You wonder what place the Dragon has in Buddhism? What is the symbol of the Dragon in Buddhism? What is the relationship between the Dragon and Buddha? To answer these questions, it is necessary to re-situate the history of the meeting of Buddhism with the dragons. ? Besides, if you devote admiration to the great Buddha, discover the best Buddha Incense-Holders, they spread a relaxing atmosphere in your home.
Two millennia ago, Buddhism arrived in China from India. Buddhism spread to China and naturally adapted to Chinese culture. The traditional saffron robes (originally Kāṣāya translates “cloudy color” in Sanskrit) of Buddhist monks gave way to Chinese-style robes. And so it was in China that Buddhism met dragons.
As a reminder, the Chinese Dragon has been an integral part of Chinese culture for more than 7,000 years. In China, dragons have long symbolized power, creativity, paradise and good fortune. They are believed to have authority over rivers, rain, floods and storms.
Dragon Symbol in Buddhism
Over time, Chinese Buddhist artists have adopted the dragon as a symbol of enlightenment. Today, dragons decorate the roofs and portals of Buddhist temples, both as guardians and as a symbol of the dragon’s power of enlightenment. Buddhist dragons are often depicted holding a jewel, which represents the Buddha’s teaching.
The use of animal symbols is an important part of Buddhism and embodies the idea that every living being has its own virtue, power and wisdom. Animal symbols contain secret meanings related to the specific characteristics of the animals they represent. This highlights Buddhism’s relationship with nature, goodness, humanistic ideas, and underlines the link between Buddhist theory and practice.
Significance of Dragon in Buddhism
The dragon is a remarkable case of integration of Buddhism in different cultures. The metamorphosis of the Indian Naga into a Chinese dragon underlines the unbridled dynamism of Buddhism in the salvation process of all sentient beings. Today, the omnipresence of the dragon indicates that dragons are more than just decoration, they have been given a higher status of authority.
In the sixth century, Chan (Zen) appeared in China as a particular school of Buddhism. Chan was nurtured in Chinese culture, and dragons make frequent appearances in Chan literature. The dragon plays many roles, as a sign of spiritual awakening, but also as a symbol for oneself. For example, the expression “meeting the dragon in the cave” is a metaphor for confronting one’s own deepest fears and obstacles. There is the Chinese folk tale of the “real dragon”, adopted as a parable by countless teachers. Here is the story:
?Yeh Kung-tzu was a man who loved dragons. He studied the legend of the dragons and decorated his house with paintings and statues of dragons. He constantly talked about dragons to anyone who would listen to him. One day a dragon heard about Yeh Kung-tzu and thought, “How nice it is that this man likes us. He would surely be happy to meet a real dragon”.
?The nice dragon flew to Yeh Kung-tzu’s house and went inside to find Yeh Kung-tzu asleep. Then Yeh Kung-tzu woke up and saw the dragon curled up on his bed, its scales and teeth shimmering in the moonlight. And Yeh Kung-tzu cried out in terror. Before the dragon could appear, Yeh Kung-tzu grabbed a sword and threw himself on the dragon. The dragon flew away. ?
Many generations of Chan and Zen teachers, including Dogen, have mentioned the true story of the dragon in their teachings. For example, Dogen wrote in the Funkanzazengi: “I implore you, noble friends in experiential learning, do not become so accustomed to images that you are afraid of the real dragon.
The story can be interpreted in many ways. It could be an allegory for someone who is intellectually interested in Buddhism and reads a lot of books about it, but does not feel the need to practice, find a teacher, or seek refuge somewhere. This person prefers a kind of false Buddhism to reality. Or they may be afraid to let go in order to realize their spiritual awakening.
Nagas in Buddhist Mythology
Nagas are snake-like creatures that appear in the Pali canon. They are sometimes identified as dragons, but they have a slightly different origin. Naga is the Sanskrit word for cobra. In ancient Indian art, nagas are depicted as half-snake, half-human beings. They also sometimes appear as giant cobras. In some Hindu and Buddhist literatures, they can change their appearance from human to snake. The naga is considered the symbol of the renewal of life and fertility.
In the Mahabharata (Hindu epic poem), the nagas are described as wicked creatures, determined to harm other species. In the poem, the enemy of the Naga is the great eagle-king Garuda. In the Canon of Pali, the nagas are treated with more sympathy, but they remain eternally at war with the garudas, except for a brief truce negotiated by the Buddha. With time, the nagas became the guardians of Mount Meru and the Buddha. The Naga play an important role in Mahayana mythology as protectors of the sutras.
With the spread of Buddhism in China, Japan and Korea, the Naga were identified as a kind of dragon. Some of the stories told in China and Japan about dragons are at the origin of stories about nagas. In Tibetan Buddhist mythology, dragons and naga are very different creatures. In Tibet, nagas are usually evil aquatic spirits that cause disease and misfortune. But Tibetan dragons are the protectors of Buddhism whose thundering voices awaken us from illusion.
Dragon in Tibetan Buddhism
Unlike its demonic European counterpart, the Tibetan Dragon is a creature with great creative power. It is a positive icon, representing the masculine yang principle, the power of heaven, change, energy, wealth and creativity.
Dragons are metamorphs, capable of transforming themselves at will, from the size of a silkworm to a giant that fills the entire sky. Dragons are represented in one of two colors, green or brown. The green dragon, or azure in Buddhism, rises into the sky at the spring equinox. It represents the increasing power of light in the spring and the direction of the east at sunrise.
The brown dragon is the autumn equinox, he descends into a deep basin, locks himself in the mud until the following spring, but his mind is always with the practitioner bringing wealth and health. The pearls, or jewelry, tightened in the claws of the dragon represent wisdom and health. The dragon can control the weather by squeezing the jewels to produce dew, rain or even showers when it is tightly squeezed. The dragon is the vehicle of Vairochana, the white Buddha of the center or east.
Dragon Ball Z and Buddhism
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball is probably one of the most popular entertainments in the world. The story actually contains many allegories from the classic novel “Peregrination to the West”, characters like Goku, Krilin and Oolong (a talking pig) are references to it. The series shows its close connection with Mahayana Buddhism in the sense that the characters only find enlightenment when they abandon their “main quest” to help others in need. It is through these beneficial actions towards others that the characters develop and move forward in the story.
Although Buddhism focuses on non-violence, the Dragon Ball series emphasizes that Goku overcomes his enemies primarily by befriending them instead of using brute force against them. However, when an enemy cannot be reasoned with, Buddhism allows violence as long as it is necessary to restore peace. Goku does this continuously. Although some may consider it a children’s program, it is surprising that Toriyama could include such an allegory in Dragon Ball. Who would have thought that these morning cartoons would teach us all about Buddhist spiritual awakening as children?
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