Japanese

"Indra's Net" and the Children of Heaven

Connections between "The Wild Goose Child" and "Indra's Net"
As already stated in the section "The Wild Goose Child" and the Winged Angels Excavated in the Desert, "The Wild Goose Child" is set in one of the oasis cities on the edge of the Taklamakan desert where Mahayana Buddhism originated. The excavation of the fresco of the winged angels in this area serves as the instrument that reveals the relationship in a previous existence between Suriya Kei and the goose child who is entrusted to his upbringing by the grandfather goose (Suriya Kei and the goose child where father and son and Suriya Kei was the artist who made the wall painting of the goose child), after which the goose child returns to heaven. In contrast, the story "Indra's Net" although it also unfolds in Central Asia (the western region of China), is set in the thin atmosphere of the Tsera plateau (Tibet) and the main character is "I" who, on a walk in the plateau just before dawn, somehow wander into the heavenly realm and see heavenly beings and meet with three children of heaven. On meeting these three children of heaven "I" perceive that "they are the three beings depicted in a painting on a wall in the excavated ruins of Khotan Temple." Here the reader is told that "I" am Akira Aoki, the person who excavated the wall painting.
In "The Wild Goose Child," the artist who made the wall painting of the child raises him in a subsequent life when the child [who has taken the form of a goose] is shot down from heaven. But in "Indra's Net," the scholar who excavates the fresco of the children of heaven wanders into the heavenly realm and there meets the children that are depicted on the excavated fresco. Moreover, Khotan, which Kenji makes the location where the fresco is excavated, is the oasis city where the sacred books of the Avatamsaka Sutra were hidden.
While "Indra's Net" shares motifs with "The Wild Goose Child" such as their settings in locations where Mahayana Buddhism originated, the excavated fresco of angels, encounters (partings) with children (a child) of heaven depicted in the fresco, these motifs are treated in a different form than they are in "The Wild Goose Child."
The Avatamsaka Sutra and "Indra's Net" As a matter of fact, the story's title itself, "Indra's Net," is a metaphor that intensively represents the world of the Avatamsaka Sutra. In the story, "I" am asked by the children of heaven "what did you come to do?" and "I" answer, "I came to worship the sun with you." After this, the description toward the end of the story that follows portrays a beautiful scene in which the three children of heaven cavort about in the light of the sun as it rises on the plateau.

Now, from the zenith of the heavens, which had changed entirely into an azure canopy, the spectral net of Indra was spread to the four corners of the blue-white depths of the heavens; its threads were finer than those of a spider's web, its structure denser than the threadlike filaments of mycelia. The translucent, limpid, gold and blue threads mingled together, shone, fibrillated, and burned.
"Indra's net" is a phrase found in Kegon go-kyo sho (The Book of Five Doctrines of the Kegon Sect), a book that interprets the Avatamsaka Sutra "The barrier gate of Indra's net" is "a teaching that the world is like the orbs of the mesh that forms the net of the diety Indra, which are in an endless relationship of sosoku and so'nyu." Sosoku means all things come together and become one; so'nyu expresses an all-inclusive relationship whereby A both contains B and is contained by B. In other words, the image is of the knots of the net that join orbs of infinite number which all mirror each other in a relationship that continues forever. This metaphor, that each orb contains a universe and each orb is connected with every other, represents the intricate view of the universe held by Mahayana Buddhism.

The sympathetic vibration between aural and visual aspects Kenji not only presents a visual image of the@intricate interconnections formed by Indra's net, but superimposes an aural image as well. As the children fly about, bumping into each other, "I" hear a countless number of tambours sounding.
    Here and there in the sky, they [wind tambours] really were shining darkly in indigo and gold and green and gray-like what may be called minus suns-then seemingly began to fall out of the sky. No one was beating them, yet they sounded with all their might. Those myriad of heavenly tambours sounded, and all the while sounded not at all.
In this passage, Kenji paints a complicated image of the intricate world of the Avatamsaka Sutra in which visual and aural aspects are in sympathetic vibration.
Khotan, land where the Avatamsaka Sutra originated
Thus it is concievable that "Indra's Net" is closely tied to the world of the Avatamsaka Sutra. If this is so, then it may be supposed that Kenji made the ruins of the temple at Khotan the location in "Indra's Net" where the fresco of the three children of heaven is excavated because Khotan is the land where the Avatamsaka Sutra originated.
In other words, it is supposed that the winged angels excavated by Sir Aurel Stein serve as the model for the fresco of the heavenly child(ren) in the style of the Gandhara culture that appears in both "The Wild Goose Child" and "Indra's Net." However, that excavation site is located in Miran, and not in Khotan. Some of Stein's series of excavations were made in Khotan, and while these produced valuable finds, the winged angels were not among them.
In other words, it is supposed that the winged angels excavated by Sir Aurel Stein serve as the model for the fresco of the heavenly child(ren) in the style of the Gandhara culture that appears in both "The Wild Goose Child" and "Indra's Net." However, that excavation site is located in Miran, and not in Khotan. Some of Stein's series of excavations were made in Khotan, and while these produced valuable finds, the winged angels were not among them.
Thus, Kenji must have had a particular reason to chose Khotan as the setting for the excavations of the heavenly children in his stories. Current prevailing theory places Khotan as the land where the Avatamsaka Sutra was brought into existence. And it is well-known that the first Chinese translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra came into [China] by way of Hotan (the Chinese characters are the same as for Khotan) located in the western region of China. When Mahayana Buddhism was at its zenith in Hotan around the year 400, a Chinese by the name of Chih Fa-ling learned during his stay in Hotan that the sacred books of Mahayana, which were strictly forbidden to be taken into foreign countries, were hidden there. He implored the King with great earnestness for permission to bring this teaching back to China. After being granted permission, he took the first part of the Avatamsaka Sutra books in Sanskrit back to Chang'an [the ancient Chinese capital]. It is said that a Buddhist monk by the name of Kumarajiva, was invited from Kashmir to translate the text into Chinese (Kegonkyo Monogatai ["The story of the Avatamsaka Sutra"], Shigeo Kamata, Daihorinkaku).
Kenji must have been aware of this, and set the temple of Khotan as the location of the excavation of the fresco of the children of heaven because Khotan was the land from which the Avatamsaka Sutra was first transmitted into China.

"The Wild Goose Child" and the Winged Angels Excavated in the Desert


Poetry Encounters Science (2)
Dances, festivals and gods
The World of Kenji's Works
The World of Kenji Miyazawa