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IMAGE: Tamon-ten (Vaiśravaṇa)
Vaiśravaṇa (japanese Tamon-ten 多聞天) is one of the Four Heavenly Kings, and is considered an important figure in Japanese Buddhism.
The character of Vaiśravaṇa is founded upon the Hindu deity Kubera, but although the Buddhist and Hindu deities share some characteristics and epithets, each of them has different functions and associated myths. Although brought into East Asia as a Buddhist deity, Vaiśravaṇa has become a character in folk religion and has acquired an identity that is partially independent of the Buddhist tradition .
Vaiśravaṇa is the guardian of the northern direction, and his home is in the northern quadrant of the topmost tier of the lower half of Sumeru. He is the leader of all the yakṣas who dwell on the Sumeru's slopes.
He is often portrayed with a yellow face. He carries an umbrella or parasol (chatra) as a symbol of his sovereignty. He is also sometimes displayed with a mongoose, often shown ejecting jewels from its mouth. The mongoose is the enemy of the snake, a symbol of greed or hatred; the ejection of jewels represents generosity.
In Japan, Vaiśravaṇa is thought of as an armor-clad god of war or warriors and a punisher of evildoers. Bishamon is portrayed holding a spear in one hand and a small pagoda in the other hand, the latter symbolizing the divine treasure house, whose contents he both guards and gives away. In Japanese folklore, he is one of the Seven Lucky Gods.
Vaiśravaṇa is also called Tamonten ("listening to many teachings") because he is seen as the guardian of the places where the Buddha preaches. He is believed to live halfway down Mount Sumeru. He is also associated with Hachiman. Especially in the Shingon tradition that gives some place and worth to this hybrid character of Bishamon although most Mahayana temples have Bishamon and his counterpart as guardians at the entrance gate.