- 桃山学院大学人間科学 = HUMAN SCIENCES REVIEW, St. Andrew's University (ISSN:09170227)
- no.30, pp.99-128, 2006-01-15
In a European folk tale called Saint Peter's Mother, an old woman, who was wicked in her life and fell to Hell, is pulled out of Hell with the aid of an onion. Other sinners in Hell take hold of her, so that they may be pulled out along with her. Noticing this, she kicks them. At that moment, the onion breaks, and all fall back into Hell. It is found that she is still mean, just as she was in her former life, and unworthy of being rescued from Hell. Many variants of this story are found all over the Christian world. And Henry F. Fullenwider proposes to add one more to the list of variants(Fullenwider, "The Onion and the Spiderweb: Paul Carus' Karma and Other Literary Variants of Grimms' Sankt Peters Mutter [Bolte/Polvka, num. 221]," Fabula 28, 1987, pp. 320-326). The story which he takes up as a new variant of Saint Peter's Mother is unique in that it is a Buddhist story composed by a European. It is The Spider Web of Paul Carus(1852-1919), who was born and educated in Germany, and immigrated to America to be an advocator of "religion of science" as editor of The Open Court. As Kayoko Nagao(長尾佳代子)points out in her paper(長尾,「芥川龍之介『蜘蛛の糸』原作の主題 -ポ-ル・ケ-ラスが『カルマ』で言おうとしたこと-」,『仏教文学』27, 京都, 2003, pp. 161-172), The Spider-web is based on an episode that is repeated in such collections of Buddhist narratives as the Avadnaataka and the Divyvadna. This ancient Buddhist episode consists of four parts: When Buddha appears on earth, he smiles and sheds light,* which reaches all places including Hell (1). Bathed in Buddha's light, sinners in Hell are cheered (2). Thereupon Buddha sends his proxy to Hell (3). And those sinners there seize the opportunity for deliverance in the distant future (4). Lon Feer's translation of the Avadnaataka had appeared two years before Carus published his Spider Web(Avadnaataka, cent lgendes buddhiques, traduites du sanskrit par M. Lon Feer, Annales du Muse Guimet 18, Paris, 1891). Carus had diligently studied Buddhism, read almost all translations of Buddhist scriptures then available in Europe, and written many books on Buddhism. So he was following the Buddhist tradition when he wrote The Spider Web, which runs as follows: A sinner called Kandata has been suffering tortures in Hell. When Buddha appears on earth, the light shed by him reaches Hell and sinners there soften. Buddha sends a spider as his proxy to Kandata, who takes hold of the web and begins to climb up. Soon he feels the thread trembling, for many sinners are climbing after him. Kandata becomes frightened and shouts, "Let go the cobweb. It is mine." At that moment, the spiderweb breaks, and all fall back into Hell. The meaning of this story is that it is essential to follow Buddha's teaching, according to which there exists no such thing as tman(self). Kandata falls back into Hell, because he has not thrown away the illusion of tman, saying that the cobweb is his alone. A memory of Saint Peter's Mother might have come to Carus, when he wrote the scene of falling again into Hell, but this is not the core of the story. The Spider Web is a failure story composed on the basis of the tradi-tional Buddhist episode. Being ignorant of this, Fullenwider misses the meaning of Carus' story, and he puts a special emphasis on the scene of falling back into Hell. The Spider Web of Paul Carus cannot be a variant of Saint Peter's Mother. *Here light is a symbol of Buddha's teaching.