Honest Myth:Buddhist- Asura and Indra

Since the end of Naruto, TheBetterCup and I have been in a very down mood. It is weird to think that a large part of our childhood is over. I mean, this is something we have been watching since we were in grade school. Now we are turning twenty and in uni, and it is ending a long with our childhood. It may just be that this is a little sign that we are officially growing up, which is a tad unsettling. Anyways, I will try not to have any spoilers of Naruto, but just in case: WARNING MAY CONTAIN NARUTO SPOILERS.

Asura and Indra (Godly Versions) as seen in Naruto.

Asura and Indra (Godly Versions) as seen in Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto

So the end of Naruto includes references to some Buddhist/Hindu and Japanese mythology. So with out telling you what happens lets just talk about two names that are mentioned during that Fourth Shinobi War. Asura and Indra are found in both Buddhist and Hindu mythology, and they have a very interesting story that you should know if you wish to truly understand what happens.

asura

If you know where this photo is from, please tell me. The photo I included has a more demonic looking Asura, but some are more human looking.

Asura:

The Asura come from Hindu mythology and are seen as nature spirits that opposed the devas (Gods). They are contemporarily (is that a word) shown as power hungry. They began as equals to the devas, but evolved to lesser beings through out history. Because of this, they also went from being gods that fell because of a small mistake to these evil and sinful creatures.

They are described as addicted to negative passions such as wrath, pride, and falseness. They are also said to be obsessed with violence and ego. There are four unhappy births, and rebirth as an Asura is one of them (the other three include being born an animal, going to hell for a short period, or becoming a preta or starving ghost). To be born as an Asura, one must have had had good intentions as a human, but still have done harm to others.

They lead very pleasure seeking lives, but still feel unhappy because they are jealous of the Deva and want to regain their initial rank. They live at the foot of Mt. Sumeru (for good reason), and are broken into many tribes.

Physically, they are said to be low ranking deities with six arms and three heads. Supposedly, the men are hideous, but the women are very exotic and beautiful.

indraIndra:

Indra, also known as Sakra in Buddhist and Japanese text, comes from Hindu mythology. He is the leader of the Devas. He wields lightening bolts and rides a white elephant named Airavata. He is the Lord of the Gods and the rainbow is considered to be his bow.

He can be compared to the Jade Emperor in Chinese mythology. And though Sakra and Indra share many similarities, Sakra tends to be shown as much kinder and more forgiving. His realm, Trayastrimsa, is the polar center of the physical world, and sun and moon revolve around it.

Story:

The Asura and the Deva lived on the peak of Mt. Sumeru, and when Indra was named ruler of the whole world, the Asura celebrated by drinking a very strong and forbidden wine. As they broke the rules, and were very drunk, Indra had them thrown over the mountain off the summit. At the base of Mt. Sumeru, they noticed the growth of a tree called Cittapatali that differed from the tree called Paricchattaka at the peak of the mountain . This was proof that they were no longer allowed to live with the Deva on the mountain. Becoming violent, they tried many times to climb up to the peak often failing, because they would believe a large Deva army would attack. Anytime that the Deva and Asura did clash, Indra would make sure that no harm would befall either side.

Eventually, they stopped fighting when Indra fell in love with the daughter of the of the Asura Cheif Vemacitran. She was given the right to choose any man present as her husband, and she chose an old asura male that she knew was a disguised Indra. Though they ended the battle, the Asura never gained their position back.

I will not say too much about Naruto, but I wondered why Asura and Indra were involved and what it meant. I found this quote of Asura and realized what the cultural significance was: Laden with blessing, lacking power, absolutely determined to fight. I feel like this makes a lot of sense. Anyway, I hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving if you are in the USA, and have a good week to everyone else.

Check out more: www.onmarkproductions.com/html/hachi-bushu.shtml

-Blog Barista

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4 thoughts on “Honest Myth:Buddhist- Asura and Indra

    • Well, it should not matter much to you what I believe. This may be a fairy tale to you, but this is something that others (through out history) have and still do believed in, and that is what makes religion so amazing and beautiful. I am glad you enjoyed the narrative, because that is the reason for sharing, and I hope you can continue to enjoy all the other stories (whether or not you believe in them). Believe it!!!

    • I can’t really answer this question, but I can explain what I think could be the reasoning. Firstly, it may be that we shouldn’t think about Asura and Indra as good or bad. It is believed that in the earlier narratives the Asura were not necessarily bad or evil. Instead they were lesser beings in the cycle of Samsara (representing indulgence which is wrong but not evil) and through time gained a connotation of bad. In that same point, we shouldn’t think of Naruto and Sasuke as good or bad either, just as two different paths. Now after thinking about it like that, we can look at some aspects of each of the characters and see that they kind of match with the deities. So for instance, Sasuke is born part of a great clan of Konaha, and though he grows up lonely, all of the villagers like and respect him (as a Uchiha). That can kind of match with the fact that Indra is a Deva which is kind of like a god and one of the better ‘lives’ in the cycle. On the other hand, Naruto is infused with the nine tails as soon as he is born, and the villagers hate him (kind of matching the Asura who originally were like the Deva but were demoted). Those who were descendants of Asura Otsutsuki (in Naruto) were far from perfect and treated like that, but they all chose to live life working hard (if they compared themselves with others they would just work to better themselves). While all the ones who descendants of Indra (in Naruto) were talented and considered perfect and great, but had the Curse of Hatred (probably because they would always compare themselves to the others and feel insecure in a away). We could probably find more ways to connect them, but I think only Masashi really knows why. I hope what I said made sense though :D.
      Also, Masashi put a lot of thought in most all aspects of this story (even spending two whole years just studying up on what makes good story telling) so I am super certain that he has reasoning for this.

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