This temple was built for the Deity Fukurokuju, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune in Japanese mythology and present day religion.
The name Fukurokuju is written with three Kanji (Characters) fuku, "happiness"; roku, "wealth"; and ju, "longevity".
It has been theorized that he is a Japanese assimilation of the Chinese Three Star Gods (Fulushou) embodied in one deity. Most related in appearance to the Chinese star god Shou, he is the God of wisdom and longevity. According to some, before attaining divinity, he was a Chinese hermit of the Sung Dynasty and a reincarnation of the Taoist god Xuanwu. It is said that during his human incarnation, he was a sennin; a philosopher who could exist without eating food.
He is sometimes confused with Juroujin, who by some accounts is Fukurokuju's grandson and by other accounts inhabits the same body as Fukurokuju.
Usually portrayed as being bald, with long whiskers, he is said to be an incarnation of the Southern Polestar. In many depictions, Fukurokuju has an abnormally high forehead. The sacred book tied to his staff either contains the lifespan of every person on earth or a magical scripture. He is accompanied by a crane and a turtle, which are considered to be symbols of longevity. He is also sometimes accompanied by a black deer (ancient legends say a deer turns black if it is over 2000 years old).
He is the only member of the Seven Lucky Gods credited with the ability to revive the dead.
Ebisu, also transliterated Yebisu or called Hiruko or Kotoshiro-nushi-no-kami, is the Japanese god of fishermen, good luck, and workingmen, as well as the guardian of the health of small children. He is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, and the only one of the seven to originate from Japan.
Ebisu was originally named Hiruko, meaning "leech child". He was the first child of Izanagi and Izanami, born without bones (or, in some stories, without arms and legs) due to his mother's transgression during the marriage ritual. Hiruko struggled to survive but, as he could not stand, he was cast to the sea in a boat of reeds before his third birthday. He eventually washed ashore — possibly in Ezo, ancient Hokkaidō) — and was cared for by the Ainu Ebisu Saburo.
The weak child overcame many hardships, grew legs (and, presumably, the rest of his skeletal structure) at the age of three, and became the god Ebisu. He remains slightly crippled and deaf, but mirthful and auspicious nonetheless (hence the title, "The Laughing God"). He is often depicted wearing a tall hat — the Kazaori Eboshi — holding a rod and a large red bream or sea bass. Jellyfish are also associated with the god and the fugu restaurants of Japan will often incorporate Ebisu in their motif.
Ebisu's festival is celebrated on the twentieth day of the tenth month, Kannazuki (the month without gods). While the other eight million members of the Japanese pantheon gather at The Grand Shrine of Izumo, Ebisu does not hear the summons and is thus still available for worship.
Ebisu is frequently paired with Daikokuten, another of the Seven Gods of Fortune, in displays of the twin patrons by small shopkeepers. In some versions of the myth they are father and son (or master and apprentice). Also, these two are often joined by Fukurokuju to be the "Three Gods of Good Fortune".
Benzaiten is the Japanese name for the goddess Saraswati; there was an important river in ancient India of this name. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. She is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra. She is often depicted holding a biwa, which is a traditional Japanese lute.
Her Sanskrit name is "Sarasvatî Devî", which means "flowing water", and so Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows: water, words (and knowledge, by extension), speech, eloquence, and music. The characters used initially to write her name, read "Biancaitian" in Chinese and "Bensaiten" in Japanese (辯才天), reflected her role as the goddess of eloquence. Because the Sutra of Golden Light promised protection of the state, in Japan she became a protector-deity, at first of the state and then of people.
In the end, she became one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, and the Sino-Japanese characters used to write her name changed to 弁財天 (Benzaiten), which reflects her role in bestowing monetary fortune. Sometimes she is called Benten, although this name refers to the goddess Lakshmi.
In the Rig-Veda (6.61.7) Sarasvati is credited with killing the three-headed Vritra, also known as Ahi ("snake"). This is probably one of the sources of Sarasvati/Benzaiten's close association with snakes and dragons in Japan. She is enshrined on the Island of Enoshima in Sagami Bay, about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo, and numerous other locations throughout Japan; 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 Kōkei (皇慶) in AD 1047. According to Kōkei, Benzaiten is the third daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi (無熱池; literally "lake without heat"), known in Sanskrit as Anavatapta, the lake lying at the center of the world according to an ancient Buddhist cosmological view.
Benzaiten has been syncretized with some Shinto goddesses.
Budai , pronounced Hotei in Japanese, is a Chinese folkloric deity. His name means "Cloth Sack," and comes from the bag that he carries. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha.In English speaking countries, he is popularly known also as the Fat Buddha.
Budai is often depicted as having the appearance of a amply proportioned bald man wearing a robe and wearing or otherwise carrying prayer beads. He carries his few possessions in a cloth sack, being poor but content.
His figure appears throughout Chinese culture as a representation of contentment. His image graces many temples, restaurants, amulets, and businesses.
. However, the "Fat Buddha" is not the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and strictly speaking the statue is not an idol. Buddha means "one who has achieved a state of perfect enlightenment" and there are several people who have been given the title. Gautama lived from around B.C. 560 to B.C. 480, it was not until around 127 BC that statues actually depicting him became prevalent. Before that, and still today, statues of the Bodhi Tree and other objects associated with his life were common. Guatama is commonly thought to be tall, slender and masculine in appearance, although since no images of him from his lifetime exist this depiction of him is unverifiable and possibly idealized.
According to Chinese tradition, Budai was an eccentric Chinese Zen (Chán) monk who lived during the Later Liang Dynasty (907–923 AD) of China. He was a native of Fenghua, and his Buddhist name was Qieci (literally "Promise this"). He was considered a man of good and loving character.
Although primarily a folkloric figure, he has been incorporated into a number of Buddhist and Taoist folklore traditions.
Budai in folklore is admired for his happiness, plenitude, and wisdom of contentment. One belief popular in folklore maintains that rubbing his belly brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity.
In Japan, Hotei persists in folklore as one of the Seven Lucky Gods (Shichi Fukujin) of Taoism.
Some Buddhist traditions consider him a bodhisattva, usually Maitreya (the future Buddha).
His identification with the Maitreya Bodhisattva is attributed to a Buddhist hymn he uttered before his death:
Maitreya, the true Maitreya
has billions of incarnations.
Often he is shown to people at the time;
other times they do not recognize him.
The primary story that concerns Budai in Zen (Chán) is a short kōan. In it, Budai is said to travel giving candy to poor children, only asking a penny from Zen monks or lay practitioners he meets. One day a monk walks up to him and asks, "What is the meaning of Zen?" Budai drops his bag. "How does one realize Zen?" he continued. Budai then took up his bag and continued on his way.
Statues of Budai form a central part of shrines in the I Kuan Tao. He is usually referred to by his Sanskrit name, Maitreya, and is taken to represent many important teachings and messages, including contentment, generosity, wisdom and open kindheartedness. He is predicted to succeed Gautama Buddha, as the next Buddha. He helps people realize the essence within, which connects with all beings. and he fosters the realization of tolerance, generosity and contentment; thus, he helps to bring heaven to earth.
In Japan, Daikokuten, literally, god of great Darkness or Blackness, is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune. Daikokuten evolved from the Indian deity, Shiva. The name is the Chinese and Japanese equivalent of Mahakala, another name for Shiva.
Daikoku's images are found in the temples of Tibet and China and the god enjoys an exalted position as a household deity in Japan. Daikoku's association with wealth and prosperity gave rise to a strange custom known as Fuku-nusubi. This custom started with the belief that he who stole divine figures (gods and goddesses) was assured of good fortune, if not caught in the act of stealing. In the course of time stealing of divine images became so common a practice in Japan that the Toshi-no-ichi or the ‘year-end-market’ held in the Asakusa Kannon Temple became the main venue of the sale and disposal of such images by the fortune-seekers. Many small stalls were opened where articles including images of Daikoku or Mahakala were sold on the eve of New Year celebrations.
The Japanese also maintain the symbol of Mahakala as a monogram. The traditional pilgrims climbing the holy Mount Ontake wear tenugui on white Japanese scarves with the sacred mantra Om.
Daikoku is widely considered to be the god of wealth, or of the household, particularly the kitchen. He is recognised by his wide face, smile, and a flat black hat. He is often portrayed holding a golden mallet called an Uchide Nokozuchi, otherwise known as a magic money mallet, and is seen seated on bales of rice, with mice nearby (mice signify plentiful food).
Daikoku's image was featured on the first Japanese bank note, designed by Edoardo Chiossone.
In Japan, Jurōjin (寿老人), also known as Gama, is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune or Shichi-fuku-jin, according to Taoist beliefs. He is the God of longevity.
He walks with a staff and a fan. He is depicted as an old man with a long white beard and often a very tall bald head, with a scroll tied to his staff, on which is written the lifespan of all living things. The deer, a symbol of longevity, usually (but not always) accompanies him as a messenger, as do other long-lived animals such as the crane and the tortoise. Jurōjin is often identified with Fukurokuju. The two are said to inhabit the same body.
The Old Man of the South Pole is the Taoist deification of Canopus, the brightest star of the constellation "Carina". He is often depicted in the Chinese pictures as an old man with a long white beard, with a deer on his side. This style of picture is related to the story of an emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty who had invited such an old man from the street and later considered the old man as the sign of his longevity.
Canopus is usually called in Chinese as the Star of the Old Man or "the Star of the Old Man of the South Pole". Since Carina is a Southern constellation, Canopus is rarely seen in Northern China and, if seen in a good weather, looks reddish lying near the southern horizon. Because the red color is the symbol of happiness and longevity in China, Canopus is also known in China and its neighboring countries of Korea, Japan and Vietnam as the Star of the Old Age or the Star of the Man of the Old Age. In Japan, it became Jurōjin, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune.
In Japan, Bishamonten, or just Bishamon, is thought of as an armor-clad god of warfare or warriors and a punisher of evildoers – a view that is at odds with the more pacific Buddhist king described above. Bishamon is portrayed holding a spear in one hand and a small pagoda in the other hand, the latter symbolizing the divine treasure house, whose contents he both guards and gives away. In Japanese folklore, he is one of the Japanese Seven Gods of Fortune.
Bishamon is also called Tamonten (多聞天), meaning "listening to many teachings" because he is the guardian of the places where Buddha preaches. He lives half way down the side of Mount Sumeru.
Bishamon's name in Sanskrit is Vaishravana, which means "one who hears everything in the kingdom." It is very likely that his imagery and iconography originated with the Hindu deity named Kubera / Kuvera.
The small pagoda he often carries symbolizes the divine treasure house. He is both a protector of and dispenser of its treasure -- he shares the pagoda's vast treasures with only "the worthy."
In Japan, as a member of the Four Heavenly Kings, he is called Tamonten (Listens to Many Teachings), and in this capacity he protects the places where Buddha preaches and listens always to Buddha's teachings. Said to live halfway down the north side of Mount Sumeru, Bishamon/Tamonten protects the north, and commands two classes of mythical spirits and demons -- the Yasha (Yaksa) and the Rasetsu (Raksha).
Other temples and their deities in Yanaka:
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