Bodhisattvas – The term bodhisattva literally means “essence of Bodhi” [budh- = awakening or, enlightenment;] hence, one on the way to Awakening. Bodhisattvas are considered to be of various degrees of attainment or rank relating to their level (Skt. bhumi) on the 10-step path [some traditions give 13] towards buddhahood.
I am going to list the eight Bodhisattvas and their embodiment.
Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezi) – (Japanese, Kannon, Kanzeon; Chinese, Kuan Yin, Guanshiyin; Tibetan, Spyan-ras-gzigs; Vietnamese, Quan-am)
Of the Bodhisattvas, Avalokitesvara is has the largest number of forms and also is the most popular of Bodhisattvas. The sex, which was originally masculine, though is feminine in it other forms, Kuan Yin being of the most known to westerners. She is usually seen holding a scroll, which is the Mantra of Kuan Yin or Avalokitesvara. This is the Bodhisattva of Compassion
Tara (Japanese, Tarani Bosatsu; Chinese, Tuoluo; Tibetan, Sgrol-ma)
There are many legends that make up Tara. According to one of them she was born in a beam of blue light emanating from one of the eyes of Avalokitesvara; another has her born from a lotus, floating in a tear on his face. She is usually a pale green and is mostly found on banners and mandalas. She is the Bodhisattva of Prosperity.
• Manjusri (Japanese, Monju Bosatsu; Chinese, Wenshu; Tibetan, Jam-dpal)
Manjusri was the initiator and master of the Buddhas of past ages. Remember that there have been many Buddhas but only Gautama Buddha is what we refer to as the historical Buddha. Anyone can become enlightened, like Gautama. He is the Bodhisattva of marvelous virtue and gentle majesty.
Finally we get to Jizo. Who is actually one of my favorites because he is just a cute little guy.
Jizo – Name means, “he who encompasses the Earth”
Jizo is the Protector of Children. He is vowed to never enter nirvana until the hell realm is empty. “Not until all beings are saved will I certify to Bodhi”, so says Jizo. He eases the suffering of those in the hell realms.
And to add one more, because he is often mistaken for Buddha and that is why I do these posts.
Hotei – God of Contentment and Happiness
Hotei is on of Japan’s seven lucky gods. In the west he is known as the laughing Buddha or fat Buddha. The god of contentment and happiness, guardian of children, and patron of bartenders.
I hope this helps clarify for more information check the links and references below.
Japanese Buddhist Sanctuary – Gods of Japan, Hotei, Jizo and others
Buddhist Studies – Bodhisattvas of Compassion