Wisdom Kings

In Vajrayana Buddhism, a Wisdom King (Sanskrit विद्याराज vidyārāja, Chinese Míngwáng 明王, Japanese 明王 myō-ō) is the third type of deity after Buddhas and bodhisattvas. The Sanskrit name literally "king of knowledge", thus the Chinese character "明", meaning knowledgeable (and/or bright) is used, leading to wide array of alternative English names including Radiant King, among others like Guardian King, etc. Wisdom Kings belong to the Buddhist Pantheon. In Tibetan Buddhism, they are known as Heruka.

The female counterparts of Wisdom Kings are known as Wisdom Queens (Ch: Míngfēi 明妃; Jp: 明妃 myōhi), although the distinction is often ignored.


On a general level, the Wisdom Kings are viewed as the guardians of Buddhism, and fierce manifestations of Buddhas. In particular, the Five Wisdom Kings are the protectors of the Five Wisdom Buddhas.[1]

According to the esoteric doctrine of the Three Wheels, whereas Buddhas represent pure concepts and bodhisattvas teach through compassion, Wisdom Kings are the embodiment of the wheel of injunction and teach through fear, shocking nonbelievers into faith.[1]


As mentioned above, Wisdom Kings are usually represented as wrathful deities, often with blue skin, many arms, sometimes with many faces, and even many legs. They hold weapons in their hands and are sometimes adorned with skulls, snakes or animal skins and wreathed in flames.

A notable exception is Mahamayuri (Ch: Kǒngquè míngfēi 孔雀明妃 or Kǒngquè fómǔ 孔雀佛母; Jp: Kujaku myo-ō 孔雀明王), the "Peacock Wisdom Queen", who is usually presented with a peaceful expression. She is easily identifiable as she usually rides a peacock.

List of Wisdom Kings

The Five Wisdom Kings

In the Shingon tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, the Five Great Wisdom Kings (五大明王; Godai Myo-o,[2] Wǔ Dà Míngwáng), also known as the Five Guardian Kings are a group of Wisdom Kings who represent the luminescent wisdom of the Buddha and protect the Five Wisdom Buddhas. The Five Kings are usually defined as follows.

  • Acala (不動明王, Fudo Myo-o, Bùdòng Míngwáng)
  • Trailokyavijaya (fr) (降三世明王, Gozanze Myo-o, Jiàngsānshì Míngwáng)
  • Kundali (軍荼利明王, Gundali Myo-o, Jūntúlì Míngwáng)
  • Yamantaka (大威德明王, Daiitoku Myo-o, Dàwēidé Míngwáng)
  • Vajrayaksa (金剛夜叉明王, Kongo-Yasha, Jīngāng Yèchā Míngwáng)

The Five Wisdom Kings inhabit the Womb Realm. They are organized according to the directions of the compass.






(principal deity/ meditator)

Trailokyavijaya (fr)






See also


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