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Buddhism introduced many Hindu Gods and Goddesses to the Japanese. The rulers were the first to be attracted to them. Historical records show that they earnestly believed in the miracles of these divinities promised in the sutras. Many miracle stories started appearing in popular literature as the divinities percolated down to the masses. The resulting naturalization process in the case of some divinities went to the extent that they became an integral part of the native Shinto pantheon. Their popularity remains unabated even today. The Tantric Buddhist sects also played a vital role in propagating the divinities. They regularly worshipped the divinities in their temples where people thronged in large numbers. Many steps in these ceremonies, for instance, the homa ritual, are very familiar to the present-day Hindus. The monks have also produced a considerable volume of religious literature related to these divinities. Descriptions of many divinities show that they have not changed substantially over centuries. A study of these writings also shows that a large volume of Hindu myths and legends related to these deities were transmitted to Japan. These writings are also a testimony to the way the ancestors of the present-day Hindus thought about these deities, say, around the eighth or ninth century of the Christian era.
About the Author
Professor Chaudhuri is one of the pioneers in the field of Japanese language teaching in India. he has taught the language in the School of Foreign Languages of Ministry of Defence, University of Delhi and Aichi Gakusen University, Japan. He was a Visiting Professor in the Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo, for a year. He worked in the project of translating foreign words in Bengali language into Japanese. His earlier book Siddham in China and Japan, dealing with the contributions of linguistic theories of Sanskrit to Chinese and Japanese linguistic studies, is one of the Sino-Platonic Papers series of the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
This study is based primarily on Japanese writings on Hindu gods and goddesses. Tantrism played an important role in popularizing these divinities in Japan. The two popular and powerful tantric sects, Tendai and Shingon, worshipped them in their temples, and through the monks of these sects, the divinities made their way to the Japanese masses. Some divinities were more popular than the others. The popularity of some, however, fluctuated with the passing of time. As in India, some dreaded demonic characters were also worshipped. An interesting aspect is that many Indian myths and legends found their way to Japan along with these deities.
The accounts of the divinities in this study, except the last two. Consist of two parts. The first part is devoted to the narrations recorded in various literary and historical works. The rituals conducted in temples constitute the second part. The two tantric sects prescribed procedures for worshipping the deities. A Tendai monk Jonen wrote the first manual for worship around 1154, and incorporated it in his Gyo-rin-sho. Shortly after this, a Shingon monk Kakuzen prepared a manual for his sect, and incorporated it in his Kaku-zen-sho compiled between 186 and 1217. a Tendai monk Shocho prepared another manual, and incorporated it in his work A-sa-ba-sho completed in 1275. The rituals mentioned A-sa-ba-sho have been selected for this study. This work mentions some alternative ways of performing the rituals. Only a partial translation of the one that appeared to be the main is given here. Some steps in the rituals have been left blank, because they are missing in the original text. Mudras play a vital part in the rituals. These are symbolic gestures, mainly involving palms, and carry esoteric meanings. Being esoteric, they were restricted within the religious group, transmitted from masters to disciples under great secrecy. Rituals for the last two deities of this study do not appear in any of the manuals mentioned above.
Hephurn system and Wade system have been used in Romanising Japanese and Chinese respectively. Following the native pattern, family name precedes given name in Japanese and Chinese personal names. Diacritical signs have been used with Sanskrit and Japanese words. The words already accepted in English are sometimes excepted. In the case of Chinese words, their Japanese readings have also been given in most cases. For interested readers, the Chinese characters for the Japanese and Chinese expressions used in the text are given at the end in a separate section.
Some expressions used in the context of rituals are of technical character and may not very familiar. The meanings of the important ones are explained below in the Glossary of Important Terms Used in the Text. The dates given here are Anno Domini. Unless mentioned otherwise, the Japanese readings of the gods and goddesses are given here. Some books appear frequently in the text. In the case of these books, only the years in which they were completed are usually given second time onward. Following the Japanese practice, the Japanese historical periods have been mentioned quite often. These Japanese historical periods, as well as the Chinese historical periods mentioned in this study, are also given after the Glossary of Important Terms used in the text for reference.
|Glossary of Important Terms Used in the Text||vii|
|1||The Adoption of Hindu Divinities in Japan||1|
|2||Vaisravana, the Heavenly King||20|
|3||Laksmi, the Goddess of Fortune||36|
|4||Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning||44|
|5||Yama, the Lord of Death||56|
|6||Mahakala, the Great Black Deity||67|
|7||Hariti, the Protectress of Children||79|
|8||Indra, the King of Heaven||91|
|9||Ganapati, the Elephant-Head God||99|
|10||Joint Worship of the Four Heavenly Kings||109|
|11||Marici, the Deity of Rays||116|
|12||Varuna, the God of Waters||123|
|13||Isana, the Destroyer||128|
|14||Brahma, the Creator||132|
|15||Prthivi, the Earth Deity||136|
|16||Agni, the Fire God||140|
|17||Raksasa, the Demon God||143|
|18||Aditya, the Sun God||145|
|19||Candra, the Moon God||147|
|20||Vayu, the Wind God||149|
|21||Garuda, the Divine Bird||151|
|22||Visnu, the Lord of Universe||153|
|23||Dakini, the Demi-Goddess||154|
|Chinese Characters of Japanese and Chinese expressions||163|