Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

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Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

Postby vinodh » Sat Dec 08, 2012 1:14 am

By chance, I was reading this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrowing_of_Hell

I couldn't but think about the similar episode described in the Karandavyuha Sutra, where Avalokitesvara descends into hell.

It is quite amazing how two different cultures had come up with similar accounts. Or does it point any stimulus diffusion ?

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na pudgalo na ca skandhā buddho jñānamanāsravam
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Neither a person nor the aggregates, the Buddha, is knowledge free from [evil] outflows
Clearly perceiving [him] to be eternally serene, I go for refuge [in him]
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Re: Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

Postby windsweptliberty » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:47 pm

Yes. This is very interesting! Thanks!
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Re: Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

Postby Seishin » Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:04 pm

Who knows what influence came via the Silk Road
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Re: Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

Postby Astus » Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:07 pm

When you have a compassionate supernatural being and a place where others suffer, it follows that such a being could as well travel to the underworld and help those poor sinners down there. Kshitigarbha is specifically the bodhisattva liberating hell beings.

Also see the mytheme Descent to the underworld.

There is the Chinese Ghost Festival based on the Ullambana Sutra where it is Mulian (Maudgalyayana, the arhat with magic powers) who saves his mother from hell.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

Postby kirtu » Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:29 pm

Astus wrote:When you have a compassionate supernatural being and a place where others suffer, it follows that such a being could as well travel to the underworld and help those poor sinners down there. Kshitigarbha is specifically the bodhisattva liberating hell beings.

Also see the mytheme Descent to the underworld.

There is the Chinese Ghost Festival based on the Ullambana Sutra where it is Mulian (Maudgalyayana, the arhat with magic powers) who saves his mother from hell.


Of course in the Ullambana Sutra Maudgalyayana was unable to help his mother with his magic powers and asked Shakyamuni Buddha what to do. Shakyamuni gave him a method based on offering resulting in the idea of transfering of merit to save Maudgalyayana's (and anyone else's) mother. A similar idea is repeated in at least one sutta that says specifically anyone born from your family for seven generations in the hungry ghost realm can receive offerings that you make and (from memory) increase their merit and reduce their suffering. Someone then asks Shakyamuni, what if we have no relatives from seven generations born in the hungry ghost realm? To which Shakyamuni replies, "That is impossible".

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Re: Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

Postby Queequeg » Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:50 pm

There are many parallels - Compare Genshin's Ojoyoshu and Dante's Divine Comedy

I suppose one option is to consider that the underlying realities are real a people over the centuries have visited these worlds and lived to tell about it.

Another option is that they grow out of some hardwired imprint in our brains.

Another possibility is that some ancient Stephen King is not getting credit for a story he came up with around the campfire to keep his kids in line, and people have been retelling that story because its been so effective at getting people to be conscientious about their actions.

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Re: Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

Postby plwk » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:22 am

There is the Chinese Ghost Festival based on the Ullambana Sutra where it is Mulian (Maudgalyayana, the arhat with magic powers) who saves his mother from hell.
Rather, it is the realm of the pretas and not naraka...
http://cttbusa.org/ullambana/ullambana.asp
Mahamaudgalyayana had just obtained the six penetrations and wished to cross over his father and mother to repay their kindness for raising him.
Thus, using his Way Eye, he regarded the world and saw that his deceased mother had been born among the hungry ghosts.
Having neither food nor drink, she was but skin and bones. Mahamaudgalyayana felt deep pity and sadness, filled a bowl with food, and went to provid for his mother.
She got the bowl, screened it with her left hand, and with her right hand made a fist of food. But before it entered her mouth, it turned into burning coals which could not be eaten. Mahamaudgalyayana called out and wept sorrowfully, and hastened to return to the Buddha to set forth all of this.
One can hardly count on Chinese folk tales to get it right now can we other than further confusing the masses?
It is quite amazing how two different cultures had come up with similar accounts. Or does it point any stimulus diffusion ?
Similarities must be looked at with detail and not just cursory glancing or else one falls into the domain of generalising...
If I still recall my lessons back then, the reference on Christ descending to Hell is not the same 'Hell' as the one depicted as eternal damnation but rather a kind of resting place (oft called the 'Paradise or Abraham's Bosom' or some use the term 'limbo' loosely, compare and contrast 'sheol' from 'gehenna' in Hebrew or 'hades' in Greek) for the righteous dead, and here, the context of those who are from the time of the pre-1st Advent of Christ up until the time before his resurrection, where he went to preach and redeem them (that is the righteous dead) after his crucifixion and death. This teaching is one of the ongoing big debates in Christianity with varying opinions from within. See below sample passages...
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se ... ersion=NIV
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se ... ersion=NIV
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water...
http://www.biblestudytools.com/1-peter/4-6.html
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
One can read here the account of Avalokitesvara descending to naraka and compare and contrast with the above...
The curious Chinese folklore account of Princess Miao Shan...
Meantime, Miao Shan’s soul, which remained unhurt, was borne on a cloud; when, waking as from a dream, she lifted her head and looked round, she could not see her body. “My fther has just had me strangled,” she sighed. “How is it that I find myself in this place? Here are neither mountains, nor trees, nor vegetation; no sun, moon, nor stars; no habitation, no sound, no cackling of a fowl nor barking of a dog. How can I live in this desolate region?”

Suddenly a young man dressed in blue, shining with a brilliant light, and carrying a large banner, appeared and said to her:
“By order of Yen Wang, the King of the Hells, I come to take you to the eighteen infernal regions.”

“What is this cursed place where I am now?” asked Miao Shan.
“This is the lower world, Hell,” he replied. “Your refusal to marry, and the magnanimity with which you chose an ignominious death rather than break your resolutions, deserve the recognition of Yü Huang, and the ten gods of the lower regions, impressed and pleased at your eminent virtue, have sent me to you. Fear nothing and follow me.”
Thus Miao Shan began her visit to all the infernal regions. The Gods of the Ten Hells came to congratulate her.

“Who am I,” asked Miao Shan, “that you should deign to take the trouble to show me such respect?”
“We have heard,” they replied, “that when you recite your prayers all evil disappears as if by magic. We should like to hear you pray.”
“I consent,” replied Miao Shan, “on condition that all the condemned ones in the ten infernal regions be released from their chains in order to listen to me.”

At the appointed time the condemned were led in by Niu T’ou (‘Ox-head’) and Ma Mien (‘Horse-face’), the two chief constables of Hell, and Miao Shan began her prayers.
No sooner had she finished than Hell was suddenly transformed into a paradise of joy, and the instruments of torture into lotus-flowers.
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Re: Harrowing of Hell & Karandavyuha Sutra

Postby Seishin » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:27 am

Astus wrote:Kshitigarbha is specifically the bodhisattva liberating hell beings..


Jizo (Ksitigardha) is one of my favourite Bodhisattvas. So inspirational :twothumbsup:

Gassho,
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