Friday, December 2, 2011
Traditionally, Buddhism affirms the existence of hells peopled by demons who torment sinners and tempt mortals to sin, or who seek to thwart their enlightenment, with a demon named Mara as chief tempter, "prince of darkness," or "Evil One" in Sanskrit sources.
The followers of Mara were also called mara, the devils, and are frequently cited as a cause of disease or representations of mental obstructions. The mara became fully assimilated into the Chinese worldview, and were called mo.
The idea of the imminent decline and collapse of the Buddhist religion amid a "great cacophony of demonic influences" was already a significant component of Buddhism when it reached China in the first century CE, according to Michel Strickmann. Demonic forces had attained enormous power in the world. For some writers of the time this state of affairs had been ordained to serve the higher purpose of effecting a "preliminary cleansing" that would purge and purify humanity in preparation for an ultimate, messianic renewal.
Medieval Chinese Buddhist demonology was heavily influenced by Indian Buddhism. Indian demonology is also fully and systematically described in written sources, though during Buddhism's millennium of direct influence in China, "Chinese demonology was whipped into respectable shape," with a number of Indian demons finding permanent niches even in Taoist ritual texts.