Enma: mr ofHellPosted: June 1, 2009 | Author: Doug | Filed under: Buddhism, Japan | 1 Comment »

One of the most renowned “deities” in Japanese religion is the infamous character Enma (閻魔) the referee of the Underworld:


Sometimes in Japanese, the goes by the surname enma daiō (閻魔大王) or “Great King Enma”. I touched briefly on Enma in a ahead post, yet I thought I would discover the topic a bit much more because countless Japanese understand him well. Enma, according to my Japanese cultural guidebook is one ten rulers and judges the Hell that presides over someone’s life after they die. The 10 judges take turns to preside end the dead after ~ the 7th, 27th, 37th, etc days after death, and Enma presides top top the 57th day, in a hall dubbed shinraden (森羅殿).1 the is thought to it is in the most powerful of the judges the the Underworld. All of them look favor Tang empire Chinese judges, early to strong Chinese affect at the time.

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Many Japanese and Japanese-Americans have told me that parents supplied to threaten their kids by saying that if friend told a lie, King Enma would cut out her tongue together punishment ~ death. However, sometimes, Enma likewise would offer someone a break and also let them go back to the human being of the living, if he considered their fatality untimely. Enma often shows up cold and cruel, however not details vicious or spiteful either. In an ext recent times, Enma was a famed character in the Dragon round animated series.

But also in standard literature, such as the tales of the Heike, written throughout the Heian period, which was the you have the right to see the powerful influence Enma has:

In her dream the Nun of the second Rank asked, “Where has actually this carriage come from”?

“From the tribunal the King Enma ,” to be the reply, “It has involved fetch His Lordship …”

“And what go the plaque mean?” she asked.

“…King Enma’s tribunal has decreed the the perpetrator shall autumn into the depth of the Hell that Never-Ceasing Torment …”

–Tales of the Heike, publication Six: death of Taira no Kiyomori

The messengers here are the famous servants of Enma: Horse-head and Ox-face. This demon messengers usually lug the dead ago to Hell if they have actually been specifically evil, and also give castle a very unwelcome visit to Hell. The quotation over actually gives an interesting look in ~ Japanese religion, due to the fact that Japanese spirituality has become a sort of exotic mish-mash that Buddhist, Shinto and Indian mythology (via China).2 The Avici Hell mentioned above is part of buddhism cosmology and is considered the worst level of buddhism hell, wherein Devadatta, the Buddha’s betrayer, dwells now. Enma himself is thought to be the Hindu god Yama, that was also the god of death and judgement, yet “Yama” passed with the Chinese Taoist filter and became what he is recognized as today.

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So behave, or you can see Horse-head and also Ox-face comes to visit you part day, or worse yet, you shed your tongue!


1 i think this converts as “Hall of the Silk Forest”, yet that might just it is in a transliteration indigenous Indian Sanskrit to Chinese. This happened a lot through imported buddhism words and also such. The kanji had no real meaning, yet just transliterated the sound.

2 for example, the old sanskrit creating of siddham exists nowhere else, yet in buddhism esoteric practices in Japanese Shingon and Tendai sects of Buddhism. Japan’s loved one isolation from mainland Asia enables it the unique capacity to absorb and preserve points that have been lost elsewhere. It likewise makes points pretty jumbled too.