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The Diamond Gate and the Gate of Heavenly Kings 금강문, 천왕문
Standing between the One Pillar Gate and the Gate of Heavenly Kings, the Diamond Gate enshrines Vajrapanis, protectors of the Buddha-Dharma. In Korean, a Vajrapani is called either “Geumgang-nyeoksa” or “Inwang-nyeoksa.” The Vajrapanis serve as guardians of a pagoda or a temple gate. In Korean temples, Vajrapanis are generally painted on the Gate of Heavenly Kings, but sometimes statues of them are enshrined inside the gate. However, in some cases, a Diamond Gate is established wherein Vajrapanis are exclusively enshrined.
The Gate of Heavenly Kings is dedicated to the four heavenly kings in charge of protecting the Buddha-Dharma. They are called “four heavenly kings” as they guard the four cardinal directions of north, east, south and west. They can be distinguished by which direction they guard and what they hold in their hands. In the east, Dhṛtarāṣṭra (He who maintains the state) stands holding a lute (pipa). In the south, Virūḍhaka (He who enlarges) stands holding a sword. In the west, Virūpākṣa (He who sees all) stands holding a dragon and a wish-fulfilling jewel (cintamani). In the north, Vaiśravaṇa (He who hears everything) stands holding a stupa. All the four heavenly kings trample demons underfoot, symbolizing their control over all evil spirits in the universe. In addition, they have the role of guarding the temple and protecting the Buddha-Dharma.
- excerpt from Buddhist English (Elementary 2) published in 2014 by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism