Anshu Christa Jacobson – Warrior Guardian Deity
There was a militant side to Japanese Buddhism. Many monasteries were fortified and had standing armies. These measures began as protective measures against brigands and marauding armies but over time led to the sects becoming like feudal states, sometimes with large armies controlling entire provinces.
In almost every Buddhist country, the temple gates are guarded by two or more fearsome figures.
There are explanations for this. One understanding is that anyone who tries to enter the temple with a burden of negativity will find him- or herself unable to get past the guardians. Leave it all outside, they say, and enter with a pure heart.
In some countries, like Japan, the figures have a further feature. The Japanese “Ni-O” (“Two Kings”) are depicted one with his mouth open, the other with his mouth closed. A popular interpretation of this is that they are signifying “A” and “Un,” the two sounds which make up the Japanese pronunciation of the “sacred syllable” Om. Better, though, is another idea, based in the concept of duality.
The Two Kings, they say, represent the two aspects of In and Yo (yin and yang in Chinese philosophy). Further, they represent two of Buddhism’s great “evils”: Fear and Desire. Mister “A,” he with the open mouth, is the “IN” receptive, but he is also Desire, opening up for anything he can get. Mister “Un,” then, is the closed-mouthed passive “YO”, but also the one who lives in Fear, shutting out the possibility of any new opportunities.
“IN” is no good without “YO”. And the extremes of Fear and Desire prevent one from living a full life. And so it is only the one who can pass through the Middle, between IN and YO, get past Fear and Desire, who is eligible to seek the Buddha.
“Avoid evil; do good; purify the heart.”
Anshu Christa Jacobson
21st Soke of the Tomo Ryu Tradition
Headmistress of the Budo Ryu – School of the Warrior Way
Founder of the Budo Ryu Online University
Owner of the Ninjutsu Super Store
Chief Editor of the Shinobi no Mono Magazine
Founder of the Ninjutsu International Federation
Professional Model and Artist