Sunday, February 9, 2014

by a thread


One fine day the Buddha (or possibly, Jesus) was strolling in the gardens of Paradise when he stopped by a crystal clear pond. As his gaze penetrated the limpid pool he saw all the way down to the depths of Hell, where his eyes came to rest on one particular sinner. His name was Kandata, a cold hearted criminal who had but one good deed to his name: while walking through the forest one day he had decided not to kill a spider he was about to crush underfoot. Moved by this singular act of compassion, the Buddha (or Jesus), took a silvery thread from a spider in Heaven and lowered it down into Hell.

Down in Hell, the myriad sinners are struggling in the Pool of Blood, in total darkness save for the light glinting off the Mountain of Spikes, and in total silence save for the sighs of the damned. Kandata, looking up by chance at the sky above the pool, sees the spider's thread descending towards him and grabs hold with all the might of a seasoned criminal. The climb from Hell to Paradise is not a short one, however, and Kandata quickly tires. Dangling from the middle of the rope, he glances downward, and sees how far he has come. Realizing that he may actually escape from Hell, he is overcome by joy and laughs giddily. His elation is short-lived, however, as he realizes that others have started climbing the thread behind him, stretching down into the murky depths below. Fearing that the thread will break from the weight of the others, he shouts that the spider's thread is his and his alone. It is at this moment that the thread breaks, and he and all the other sinners are cast back down into the Pool of Blood.

The Buddha (or Jesus) witnesses this, knowing all, but sad nonetheless. In the end, Kandata condemned himself.

This was an old story I found that was told by Buddhists and Christians. 

I've noticed morality tales are universal.


25 comments:

  1. Universal... and recurring? Maybe it sometimes happens that Kandata remembers his error and simply climbs, allowing his fellows to come with him.

    Or maybe he learns to find Hell more interesting. You know, taste is subjective. :)

    I love the not-quite random patterns in this picture. It looks kind of like a monotype.

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    1. Speaking of finding Hell more interesting, you may like this:

      A PR executive died and found herself in the Afterlife Waiting Room where she was told she could decide whether to spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. First she visited Heaven where everything was beautiful and peaceful as would be expected. Next she went to Hell where she found all her friends having a wonderful time eating, drinking, telling jokes and doing all sorts of exciting things. The Devil himself spent much time amusing her.

      Next day, back in the Waiting Room she agreed to go to Hell. When she arrived the second time she found all her friends moaning, groaning and suffering terribly while the Devil laughed and cracked a whip. 'What's this?' she cried in fright, 'Why is there no party like the one I attended yesterday?'

      'Ah!', said the Devil, 'That was just our recruitment banquet.'

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    2. Heard the same joke, except it was a salesman, and it was just the demo. Good one.

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  2. A wonderful tale!

    I love the tie-dye like pattern of gorgeous colours, as if done on a silk scarf.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Marja-Leena.

      The picture was quite fun to paint.

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  3. Susan

    An enchanting tale of parable like quality to go with your lovely painting.

    Even though Akutagawa Ryûnosuke's "The Spider Thread “was for children to first appear in a literary children’s magazine in 1918, it can certainly also invite discussions on human nature itself.

    The author’s inspiration to write the story apparently came from 2 sources - The Brothers Karamazov, and from the Story of Early Buddhism “The Spider's Web" in Karma:
    Best wishes

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  4. Hi Lindsay,
    It's neat that you recognized all this too. I found a version of 'The Spider Thread' on a Buddhist website and liked it so much I read it to my husband a few months ago. Recognizing it as a favourite of his own from Ryûnosuke's 'Rashomon' he got the book from the shelf to show me the story there. It was after that I read about Dostoyevsky having it as part of 'The Brothers Karamazov' - a book I read so long ago that I should read again.

    I'm glad you liked the painting too.

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  5. It is a good story, many interpretations could be made, eh? One might be that god is whimsical, amusing his or herself. Another would be that god, knowing all, set a trap for him, knowing what his reaction would be. I can think of others, but they all lead to the conclusion that god has his agenda, and what that might be, and why would a god have an agenda.....I mean, being a god and all.

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    1. I tend to favor the whimsical definition. I've long been persuaded of the Gnostic view of creation. In it there's a true, ultimate and transcendent God, who is beyond all created universes and who never created anything while the god of our reality is a portion of the divine essence who is an emanation so far removed from the Source that he is imperfect. It makes much sense.

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  6. Similar human morals are touted by most religions and philosophies, and political entities. The problem is that each one seems to consider it's view over all the others, even though all share similar codes.

    Very nice painting. It fits the story perfectly. Did you paint with the story in mind?

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    1. There's definitely a major break between what some people come to understand and how most of us tend to act.

      I'm delighted you like the painting. Yes, it was inspired by the story.

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  7. Love your painting and the story is interesting. I think hell is of our own making and it is right here on the Earth, right now. We are living it. Sad but true I think. Still, we can live in heaven if only we would choose that option.

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    1. It's always nice to know you've liked one of my pictures, Lib. The version of Hell in the story makes for an excellent metaphor describing exactly how it is we do make life miserable for ourselves. As you say, we have a choice.

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  8. Susan, this is a work of genius. No one could have drawn a depiction of this remarkable story even close to as perfectly as you did. When it first came up on screen, before reading the story, I fell in love with the image, the colors, the character's expression, the sense of danger but also hope. I love this work so much.

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    1. I'm very touched by your description of how the painting affected you, Lydia. What can I say but thank you for letting me know it worked as I hoped.

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  9. I too had to take a long look at the picture before reading the story. it's such a compelling image....I found myself wondering.... is he going up, or down? why is it so dark below? what is above, producing the beautiful light? what is that shining cord that he's hanging from? and the story only built on the gorgeous image. you knock my socks off, girl! (which is annoying, as it's nearly -30 and the floor chilly.... my feet will get cold, so i'll quickly put my socks back on) I toast you with a warm culpa, still avoiding doing my income tax return.

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    1. You made me blush, but blushing is a good thing in winter because it helps to warm me up on yet another cold day. I hope you found your socks :)

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  10. that's a warm cuppa. blast spellcheck!

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    1. I knew that. The problem with spellcheck is that it has no clue about context.

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  11. what the heck is a culpa anyway?

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    1. The dictionary defines culpa as criminal negligence.
      I love my dictionary.

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  12. It's the picture, stupid. . . . :)

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