The Lion in Buddhism

For thousands of years, lions have been a symbol of royalty, strength, and bravery for the people of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Recognized for fearing nothing and acting without hesitation, they have come to be known as the "kings of the jungle."

Buddhism, too, has incorporated the symbolism of the lion to describe the noble qualities that people can develop through Buddhist practice.

Buddha, called the "lion of the Shakyas"

In The Lotus Sutra and its opening and closing sutras, the Buddha Shakyamuni is called the "lion of the Shakyas" and the "lion of the Sages."

Contrary to the image of a Buddha always seated in placid meditation, the Lotus Sutra depicts him, and his disciples, as those who possess the power of "lion's ferocity" and who "walk fearlessly like the lion king."

This does not mean that the Buddha was an intimidating figure. On the contrary, he possessed an immense state of life characterized by absolute freedom and courage, undisturbed by any problem. Shakyamuni tirelessly fought within society to challenge injustice, establish equality, and alleviate human suffering.

The Chinese characters for the word lion (shishi pronounced in Japanese) also hold deep significance. Though there are variations throughout literature, the lion in Buddhist sutras is written with two characters that can respectively mean "master" and "disciple" – both neutral in terms of gender.

The Lotus Sutra contains the expression "roar the lion's roar and make a vow."

Nichiren explains these words by saying: The first shi of the word shishi, or "lion" which means "master," is the wonderful Law that is transmitted by the master. The second shi [which means 'child'] is the Wonderful Law as received by disciples.

"The 'roar' is the sound of master and disciples chanting in unison."

Symbol of the Buddhist lion

When mentor and disciple are united in their vow to spread the Wonderful or Mystic Law, they can maximize their inherent strength and achieve all their goals.

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with this "lion's roar," we can take courageous action to overcome our problems, make our dreams a reality, and awaken others to their great potential by teaching them to practice Nichiren Buddhism.

The SGI President, Ikeda, writes: "As disciples, it is important for us to make our mentor's heart our own and let our voices ring out powerfully with our shared commitment to achieving the greatest good."

"The lion's roar of mentor and disciple chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has the unparalleled power to repel any adversity and transform troubled times."

Practicing Buddhism with the lion king's courageous heart, with the unity of mentor and disciple, enables us to overcome all obstacles in our path and create the greatest happiness and harmony in our lives and in society.

Fo Lion, also called Buddha Lion, Fo Dog, or Shishi, in Chinese Art, a stylized figure of a fierce lion. Its original meaning was as a guardian presence in a Buddhist temple.

Fo lions are often created in pairs, the male playing with a ball and the female with a cub.

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