The Four Heavenly Kings, also known as Jikokuten, Tamonten, Zochoten, and Komokuten, are revered as powerful protectors of the cardinal directions on earth. The Standing Statue of the Four Heavenly Kings, a national treasure enshrined at the World Heritage site Todaiji Temple, may be familiar to many people. The Four Heavenly Kings are among the most well-known Buddhist statues and the origin of the term "Shitenno", which refers to the four strongest figures who defend Buddhism and excel in a single path
Indra, known as Taishakuten in Japanese, is the leader of the Four Heavenly Kings and is considered the guardian of the east. He is a sacred figure in Buddhism and plays a significant role in various Buddhist traditions. Indra is often revered as a protector of goodness and is recognized for his role in spreading Buddhist teachings and safeguarding those who follow the faith.
Virudhaka, known as Tamon-ten in Japanese, is responsible for guarding the southern direction. He is worshipped as a deity associated with knowledge and music. Virudhaka symbolizes the power of listening and is believed to assist in the dissemination of Buddhist teachings and the acquisition of knowledge.
Dhritarashtra, known as Jikokuten in Japanese, is the guardian of the western direction. He is regarded as a deity who protects lands and possessions. Dhritarashtra is also considered a guardian deity for Buddhist temples and monks, providing safety and prosperity when worshipped.
Virupaksha, known as Zochoten in Japanese, is responsible for guarding the northern direction. He symbolizes protection from warfare and disasters. Virupaksha is believed to play a role in preventing attacks from enemies and is revered as a deity of peace and safety.
The Four Heavenly Kings collectively safeguard the four cardinal directions of the universe and are seen as providers of protection and security for believers. They symbolize the forces of goodness and are believed to shield against malevolent influences while promoting peace. Moreover, within Buddhist doctrine, the Four Heavenly Kings guide individuals through the cycle of birth and rebirth, helping them lead virtuous lives and follow the right path.