Life Lessons - Spirituality, Living beings and beliefs
The fish is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism and stands for well-being, happiness and freedom. Just like Christianity, the symbol of the fish is also considered lucky in Buddhism and is said to symbolize a state of fearlessness and a sense of freedom that allows this creature to navigate oceans and survive despite the cold and harsh condition. The Buddhist fish symbol has different forms. These include:
You are most likely to spot a Gargoyle-like crap also known as ‘Shachihoko’ on opposite ends of the ridge of a castle roof. There are different interpretations regarding what they symbolize. While some associate it with fertility, because of the male and female pair. Buddhist believers interpret it as symbolic of the elongated eyebrows of the Buddha.
In early May, tubular ‘koinobori’ (climbing carp) streamers made of cloth, paper or plastic, are flown all over japan to celebrate Boys’ Day. They represent the fish’s struggle to swim upstream and are flown high to show they succeeded. The Japanese pray on that day that their sons will be similarly successful, healthy and strong.
The next time you step into a Japanese temple, look out for the mokugyo or wooden fish. It’s fashioned in a roundish shape from a solid block of wood. It is carved with fish scales and often has a lion / dragon head. The mokugyo is hollowed out, so that when the priest strikes it with a leather-padded drumstick, the sound has a strange hypnotic effect on the hearer. This drum is often used to accompany a kyouten (sutra-reading).
The Japanese namazu (catfish) are believed to be especially sensitive to an earthquakes precursor and behave in a peculiar way, warning people to take pre-emptive action. There is scant scientific basis for this. There’s also a legend that a giant catfish called Namazu lives in mud beneath the Japanese islands. This catfish likes to thrash about; something that could cause untold calamity for the people living above, since this catfish really is huge. Fortunately, however, Namazu is kept under control by the demigod kashima. He keeps a huge magical rock in position over the catfish and as long as kashima maintains this position, people above ground are safe. However if kashima relaxes, then people suffer an earthquake.