Mahakashyapa (Mahākāśyapa) One of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples, known as foremost in ascetic practice. After Shakyamuni’s death, he became head of the Order. The sixth chapter of the Lotus Sutra predicts that he will become a buddha named Light Bright.
Mahakatyayana (Mahākātyāyana) One of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples, known as foremost in debate. He is also called simply Katyayana (Kātyāyana). The sixth chapter of the Lotus Sutra predicts that he will become a buddha named Jambunada Gold Light.
Mahamaudgalyayana (Mahāmaudgalyāyana) See Maudgalyayana.
Mahaprajapati (Mahāprajāpatī) Also known as Gautami (Gautamī). Younger sister of Maya, Shakyamuni’s mother. When Maya died shortly after Shakyamuni’s birth, Mahaprajapati raised him. Later she renounced secular life and became the first nun to be admitted to the Buddhist Order. The thirteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra predicts that she will become a buddha named Gladly Seen by All Living Beings.
mahasattva (mahāsattva) A “great being,” another term for a bodhisattva.
Mahayana (Mahāyāna, Ch dacheng, J daijō) One of the two main branches of Buddhism. It calls itself Mahayana, or the “great vehicle,” because its teachings enable all beings to attain buddhahood. It lays particular emphasis upon the bodhisattva, who vows to attain buddhahood for himself or herself and to assist all others to do so. The Mahayana teachings arose around the first century bce and first century ce in India and spread to China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.
mahoraga A being with the head of a snake, one of the eight kinds of nonhuman beings who protect Buddhism.
Maitreya A bodhisattva, also called Ajita, who figures in chapter seventeen of the Lotus Sutra. It is said that he will succeed Shakyamuni as the buddha of the future and that he will appear in this world 5,670 million years after Shakyamuni’s death. Meanwhile he dwells in the Tushita heaven.
major world system According to ancient Indian cosmology, a world consists of a Mount Sumeru, its surrounding seas and mountains, heavenly bodies, etc., extending upward to the first meditation heaven in the world of form and downward to the circle of wind that forms the basis of a world. One thousand such worlds make up a minor world system, one thousand minor world systems constitute an intermediate world system, and one thousand intermediate world systems form a major world system. Therefore, one major world system comprises one billion worlds. Countless major world systems were believed to exist in the universe.
mandarava (māndārava) flower Also called mandara (māndāra) flower. A kind of fragrant red flower that blooms in heaven.
mani (maṇi) jewel A globe-shaped gem, said to be efficacious in warding off sickness and evil and in purifying water.
manjushaka (mañjūṣaka) flower A species of white flower that blooms in heaven.
Manjushri (Mañjuśrī) A bodhisattva who plays an important role in the Lotus and other sutras. He is symbolic of the perfection of wisdom and is revered as chief of the bodhisattvas. In Buddhist art he is usually depicted riding a lion. In the twelfth chapter of the Lotus Sutra he is shown guiding the dragon king’s daughter to enlightenment.
Many Treasures (Skt Prabhūtaratna, Ch Duobao, J Tahō) A buddha who appears, seated inside the treasure tower, to bear witness to the truth of Shakyamuni’s teachings in the Lotus Sutra. While still a bodhisattva, he vowed that, even after he had entered nirvana, he would appear and attest to the validity of the Lotus Sutra wherever anyone might preach it.
Maudgalyayana (Maudgalyāyana) One of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples, known as foremost in transcendental powers. The sixth chapter of the Lotus Sutra predicts that he will become a buddha named Tamala leaf Sandalwood Fragrance. See also tamala.
Medicine King (Skt Bhaiṣajyarāja, Ch Yaowang, J Yakuō) A bodhisattva who is the subject of chapter twenty-three of the Lotus Sutra.
men of lifelong wisdom A term of respect for monks, indicating the lasting quality of their wisdom.