The Badass Fudomyo’o: Your new Favourite Buddhist Deity

The statue of Fudomyo’o next to Suga-no-taki falls on Haguro-san.

You’ll find him near waterfalls all over Japan.

Angry scowl meaner than your mum after you didn’t eat those yucky green peas you were ‘saving’ for last (i.e. the cat), powerful sword in right hand, long lasso in left, and who could forget, engulfed in flames, it’s Fudomyo’o! The Immovable Wisdom King! One of the principle deities of Shugendo, the belief we Yamabushi follow.

And it’s not hard to see why. The immovable part is literal. This guy is a tank.

Well, a tank that doesn’t move.

Or give in.

Put simply, ‘no’ doesn’t exist in his vocabulary.

Fudomyo’o stands his ground, and just gets on with it.

Gets on with what?

Why, ‘helping’ those who don’t want to pass on to the next world see the light, of course.

Fudomyo’o’s flames burn all impediments and defilements that get in the way of enlightenment. His lasso obliterates all obstacles. His sword slays all evil.

But that’s not all your new favourite Buddha does.

In Shingon Buddhism, it’s believed when we pass away, there is a liminal state between death and rebirth**, AKA falling into hell, or getting reborn and going on to the next stage to enlightenment.

The thing is, some of us don’t want to pass on. Some of us are happy where we are.

Some of us have trouble accepting reality.

That’s When Fudomyo’o Steps in

One of my favourite waterfalls, Hottai-no-Taki on the northern side of Chokai-san said to be in the shape of a seated Buddha. Can you see it?

Fudomyo’o doesn’t have a word of it.

Can you guess the reason for his scowl? He’s had to deal with miscreants for millennia.

Fudomyo’o knows what’s best for you. He knows what awaits if you don’t get a move on. Like a father forcing their child to eat disgusting-and-frankly-unnecessary-for-this-earth green peas, Fudomyo’o’s actions are the definition of tough love.

Unlike a father though, if you pick up a fuss, Fudomyo’o will use his lasso to drag you kicking and screaming into the next world, thus saving you from eternal damnation.

Now do you get why Fudomyo’o is always by waterfalls?

Yours truly during Dewa Sanzan Jinja Yamabushi Training wearing the characteristic blue and white checkers. Photo by the ever-talented Joe Igarashi.

Ok, maybe it’s not so obvious.

When we enter yamabushi training, we wear what’s called Shiroshozoku, 白装束, literally ‘white garments’. But these aren’t just any white garments. These are the garments of the deity himself.

Plus, when we do official Yamabushi training through Dewa Sanzan Jinja (shrine) or Shozen’in Koganedo Temple, we wear a navy-and-white checkered overcoat thing called a Suri, 摺. This too has Fudomyo’o written all over it. The checkered pattern represents banjakuza 盤石座, the immovable stone he stands upon.

You may have actually seen this motif somewhere as well. Have you heard of a small event from a few years ago called the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics?

Take a closer look at the logo.

2020 Summer Olympics logo new.svg
Apparently there was a call for a few hundred yamabushi to attend the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, but a certain ex-girlfriend with a name like Rona or something had to rear their ugly head. Image from Wikipedia.

WWFD (What Would Fudomyo’o Do)?

Can you spot where Fudomyo’o is? Suga-no-taki Falls on Haguro-san is actually man-made. You can modify the flow of a river, but nature and Fudomyo’o remain resolute and unmoving.

As yamabushi, it’s believed that by taking on Fudomyo’o physically, we take him on mentally too. We are literally inside our symbol of resilience as we enter the mountains and undertake ascetic rituals.

And when times get tough, what do we do?

Why, call on Fudomyo’o of course!

Being able to stand resolute under a raging waterfall is how you build resilience. Being able to continue climbing a precarious cliff after little to no sleep, and a few tens of kilometres under our belts, is how you build character.

Taking on the Immovable Wisdom King is how.

So, the next time you are in need of a push, the next time you require resilience, recite Fudomyo’o’s mantra (see below), visualise Fudomyo’o removing obstacles for you, picture his angry scowl,

or don’t.

It’s just, you risk going to hell for all eternity.

Your choice.


*Foo Fighters’ claim not backed by science. Could someone ask Dave Grohl for me?

**This liminal stage is known as Bardo.


Bonus

Me in Yamabushi regalia before Dewa Sanzan Jinja training.

Notice the black hat called a Tokin, and the orange belt used to hold the blue and white checkered Suri in place, but also to wrap the Horagai conch. This rope is called Kai-no-o 貝納 (I think I have the Kanji right), ‘wrap a shell’, but also 貝の緒, ‘the shell’s umbilical cord’.

Plus, Fudomyo’o mantra (Shingon) in Japanese:

Nomaku sanmanda bazaradan senda makaroshada sowataya un tarata kanman

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