Prince of Wisdom
Exemplars of bodhisattva Manjushri (continued)
but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.
Singer-songwriter-poet Bob Dylan
exhibits the eloquence of Manjushri by writing powerful, penetrating
lyrics that express the problems of injustice, as well as the pain
of love and loss. The lyrics of his early work are the complex,
evocative. Dylan's frequent shifts of style
and subject matter show his unwillingness to be tied by audience or
critics to any particular expectation or preconception of some limited
"message," just as Manjushri cuts through all cherished
views and doctrines in the Buddha's assembly.
May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
but for the sky there are no fences facin'
Although Dylan may be considered a great poet, the poignancy of
his work is oral as much as written. His brilliance is often keenest
and most evocative in the phrasing and intonations with which he sings
his lyrics. Similarly, Manjushri as the Melodious-Voiced One was known
for his discourses and inquiries in the sutras.
authority of any governing institution must stop at its
Like Manjushri cutting through delusion, Gloria
Steinem has used her insight to expose gender inequities in modern
society through her writings and the editing of Ms. magazine.
As one of the leaders of the feminist movement, she helped many see
through entrenched sexual stereotypes and the suffering they create.
With her composure and quick wit, Steinem has undercut people's assumptions
and prejudices in her writing and public speaking. Her work resembles
Manjushri's penetrating insight and dismantling of fixed notions.
However sugarcoated and ambiguous, every form of authoritarianism
must start with a belief in some group's greater right to power,
whether that right is justified by sex, race, class, religion or
all four. However far it may expand, the progression inevitably
rests on unequal power and airtight roles within the family.
One of Steinem's books on the language of sexual oppression is titled Moving
Beyond Words. In many of her writings, Steinem plays Manjushri's
role as protector and progenitor, in her case for women, by celebrating
their courage and insight in speaking out or standing up for their
rights. As an educator using wit and humor, skill with words, charm,
and youthful energy, Steinem embodies many of Manjushri's archetypal
remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone
Like Steinem, Margaret Mead exposed false cultural norms
and assumptions. As an anthropologist, Mead called on Western culture
to acknowledge the value and wisdom of indigenous peoples and to appreciate
global cultural diversity. Her work helped people see beyond reified
attitudes about the world and human nature and history. She engaged
the role of Manjushri by pointing out the emptiness of any absolute
truths in cultural norms.
Margaret Mead possessed the intellect and
insight of Manjushri in her academic writing and her position as a
professor. But also like Manjushri, she readily adopted a more humble
guise in her many mainstream books and articles for popular magazines.
She was determined to spread her message by any means available, "leaking"
information about a wider view of humanity, sometimes to the dismay
of her academic colleagues.
Can you think of other public figures who embody Manjushri's
Can you think of people you know personally or who
you have encountered who embody Manjushri's qualities?
Manjushri and you
In considering these exemplars of the Manjushri archetype, we may
get a better sense of the wisdom aspects of our own spiritual work
and life. We activate this Manjushri quality when we focus and concentrate
ourselves to bring forth our deepest insight into the nature of reality.
Manjushri is further manifested when we articulate our insight to
share it with others. We can recognize Manjushri when this insight
appears along with youthful, creative energy, no matter our age. But
the wisdom can be more effective when we are willing to share it humbly,
disguised in everyday forms.
Can you identify these qualities in yourself?