On this article, we are going to clarify the Japanese phrase Shura. We are going to take a look at the etymology (origin of the phrase), and how it’s used at this time in standard tradition.
This journey will take us via this phrase’s connection to Buddhist myths, manga/anime and… forestry phrases?
An Introduction to the phrase Shura
Shura is written utilizing two kanji (Chinese language characters): 修羅. The first one, 修, provides the phrase the “shu” sound and roughly interprets to “self-discipline”.
The second character, 羅, provides the phrase the “ra” sound and means one thing like “light-weight cloth”.
So, does shura refer to disciplined materials? By no means. The characters in 修羅 are used as Ateji当て字, that’s, picked purely for his or her phonetic readings.
The dictionary definition of Shura
What does Shura mean? The Daijirin Dictionary lists 4 definitions:
The first definition: depth
The first definition is simple: 激しい戦闘 “intense preventing”.
That is the commonest definition for the phrase 修羅, and you may see it utilized in expressions, corresponding to shuraba, written 修羅場 and meaning, “a scene of carnage or bloodshed.”
Shura may also describe intense feelings. The expression shura wo moyasu (修羅を燃やす), actually “to burn shura,” means “to be extraordinarily livid or jealous.”
The second definition: a Buddhist deity
The second definition has “[仏]” in entrance of it, denoting the origins of this phrase.
You would possibly assume that this character futsu 仏 stands for French, like within the phrase wafutsu jiten 和仏辞典 (Japanese-French dictionary), however that’s not the case.
Right here, 仏 stands for bukkyō 仏教, which implies Buddhism.
After that, the dictionary tells us that the phrase is an abbreviation of the phrases Ashura 阿修羅 and Shuradō 修羅道, that are each ideas within the faith of Buddhism.
The phrase Ashura 阿修羅, as is the case with many Buddhist phrases in Japanese, is a transliteration of a phrase from the Sanskrit language. On this case, the unique Sanskrit phrase is असुर ásuraḥ.
Asuras in Buddhism are beings which might be generally translated as “demigods” or “titans.”
They’re normally depicted as having three heads with three faces every, and three or 4 pairs of arms.
They symbolize envy and battle, and an individual could grow to be an asura of their subsequent life in the event that they had been extraordinarily jealous or violent.
The asuras dwell in a realm referred to as the Asura realm, or Shuradō 修羅道. It’s mentioned to be a world hundreds of miles beneath the ocean flooring, the place clothes and meals seem when the asuras want.
The Asura realm and is dominated by 4 kings, named Rāhu, Bali, Kharakaṇṭha, and Vemacitra.
In Japanese, their names are Ragou羅睺, Bachi婆稚, Kyarakenda 佉羅騫駄, and Bimashittara 毘摩質多羅.
Diving deeper into the origins of Ashura
The Asuras of Buddhism are derived from even older, Hinduist deities, additionally identified by the name of Asuras. These Hindu Asuras are a category of highly effective superhuman beings.
The good Asuras are referred to as Adityas and are led by Varuna, and the evil ones are referred to as Danavas and are led by Vritra. Asuras compete towards the Devas, the gods of the Hindu world.
Diving even deeper: The Asura-Æsir connection
Linguists say that the Sanskrit phrase असुर ásuraḥ comes from a Proto-Indo-Iranian phrase, reconstructed as *n̩suras, which in flip is derived from a Proto-Indo-European root *H2ensu-.
This root *H2ensu- additionally developed into the Proto-Germanic *ansiwiz, which grew to become the Æsir of Norse mythology.
Very like the Asuras oppose the Devas, the Æsir oppose the Vanir. The two are additionally related to warfare and battle.
Maybe the Proto-Indo-Europeans had a bunch of gods that developed into the Asuras and Æsir.
The third definition: An historic constructing method whose name is a dad joke
The third definition says “大石‧大木などを運搬する車”: a cart (車) that transports (運搬する) large rocks and logs (大石‧大木).
Though the dictionary describes it as a cart, it’s really a huge sled with lengths starting from 3 meters to 9 meters.
Historians speculate that utilization of these Shura sleds began within the Kofun period, roughly 1400 years in the past.
They had been used to construct the megalithic Kofun tombs, just like the Mozu Tombs in Osaka prefecture.
So how did these sleds come to be referred to as Shura? That is in reality a pun. Though 大石 is normally learn taiseki, it can be learn taishaku as nicely.
Taishaku can be the Japanese name for Śakra, the lord of the Devas. As a result of the sled strikes large rocks, it was in contrast to the Asuras who had been at battle with Śakra and thus made him transfer.
The fourth definition: A large playground slide, for logs
Within the days earlier than heavy equipment, it was way more troublesome to transport logs and timber. The individuals of Japan devised a intelligent method to carry wooden from the mountains; the fourth definition of Shura, a humongous slide within the form of a half-pipe made out of logs that served to information wooden down mountains.
The best half about this slide was that after the timber arrived on the backside, the slide may very well be disassembled little by little from the highest and transported utilizing the remaining decrease half of it.
How this method of carrying wooden got here to be referred to as Shura is unknown, maybe the name was impressed by the large sleds.
Nonetheless, the name is sort of becoming; the sight of logs sliding down at large speeds is extraordinary and intense.
How Asura/Ashura grew to become Shura
Buddhism was launched to Japan from its neighbors, China and Korea, someday within the 6th Century (historians can not agree on a set date).
Which means that most of the Buddhist vocabulary in Japanese consists of Sanskrit phrases transliterated into Chinese language, then learn with on-yomi readings.
As we noticed beforehand, the Sanskrit phrase असुर ásuraḥ was transliterated with Chinese language characters as 阿修羅 ashura.
Why did they drop the primary character to make the phrase 修羅? The character 阿 in Chinese language, when put earlier than individuals’s names or kinship phrases, exhibits familiarity.
For instance, 阿 put earlier than 爸 (father) makes the phrase 阿爸 (dad). In the identical method, 阿修羅 may very well be interpreted as “Little Shura.”
For the reason that presence of 阿 makes the name cuddly and friendly-sounding, some individuals dropped it, and the name 修羅 caught.
Shura in standard tradition
Within the manga sequence Hokuto no Ken (北斗の拳), identified in English as Fist of the North Star, there’s a brutal land of warriors referred to as the Kingdom of Shura (Shura no kuni/修羅の国). That is the homeland of the protagonist Kenshiro, and lots of different characters.
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