Saturday, October 17, 2015

A God With Many Names: Naza (哪咤的由来)

A Taiwanese lady Naza medium in a trance in the middle of firecracker blast.

In Taoist magic, the centre head (yellow) of the '5 legionnaire armies' represents Naza.

Naza is an interesting character as not many gods can have so many names and so many identities in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. To begin with, the name Naza () is the name adopted by Taoist and Chinese classical literatures. I believe Taoist Naza is originated from Buddhist tantric texts and the Buddhist Naza, Nana, Nazakapala (吒矩缽), Natakuvara (吒俱伐) all refer to Sanskrit Nalakuvara.

In Chinese folk religion, Naza is also known as ‘the 3rd prince’ (哪咤三太子) this is probably stems from tantric belief that Naza is the 3rd prince of Vaisravana-raja and Laksmi. Vaisravana incidentally is the Hindu ‘kubera’ or ‘god of wealth’; who is also the grandson of Brahma-deva and the king of yaksa.

So you will find the work: refers to utilizing the power of Vaisravana and Naza to overcome demonic entities such as yaksa and raksa.

Naza is a very important deity in Chinese folk religion in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. In Taoist ritual ‘5 legionnaire armies’ (五营兵), Naza is also known as the ‘general of the center camp’ (中坛元帅) and he is also the leader of other 4 camps is also: east, south, west and north. Every time when a place is besieged by epidemic, local folks would setup altars of 5 legionnaire armies and make offerings.

Since Naza is said to be riding on fiery wheels, he is particularly worshipped by those people who need to travel pretty often. For example: drivers, sales persons, frequent travelers etc.

Basically Naza is made popular by two Chinese classic literatures. The first one is the Taoist-biased ‘Romance Of Confer Of Gods’ (封神演义) and the other Buddhist-biased work ‘Journey To The West’ (西游记).

Just a side note, the work No. 1288 is an obscured work about summoning Nana-deva or Naza for various duties. As usual Chinese translator skipped translating the left-hand tantric phrases such as: skull, corpse, blood etc perhaps he thought those phrases do not suit Chinese culture of that time. But due to his position as translator, he must perform the translation task nonetheless; so the best option is just transliterate the terms and not the meaning. This is a common trick of the past translator; unfortunately this also made such tantric texts incomprehensible to modern readers.

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