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Sacred Monk (shōsō 聖僧)

A name for Monju Bodhisattva, who is enshrined in an altar in the sangha hall (sōdō 僧堂) or meditation hall (zendō 禪堂) of a Zen monastery. In most other contexts, Monju is depicted seated on a lion and holding a sword, which symbolizes the perfection of wisdom (hannya haramitsu 般若波羅蜜, S. prajñāpāramitā). In the sangha hall (meditation hall), however, he is often depicted dressed as an ordinary monk in training, hence the name "Sacred Monk." He is in a sense the tutelary deity of the hall, as well as a symbol of the wisdom that trainees strive to cultivate there. But he is also treated as the highest ranking monk in residence, being offered tea first, for example, when tea is served to the entire hall assembly. There is also a Sacred Monk of the common quarters (shu ryō no shōsō 衆寮の聖僧), who is Kannon Bodhisattva. →"Monju Bodhisattava."