist and Shinto Art is a great resource for anyone who needs a quick introduction to such figures as Fudo Myo-o, a wrathful deity who protects the Dharma from ignorance, or Jizo Bosatsu, the beloved protector of children, small animals, pregnant mothers, travelers, firemen, and pretty much everyone else.


Many Mahayana Buddhists practice veneration to Bhaiṣajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha, on behalf of the sick.

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