The dashing deities and beautiful bodhisattvas at Bonnou Temple are here to lead humans to enlightenment but the human world is full of peculiarities. These heavenly hosts must also further their own enlightenment without succumbing to the human vices all around them. Each one is so different, but they share the same goal. Following their daily lives as they try to understand humanity and even each other gives us an idea of what studying under one of them would be like. There are many paths to enlightenment, and you must follow what your heart tells you… If that’s the case, how would you choose which of the handsome characters in Namu Amida Butsu!: Rendai Utena to free you from vice?
10. Fugen Bosatsu
Fugen Bosatsu may not at a glance appear very holy. Despite being Shaka Nyorai’s attendant, he often appears lazy and complacent, stirring only to annoy Monju Bosatsu. Teasing but well-meaning, he takes an interest in the newcomers to the temple and wants to help Bonten and Taishakuten bond. While perhaps not the most respectable example of a celestial being, Fugen Bosatsu is GORGEOUS. The beautiful flowers in his blue hair and those striking eyes make him a deity you couldn’t take your eyes off of. It might not be for the best reason, but those who want to seek enlightenment from a beautiful guy will find their salvation in Fugen Bosatsu.
9. Ashuku Nyorai
A creature of divine beauty, Ashuku Nyorai screams femininity. Ashuku loves all things pink and cute extending from their clothes to the decorations in their room. Ashuku also possesses a positivity that somehow avoids being shallow or somewhat annoying like some of the other Bodhisattvas. Such as when Taishakuten was riddled with arrows that left many unhealable marks, Ashuku commented on how they liked scars. Even if life were to mar you in some way, Ashuku’s gentle, consistent support would help you let go of your hang-ups and see the good in any situation. For those who would respond well to a womanly Yamato Nadeshiko type, Ashuku Nyorai would be the one to follow.
8. Dainichi Nyorai
The self-proclaimed Superstar would definitely lead you somewhere… maybe to his favorite sweet store or karaoke, but somewhere! Dainichi does, unfortunately, act alone, probably because of his being the sole wielder of the tremendous power of the cosmos. As such, he has a hard time relying on others and feels he should take care of his own problems and often acts like nothing’s bothering him. However, he is quite moved whenever others forcefully stand by his side. When his reincarnation Fudomyo O somewhat rudely insists on them going off together to restore Dainichi’s power, Dainichi recognizes Fudomyo O’s true intent of being his strength. If he were to find himself in charge of admiring disciples, there’s no doubt he’d try to show off his power and divinity.
7. Amida Nyorai
A man of many puns, Amida Nyorai is the right-hand man of Shaka Nyorai. Even when his puns don’t land, he will happily over-explain them until someone else acknowledges it or changes the subject. Despite this odd quirk, he’s a very dependable guy. Even when he seems to be taking serious matters lightly, he has some reason behind his actions. When he and Bonten were sent to look for the revenge-driven Fudomyo O, he insisted at hanging out at a convenience store much to Bonten’s distress. It seemed like finding Fudomyo O wasn’t on Amida Nyorai’s mind but in reality, he knew the younger guy would seek refreshments there. It’s easy to put our trust in Amida Nyorai’s wisdom!
For better or for worse, Taishakuten is very emotional for a deity. He doesn’t always have the right answer, but his passion does make him able to see things some of the other bodhisattvas miss. His ability to still recognize when someone can be saved, even if by human standards they don’t deserve it, is amazing. This has caused him incredible grief in the past but it is not for Buddhas to decide if someone is worth saving or not. Their role is to lead any and all to enlightenment. Even if you feel unworthy of salvation, Taishakuten would fight anyone for your chance to free yourself from vice.
Bonten is almost a Buddha otaku. He knows nearly everything about all the heavenly beings at Bonnoji and their unique powers. He loves following rules and acting properly even when the rest of his group are relaxing or shirking their duties. He’s quite the stickler for etiquette and formality and he would definitely keep you in line! He has no problems talking down to those he sees as lower or less worthy of salvation but he pays utmost respect to those above him. He also loves being right so if you were to show your utmost determination to reach Enlightenment, Bonten would be all too happy to show you!
4. Miroku Bosatsu
Miroku Bosatsu is to become Shaka Nyorai’s successor, a few billion years in the future. He wastes not a single minute in trying to better himself as it’s a role he takes very seriously. Small in stature, Miroku Bosatsu often is treated like a child. He dislikes this less because he feels patronized and more because he wants to show that he is capable of meeting his destiny, he desires to push his limits and be dependable for others. Some of his mannerisms are child-like, but that can be said for a LOT of the beings at Bonnou Temple. His dedication to his future role, however, helps him stand apart. He would be a great example to follow and much easier to understand than some of the others.
3. Fudomyo O
Despite his size, Fudomyo O looks and acts worthy of worship. He is harsh on himself and others, often threatening to destroy or beat up things that irk him. This is usually when someone is personally annoying him either by commenting on his height or when Dainichi Nyorai acts less than respectable. As the reincarnation for Dainichi Nyorai, Fudomyo O cares deeply for him and often expresses this by chastising his poor choices and staying always by his side. He wants Dainichi Nyorai to live up to his potential but also respects his great power. Despite his anger flare-ups, Fudomyo O doesn’t hold grudges. Even when a long-time enemy sought salvation, he took it upon himself to make a spectacle of ‘taking charge’ of the new recruit so no one would have complaints. Both his appearance and his attitude are very god-like so he would be a great person for those who wish to tremble before the power of heaven instead of journeying with a friend.
2. Monju Bosatsu
How Monju Bosatsu manages to not succumb to vice while playing with it is a mystery. While many of the other residents at Bonnou Temple act lazy or indulge in certain human pleasures, Monju Bosatsu is disciplined. He uses day-trading to make money for their food and travel expenses but only allows himself to earn a certain amount each day so as not to fall victim to greed. He even has Kannon Bosatsu distribute the money to the others instead of deciding on his own. Monju knows how to live alongside vice peacefully without straying from his path. He is incredibly wise and yet still can empathize and understand humans who are controlled by vices.
1. Shaka Nyorai
Also known as the great Siddhartha himself, of course, Shaka Nyorai is the most capable of teaching us true Enlightenment. Many of the other deities have a somewhat narrow view of simply destroying and refraining from vice. Shaka Nyorai knows that true enlightenment cannot exist without vice. As he says, vice inevitably exists in all living things, facing those vices is what life is all about. Were vice simply eliminated, it would not be our choice to seek Enlightenment, it would just be all we know. It is through fighting yourself and choosing to let go of earthly vices that Enlightenment is attainted. Not even Mara, the embodiment of vice, can maintain his composure around the unwavering light of Shaka Nyorai.
Shaka Nyorai is also incredible in his ability to inspire faith and trust from the others. Even though Bonten and Taishakuten want desperately to destroy all vice they see, they abide by Shaka’s rules. Even when he goes missing and people want to drop everything and search for him, they adhere to his last message to do what they need to do. They know enough to understand that Shaka Nyorai can take care of himself and wouldn’t needlessly sacrifice himself like Dainichi Nyorai might. He also trusts in them to take their time and find their own ways to combat evil in his absence. Unlike Karuraten or Bonten who don’t tend to hold back when annoyed, Shaka Nyorai has an amazing grasp on his emotions. He doesn’t react angrily unless that will be the best way for his message to be received. He might seem aloof but he truly desires that all would reach Enlightenment and he could deem no one unworthy.
With so many promising deities, it’s hard to rank them! Even the ones we left out, such as brothers Seishi and Kannon Bosatsu, Yakushi Nyorai, and Kokuzo Bosatsu have their unique charms. We can at least keep ones with physical beauty as their strong point towards the bottom because it’s probably not the best to choose your savior based on physical attraction. Then again, the whole message of the show is to find your own path. Even one of the anime’s main antagonists is absolved of all crimes and is told that others will not judge his journey. That journey need not physically be together with everyone. With many characters on separate journeys at the end of the show, we know that the determination to seek Enlightenment is far more important than what shape it takes. Be true to your heart and comment which deity you would wish to follow!