Hārītī (Sanskrit), also known as Chinese: 鬼子母(神); pinyin: Guǐzǐmǔ(shén), Japanese: 鬼子母神, romanizedKishimojin, is both a revered goddess and demon, depending on the Buddhist tradition. She is one of the Twenty-Four Protective Deities of Mahayana Buddhism.

Translations of
Hārītī
SanskritHārītī
Chinese鬼子母 or 鬼子母神
(Pinyin: Guǐzǐmǔ or Guǐzǐmǔshén)
Japanese鬼子母神
(Rōmaji: Kishimojin)
Korean귀자모신
鬼子母神

(RR: Gwijamoshin)
TagalogHaliti
Glossary of Buddhism
Statue of Guǐzǐmǔ with a child rakshasa in Shanhua Temple (善化寺 Shànhùasì) in Datong, Shanxi Province, China

In her positive aspects, she is regarded for the protection of children, easy delivery and happy child rearing, while her negative aspects include the belief of her terror towards irresponsible parents and unruly children.

In both Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, she is venerated as a protector deity, but in many folk traditions is often recognized as a female demon of misery and unhappiness towards children and parents.

Iconography

The iconography of Hārītī shows similarities to the Greek goddess Tyche and may have been transmitted to East Asia through the influence of Greco-Buddhism. In Greek art, Tyche was depicted in the presence of children, carrying a cornucopia (horn of plenty), an emblematic gubernaculum (ship's rudder), and the wheel of fortune; she may stand on the wheel, presiding over the entire circle of fate.[1]

Kishimojin as a demon mistress with infant. 12th–13th century, Kamakura period. Daigo-ji, Kyoto, Japan.
Azes coin in India, with Demeter/ Hariti with children and holding a cornucopia (Obv.) and Hermes (Rev.), 1st century BCE
Hariti statues from Gandhara

In Chinese Buddhism, Hārītī is also known as Hēlìdì (訶利帝) or Hēlìdìmǔ (訶梨帝母). In Chinese tradition, she is one of the Twenty-Four Protective Devas (二十四諸天 Èrshísì zhūtiān), a group of Dharmapalas who are venerated as protectors of Buddhists and the Dharma.[3] Statues of this group (and Hārītī) are often enshrined within the Mahavira Hall in Chinese temples and monasteries.[4] Hārītī is a figure of the 26th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and is especially important to Nichiren Buddhism. In Shingon Buddhism, she is named Karitei (訶利帝) or Karitei-mo (訶梨帝母). Her iconography is based mostly on the Dai Yakusha Nyo Kangimo Narahini Aishi Jōjuhō (大薬叉女歓喜母并愛子成就法).[5]

In Japanese tradition, Kishimojin is an aspect of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, and she bears the epithets "Bringer of Happiness" (歓喜母) and "Giver of Children and Easy Delivery" (子安鬼子母神).

Narrative

The bas-relief of Hariti with her children on inner northern wall of Mendut, 9th century

According to a Thai-Burmese Thervada oral story popular in southeast asia, Abhiriti or Hariti was a yakshani born in Buddhasasana of Buddha Vesabhu. She is considered to be daughter of Mother Dhamma. Once in city of human realm, a helpless Yaksha infant was hungry and crying. None of humans was willing to get him stop because his brutal appearance. The innocent prayed to Mother Dharma. Mother Dharma looked at him with infinite compassion or mercy. From that compassion, Hariti was born. She came to the realm of earth and lactating to the hungry demon infant. When he is satisfied and stopped crying, she went to realm of Yaksha and gave the child to his guardians. The king of Yakshas was very impressed with her. He proposed her for marriage and becoming mother of all asuras/demons. She agreed with the permission of Mother Dharma. There are hundreds of stories about Hariti and her dedication to her devotee and respon for prayers. Once upon time, earth realm experienced extreme drought, lacking crops and water. Human realm was in huge chaos, in that circumstances, buddhist monks advised them to pray Hariti to help them, human n non humans started praying Kubera and Hariti. Out of mercy, Hariti with help of divine powers, rain was happened, greenery was returned and blessed the earth realm with prosperity. She created a divine jar which provide infinite Siri/Prosperity to the human realm.

Yakshas are usually live more than humans even for many kalpas. Hariti is considered as the possesser of mysterious wealth of the earth. She was steadfast in ethics, mindfulness, and wisdom. Her husband was the king of yaksha, the kubera. She had no children. Once she was dwelling in the city of rajgir where Buddha Shakyamuni was staying. In search of experience of motherhood, she started bringing unhappy human babies in her abode from Rajgir city where the Buddha Shakyamuni was staying. Consequently, victim mothers from Rajgir pleaded to the Buddha. Buddha went to the abode of Hariti and brought one of her kidnapped beloved children with him in his vihara. Hariti was devastated when she found out. After futilely searching for that little, she finally appealed to the Buddha. The Buddha revealed how she was suffering in the absence of one child, similarly, many of other mothers and families were still suffering from the loss of their beloved children. Hariti acknowledged that their suffering is bigger than her. She returned all the kidnapped babies to their mothers and again became steadfast in the Dhamma. Buddha taught her Dhamma rituals associated with upbringing of a child. Hariti started practicing universal metta and karuna to all beings. Hariti declared that she is no longer a woman with no children, she is now the mother of all beings. Hariti promised the Buddha that she would protect and love children of all realms. She practices and teaches the four Brahma viharas to all worldly beings, for benefits of her children. Buddha hailed her as the Jagatmata or the mother of all realms. In Theravada, she is the supreme mother of all humans as well as non humans who hari(eliminates or destroys)(-ti) obstacles from their life.

According to another Mahayana myth, Hārītī was originally a rākṣasī of Rajgir at the same time that Gautama Buddha also lived there. She had hundreds of children of her own, whom she loved and doted upon, but to feed them, she abducted and killed the children of others. The bereaved mothers of her victims pleaded to the Buddha to save them. So, the Buddha stole the youngest of her sons, Piṅgala (in a variant version, the youngest daughter), and hid him under his rice bowl. After having desperately searched for her missing son throughout the universe, Hārītī finally appealed to the Buddha for help.

The Buddha pointed out that she was suffering because she lost one of hundreds of children, and asked if she could imagine the suffering of parents whose only child had been devoured. She replied contritely that their suffering must be many times greater than hers. She then vowed to protect all children, and in lieu of children's flesh, she would henceforth only eat pomegranates. Henceforth Hārītī became the protector of children and women in childbirth. In exchange, the Buddha gave her bodhi, which enabled her to withstand black magic and evil powers, and gave her the facility to cure the sick.[6][5]

In the Japanese version of the tale, Kishimojin enlisted the aid of the Ten Rākṣasī Women (十羅刹女, jūrasetsunyo) to abduct and murder the children of other families. In some variants of the myth, the Ten Rākṣasī Women are themselves daughters (or daughters' daughters) of Kishimojin.[7] When Kishimojin accepted the Buddha's teachings, the Ten Demon Daughters did likewise.[5]

References

  1. ^ Katsumi Tanabe, Alexander the Great: East-West Cultural Contact from Greece to Japan (Tokyo: NHK Puromōshon and Tokyo National Museum, 2003).
  2. ^ British Museum Collection
  3. ^ A dictionary of Chinese Buddhist terms : with Sanskrit and English equivalents and a Sanskrit-Pali index. Lewis Hodous, William Edward Soothill. London: RoutledgeCurzon. 2004. ISBN 0-203-64186-8. OCLC 275253538.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ "佛教二十四诸天_中国佛教文化网". 2016-03-04. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
  5. ^ a b c Schumacher, Mark (1995), "Kariteimo", A-Z Photo Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Statuary, onmarkproductions.com.
  6. ^ Coulter, Charles Russell; Turner, Patricia (2000), "Kishimojin", Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities, Jefferson: McFarland, p. 272, ISBN 0-7864-0317-9.
  7. ^ Chitkara, M. G., ed. (2005), "Jurasetsu", Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, Glossary of Buddhism Terms, vol. XXI, New Delhi: APH Publishing, p. 218, ISBN 81-7648-184-X.

Bibliography