Binzuru (Sanskrit: Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja) was one of the original followers of the historical Buddha and was said to have been a close associate of the Buddha's cousin and attendant, Ananda. He is revered explicitly in Mahayana and Zen Buddhism and is often depicted in Buddhist art. Binzuru (賓頭盧), or Bindora Baradaja (賓度羅跋囉惰闍), is considered one of the arhats, or enlightened disciples, who achieved enlightenment during the Buddha's lifetime.

Particularly in Japan, Binzuru is worshipped by those who believe he has the power to heal physical and mental ailments. Many temples in Japan have statues of Binzuru, where visitors would rub the body part of the effigy corresponding to their own illnesses, praying for his healing powers.

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Wooden statue of Binzuru at the Todaiji Temple in Nara. Pindola was one of the sixteen arahats who were disciples of Shaka Nyorai.



Pindola is represented as an older man seated on a high-backed chair with white hair and bushy eyebrows in Japan. His statues, in painted wood or stone, are usually well worn since the faithful follow the custom of rubbing a part of the effigy corresponding to the sick parts of their bodies, as he is reputed to have the gift of healing.

Source: Louis Frederic, Buddhism - Flammarion Iconographic Guides.

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Effigy of Binzuru at Shoshazan Engyō-ji (書寫山圓教寺)

Arhat (in Japanese 阿羅漢 Arakan) were the ascetic disciples of Shaka, the historical Buddha, who later attained enlightenment, too. Early Indian sutras mentioned four arhats tasked to spread the dharma, the Buddhist law. Each was associated with one of the four compass directions, and Binzuru represented the West. Later, the early disciples were called the Ten Great Disciples (十大弟子) Jūdai Deshi), and their number was increased to groups of 16, 18, and even 500.


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Binzuru at Monjudō (文殊堂), Kakeyu Onsen, Ueda, Nagano .


"Rubbing Buddha statues" (撫で仏 nadebotoke) are not uncommon in Japan. They are not restricted to Binzuru--healing powers are also attributed to deities like Jizō, Fudō, and others.



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References:

  • Frederic, Louis, Buddhism - Flammarion Iconographic Guides. Flammarion 1995