Karma and a Tiger

An Interpretation of Karma based on a supposedly Japanese story quoted by Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth.

A samurai was murdered by another samurai.  He was the head of family.  The heir had to avenge his father’s death and kill the murderer to restore the family honor.  The young son set off to search the murderer, who was on the lam.  It was a long and difficult journey.  Until he could right the wrong done to his father, his family would remain in limbo in samurai hierarchy.  He did not have any source of income.  So he degraded himself into a laborer, a hired help, and a peddler –these jobs were in lower caste in those days –to support himself while pursuing the enemy.  Years past and finally, the not-so-young-anymore man found the murderer of his father.  When he confronted the man face to face, he became aware of his own hatred toward the man.

Upon being aware of his feeling, he walked away without killing the man.

The father had some kind of karma that led to his murder.  The father passed on his karma to his son, while the other samurai now bore the karma of his own as a murderer.   The son paid for his father’s karma by suffering and humbling himself to pursue the murderer.  At this point, he is just an executor of the law of samurai social structure.  However, if he kills the murderer with his own anger and hatred in his mind, he generates his own karma, thus, the chain of hatred keeps on going.  The key word is Awareness.   That’s the way to avoid reincarnation with karma attached.

What would the young samurai do after that?  Since he didn’t follow the rule, he would remain outcast from his original caste.  There is an opening for a “shift”.  He could leave the samurai caste, so that the old “rule” would not apply.

A tiger kills prey to survive.  That’s what a tiger does and is.  Killing itself generates no additional karma for a tiger.  It just keeps him being a tiger.  That’s his karma in a larger context.  If he becomes aware and stops killing prey, he would die, because it means he rejects his being a tiger.  In his next life, he might find himself in a different realm.

I don’t know.  Just a thought.   And I don’t believe in reincarnation, anyway.

A Boy with One Hundred Demons

In the time of feudal warlords, one warlord stroke a deal with 48 demons.   In exchange with his first-born child, the demons agreed to help him to concur the country.  When he came back to his castle from the campaign, his wife gave birth to a son.  The baby was born with no eyes, no limbs, no vocal cords, no ears, no nose.   The warlord ordered his wife to get rid of the creature.  The wife put him in a cradle and let the river take care of it.

A medicine man living in the woods walked by the river and found a baby crying without voice.  He took a pity on the poor creature and brought him home. The baby survived and grew up to be a boy.   The medicine man made artificial limbs and false eyes for the boy.  The child could see with his mind’s eyes, and could hear and talk without hearing and talking.  The child grew up to be a young man.  The young man was excelled in the way of sword.   The medicine man created special prosthetics for him. The artificial limbs were loaded with swords and other weapons.

When the medicine man passed away, a spirit came to the young man and told him that he was destined to go and find 48 demons.   “For each demon you kill, you would reclaim the body part the demon took away,” the Spirit said.

The young man became a vagabond to follow his destiny.   He encountered a demon in a village.  It was torturing the villagers.  He fought the demon for the villagers to be liberated.  When the young man killed the demon, he regained one of his body parts back…with agonizing pain.   Seeing the young man growing a new body part, the villagers deemed him as one of the demons and cast him out.  So it goes on.  He had to keep on wandering till he became whole.  People started to call him Hyakkimaru, a Boy with One Hundred Demons.

I loved this story when I was a kid.  It is a manga/anime by Osamu Tezuka.   If you are interested in the original story, check Dororo and Hyakkimaru.  The plot summary above is from my memory and may contain some interpretation.

It is one of the Hero’s Journey stories a la Joseph Campbell.

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