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Eastern Asia

Sarasvati Devi Outside India

In Tibetan, Sarasvati is Yang Chenmo, or when her musical aspect is emphasized, she is Piwa Karpo. In Mongolian she is Keleyin ukin Tegri, in Chinese she is called Tapien-ts'ai t'iennu or Miao-yin mu, and in Japan she is equated with Benten. The Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo is named for Sarasvati.

She is often identifiable by her plain white garment, (though not in this image) her vina which is a stringed musical instrument, and her association with the consonants and vowels of the Sanskrit language. Her own seed syllable is haym.

In the Sadhanamala (162) Maha-Sarasvati's mantra is:

Om Hrih Mahamayange Mahasarasvatyai namah

In Hinduism, she is the daughter of Devi and wife of Lord Brahma, and her vehicle is the celestial bird called the hamsa, usually portrayed as a swan but sometimes a peacock. She is called Sharda Devi or Sharada (Sarada) and the hymn to her says that her home is Kashmir, once famous for its pandits or learned scholars.

Sarasvati means 'the one that flows' and is the name of a Vedic river that once flowed, but has vanished. That is the source of her connection with fluidity of all fertile kinds including speech, writing, song, music and thought. She is also known as Vak [speech.]

http://www.khandro.net/deities_female_Saraswati.htm

Historical & Cultural Ties between India & Thailand

by Mrs Wanna Sudjit, Cultural Attache to the Thai Consulate, Mumbai

http://www.orientalthane.com/history/news_2003_11_15.htm

excerpts:

1. "The ceremonies of coronation of Thai kings are practiced more or less in its original form even up to the present reign. The Thai idea that the king is a reincarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu was adopted from Indian tradition. [Jan: Same idea is held in Nepal.] Though this belief no longer exists today, the tradition to call each Thai king of the present Chakri dynasty Rama (Rama is a reincarnation of Vishnu) with an ordinal number, such as Rama I, Rama II etc. is still in practice.

2. Thai literature and drama draws great inspiration from Indian arts and legend. The Hindu epic of Ramayana is as popular in Thailand as it is in India. Thailand has adapted the Ramayana to suit the Thai lifestyle in the past and has come up with its own version of the Ramayana, namely, the 'Ramakien'.

3. Thai language too bears close affinity with Indian. An indication of the close linguistic affiliation between India and Thailand can be found in common Thai words like Ratha Mantri, Vidhya, Samuthra, Karuna, Prannee etc. which are almost identical to their Indian counterparts. Thai language basically consists of monosyllabic words that are individually complete in meaning. His Majesty King Ramkhamhaeng the Great created the Thai alphabet in 1283. He modeled it on the ancient Indian alphabets of Sanskrit and Pali through the medium of the old Khmer characters.

4. Loy Krathong - the Festival of Lights which is celebrated on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, when the rainy season has ended and the rivers and streams are filled with water. The floating of lanterns, which began in the Sukhothai period, continued throughout the different stages of Thai history. Prior to setting their krathong afloat, people place in it a lighted candle, incense sticks, flowers, a coin and some food offerings. They make a silent prayer of thanks for the water received, a request for forgiveness for wrongs done, and a wish for the fulfillment of a secret dream. The present day understanding is that the festival is celebrated as an act of worship to Chao Mae Kangka, the Goddess of the Waters, for providing the water much needed throughout the year, and as a way of asking forgiveness if they have polluted it or used it carelessly.

5. According to the Thai monk Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikku's writing, 'India's Benevolence to Thailand', the Thais also obtained the methods of making herbal medicines from the Indians. Some plants like sarabhi of Guttiferae family, kanika or hursinghar, phikun or mimusops and bunnak or the rose chestnut etc. were brought from India. He pointed out that Thai food too was influenced by India. He claimed that Thai people learned how to use spices in their food in various ways from Indians".

Vedic Thailand Lives on

http://hinduism.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.hinduismtoday.com/hpi/2002/6/28.html%233

Chennai, June 10:

The successor to the present Rajaguru of the Royal Government of Thailand is all set to undergo training in different subjects such as purohitam, karmakanda, sastras, Sanskrit and Tamil at Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswamahavidyalaya at Enathur near Kanchipuram.

The 12-year-old Brahmin boy is currently on a visit to Chennai along with Pra Rajaguru Vamadevamuni, Chief of Royal Court Brahmanas, Royal Government of Thailand.

Speaking at a reception organised by The Hindu Rakshana Samiti and Hindu Dharmaparipalana Sabha here Saturday, the Rajaguru recalled age-old cultural links between Thailand and India, in particular Tamilnadu.

Referring to Ramayana, he said the epic had a tremendous impact on Thais as can be seen from a number of dramas on the Ramayana staged in the country. The other fine arts also reflected ethos of the magnificent saga, he added. Mural paintings on Ramayana at the Royal Thai Temple stood as a testimony to the special affinity of Thais for the epic.

Continuing in the same vein, Pra Rajaguru Vamadevamuni spoke of Tiruppavai and Thiruvembavai, two devotional works in Tamil and said just like in Tamilnadu, they were sung in the month of Margazhi in Thailand.

Expressing his concern over the decline in number of Brahmins and Hindu rituals in the East Asian nation, Rajaguru Vamadevamuni said he had discussed the issue with the Sankaracharyas of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam and also mooted training younger generation of Brahmins in the State. He said he got a concrete assurance from the Kanchi seers in this regard.

On the relationship between Hindus and Buddhists-the predominant communities in Thailand, he said that despite being a Buddhist nation, the relationship between them could not be better and assured the gathering that he would do his best to foster cultural links between Thailand and India. The Rajaguru also said he was planning to organise a seminar in this connection soon.

Delivering his benedictory address, Swami Dayananda Saraswathi spoke on the need of a guru to the ruler of a country to advise him on the rights and wrongs. A guru must be a dispassionate person and should not be a ' aye man ' , he said.

It is a difficult task to advise a ruler on the proper course of action and clear doubts in a critical situation and towards this end one must have an acharya, he reasoned.

Swami Dayananda Saraswathi presented the citation and a Gayatri lamp to the Brahmin Temple at Bangkok to the Rajaguru.

Sri Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal read out a few passages from the speech of Sri Chandrasekharendra Swamigal at the fourth Akhila Bharata Sarvaskha Veda Sammelanam at Vijayawada which the then Rajaguru attended and spoke elaborately on the age-old links between the two nations.

Thambiran Swamigal from Tiruvavaduthurai Adheenam gave away prasadam to the Rajaguru on behalf of the head of the Adheenam.

Chamanlal, a senior RSS activist and in-charge of the international activities of the sangh, who specially flew to Chennai from New Delhi as the representative of the Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, presented a bouquet and a silver bowl to the Rajaguru.

Dr Chirapat Prapandvidya, director, Sanskrit Studies Centre, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, spoke on the cultural links between Tamilnadu and Thailand.

Cho S Ramaswamy, editor, Thuglak and Rajya Sabha MP and S Gurumurthy, Chartered Accountant and columnist, offered felicitations.

Dr Padma Subrahmanyam, vice-president, Hindu Dharma Rakshana Samiti, welcomed the gathering and A N Srinivasa Rao, president, Dharma Paripalana Sabha, proposed a vote of thanks.

Ramayana from a Thai perspective

What do other countries call Ramakian?

India - Ramayana
Cambodia - Ramaker
Laos - Phra Lak Phra Ram
Malaysia - Wyang Kulit
Indonesia - Wayuang Kulit and the Wayang Purwa

Ramakian Themes

The universal themes and ideals in the Indian Ramayana have long appealed to the diverse cultures of Asia and Southeast Asia. The story has, however, been interpreted differently depending on the culture, politics and religions of each country.

The epic themes and ideals of righteous behavior, loyalty to family and kingdom, the balancing of good and evil, self-sacrifice for the betterment of society, morality, role of family and relationships provide a global appeal, but also an opportunity for expression of local cultural identity.

The Ramakian - An Epic Tale

King Dasaratha of Ayodhya chooses his son Rama as his heir. His wife Kaikeyi asks that he appoint another son, Bharata, instead. Kaikeyi feels misfortune will come upon her if he doesn't crown Bharata king and send Rama away from the palace. The king reluctantly agrees, so Rama goes with his beautiful wife, Sita, and his brother Laksmana, leaving their riches to live a simple life.

In the forest the three meet the demoness Surpanakha who falls in love with Rama. Rama refuses her advances and Laksmana wounds her. She flees to her brother Ravana, ruler of the island kingdom of Lanka. After hearing Surpanakha's report of the beauty of Sita, Ravana decides that he must have her and changes himself into a wandering holy man to find her in the forest. When Rama and Laksmana are distracted, Ravana carries Sita off to Lanka.

Rama and Laksmana ask Hanuman, the monkey king, to help them find her. Hanuman, able to make himself larger or smaller, takes a giant step (or flight) to the island of Lanka. Carrying Rama's ring he finds Sita and identifies himself as Rama's messenger. Sita is delighted, but Hanuman is caught and Ravana sets Hanuman's tail on fire. Hanuman escapes and sets fire to Lanka. Sita is rescued by the hero monkey king and returned to King Rama.

Hanuman Around The World

In Thailand, Hanuman is known as the leader of the great monkey army of King Phra Ram. In China, he is known as Shun Wu Kong, the Wind Monkey. In India, paintings of him standing respectfully before Rama, Laksmana and Sita, tell the whole story of the Ramakian. He is portrayed as wise, faithful, heroic and indeed saintly. Most Hindus pray to Hanuman to achieve something that they want like passing an exam or getting a job. In South-east Asia, he represents the free aspects of life. Many people are attracted to his great courage and, in some cases, his sex appeal but in general he is not given the godly status that he has in India.

Hanuman Character

Sage Valmiki who wrote the Ramakian, provides a detailed description: Hanuman swells his body, shakes his body hair, roars loudly, whirls his tail, contracts his waist, and just before leaping off the mountain, sinks down, draws in his arms and neck, flattens his ears, and fills himself with concentrated power and energy focused on the lower part of his body. He scans the sky in order to see a clear path for himself, arrests the vital air in his heart, and leaps. He is the son of Vayu, God of the wind, and Punjikasthala, a goddess who had powers that allowed her to change form. One day while disguised as a beautiful human woman Vayu saw her and fell in love. She resisted his advances until he promised that their child would be as brave, intelligent and swift as himself.

Hanuman grew up in his mother's care and saw very little of his powerful father. As a young boy he was taught by Surya, the Sun God, who took the young Hanuman around the universe as he performed his own duties. Hanuman learned quickly and was a good student who developed many fine qualities.

Later in life, when Hanuman faced great foes in battle, he remained always a gentleman, respectful of the codes of warfare. For example, in the final battle with Ravana, Hanuman was struck. He retaliated with a blow of his own. Ravana withstood the blow but felt the impact so much that he said to Hanuman "You are a worthy enemy." Hanuman replied, "I do not care for your compliments. I'm ashamed that after my blow you're still alive." Ravana struck a second time, rendering Hanuman unconscious and then attacked Nila, another monkey warrior. Hanuman regained consciousness but did not interfere, as it was proper in Vedic warrior code to not interrupt someone else's battle. As well as being a perfect gentleman-warrior he is sensitive and kind - it is these qualities that make him such a memorable character.

Vietnam and Vedas

Tho Minh, Rig-Veda; Tu Minh,Yajur-Veda; Binh Minh, Sama-Veda; Thuat Minh, Artharva-Veda.
http://www.buddhismtoday.com/thamkhao/tunguphathocVietAnh/vanT2.htm

INFLUENCE OF INDIAN RELIGION ON NINH THUAN CHAM BA LA MON CULTURE
by Phan Quoc Anh
(Extracted from the magazine “Ninh Thuan culture and art” No. 9 / 2001 signed 0866 -8655)

Vedic China

Excerpt from "The Rig Vedic Culture and the Indus Civilization":

China is one of the oldest countries in the world. During the period of Bharata War (Kuruksetra), Vagadatta of Pragyotispur joined the Kurus and we find that the Chinese people sided with Vagadatta, the king of Pragyotispur. It is also found that Vagadatta was present in Yudhisthira's court with many Kirat, Chin, and other soldiers. The connection between China and India was of a very ancient standing and we find in Todd's Rajasthan that the genealogists of China and Tartary declare themselves to be the descendants of Ayu, son of the Hindu king Pururava. The Chinese tell of a tradition in "Schuking" in which it is stated that the ancestors of the Chinese people came to China after crossing the high mountain ranges to the South.

Book "Indian origin of the Chinese Origin" pt I & II (pages 700) tries to prove that the original Chin race of India dwelling in Kashmir and several parts of South India colonized Shensi, a province of Central China and subsequently subjugated all other petty kingdoms and thus became the emperors of perhaps the one of the largest empire of the world. The name China and the Chinese were after the Chins of India and hence the scholars are unanimous about the Indian origin of the name of China. So the India did not only name a great country but also created the Chinese nation.

But, scholars both in and outside India who have got so much caught up with the idea that India was ever to be conquered by foreign powers and colonized, may be constrained to accept the fact that a great Indian race built up a great nation like China.

Monkey King - Prime Candidate for 2008 Olympics Mascot

Is the monkey an appropriate 2008 Olympic mascot? No one will know for sure until next year. Now that the Chinese Seal has been officially designated as the 2008 Olympics emblem, the games' mascot has taken over as hot topic. Animal images like the panda, dragon, lion, tiger, Tibetan antelope and rabbit are also under consideration, but monkeyking2008.com, a website promoting the Monkey King as 2008 Olympics mascot, reports that 89 percent of its visitors want the Monkey. Results of a survey conducted by China's largest portal site, Sina.com, also indicate the Monkey King as hot favorite for mascot.

The Adventures of the Monkey King (Chinese Hanuman)

Chinese children grow up with stories of Monkey King Sun Wukong, and his image is everywhere in Chinese drama. He is the protagonist of Journey to the West, one of the four famous Chinese classic novels. The book describes the adventures of Tang monk Tripitaka and his three disciples on their mission to the Western Heavens to find and bring back Buddhist scriptures. The character Tripitaka was based on the real monk Xuanzang who traveled to India in 629 to bring back to the Chinese people the essence of Buddhism. The trip took him 17 years, and when he finally returned to Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), he brought with him over 600 volumes of Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures.

Wu Cheng'en (1510-1582) of the Ming Dynasty was author of the 100- chapter novel based on the Tang Monk Xuanzang's journey. He imbued it with the colorful, fantastic adventures of Sun Wukong, a monkey that springs into existence out of one stray stone of many earmarked by Goddess Nuwa to patch a hole in the heavens. Born from a stone that is the essence of Heaven and Earth rather than of a mother and father, Sun Wukong is unbound by the fetters of temporal human relationships. Neither impressed not intimidated by order, ritual or hierarchy, he causes havoc in Heaven, the Dragon King's Palace, and Hell. His refusal to collude with evil forces makes him a hero and embodiment of righteousness in the eyes of the Chinese people.

Sun Wukong's punishment for causing havoc in Heaven is imprisonment under a mountain where he remains for 500 years. He is liberated in return for guaranteeing Tripitaka's safe passage to the West. From this point onwards the book is an account of Sun Wukong's conquest of all manner of ghosts and demons along the way to the Western Heavens.

Sun Wukong symbolizes the worldly desire for the ideal human life that is free from constraint. He is eventually brought to heel and contained within the power of Buddhism. This indicates the true human condition wherein the desire for personal freedom and dignity is always curbed by the confines of reality.

Monkey King International

In 1983 Chinese Central TV screened a serialization of Journey to the West, and the Monkey King's massive body of admirers swelled to include overseas devotees. He can now be seen greeting visitors to Disney World at various locations alongside Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

The NBC version of Journey to the West - The Lost Empire - is a 4- hour-long, two-part high-tech "virtual" TV drama that combines elements of Chinese and Western culture. The American Hallmark TV channel also produced a play, called simply Monkey King. Making Havoc in Heaven was the first and remains the most successful animated Monkey King feature film. Steven Spielberg's dream factory has declared its intention to produce the Monkey King story with a slight variation. Their version takes place in Tang Dynasty China, where Sun Wukong is a monkey slave at a university. Sanzang, a teacher at the university, takes Sun Wukong along with him to India. After setting sail, they lose their way on the high seas and finally land on the American continent. It is they that first bring corn kernels to the American Indians.

Monkey King's Sporting Spirit

"Sun Wukong has strong associations with sportsmanship," says accomplished Chinese writer Zhao Benfu. "This stems from his superlative acrobatic skills, intractable personality, and cognizance of fundamental rules. His journey to the Western Heavens represents the ultimate challenge, which is why all sportsmen admire his spirit. The Olympics celebrate the dynamism of life explicit in the image of Sun Wukong."

Zhao speaks for the many who see Sun Wukong as epitomizing the essence of the Olympic motto: "Swifter, higher, stronger." One somersault takes him a distance of 9,000 kilometers; he can jump on top of a cloud in an instant, and in the face of powerful demons is always resourceful enough to confound his enemies.

China has about 120 million people who were born in the Year of the Monkey, and millions of other people whose surname is Sun. They are all unconditional supporters of Sun Wukong as the candidate for the Beijing 2008 Olympic mascot.

The Monkey King Hometown

Author Wu Cheng'en was born in Huai'an, near what is now the Lianyungang Nature Reserve in the Yuntai Mountains on China's east coast. Wu was a frequent visitor to the Yuntai Range, most frequently to Mount Huaguo, and Sun Wukong is one of the few mythological figures whose place of origin is clearly identified. In Journey to the West his home is actually named as Mount Huaguo. It was here that Wu Cheng'en combined knowledge gathered from historic materials on Monk Xuanzang's journey to India and his fertile imagination to create his masterpiece.

On Huaguo can be seen recognizable images and spots as described in the novel. One is an eight-meter-tall rock resembling a monkey standing on a hill at the north gate, another is reminiscent of the Tang Monk in his cassock, near which is a Pigsy-like rock. Most striking is the Water Curtain Cave, home of Monkey King, whose entrance is a cascade of spring water forming a crystal curtain. Inside the cave is a constant spring that the locals say Sun Wukong traveled through to the Crystal Palace of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea.

The municipal government of Lianyungang is proudly promoting Sun Wukong as the 2008 Olympic mascot, and also taking this opportunity to make its tourism resources, which apart from sites related to Monkey King also include China's earliest rock carvings and a well- preserved 2,000-year-old corpse, known to the world.

Koreans Search for Roots in Ayodhya

Source: Vinay Krishna Rastogi, Lucknow

AYODHYA: A high-power delegation from South Korea visited Ayodhya to revive two millennia-old ties with the temple town. The South Koreans discovered that a Princess of Ayodhya was married to Korean King Suro in the first century CE. Suro was the King of Kimhay kingdom or the present Korea. The Princess was married to the Korean King at the age of 16. The Koreans believe that the Princess was the mother of the descendants who unified various Korean kingdoms in the 7th century CE. Since the first century CE her descendants prospered and became the largest clan in Korea, known as the Karak, whose members had been highly distinguished people. The present President of South Korea Kim Dae-Jung believes that he is also a descendant of the Great Princess of Ayodhya. She is regarded as the most blessed queen of Korea in the last 2,000 years, and Koreans believe that this could be due to the religious significance of the great temple city of Ayodhya where Lord Rama was born. The Counsel General of Korea said "I hope historians will be able to learn more about this great ancient Hindu city." He urged the ex-Raja of Ayodhya BPN Misra to strengthen the cultural ties between Ayodhya and South Korea.

Vedik China & Japan & Korea: A Link Between Hindu Gods and Japan

Source: Japan Times Newspaper

TOKYO, JAPAN, April 10, 2002: An exhibition called "Gods Derived From India to Japan" is showing at the Okura Shukokan Museum of Fine Arts until May 26. The story behind the showing is a fascinating one. It all started 51 years ago when Toshio Yamanouchi's job took him to India as general manager for an iron importer company. His passion for religious art took him all across the country and in twenty-five years he built up his collection. In northern Uttar Pradesh he discovered a miniature painting of "Govardhana Krishna." In Madhya Pradesh he purchased a 18th century three-headed Ganesha made of ivory. A sandalwood Saraswati was found in the NW state of Rajasthan. Yamanouchi's entire collection, which he has donated to the Okura Shukokan Museum of Fine Arts, consists of 350 statues, sculptures, reliefs and paintings. Seventy of these pieces are part of the present exhibition. Indian law would now prohibit the export of any historical object more than 100 years old. This law was passed in the early 70's. However, by this time, the collection had already been brought back to Japan. Diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 73, Yamanouchi chose to utilize what he thought might be his final years to write three books about how India and Japan are bound by their roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. The article says, "Yamanouchi identifies Benzaiten, the Japanese goddess of good fortune, with Saraswati; Seiten of the Jogan Period with Ganesha; and Emma, the Japanese lord of hell, with his Indian counterpart Yama."

Interestingly, Yamanouchi was fascinated with the Hindu gods that he saw during weekly visits to Buddhist temples when he was a young boy. He recalls, "My parents were very religious. I saw many Buddhas at the temples, but I also noticed many Indian gods protecting the central Buddha figure."

Courtesy of http://www.HinduismToday.com/

Japan's basic religion is Shintoism. Some claim that the word Shintoism is just a mispronunciation of Sindhuism or Hinduism. The Shinto shrines are full of Vedic deities but it is difficult for the outsiders to recognise them because of their japanised names. Kali-devi is pronounced as Kariteimo. Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated in Japan in the same way as in India but they call Sri Hanuman as Hanumatsri. The mantras recited in the Shinto shrines are in Sanskrit. The sumo wrestlers start their fight after uttering the word Om. Japanese pay homage to Lord Ganesh but call him Kangiten. Some time ago the Japanese postal department issued a stamp depicting Lord Krishna playing the flute. The Japanese cremate their dead as per Vedic practice. Elaborate chants beginning with Om consecrate the memory of the dead.

So, Vedic influence is quite strong in the Japanese culture, but Japanese tend to impart their own slant (no pun intended) to every thing which they borrow from outside.

Did the Chinese and Japanese once read the Mahabharata?

Amazing similarities of the story of King Sibi are mentioned in the Mahabharata, Chinese folklore and Japanese folklore. Here are the three versions. They seem to have the same source.

Mahabharata:

King Sibi was the son of Usinara and belonged to the Iksvaku lineage. Once King Sibi decided to conduct a grand yagya. All those who came to the yagya had all their wishes fulfilled. King Sibi would not turn down any request. Even the gods were speaking of this great sacrifice conducted by Sibi. The King of the gods Indra and Agni decided to test Sibi's worth. So Indra took the shape of a falcon and Agni the shape of a dove and flew towards the sacrifice, with the falcon chasing the dove.

The dove flew towards King Sibi and sat on his lap trembling in fear. The sight of the dove brought compassion to the heart of King Sibi and so he assumed a protective stance. The falcon suddenly spoke in a human voice, 'O king, your fame is well known throughout the three worlds for your adherence to dharma. It is my dharma to kill and provide food for my family and myself. Why do you obstruct me from performing dharma despite having such a reputation for clinging on to dharma?'

The King was startled on hearing this. But he thought for a while and replied, 'It is also my dharma to protect anyone who is weaker than me and seeks my protection. This dove has chosen refuge under me, so it is my duty to protect it with my life.' But the falcon replied, 'But King Sibi, is it also not your duty to maintain dharma in your kingdom? If you insist on protecting that bird, then you must give me some other food, without causing suffering.' King Sibi replied, 'Ok, I will cut a piece of flesh from my own thigh equal to the weight of the dove as food for you.'

King Sibi began to cut a piece of flesh from his own thigh, but to his amazement the bird seemed to be much heavier than anticipated. He cut more and more flesh, but to no avail. His left side of the body had so little flesh he almost fell of balance. But struggling back to the ground he then climbed on the scale and offered himself as a sacrifice in order to uphold dharma. Immediately the dove and falcon assumed their true shape and gave Sibi Rana his body back with even more luster than before.

Chinese Version:

There are two versions. One version is ditto the same. Only the pronunciations are different. For ex. Sibi is pronounced as Shibi (strong emphasis on the h), etc. The other version is from the Jatakamala. In this story Indra dressed as a blind person approaches King Sibi requesting an eye-sight. King Sibi pierces his own eyes and gives them to the blind man asking him to use it to retain his eye-sight.

Japanese Version:

King Sibi is believed to be a previous incarnation of Sakyamuni Buddha. In this story a heavenly being named Bishamon (Kuvera) approaches the god Taishaku (Indra) and tells him, 'There is a great Bodhisattva named King Sibi. Soon he will become a Buddha.' On hearing this Taishaku decides to test the sincerity of the King's practice in pursuing enlightenment. He transforms himself into a hawk and instructs Bishamon to take on the appearance of a dove.

Chased after by the hawk, the dove escapes and flies into the arms of King Sibi. Perched on the branch of a tree, the hawk says to the King, "Please let me have the dove back. It is what I have been trying to get." King Sibi replies, "No, I can't because I have vowed to protect all living things. I cannot return it to you."

The hawk then points out, "I am one of the living things that you have vowed to save. If you take away my food for today, I will be unable to live tomorrow."

The King then offers to cut off a piece of his own flesh and gave it to the hawk. As the King proceeded to cut his own flesh, the hawk measures it using a balance and found the dove to be consistently heavier than the muscle of the King. No matter how much muscle was added, the weight was lighter than the total weight of the dove. Finally, the King cuts all the flesh off of his body.

The King tries desperately to put his entire body on the balance, but falls to the ground. He then exclaims, "I once made a pledge to save all living beings! I cannot let such minor sufferings defeat me!"

At last he successfully climbs onto the balance. Watching the entire scene, all the heavenly beings praise the King saying, "He did not begrudge his life, even for a bird. He is a person who best suits the title of Bodhisattva."

Suddenly, Taishaku casts off his disguised figure as a hawk and regains his original appearance. He says to the King, "Don't you have any pain or regret?" The King replies, "I have no regrets whatsoever. My heart is rather full of joy."

No sooner did the King utter these words than did his body change back into what it used to be.

The influence of Indian thought and culture on Japan was very great

Moritz Winternitz, while reviewing Geschichte der Japanischen Literature, says:

"In view of so much Indian influence in Japanese literature, it is possible to assume that the 'Keuyogen' or double meaning of Japanese poetry may in any way be connected with that form of Alankara of the Indian Kavya, which is exactly in the same method."

The distinguished Japanese scholar, Mr. J. Taka Kusu, says: "But I should like to emphasize the fact that the influence of India, material and intellectual, must have been much greater in an earlier period than we at present consider to have been the case. There were, for instance, several Indians, whom the Kuroshiwo current, washing almost the whole southern coast, brought to the Japanese shore." He further says, "It cannot be denied that several Indians came to Japan, especially in view of so many Indians finding their way to China by sea."

He then relates how a Brahmin Bodhisen Bharadvaja, known generally as the "Brahmin Bishop" came with another priest from India via Champa (Cochin China) to Osaka, then to Nara, where they met another Indian ascetic and taught Sanskrit to the Japanese. "His monastery and tombstone, with a written eulogy, still exist in Nara. Just at the time a Japanese alphabet or syllables is said to have been invented. The fifty syllables, Gojuin, are arranged by a hand, evidently with a practical knowledge of Sanskrit method."

(source: Journal of Royal Asiatic Society for 1905, p. 872-873).

The official record of Japan, Nihongi and Ruijukokushi describe how cotton was introduced in Japan by two Indians who reached Japan in July 799 and April 800 A.D.

(For more refer to Dr. Taka Kusu's "What Japan owes to India" in the Journal of the Indo-Japanese Association for January, 1910).

It is noteworthy that some of the scriptures of the Japanese priests preserved in the Horyuji Temple of Japan are written in Bengali characters of the eleventh century.

(source: Daito Shimaji's "India and Japan in Ancient Times," in the Journal of Indo-Japanese Association for January 1910).

Common Terms: Sanskrit - Chinese - Japanese

Acharya (master) - Achali - Ajari
Dharma (law) - Fa - Ho
Pratima (warrior techniques of the Hindu ksatriyas) - Hsing - Kata
Sunyatapani - Tang-Shou - Karate/To De
Dharmahasta - Chuan-Fa - Kempo
Marga (the Way) - Tao - Do
Guhya-Sutra - Mi-Ching - Mikkyo
Nagarjuna - Lung Shu - Ryuju/Ryusho/Ryumyo
Mudra (ritual gesture) - Yin - In
Mandala (a special zone or area) - Mantolo - Mandara
Vajramukti - Ching Kang/Chieh T'o - Kongogedastsu
Sangha (congregation or group of followers) - Seng - So
Narya (strong or manly) - Na-Li/Nara - Naha
Nata - Na-Pa/Na-Ra - Nara/Napa/Nafa
Yoga (to yoke) - Yui Cha - Yu Ga

The Vedic Gods of Japan

By Subhash Kak

The Western philological approach to the Vedas has misguided generations of scholars and laypersons into a simplistic view of Indian culture. It sees Hinduism and Buddhism in dichotomous terms that appear absurd to those within the tradition. The Buddha himself affirmed on the basis of his own direct experience the existence of the various elements of the Vedic world view, including the existence of many hells, heavens, and various supernatural beings like devas, asuras (demons), and rakshasas. The Buddha claimed to have seen these realms and beings with his divine sight, and he also claimed to have observed how sentient beings cycle through these diverse forms of existence in the interminable process of transmigration. The Buddha, therefore, took for granted the Vedic cosmic geography wherein all these natural and supernatural beings lived. It is no wonder then that the anthology Subhasitaratnakosha of Vidyakara (c. 1100), a Buddhist abbot at the monastery of Jagaddala in present-day Bangladesh,2 has 20 verses to the Buddha, but 73 to Siva, and 40 to Visnu.

The philologists and the anthropologists wonder what Siva and Visnu are doing in a book by a Buddhist. Neither can they explain how the Vedic devas continue to be a part of the Mahayana pantheon. Their texts absurdly describe the Vedic devas of Japan and China as Buddhist since according to legend they became followers of the Buddha when he started preaching. The Buddha in the Mahayana tradition is the principle of Understanding, who fits in perfectly within the Vedic conception, and we see this most emphatically in the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma Pundarika Sutra).

Living in an isolated valley, Kashmiris have maintained many old customs, although their recent tragic history has been responsible for much loss of the meaning of their ceremonies. For example, we were told of six psychological states of the existence, where the lowest three states represented (1) ideas of evil people, (2) ghosts of unfulfilled desires, and (3) our animal nature. The highest three states are (4) asuras, who take the bodies to be all that we are; (5) humans; and (6) devas, who embody the essence of the various tattvas (or their combinations) that constitutes the world of the mind. There were ceremonies in which the yakshas were invoked. We didn't quite understand these ceremonies although we were reminded of their connection to architecture and directions by their appearance in the ruins at Avantipur and Martanda. The Vedic devas went to China and Japan through Kashmir. The fourth great council was held there under the patronage of the Kushana emperor Kanishka (r. 78-120) in around 100 CE, where monks of the Sarvastivadin School compiled a new canon. This became the basis of Mahayana. The Vedic devas were a part of this understanding, as was dhyana of the Vedic tradition (Ch'an in China and Zen in Japan) with devotion to Isvara (Siva) as its ultimate objective (Yogasutra 1.23). The Parihasapura monuments (near Srinagar) of the Cankuna stupa (Karkota dynasty, 8th century) "served as a model all across Asia from the Pamir Mountains to Japan".3 The Kashmiri images of the Vedic devas were also much copied. The art historian Susan Huntington reminds us: "The Yunkang caves in China, the wall paintings from several sites in Inner Asia, especially Qizil and Tun-huang, the paintings from the cache at Tun-huang, and some iconographic manuscripts from Japan, for example, should be evaluated with Kashmir in mind as a possible source."4

Vedic ideas were also taken to Japan by the sea route from South India and Southeast Asia. That serves to explain the specific transformations of some Sanskrit terms into Japanese through Tamil phonology. For example, consider the transformation of Sanskrit homa, the Vedic fire rite, into Japanese goma, where the initiation is given by the achari (Sanskrit acarya). The Sanskrit mantras in Japan are written the Siddham script of South India.

In this article I present the main Vedic gods that are popular in present-day Japan. I begin with the Vedic fire and consecration ceremonies and then describe the gods of the directions and a few goddesses.

Goma-Homa

Homa, Vedic fire rite, remains central to religion in Japan. It consists of mantra, mudra, and mandala. In the Vedic fire-ritual manuals some instructions regarding mudra are given. For example, the ladles are to be held in the ankha-mudra, and when the priest enters the chamber, he is to put his right palm downward on his left palm at right angles and close the hands. The fire-ritual is the quintessential Vedic ritual, emphasizing the process of transformation.6 The artistic parallels of this ritual is presented most clearly by Kapila Vatsyayan.7

Abhisheka

Another Vedic rite that is widely practiced is abhisheka (consecration). The initiates are given a potion to drink before they enter the room. Inside, the initiate places the right foot on an elephant, which represents Ganesha or Vinayaka (Kangitan in Japanese) as he is the remover of obstacles. Next, the initiates rub powdered incense on their hands, and dab it on their foreheads and also on their tongues, and then swallow the potion.

Now the candidate enters the first room, where the samaya vow (sammaya-kai) - the vow of secrecy - is administered. They hear hymns being chanted as they are given instructions as to the meaning of the rite by the priest. Another image of Ganesha is seen surrounded by offerings. Two mandalas are used in the ceremonies:8 the garbhadhatu (womb mandala) and the vajradhatu (diamond mandala). The candidates are first initiated into the garbhadhatu; the following day they are initiated into the vajradhatu. The candidates are each blindfolded with a strip, white for the womb mandala, red for the vajra mandala. A folded paper flower, white or red depending on the mandala, is put between their joined hands, with their fingers slightly crossed at the end, and then they are led in front of the mandala in a central room.

The candidate goes through a landscape-screened labyrinth of the oblong buildings (corresponding to the Vedic goddess temple), to its center, the womb, (the garbhagrha section of the Indian temple), where the mandala is located. The squares of the mandala corresponding to the deities are left blank, with white circles. A homa fire is burning in the chamber.

The candidate now is given a flower to throw at the mandala. The circle on which it lands becomes the candidate's tutelary deity for life, and this is whispered into his ear by the master. Now the blindfold is taken off and the candidate is taken to a side table. A crown is placed on his head, showing his initiation. Water from a well has been drawn in advance with special mantras to make it symbolic of the five oceans. Now the master pours five drops of it on the crown of the candidate and consecrates him as a monarch, chakravartin, of dharma. Next the master takes a bronze needle (alk in Sanskrit) and applies it to his eye, saying "the scales of ignorance have fallen from your eyes; your eyes are open." Then he takes a bronze mirror and holds it up to the newly initiated master (no longer a candidate), for him to see his face.

http://www.ece.lsu.edu/kak/VedicJapan.pdf

Japanese Ganesha (Kangi-ten)

This Hindu deity, sometimes a demon, is mainly venerated in Japan and sometimes found in syncretic forms. He is certainly one of the most difficult to grasp of the gods of the Buddhist pantheon: few writings are devoted to him, and the monks never discuss him openly. He represents the Hindu god Ganesa, the elephant-headed son of Siva. He is thought to be the son of Siva and Avalokitesvara in a form identical to that of Uma, spouse of Siva. A dispenser of wealth, he is supposed to have formidable power. He is invoked as the protector of the state and of private individuals. Both masculine and feminine, malevolent and benevolent, he is represented by two tightly interlaced bodies (Siva and Avalokitesvara, in the form of Juichimen Kannon, 'Kannon with eleven heads'). According to the Tantric sects, the masculine portion is merely a metamorphosis of Vairocana, and the couple represents the intimate union of the faithful with the Buddha, the principle of all things. In Chinese philosophy, the two bodies symbolize the perfect union of the Heaven and the Earth or the Confucian principles of the Li and the Ji. This secret deity, introduced into Japan by the Shingon sect, was subsequently used for Tantric purposes by the Tendai sect, among others. His image is never shown to lay people. Special rites, including immersions of the statue in oil, are attached to him. In the Japanese esoteric sects, his dual nature symbolizes the intimate union of the two great mandalas of the Shingon sect (Ryobu Mandara).

The atmosphere of secrecy surrounding these images, and, in general, everything associated with the god, explains why, in the Buddhist pantheon, he is one of the very rare deities who inspires fear in the Japanese. Kangi-ten is represented by effigies, generally small; these are usually of metal (due to immersions in oil), but wood is not excluded. His image is sometimes found at the centre of the rings of the stave of a pilgrim (khakkara), in the place of the small stupa usually found there: this indicates that the pilgrim belongs to a Tantric sect. Kangi-ten may represent a fairly large number of forms that can be classed under two main headings: esoteric and exoteric forms.

Esoteric forms: Kangi-ten has a dual nature, especially in Tantrism. He is therefore represented by two human figures with the heads of elephants, face to face and tightly interlaced. Their sexual organs are occasionally apparent and joined (as is the case in this particular sculpture). They wear a cloth thrown over the shoulders, and their hips are also covered. The feminine element wears a simple crown (or tiara), jewels and bracelets, and her feet step on those of her partner. This feminine body is supposed to be a metamorphosis assumed by Avalokitesvara to contain the fearful energy of Vinayaka (Ganesha) and to make it beneficial. Her right tusk is broken. Both bodies are white. At least three forms are known:

1. Heads cheek to cheek and looking in the same direction, trunks intertwined.

2. Heads resting on the right shoulder of the complementary deity, and looking in opposite directions. This form is of the sculpture in question.

3. The male with an elephant's head, and the female with that of a wild sow (very rare and secret).

These forms are worshiped secretly because they are supposed to possess terrifying power. They are carefully sheltered from view in small portable sanctuaries (Japanese - zushi) in the temples of the esoteric sects.

Exoteric forms: These forms usually consist of a single male figure, without a female counterpart. They are less secret and are usually venerated by individuals who attribute great power to them. They may assume several forms:

1. A single human figure with an elephant's head (Ganapati). He is seated, with two arms, and holds various ornaments: in the right hand a Japanese radish (daikon), in the left a ball of thread, a parasol, a bow and arrows, a rosary and a sword.

2. With four arms and four legs (sometimes Tantric). In his right hands he holds an axe, a ball of thread (sometimes on a tray) or a rope and a trident. In his left hands he holds an elephant's tusk or a stick, or an axe and a single-pointed vajra.

3. With six arms. His head is turned to the left, the trunk raised, the right tusk broken, the body orange or red. In his right hands he holds a stick, a rope, an elephant's tusk (or a needle). In his left hands he holds a sword, a tray of fruit (or a ball of thread) and a cakra.

4. Standing on a rock, with four arms. In his right hands he carries an axe and a ball of thread, and in his left hands a rope and a knife.

5. Standing on a rock, with six arms. His right hands hold a five-pointed vajra, a rope and a sceptre or a stick. His left hands hold a sword with the hilt ornamented with a five-pointed vajra, a ball of thread and a cakra.

These forms are far from being the only ones, because not all of them are known, and the significance of their attributes is also unknown. Kangi-ten is specially venerated in the Matsuchiyama sanctuary at Asakusa, Tokyo, and in the Ikoma sanctuary in Nara.

He does not appear to have been the object of a special cult in Tibet; in fact, his image is found only in the form of Ganesa, as a demon, holding a flower, a rat or a skull cap, under the feet of one of the forms of Mahakala. His cult does not appear to be attested in China, although it is almost certain that this complex deity was venerated secretly in the temples of the esoteric sects. Not even a single image of him from China is, however, known to exist.

Copyright 2000, ExoticIndiaArt

Indian music, Japanese artist

By K. Kannan

The superior aesthetics of traditional music from the land of the rising sun came alive at the Japanese Embassy premises in New Delhi on Wednesday evening with solo performances on Tsugaru-Shamisen and Shakuhachi, both instruments of yore that owe their origin to India.

Coming as it did with the fusion of Indian ragas on Sitar played by famous Japanese musician Kenji Inoue, who has performed in India and Japan since 1987, the audience were treated to an auditory feast for more than an hour. With Ambika Prasad Mishra playing the Tabla and Hiroki Miyano the Guitar, it was, indeed, a memorable evening.

The structure of the concert, dubbed "Foojean", reflected predominantly the deep contours of classical music from Northern India. Derived from two Japanese words, Foojean is the fusion of fushin (a guardian deity in Buddhism) and idenshi (meaning gene). It is believed that fushin in Buddhism is Hanuman's father Vayu. "Even today the strong influence of Indian music can be felt in Japanese traditional music suggesting that it was originally transmitted from India," says Mr. Hiroshi Hirobayashi, the Japanese Ambassador to India.

Consider other well-known facts. Veena (vina) came to Japan from China in the 7th century and came to be known as "Biwa" thanks to an orchestra group "Gagaku". Veena's characteristic sound "Juwari" is still alive with Biwa as "Sawari". Another representative Japanese instrument "Shamisen" (literally meaning three strings) also has the sound "Sawari" and is one of the most widely played instruments at Japanese concerts.

And, of course, there is the Japanese instrument "Shakuhachi", earlier considered to be a unique bamboo-whistle, which resembles the Indian "Bansuri". Its enchanting and sometimes haunting sound is a pleasure to hear. Indeed, it goes to Mr. Inoue's credit that he has been able to combine traditional and modern elements of Japanese music on the one hand and Indian numbers, on the other as the concert proved in no ample measure.

Reflecting the expression of Kenji's creative urge in the field of music, the concert had him presenting musical numbers based exclusively on Indian ragas. Others composed on the scale of those Indian ragas present in Japanese traditional music were also included in the concert.

The evening's programme began with Bristy, a traditional Japanese number followed by "Shika-No-Tone", a solo number on Shakuhachi by Dozan Fujiwara. This was followed by "Jongarabushi-Kyokubiki" - a solo performance by Satoshiro Tsuboi on the Shamisen. Both these traditional instruments are played during Kabuki and Japanese dances.

It was then the turn of the leader of the sitar concert to present "Yemeni Baglamis". Kenji went on to play rag Malkauns - a classical Hindustani raga - along with Ambika Prasad Mishra on the tabla. The programme was rounded off with "Momoyama-Zakura" based on rag Bhairavi.

There were two enjoyable interludes, one in the form of Shakuhachi and guitar duet and the other a fusion of Shakuhachi and Shamisen. Top guitarist, Hiroki Miyano's performance had the audience savouring the essence of Latin and Jazz. Towards the end of the programme, Kenji, who has contributed his music and dance compositions to many other programmes and films, expressed his gratitude to the organisers in Hindi - "Bahut shukriya, Bahut Dhanyavad".


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