Author Topic: Moon Rabbit  (Read 15392 times)

KhedrubGyatso

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Moon Rabbit
« on: December 07, 2011, 01:13:40 PM »
I had noticed in some Tibetan thangkas of the Wheel of Life, there is usually the moon and the sun depicted at the top of the frame. Lord Buddha would be standing pointing at the moon.Some show the moon as just a white circle. I noticed a few where a rabbit is drawn in it.
One explanation given to me is that , in Chinese folklore, there is a pretty goddess and rabbit inhabiting the moon. Hence, it is meant for people to  identify that the white circle is the moon and not something else.
I am not really convinced about this.
Can anyone like to quote some reliable source on the presence of the rabbit ?

vajrastorm

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2011, 04:37:22 AM »
I am not sure but recently, i heard an explanation about the rabbit which I thought was rather valid from the view point of Mahayana Buddhism.

The rabbit, according to this explanation, represents a lifetime before when Lord Buddha had been born a rabbit. True to his being a Bodhisattva, he had given his life as food for a being who was starving. The rabbit , in the moon, would then symbolize Compassion.The moon symbolizes Wisdom. So the rabbit in the moon would represent Compassion in Wisdom. Compassion and Wisdom , method and wisdom, are the two 'wings' that will propel us to Enlightenment.

Midakpa

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2011, 01:56:03 AM »
I agree with Vajrastorm that the rabbit in the moon represents compassion. The story behind the rabbit in the moon can be found in the Jataka tales, in the story entitled "The Hare's Self-Sacrifice". Here is the story in brief:

The hare was a Bodhisattva and lived in the woods with his friends - a monkey, a jackal and an otter. One day, being a fast-day, the hare asked his friends to feed any beggars that came to them. They all agreed and started to gather food. The otter stole some fish from a fisherman, the jackal stole a lizard and a pot of milk curd from a field-watcher, and the monkey gathered some mangoes, intending to eat their food at a later date.

Sakka (Indra), in the guise of a Brahmin, decided to test them. The otter, jackal and monkey offered what they have collected, but the hare, not having anything to offer, said to Sakka: "Brahmin, you have done well in coming to me for food. This day will I grant you a boon that I have never granted before but you shall not break the moral law by taking animal life. Go, friend, and when you have piled together logs of wood, and kindled a fire, come and let me know, and I will sacrifice myself by falling into the midst of the flames, and when body is roasted, you shall eat my flesh and fulfill all your ascetic duties."

The hare uttered the following stanza:
"Nor sesame, nor beans, nor rice have I as food to give.
 But roast with fire my flesh I yield, if thou with us wouldst live."

Sakka, by his miraculous power, manifested a heap of burning coals. The hare shook his fur thrice to allow insects within his coat to escape anf fell on the live coals. But his body did not burn because the fire is icy-cold.  Sakka then said to the Bodhisattva: " O wise hare, be thy virtue known throughout a whole aeon." And squeezing the mountain, with the essence thus extracted, he daubed the sign of a hare on the orb of the moon.

Thus in the Wheel of Life, the Buddha is pointing to the moon (wisdom) and the rabbit (bodhicitta), two elements which are needed to end cyclic existence and to become enlightened.

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2011, 02:46:23 AM »
Thank you Midakpa for very convincing account and explanation. The more I look at thangkas, the more I find details which are sometimes glossed over or missed by us entirely. Every detail in Tibetan Buddhist symbology whether in the form of statues, paintings, thangkas etc means something and linked to enlightenment. A caution is to be careful  to not identify with details that are simply ' mistakes' by the artists or craftsmen.

More questions.
1. As with anything which happened thousands of years ago, would be great if forum members check out if there are different versions of how this Wheel of Life thangka came about .
2. Is there a deeper meaning to the Buddha figure pointing to the moon w rabbit on the left side and the sun on his side ?  If the moon & rabbit represents wisdom and compassion, what about the sun ?

2. Is anyone aware  there are two verses written at the bottom of the Wheel of Life which is left out in many of the Thangkas? I wonder if it is in the original version as instructed by Lord Buddha to King Bimbisara , a later addition or its just laziness on the part of the thangka painters to leave it out.



hope rainbow

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2011, 08:07:38 AM »
Is anyone aware  there are two verses written at the bottom of the Wheel of Life which is left out in many of the Thangkas? I wonder if it is in the original version as instructed by Lord Buddha to King Bimbisara , a later addition or its just laziness on the part of the thangka painters to leave it out.

KG, could you share with us the story relating the Wheel of Life with King Bimbisara?
thank you in advance.

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2011, 04:52:41 AM »
The story goes like this.
King Bimbisara couldn't think of a gift as a gesture of goodwill and gratitude for a neighbouring King Udayana who apparently had everything and had presented him with a jewelled robe. He couldn't figure out what reciprocal gift at least equivalent to what he had received. He sought Buddha's advice. Buddha contemplated and asked King Bimbisara to commission the drawing of a thangka according to the depictions instructed by Him which we all now are familiar as the Wheel of Life thangka. King Udayana gained realizations from studying the depictions.
The thangka is also a very effective way to teach simple folks /those who did not receive much education or illiterate through the medium of symbology and drawings.
It was encouraged by the Buddha to be drawn outside monastery walls so that these profound teachings can be communicated to the ordinary folks in an easy to understand way.

hope rainbow

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2011, 10:05:56 AM »
The story goes like this.
King Bimbisara couldn't think of a gift as a gesture of goodwill and gratitude for a neighbouring King Udayana who apparently had everything and had presented him with a jewelled robe. He couldn't figure out what reciprocal gift at least equivalent to what he had received. He sought Buddha's advice. Buddha contemplated and asked King Bimbisara to commission the drawing of a thangka according to the depictions instructed by Him which we all now are familiar as the Wheel of Life thangka. King Udayana gained realizations from studying the depictions.
The thangka is also a very effective way to teach simple folks /those who did not receive much education or illiterate through the medium of symbology and drawings.
It was encouraged by the Buddha to be drawn (a) outside monastery walls so that these profound teachings can be communicated to the ordinary folks in an easy to understand way.

Thank you KG,

(a) I have seen it at the entrance of monasteries indeed, someone told me that usually we do not find the wheel of life inside temples or monasteries, but always outside, because they represent samsara.
Do you know of this?

kurava

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2011, 10:58:49 AM »
I agree with Vajrastorm that the rabbit in the moon represents compassion. The story behind the rabbit in the moon can be found in the Jataka tales, in the story entitled "The Hare's Self-Sacrifice". Here is the story in brief:

Sakka (Indra), in the guise of a Brahmin, decided to test them. The otter, jackal and monkey offered what they have collected, but the hare, not having anything to offer, said to Sakka: "Brahmin, you have done well in coming to me for food. This day will I grant you a boon that I have never granted before but you shall not break the moral law by taking animal life. Go, friend, and when you have piled together logs of wood, and kindled a fire, come and let me know, and I will sacrifice myself by falling into the midst of the flames, and when body is roasted, you shall eat my flesh and fulfill all your ascetic duties."

The hare uttered the following stanza:
"Nor sesame, nor beans, nor rice have I as food to give.
 But roast with fire my flesh I yield, if thou with us wouldst live."


Thank you Midakpa for the touching tale.

While in Kathmandu, my tour guide (a Hindu) explained that animal sacrifice is perfectly acceptable in his faith . Reason being - as animal can't practise spirituality, sacrificing their bodies to the gods is the best way for them to accumulate merits.

Would you say the hare story has a similar idea as the Hindu's practice?

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2011, 02:10:07 AM »
Dear K, there is an important difference between the hare story from Jataka tales and your Hindu friend's version. The hare did it voluntarily out of compassion for another being. The animals your Hindu friend sacrificed did not do so voluntarily and i am sure neither did your friend ask them if they want to accumulate merit by being slaughtered.
I read that only realized masters who have clairvoyance and special skills can perform such sacrifices which will have benefit for the animals. Whatever  negative karma they picked up ( if at all )  due to the breaking of the precept of not killing will not have full effect due to their pure motivation and attainments of bodhicitta.
Those who have realized emptiness of course would not have the karma to suffer at all from whatever actions they perform.

hope rainbow

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2011, 06:09:44 PM »
Dear K, there is an important difference between the hare story from Jataka tales and your Hindu friend's version. The hare did it voluntarily out of compassion for another being. The animals your Hindu friend sacrificed did not do so voluntarily and i am sure neither did your friend ask them if they want to accumulate merit by being slaughtered.

I read that only realized masters who have clairvoyance and special skills can perform such sacrifices which will have benefit for the animals. Whatever  negative karma they picked up ( if at all )  due to the breaking of the precept of not killing will not have full effect due to their pure motivation and attainments of bodhicitta.
Those who have realized emptiness of course would not have the karma to suffer at all from whatever actions they perform.

Let's be honest, if I'd kill a chicken or have it killed, I'd think about the tasty meal it would make before any thought of liberating the mind-stream of that being.... So, I rather abstain all together.

diamond girl

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2011, 04:43:20 AM »
Thank you Midakpa for the story explaining Moon Rabbit. It is truly amazing how the arts in Tibetan Buddhism teaches us the path to Enlightenment. Compassion and Wisdom are virtues all of us should embrace, if enlightement is too far-fetched for some of us now, at least be compassionate and wise for the betterment of mankind and peace in this world.

Midakpa

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Re: Moon Rabbit
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2012, 09:53:32 AM »
This story is also called the Hare Birth-Story, which is translated from the Jataka (iii.51) and constitutes Birth-Story 316.

After telling the story, the Buddha expounded the truth and identified the characters of the Birth-Story: "In that existence the otter was Ananda, the jackal was Moggallana, the monkey was Sariputra, while the wise hare was I myself."