In Hell the One without Sin is Lord: Sino-Japanese Tales of Descent into the Underworld
by Conán Dean Carey
I suspect that primary peoples all know that their myths are somehow "made up." They do not take them literally and at the same time they hold the stories very dear. Only upon being invaded by history and whipsawed by other and unfamiliar values do a people begin to declare that their myths are "literally true."
--Gary Snyder, Remarks at the Dogen Zenji Symposium, Stanford, Oct. 1999
In part one of this paper, I have offered evidence derived from work done by Kawaguchi Hisao on the parallels between the pien-wen entitled The T'ang Emperor T'ai Tsung's Descent into Hell (T'ang T'ai Tsung ju ming chi) and a number of setsuwa, most famously the story of the monk Nichizo's trip to the Tusita heaven and to Hell, contained in the thirteenth century work The Origin of Kitano Tenjin Shrine (Kitano Tenjin Engi). The title of the paper takes its rise from an encounter Nichizo has with the Emperor Daigo (r. 897-930) in Hell, where he has been condemned to torment in the Steel Cavern Torture Chamber for his betrayal and exile of the courtier Sugawara no Michizane (845-903). He bids Nichizo relax and act informally with him, remarking "In Hell the one without sin is lord, and there is no talk of noble or common." In the stories of T'ai Tsung and Nichizo, these themes of the inversion of hierarchy and resistance to the idea of divine right are of great importance.
In this second part of the paper, I would like to discuss the even more pronounced textual affinities between the Muromachi period otogi zoshi story The Book of Maudgalyāyana (Mokuren no Sōshi, 1531) and the transformation text The Great Maudgalyāyana Rescues His Mother from Hell (Ta Mu-ch'ien-lien ming-chien chiu mu pien-wen, S. 2614, ca. 800). I will then consider Iwamoto Yutaka's fascinating demonstration of the influences on the text from Manichaean thought and Mesopotamian religion in general, as well as Taoistic elements in the text. No doubt it is this sort of influence that led Victor Mair to write about the perceived cultic, risque, and magical or illusionary qualities of some transformation performances and derivative texts, as quoted in part one.
In addition, this section of the paper will reinforce the theme of the first half by pointing out how the sinlessness of the Bodhisattva Maudgalyāyana allows him to command the minions of Hell to do his bidding, thus establishing himself as its lord. This should become clearer as we see how King Yama places himself at the Bodhisattva's disposal, assigning his administrative assistant to guide him through Hell, as well as how he is able to gain access to the sealed inner torture chambers and remote corners of Hell through the Buddha's supernatural powers. Finally, through his practice of the provision of the purgatorian feast of Obon, his purity of purpose allows him to throw open the gates of Hell and free his mother completely.include '../includes/navbar.html'; ?> include '../includes/footer.html'; ?>