A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 2 – Weapons – The Bishop’s Staff and Hungry Ghosts

 

 

By Richmond Lee
With additional help from Andy Lee

All Entries:
A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 1 – Buddhist Cyborgs and the story of the Asura
A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 2 – The Bishop’s Staff and Hungry Ghosts
A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 3 – The Mighty Vajra!


Welcome to the second installment of A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath.  First off, I want to thank everyone who read and shared Part 1.  Because of your positive feedback and support, the article got the attention of Capcom and Cyberconnect 2 who reposted it on their website and Facebook page respectively.  It feels pretty great to get such positive reception from the creators of the game!

VALIDATION

The article then went on to be featured on Kotaku.

This has been very life affirming for me, so thanks for reading! Now on with the tour! Lets talk about Weapons!

Buddhist Weapons
The characters in Asura’s Wrath wage war using a mix of ancient and modern weapons. You could say the characters are quite … well armed (haha that was terrible!). Many of the weapons depicted in the game have special significance in Buddhism.

Shakujo (錫杖) – The Bishop’s Staff
The debut video for Asura’s Wrath opens with Asura being struck by a rain of spears:

The shape at the head of these projectiles indicates that they’re shakujos.

shakujo, khakkhara, monk's stick, staff, asura's wrath, pretas, weapons, buddhism, buddhist

Shakujos, also known as bishop’s staffs, monk sticks, xīzhàng (Mandarin) and khakkharas (Sanskrit) were originally walking sticks used by travelling monks originating in India.  The sticks were sometimes adorned with jangling rings that were used in prayer and telegraphed the approach of a holy man.  The sound of the rings could also be used to ward of dangerous animals and the stick could be used in self defense.  Over time the shakujo was incorporated into various religious rituals with the number of rings corresponding to the rank of the wielder.

In the hands of Shaolin monks, the Shakujo was developed into a ritual weapon.

shakujo, khakkhara, monk's stick, bishop's staff, shaolin, asura's wrath, pretas, weapons, buddhism, buddhist
In China, the Shakujo has long been romanticized as the weapon of choice of warrior monks through hundreds of years of Wuxia novels and more recently movies, tv shows, comics and games. This practice lives on in Japan (Zen Buddhism is the Japanese form of Chan Buddhism, the sect of Buddhism practiced in Shaolin) where people still train in fighting with Shakujos to this day.

shakujo, khakkhara, monk's stick, staff, asura's wrath, zen buddhists, training, japan, japanese, weapons, buddhism, buddhist
The Shakujo continues to enjoy popularity as a weapon in many manga, anime and videogames.

shakujo, khakkhara, monk's stick, staff, asura's wrath, pretas, weapons, buddhism, buddhist

Left to Right: Miroku from InuYasha, Sakuyamon from Digimon, Caffeine Nicotine from Samurai Shodown; Senna from Bleach.

And now for your viewing pleasure, here is a real life, badass, one armed, Zen Buddhist monk shakujo master:

Pretas (餓鬼) – Hungry Ghosts
The enemies shown attacking Asura with shakujos are Pretas, also known as hungry ghosts (called “Gaki” in Japanese).

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, pretas, capcom, cyberconnect2, buddhism, buddhist, japanese, scroll of hungry ghosts, gaki

Pretas were greedy people in past lives, now reborn as disfigured monsters who roam the world filled with an unquenchable thirst (usually for something gross like poop).

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, pretas, capcom, cyberconnect2, buddhism, buddhist, japanese, scroll of hungry ghosts, gaki

Pretas are characterized by their thin limbs, distended bellies and pitiful expressions.  Pretas inhabit the land of hungry ghosts, one of the 6 realms of rebirth, located just below the Asura Realm.

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, pretas, capcom, cyberconnect2, buddhism, buddhist, japanese, scroll of hungry ghosts, gaki

Their world sometimes overlaps with ours, though they’re invisible to the human eye and generally have no effect on mortal life.

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, pretas, capcom, cyberconnect2, buddhism, buddhist, japanese, scroll of hungry ghosts, gaki

In cultures that observe the Chinese calendar, there’s even a special holiday for Pretas called The Hungry Ghost Festival where people leave out offerings of food to relieve the constant suffering of Pretas and help them along to their next life.

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, pretas, capcom, cyberconnect2, buddhism, buddhist, japanese, scroll of hungry ghosts, gaki

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, pretas, capcom, cyberconnect2, buddhism, buddhist, hungry ghost festival, holiday

Offerings left out for Pretas during the Hungry Ghost festival. Photo by Worldtripper from Webshots. http://travel.webshots.com/photo/1088295135042464673JfAlxQ

Pretas make very good enemy grunts as they’re pitiable low ranking spirits.

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, pretas, capcom, cyberconnect2, buddhism, buddhist, japanese, scroll of hungry ghosts, gaki

They even get beat up by birds.

All the scroll paintings of Pretas in this post are from the Gaki Zoshi, a 12the Century Japanese narrative hand scroll that details the Buddhist story of the Preta.  For a detailed look at this amazing piece of narrative art, visit the Kyoto National Museum website: http://www.kyohaku.go.jp/eng/syuzou/meihin/kaiga/emaki/item03b.html

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, pretas, capcom, cyberconnect2, buddhism, buddhist, japanese, scroll of hungry ghosts, gaki

The idea that the Pretas in Asura’s Wrath are being commanded by a higher deity is also consistent with Buddhist tradition.  Many Buddhist deities (particularly the fierce looking ones) command armies of reformed demons.  These deities are often depicted standing proud, stepping on a vanquished demon as a base.

art-eater, asura's wrath, ashura, lokapala standing on vanquished demon base

And just for good measure, here’s an old painting of a Yokai (not a Preta, but a Japanese goblin) dutifully carrying a shakujo.

asura's wrath, ashura, art-eater, capcom, cyberconnect2, yokai carrying shakujo

That’s it for part 2 of A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath.  Here’s a link to part 1 in case you missed it!

art-eater, asura's wrath, Buddhist God of War, Buddhism art, violence

Illustration by my good buddy Weigy; http://blog.weigy.com/

That’s all for today.  Tune in again this Wednesday as we continue our look at the historically Buddhist weapons employed in Asura’s Wrath.

Link to A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 3 – The Mighty Vajra

For more information and updates, follow me on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Eater/130135027031682

And Twitter: Follow @Richmond_Lee

If you enjoyed this article, you should check out some of my other posts:

Terra's Black Marker

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About Richmond

I am a professional game artist who wants everyone to love art as much as I do!
This entry was posted in Art History, Asura's Wrath, Buddhism, capcom, video games. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 2 – Weapons – The Bishop’s Staff and Hungry Ghosts

  1. The following article, “A Buddhist

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  4. Han says:

    About the “Pretas” (hungry ghost) there is a funny Cantonese Chinese derogatory term for glutton people.

    It goes like this “餓鬼贓糞” lit translation “Hungry Ghost stealing shit (to eat)” , it usually refer to gluttonous people who have no manners in a dinner table or eating too fast and being annoying.

    Also Hungry Ghost festival actually refer to Yu Lan, although it sounds grim, but the festival is quite “lively” where family gather together and visit family graves with food and wine. This festival appear in Vietnam, Japan, S.Korea and anywhere with Chinese population in South Asia.

  5. Lateef says:

    Great work! I had heard about the Hungry Ghost Festival some time ago, but I didn’t know how the Preta correlated-very nice! Good work, brother!

  6. Pingback: A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 1 | Art-Eater

  7. Pingback: A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 3 – Weapons – The Vajra | Art-Eater

  8. DeepSleepr says:

    Once again, thank you for making this article!
    I do wonder why the Pretas in Asura’s Wrath shout “Metsu!” (or Destruction!) before they engage in battle rather shouting “Hunger!”.

  9. James Watson says:

    Shorter than the last in depth look but this was still enjoyable. I guess with katanas and gatling guns, the bishop staff was the only weapon to really cover. I was wondering, will the Gohma get a coverage in these insights?

    • Richmond says:

      Lots more posts about weapons to come. I decided to split them up, otherwise the second post would have been gigantic! Look for another post about Buddhist Weapons this Wednesday. Thanks for reading.

    • Andy says:

      There’s gonna be lots about the katana to be posted.

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