This article examines the two topics of Ma~nju'srii's origins and his portrayal in non-tantric Mahaayaana literature.

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Ma~nju'srii is one of the best-known and most important of the bodhisattvas of Mahaayaana Buddhism and is especially associated with the wisdom of awakening.

He is often depicted as a beautiful youth, in keeping with the notion of the sense of freshness and newness of such liberating awareness, and is seated cross-legged on a lotus-flower throne, attired in princely silks and ornaments.

His popularity continues today, not only within traditional Buddhist communities but also in contemporary 'western' Mahaayaana Buddhist traditions.

American, European and Australasian Buddhists visualise Ma~nju'srii, recite his name and depict his form as part of their practice, seeing these as effective means of developing the insightful awareness (j~naana) that is at the heart of the Mahaayaana Buddhist perspective.

Nevertheless, Lalou suggests that the popularity of both Pa~nca'sikha and Ma~nju'srii derives from a single mythic source, belief in a god who is eternally young.

Whether or not this might be true for Pa~nca'sikha, in Ma~nju'srii's case such a proposal takes no account of his specifically Buddhist role as one of the most important bodhisattvas.

gandharva) called Pa~nca'sikha, who appears in both Sanskrit and Pali texts.[3] Lalou argues that one such affinity is a similarity in meaning between the name Pa~nca'sikha and a term sometimes used to describe Ma~nju'srii's appearance, pa~ncaciiraka, "Possessing Five [Hair-]braids."[4] Pa~nca'sikha means "Five-Crests" and this is taken by Buddhaghosa to refer to a way of styling the hair.

He says that Pa~nca'sikha owes his name to the fact that he wears his hair in five tresses or braids in the fashion of young men.[5] On this interpretation the name Pa~nca'sikha becomes a synonym of pa~ncaciiraka.

Indra), chief of the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three (P.