Who is this deva? Is he related to Japanese Buddhism?

Recently, I visited a local pagoda (in Vietnam) and saw the statue of a deva like this standing on the left side of the Buddha. There is another similar statue but with an opening mouth on the Buddha’s right side. The one with closing mouth on the left looks like standing for the strength/courage of eradicating the bad sientient beings (defilements) inside each individual.

I liked the meaning of this statue a lot, so I went to the shop inside this pagoda to look for a small version of it to bring home. Surprisingly, the seller told me that because the head Venerable of this pagoda used to study Buddhism in Japan, so when he returned to Vietnam, he had this statue built. This deva is particularly from Japanese Buddhism. Therefore, the shop doesn’t have small statue of him to offer actually.

Can anyone help to tell me more about this deva? Is he traditionally from Japan and what is the story about him? Thank you!

temple guardian

it is a temple guardian like those at the Todai-ji in NARA (Japan).


The Hebrew garden of Eden imagery of Adam and Eve being kept by armed angels from re-entering the garden after disobeying god recurs in Buddhism, too1. At Nara (Japan), or many other (Mahayana) Buddhist temples, two fearsome guardians (desire and fear according to Campbell2; beginning and end of things according to Japanologists) flank the threshold to the temple, in whose interior Vairocana Buddha sits beneath the tree of enlightenment with a welcoming gesture:”Allegorically, then, the passage into a temple and the hero-dive through the jaws of the whale are identical adventures, both denoting, in picture language, the life-centering, life-renewing act.”3. Gautama Buddha himself lived his youth in sensual indulgence within the boundaries of his father's walled palace, just as Adam and Eve in another context.


Agyō and Ungyō

Hi Sergio,

Many thanks for the info. It's interesting. Now I got to know about Nio and understand more about its history!