Updated: Feb 26, 2022
Who or what is the Fudo Myôô?
First things first, we must know that the Fudo Myôô finds his origin in the Hindu Deity Shiva. The similarities can be observed in the attributes and qualities that are associated with both. Furthermore, he truly draws his sources from the deities of the Brahmanical traditions in Hindu Tantrism and emerged in the fusion of the Indian culture occurring in China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan. What is known as the Myôôs are a series of deities, coming in numerous forms, that would later be part of the esoteric Buddhism pantheon. The Figure of Fudo Myôô is particularly prominent in Shingon Buddhism.
The Japanese term Fudo Myôô is a translation from the Sanskrit word Acala or Achala, meaning «The Immovable One». The complete Sanskrit term being Acalanatha Vidyaraja, is Fudo-inu-Myo in Japan. In Chinese, he is known as Pu-tung-fo-mu, in Tibetan its Mi-gYo-ba. His mystic names are Joju-kongo meaning «Eternally Abiding Diamond», and Jigo-kongo meaning «Diamond Guardian of Compassion».
Where Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century through the relations with Korea, it is in the 9th century with the migration of Buddhist deities from China, the Fudo Myôô gained popularity. Two important figures of the introduction and establishment of Buddhism in Japan are Kukai and Saicho. Fudo Myôô was one of the most revered deities of Japan, he plays a major role in Shingon Buddhism, Tendai, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, and Shugendo. Kyoto would be the central place where the sculptures and paintings of Fudo Myôô can be found in the main esoteric Buddhism temples.
The multiple depictions of Fudo Myôô were the reflection of the spiritual zeal merging with the sacralization of fine art. Every painting in esoteric Buddhism was extremely codified and regulated to respect the true expression of the iconography. We must conceive that the work of art, was not perceived as a simple object of beauty, but a vessel possessing powers to change the fate of humanity and the world.
Fudo Myôô is presented as the chief of the five (5) Wisdom Kings, also known as the kings of brightness or light who are in the third rank of buddhas.
The other deities are:
Gundari Myôô «The Dispenser Of Heavenly Nectar», is known as Kundali in Sanskrit. He is the wrathful manifestation of Buddha Ratnasambhava.
Daiitoku Myôô «The Defeater Of Death», is known as Mahatejasin Sanskrit and Yamantakain Tibetan Tantrism. He is the wrathful manifestation of Buddha Amitabha.
Kongoyasha Myôô «The Devourer Of Demons», is known as Vajrayaksa. He is the wrathful manifestation of Buddha Amoghasiddhi.
Gozanze Myôô «The Conqueror Of The Three Planes», is known as Trailokyavijaya in Sanskrit. He is the wrathful manifestation of Buddha Akshobhya.
Fudo Myôô is also one of the thirteen «buddhas» classified in Shingon Buddhism. These thirteen buddhas truly consist of Fudo Myôô, as one of the wisdom kings, with five (5) buddhas including Mahavairocana, and seven (7) bodhisattvas. The Thirteen buddhas are chief deities of the Taizoka and Kongokai mandalas. Their function is to guide the practitioner to enlightenment through life and death.
1.Fudô Myôô (Acala) - Wisdom king
2. Shaka Nyorai (Sakyamuni) - Buddha
3.Monju Bosatsu (Manjushri) - Bodhisattva
4.Fugen Bosatsu (Samantabhadra) - Bodhisattva
5.Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha) - Bodhisattva
6.Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya) - Bodhisattva
7.Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru) - Buddha
8.Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara) - Bodhisattva
9.Seishi Bosatsu (Mahasthamaprapta) - Bodhisattva
10.Amida Nyorai (Amitabha) - Buddha
11.Ashuku Nyorai (Akshobhya) - Buddha
12.Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana) - Buddha
13.Kokūzō Bosatsu (Akasagarbha) - Bodhisattva
Fudo Myôô is a guardian, a protector, and destroys all evils, attachments, obstructions, or hostile forces to the path of enlightenment. He is one of the numerous Deities, a furious manifestation of the original supreme Buddha Mahavairocana. Mahavairocana is the central cosmic God and the highest form of enlightenment.
The manifestations of the Fudo Myôô evokes several attributes, whose terms can be observed from several angles. The unchanging, the permanent. The wisdom of intelligence, compassion, a mind that never stops, that never ends. The unchanging spirit and the unshakable body (which holds nothing back). King of science. King of light. King of immutable or unshakable wisdom. Unshakable virtue. He is firm, solid, and infallible. The unalterable diamond. His face, which seems to emanate great fury, veils the fact that he embodies deep compassion. He is sitting in a state of concentration. He is the undisturbed spirit, the unshakable body, the fundamental nature of the universe. He is the true nature of all living creatures. Tranquility, imperturbable peace. The immutability and the unshakable aspect of awakening. The fight of light against (the darkness of) ignorance. He has his sword of wisdom in his right hand to defeat ignorance and in his left hand a rope to bind our passions and emotions. He brings beings back to the path of virtue. He fights confusion and doubts. The flames that surround it burn the passions. His rope (his lasso) symbolizes as much the immobilization of the forces hostile to the awakening, as the great concentration. His gaze indicates that he is manifesting himself here below as in the beyond. In addition, his canines, one pointing up and the other pointing down mean that he grinds any obstacle.
Fudo Myôô (Acala) is mentioned in the Mahavairocana-Sutra, where practitioners are directed towards him as a way to remove any hindrances to their path. This Deity is often called upon the dangers of war or disaster. He intervenes as a protector from the calamities which affect both the spiritual world and the physical world. Yet, it is often made to conceive that it truly pertains to a war or a struggle within, like what we can find in the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita or by extension, the great epic poem of the Mahabharata.
We can see representations of Fudo Myôô standing up, or in a meditation posture. More so, he can be seen standing or sitting on a throne of rock, with fire on his back or surrounding him, holding a sword with his right hand, and a rope with his left hand. Fudo Myôô, like the other wise-kings, is painted or sculpted with monstrous features, furious looks, fangs, skulls, and reptiles. There are depictions of him with three (3) eyes, also two (2) eyes; one looking up and the other looking Down, or one closed and the other open. There are multiple sculptures, paintings, and woodblock prints of the Deity. His portrayal is also done in various colors, we can find him depicted in black, blue, red, or yellow.
The figure of Fudo Myôô was evidently revered among the warrior casts who would embrace his figure as a sustainer of Law and Justice. Fudo Myôô is discussed by the legendary Myamoto Musashi in his «Book of Five Rings» also by his contemporary Takuan Soho, with the book «The Unfettered Mind» in the effort of harmonizing the zen practice to the sword practice. Musashi was like many of his contemporaries, a polymath. He was not only a swordmaster, he was a calligraph, a tea master, a painter, and a sculptor. Musashi’s most popular sculptures, are obviously depicting Fudo Myôô.
It is my journey into martial arts, my interest in the world's spiritual practices, art, culture, and the love to learn new stories that brought me to Fudo Myôô. There is a lot of meaning, purpose, and depth to the art that couldn’t leave me indifferent. I have decided not to go into the details because I think there is enough insight into the Fudo Myôô to ignite the reader's curiosity, and any more research on the subject should be him or her quest.
Book: Fudo Myoo (Acalanatha Vudyaraja) in art and Iconography of Japan by Sampa Bissau
Book: Mahavairocana-Sutra translated by Chikyo Yamamoto - Preface by Lokesh Chandra.
Book: The Book of Five Rings by Myamoto Musashi P. 29-31
Book: The Unfettered Mind by Takuan Soho P. 24-29
KPC International - Japanese Language School
Shingon Buddhist International Institute (Fudo-Myoo)
Jusan Butsu - The thirteen Buddha of the Shingon School
The Thirteen Buddhas
Description & Dharani of Acala (Fudō Myō-ō)
The Buddhist Guardian Deity: Fudo Myoo
KUKAÏ (774-835) : Le moine au cinq pinceaux – Une vie, une œuvre 
Kukai and Japanese Tantra or Shingon (2014)
Myō-ō BUDDHIST DEITIES