A drop of water has the tastes of the water of the seven seas: there is no need to experience all the ways of worldly life. The reflections of the moon on one thousand rivers are from the same moon: the mind must be full of light. — Hung Tzu-ch’eng
In every culture, there are beings who resemble us, but who are not precisely human. Besides the First Nations traditions, one of which I discussed the past several days, there are many legends of faery kinds of beings in Asian cultures.
For instance, in Cambodia and other parts of Asia some are known as the apsaras and ghandarvas. The apsaras are sacred celestial dancers and they also make beautiful mystical music. Apsaras are female and have a supernatural beauty that most mortal men are unable to resist. In Cambodia these apsaras can be found depicted in stone carvings all over the sacred temples in Angkor Wat.
In the ancient Vedic cosmology of India, the ghandarvas are a group of celestial beings who sing and play music for the Gods and Goddesses. Discussed in a number of sutras, their sole purpose for being is to entertain and sing praises to the Divine.
Japanese culture has a myriad of beings that are quite fey. There are the mischievous echoing tree spirits, the kodama, made famous the lovely animé movie, Princess Mononake. And there are tennin, which are often attendants to various Gods, Godesses, and bodhisattvas. They might be thought of as Japanese Buddhist equivalents of angels or faeries. They often appear as an ethereal, very beautiful person beckoning from a mountain top. To meet them, the pilgrim has to climb to the summit.
Fundamental to the Japanese practice of Shinto is the reverence for Nature. Thus, even with today’s Shinto being blended with Confucianism and Buddhism, Japanese culture is overflowing with the mythology, folk tales and lore of beings very similar to the Western conceptions of fairies, elves, sprites, goblins, and others.
The kappa, tengu, tanuki, and the shapeshifting obake are just a few of the many fey-like beings in Japanese folklore and practice. I’ll share some more about them on Tuesday, after tomorrow’s Tarot card of the week.