Showing posts with label exploring religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label exploring religion. Show all posts

Sunday, March 2, 2014

En no Gyōja

En no Gyōja 1
The legendary founder of the Japanese religion, Shugendo when translated means `path of training to achieve spiritual powers’, which is an important Kami Buddha combination sect that blends pre Buddhist mountain worship known as Kannabi Shinko. Their practitioners are known by various names such as Shugenja, Shugyosha, Keza and Yamabushi and these terms are translated into English as ascetic monk or mountain priest.

As a rule, this sect emphasizes on physical endurance as a path to enlightenment where the practitioners perform fasting, seclusion meditation, recite sutras, magical spells and also engage themselves in feats of endurance like standing or sitting under cold mountain waterfalls or in snow. The devotees also have a particular practice of setting up wood or stones markers leaving a trail of their mystical journey up the mountain.

They also need to follow a procedure on entering into any sacred mountain space, where each stage consists of a specific mudra, a hand gesture with religious meaning, mantra, a sacred verbal incantation and waka which is a classical Japanese poem. The honored sage of this sect is En no Gyoja who is also known as En no Ozunu, Ozuno, En no Shokaku and En no Ubasoku where Gyoja means ascetic and En no Gyoja means En the Ascetic.

En no Gyōja 3
Ubasoku according to the Japanese form of Sanskrit upasaka means an adult male lay practitioner or a devotee or a Buddhist layman who is recognized as a father of Shugendo. He is given the title of Shinben Dabosatu which means Miraculous Great Bodhisattva which was bestowed in 1799 to him by the Emperor Kokaku during his reign in 1771 – 1840. En no Gyoja was born in 634 and is honored as a mountain saint and a bodhisattva with several supernatural powers attributed to him. This holy man was a mountain ascetic during the 7th century and like most of the Shinto Buddhist syncretism, his legend is a puzzle with folklore.

As per the Nihon Ryoiki, En no Gyoja was born in Katsuragi Mountains of Nara Prefecture, hailing from the Kamo clan, the family of Kamo-no-E-no-Kimi and his clan had lived for many years in the mountainous regions for generation which was a verdant region with a variety of medicinal plants.

It is believed that he gained wide knowledge of these medicinal plants and also maintained a garden in that area but was forced to give it up in 675 AD during which he had gained a high reputation of a healer. After his father’s death, En no Gyoja prayed that his mother would be bestowed with another child since his intention was to depart to the mountains to pursue his practice and she subsequently gave birth to a son who was named Tsukiwakamaru and he returned to the Katsuragi Mountains at the age of 32 to continue with his ascetic practice. According to the legends, he practiced under the protection of the animals living in the mountains where he discovered valuables deposits of silver and mercury in these mountains.

As per Shugendo legends, in 699, he was wrongly accused by one of his jealous disciple, Karakuni no Muraji Hirotari for evil sorcery and was sent into exile to Itoshima island during the reign of Emperor Monmu. This angered him towards the god of Mt. Katsuragi also known as Hitokoto nushi no Kami and to punish the god he cast spells and confined the deity to the bottom of the valley. Hirokoto nushi in his turn showed his displeasure by possessing Hirotari who lodged a complaint in the capital which lead to him to his exile.

During his exile, it is believed that he changed into a mountain wizard and flew to the kingdom of Silla towards the Korean peninsula and met Dosho, a Japanese Bhuddhist monk. This monk had travelled to China in order to study Buddhism and founded Hosso secto of Nara Buddhism on his return. Though Gyoja’s great abilities remain unknown, he had made a peace treaty with Hiruzen Sarutobi during the Third Shinobi World War and had developed an unusual technique which was capable of destroying an entire village and the Third Hokage proclaimed a kinjutsu due to its power.

En no Gyōja 2
He had two students, one named Hato who was brilliant with remarkable skills in ninjutsu while the second was his very own granddaughter Hotaru. Gyoja blamed himself for the downfall of his clan and made it his duty to restore the clan back to glory but his advanced age hindered him. Before his death, seeing how much his dream meant to him, his granddaughter begged him to seal the kinjutsu in her so that she could continue with his dream.

Being skillful in fuinjutsu he devised a way to seal the clan’s kinjutsu in his granddaughter to safely remove it. Great reverence for En no Gyoja grew as mountain asceticism progressed and Shugendo religion took shape making him its founder. Moreover since he had visions of Zao Gongen deity, her belief also flourished along with veneration of Gyoja and he is linked to sacred mountains all over Japan.

According to some, the final years of Gyoja is a mixture of uncertainty which states that he did not die in 700 but returned to Mount Katsurag when he was pardoned in 701. Here, he captured Hitokoto nushi no Kami and tied him with arrowroot vine and locked him at the bottom of the valley and sometime later returned to the Japanese mountain where he attained Nirvana or probably crossed China.

Others presumed that he was released in 702 after which he either became immortal and flew away or migrated to China with his mother. It is reported that during his lifetime, he traveled widely and established Shugendo sanctuaries in various locations which included Omine mountain range, Mount Kinpusen, Mount Mino, lkoma mountains on the border of Osaka and Nara prefectures and Izu in Japan. Towards 1872, the Shugendu sect got banned as a superstitious belief and the sites became Shinto shrine, losing its heritage or branching off to either Tendai or Shingon Buddhism though Mount Haguro retained a small Buddhist presence and successfully maintained its Shugendo religion.

Friday, November 16, 2012

History Mystery: Angels Part.II


     Among the Talmudic age people, there were different opinions about the angels and their nature. Some of them thought every day new angels were created and they praise the god in the day and then at the end of the day they jump in to Nehar di Nur that is the river of fire. And some others added with that that Michael and Gabriel are the only two who serve the god permanently, hence we can come to the conclusion that the Talmudic age people discriminate the angels with respect to their duties assigned to them as eternal angels and the other angels.

       The Midarsh and the Talmud literature give a brief description about the angels and their creations. According to those literatures they angels were created by the God on the second and fifth day of their creation. They walk upright and they can fly, and they can reach the one end of the world form other end quickly and they can foretell predict the future and they can only speak Hebrew. They look like human but half fire and half water. Both demons and the angels have many things in common. The common belief is that no angel is assigned multiple tasks at a time that is each angle has to carry out a single assignment at a time and they also can make error as a human. There is much classification among angels, peace and evil angels, angels of life and death. Hence it is evident that there is segregation like lower and higher level of angels.

      Apart from already told arch angles Sandalfon Zaagzagael and Suriel are mentioned some places But the Midrash literatures gives much importance to the Metatron Angel. According to apocryphal literature every kingdom and their kings have their own guardian angels and they are chained to avoid doing harm to Israel. When the kings and their kingdoms fall the angels also fall and they also suffer punishment if the kings suffer punishments. Some of the details of guardian angels are there in Christian Neoplatonists also. Rabbis, the guardian angel otherwise mentioned as Dubiel, in Persia. The name of the guardian angel of Nebuchadnezzar was mentioned as Kal.



 The angels are fully depend o the God himself and they cannot act on their own. They have to proclaim the god’s sanctity and glory all day but they could not view the glory of the God himself and not even their dwelling place. The Aggadah the rabbinic literature differ from the above. According to it the god himself consulted the angels before creating the human and Michael and Gabriel played an important role in the marriage of Adam and Eve. Eve was made pregnant by the angel named Samael. During the Talmudic age traces of angel worship are not found. But the Christian writers have the different versions about that.

Friday, November 2, 2012

History Mystery: Angels


     In pre biblical texts angels are mentioned as independent with their own names and with uniqueness. In the early Jewish period the angels played dominant position in mythology than the pre biblical period. This was prevailed until the Hellenistic era of Jewish history with the unique doctrine of angels. Biblical writers mention the existence of angels which is superior to human with extraordinary powers but inferior than God and they served as Gods entourage and they conveyed God’s messages to Emperors and mankind. The terminology of the word Angel in old Hebrew Bible is not so exact. But it is mentioned as “angelos” in Greek bible which has the same meaning of Angel. Only when it was passed on to European language thro’ Latin Bible the word “Angel” got its exclusive meaning. In The post biblical scenario: the term Malakh was used in Hebrew to mention the messengers and representatives of god who have extraordinary and super natural powers. The bible also speaks of Angels with wings (Cherubim and Seraphim).


 

   In the second temple period they assumed that the great prophets had the privilege to communicate with the god and in later period people could be communicate with the god through angels. Hence the people tried to explore the nature and singularity of the angels. The apocalyptic wisdom literature assumed that the hidden secrets of the universe could be explored with the help of the angels. The Jews are very familiar with the Babylonian myths about the creation, the flood and the early human generation. Here worth mention Character is Enoch.
 
      Enoch is a first one created with the influence of the Babylonian myth. He was the creator and forerunner of the human culture and who conveyed the heavenly wisdom to the mankind. He was constantly in touch with the angels. Similar stories are with Noah and Abraham ascribing the awareness about the angels. This dogma of Angels was not evenly spread among the Jewish and the apocalyptic wisdom was kept secret and it was distributed among themselves by means of secret societies. The testament of Solomon in Greek mentions Solomon was acquainted with number of angels.

          The post biblical literature mentions so many angels. The one appear before Zechariah without name, Angel Gabriel in Book of Daniel, Uriel, Raguel, Raphael Michael. The arch angels, a group of seven angels are mentioned in Testament of Abraham. Uriel is the guardian angel of underworld, Raphael is the in charge of human spirit, Raguel is the angel for taking revenge on the world of lights, Angle for Israel is Michael, Gabriel in charge of heaven, Jeremiel guard the souls of underworld and the last one Sariel whose duties were not clearly mentioned. All these seven angels are in the close proximity of the God and call upon their duty. They are staying in four sides of the God’s throne. The angels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Phanuel are mentioned as the angels of presence in Enoch. They played an important part in punishing the fallen angels. The Hebrew Testament of Naphtali mentions the special group of 70 angles as ministering angels.

            The book of Enoch and The book of Jubilees mention about the Fallen Angels. According to the Book of Enoch the Fallen Angels, the sons of heaven lusted on the beautiful daughters of men in the world and they decided to land on Mt. Hermon to carry out their plan. They were headed by Shemhazai and take an oath (Herem) to fulfill their purpose and hence the mountain was called as Mt.Hermon. They were successful in their effort and gave birth to giants who were mercilessly destroyed men of the land. They taught them handling of the weapons there by promote the crime in the world which lead to the corruption among the mankind. The men in the world out cry for the help and the arch angels conveyed their plea to the god and God permitted the arch angels to punish the fallen angels. The book of Jubilee gives the different version. According to it the fallen angels came to earth to teach the mankind to order the society and were lusted and seduced by the daughters of the men in the earth.

                                                                                                                               ( to be continued....)

Friday, July 13, 2012

History Mystery: Did a historical Jesus exist? Part.II

According to the Gospels Jesus may crucified on the first day of the Passover or the day before (Depends upon the Gospel According to John Jesus was crucified on the day before the Passover).

The Passover is one of the holiest of Jewish holidays and it was the time for forgiveness and celebration. On those days only Jews made public scarifies to their god hence there is less chance for crucifixion. The arrest and quick trial of Jesus was happened on the pass over eve night. And the Jewish Sanhedrin could assemble in the middle of the night and spelt the quick judgment is highly impossible. The Sanhedrins were slapped and spit on Jesus could not be possible. (Sanhedrin was the Jewish judicial and administrative council which acts on set of rules). Mishnah Sanhedrin has certain rules to follow:

Tomb of Jesus
• No criminal trail can be hold at night.
• The Sanhedrin session could be taken place in the temple premises.
• Capital crime could not be trailed in one day sitting alone.
• No criminal session could be happened on the Sabbath day or of any festival day.
• The own confession of the accused is not enough to judge any one guilty.
• The blasphemy charges cannot be hold good if the accused pronounced the god before the witness.
But the trial of Jesus had broken all the rules.

The crucifixions of Jesus in the Gospels are completely symbolic in nature and based on the scriptures but not on the history. His arrest, trial and the execution all flout the Jewish law. And for blasphemy stoning is the ultimate sentence and there is no reason to hand over the execution to the Romans. The famous Jewish writer Philo of 20BCE wrote elaborately about the political and religious activities of those periods but he never mentioned or wrote anything about Jesus (he wrote about the political rivalry between Pontius Pilate in Judea and the Jews)
There are four documents, in other words historical documents available. Antiquity of the Jews by Josephus, The Annals by Tacitus, Letter to Trajan by Pliny the Younger, and The Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius. It is available in Catholic Encyclopedia.

According to Suetonius, “The Jews continuously made disturbance at the instigation of Chrestus and hence Chrestus was expelled”. Here we can only assume that Suetonius mentioned here Jesus as Chrestus. Chrestus is not the proper Latin translation of Greek Christos. Since the document itself talking about 49 CE by which Jesus was already dead.

Here The Annals by Tacitus mention the following,

Capernaum
“Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular”

Bethany
Christus mentioned here clearly refers Jesus Christ but it is not enough to establish the historical existence of himself. Keep it in mind Tacitus wrote these forty years after the ruin of Judea.

The peoples of other civilizations don’t have a religious book like Bible to refer and cross examine the religious structure in other hand Jews have a scripture based religion. The Romans and Greeks have separate Law, Philosophy etc but for Jews all come under the same religion. In Judaism more particularly in Hellenistic Judaism the cult of Jesus Christ is a very small part of their religion.

From all the above “The story of Jesus Christ” fully relay on the Gospels rather than any historical evidences. For the Jesus story you can identify plenty of literary and conventional materials which raise the possibility for the observed historical events. That much only can say.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

History Mystery: Did a historical Jesus exist? Part.I


Today all most every one of us in the world believes that Jesus Christ was a real personality. Perhaps he may not be the son of god or perhaps he may not be the real Messiah. The belief, Jesus as a human being came out as Eucharist ritual and theology concept of flesh and blood. Then what is the basis for the claim that “Jesus ever existed”?


There are two views we are going to analyze here. The first one is the Biblical or the religious view that Jesus as a real personality and the other one; The materialistic or the historical view. Here I wish to point out one thing. We have only one source of information about him which is the bible alone; that too more particularly from the Gospels. Everything we know about him is derived from the Gospels alone.

According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ was most popular and well-known personality who done splendid miracles and have the capacity of his own to pull the crowd. He not only done miracles but some revolutionary changes in religious system in the Jewish priesthood hence arrested and put to death before thousands of his followers who stood as eye witness. The historical view removes some exaggerated accounts in the life of Jesus in the Gospels taking into account.

Both of the views purely depend on the Gospels alone but, Are the Gospels give a reliable historical account? When the Gospels were written, where the gospels were written? which is the origin? Nobody knows. Earlier estimates dates the Gospels were written from 50 to 150CE and some ascertain that may be 4th Century. The traditional belief is that the Gospels had been written by the disciples of Jesus or someone who directly connected with them. It is believed that the Gospels are the eyewitness.


Let us gain some knowledge about the Gospels and its writers through the account of early church leader Papias of 130CE. According to him the Gospel Mark was not written by him but it was someone named Mark and the Gospel of Mathew was recorded by someone named Mathew in Hebrew dialect and so on… Since the Gospel of Mathew contains the virgin birth of Jesus and the hereditary lineage with David, the early theologians thought it was the first Gospel. Since the Gospel of Luke was not an eyewitness in nature and it was a self described one. So there is no possibility for it being first one.




The Gospel of Mark is also considered as second hand information since the order of events was different in order. The source of information for Mark is Peter. There is a chance that Mark might come from Rome where Peter preached. Theologian ascertains The Gospel of Mark was the first Gospel. Since Peter was shown as a fool who could not understand the messages of Jesus, Peter could not be the source of information for Gospel of Mark hence Mark is the first gospel.                                               (Cont....)