Or, The 18 Lohans

Eighteen Lohans bring Great Energy Into Homes


(9)   Open Heart Lohan:  Gobaka, once the crown prince of a kingdom who  defeated a rebellion led by his younger brother by renouncing the throne and embracing a life dedicated to Buddha’s teachings.  Gobaka literally means “man of heart,” someone who might be weak physically, but is strong of spirit.  Baring his chest, Gobaka reveals to sentient beings that if we could sustain the purity of our mind, abstain from evils and work hard on altrustic deeds, we are no different from the Buddha and our heart is thus the Buddha’s heart.  The painting depicts that he shows an image of the Buddha on his chest.

(10)  Overseas Lohan:  Bodhidarma, who crosses the river like the dragonfly dipping on water,  sails far and wide spreading Buddha’s teachings.  Climbing mountains and fording streams for the deliverance of humanity, Bodhidarma  is described as having been born under the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.  He is always graceful and carefree.  He had transcended the boundless Samsara’s ocean of suffering.  His presence in the home is highly revered by the Chinese, who also see him as the Great Master of martial arts.  In China, he is known as Damo .  Bodhidarma was the founder of Chinese Chan Buddhism, the founder of the Shaolin (Kung Fu) School, and also the father of Japanese Zen Buddhism.


(11)  Plantain Lohan:  Vanavasin, according to legend, was born during a heavy downpour, and thus was named Vanavasin, which means “rain” in Sanskrit.  Later on he becomes enlightened after becoming a Buddhist monk and meditating under a plantain tree (banana tree) , hence he is named the Plantain Lohan.  His mind is always at peace and undisturbed by worries.  He is sometimes shown meditating in a cave with eyes closed and hands folded over his knees.  Having him in the home brings the guru into your life.

(12)  Raised Bowl Lohan:  Kanakaharadvaja, a Buddhist monk, is famous for asking for alms with a raised bowl.   He accepts almsgiving without discrimination, thereby according divine merits to the almoners. He teaches the Dharma to sentient beings with his kind words and altruistic deeds. The begging bowl is  a powerful symbol of humility and it signifies that one may be poor materially but as long as one is rich spiritually, then one will attain eternal happiness.



(13)   Raised hand Lohan:  Panthaka  is said to be a monk who liked to meditate in the half-lotus style.  Upon waking up, he would raise his both arms, let out a deep breath, and stretch himself, hence he is named Raised Hand Lohan.  He was the elder brother of the Doorman Lohan.  The two brothers were born while the mother was travelling, so were given the Sanskrit name “born on the road.”  His presence in the home brings harmony amongst siblings.

(14)  Raised Pagoda Lohan:  Subinda was the last disciple the Buddha has accepted into the Sangha Community.  He carries a special pagoda in memory of his Master and this signifies the mind of the Buddha being always with him forever and ever.  The pagoda is usually a container for Buddha’s bones, and it symbolizes the mind of the awakened one.   Holding the pagoda is a depiction of attainment in Buddhahood. Having this Lohan in the house signifies the presence of the holy Buddha’s mind which is incredibly auspicious.


(15)  Scratched Ear Lohan:  Nagasena, whose name means “an army of dragons,” symbolizes strong supernatural powers.  He was also regarded as the one with a sharp sense of hearing.  An eloquent speaker and debater, he is famous throughout India for his preaching on the “hear no evil” maxim.  The sense of hearing is one of the six sources through which mankind become aware of the world. Therefore a practitioner of Buddhism should avoid listening to decadent sounds and in particular, other people’s secrets.  He is often portrayed scratching his ear, a gesture symbolizing the purification of the sense of hearing in search for peace and quiet.

(16)  Taming Dragon Lohan:  Mahakassapa is one of the ten great disciples of the Buddha.  He is called the Taming Dragon Lohan for a brave act he performed.  In ancient India, the people of a small kingdom, after being incited by a demon, went on a rampage against the Buddhists and monasteries, stealing the Buddhist sutras.  The king of the undersea flooded the kingdom and rescued the sutras, which he put in his palace.  Mahakassapa subdued the dragon guard and restored the sutras back to earth.  Hence he is called the Taming Dragon Lohan.  He is renowned for that symbolic moment at the Vulture Peak’s assembly when the Buddha motioned a flower without uttering  a word.  Only he smiled because he realized the Truth had to come from within one’s heart which words could never express.


(17)   Taming Tiger Lohan:  Pindola was a Brahmin general who because of his devotion to Buddhism, which forbids killing, was ordered by the king to become a monk.  He thrived in his cultivation of the mind and compassion and ultimately overcame the ferocious tiger in him, i.e. the desire, greed, anger and hatred that existed in his mind.  In legend, Pindola  joined a monastery in the mountains where he could hear a tiger howling every day.  He said that the tiger was probably hungry and should be fed some vegetarian food.  Otherwise the tiger might become a man-eater.  So Pindola collected food from the monks and put it in a bucket which he left outside the monastery.  The tiger did come for the food every night.  After a period of time, the tiger was tamed.  Thus Pindola was referred to as the Taming Tiger Lohan.

(18)   Thinking Lohan:  Rahula, who is said to have been born during a lunar eclipse and given the name Rahula, the constellation that caused the phenomenon.  Rahula who was the youngest and one of the Buddha’s ten favorite disciples,  was well-known for his meditative power.  He is foremost in tolerating insults and privately pursuing his practice. It is believed that he became omnipotent and omniscient during meditation.  When deep in thought, he was ruminating wisdom and action.  His presence in the home brings enormous blessings from his meditation.

(Spring Liao, 9/12/08)

(Hsi-Lai Temple, Hacienda Heights, Southern California, www.hsilai.org)