chapter  12
12 Pages

The Nine Orifices of the Body

It is a well-known feature of Buddhist canonical literature that one of the chief early disciples of the Buddha, Maudgalyayana (Pali : Moggallana) was credited with special magical powers (iddhi in Pali, rddhi in Sanskrit) with which he often visited various other realms of the world than ours, such as the hells and heavens. The Mahdvastu (Vol. I) soon takes up an account of this disciple's visits to the eight great hells and other realms. These stories do not explain how he managed to accomplish the feat. It is only much later-as far as I know-in the Buddhist Tantra literature, that one can find an explanation of how a yogin can contact the subdivisions of the three worlds, according to the traditional Buddhist classification, that is to say, the realm of desire, realm of form, and formless realm. The realm of desire is said to include the six passion deity families, as well as men, animals, hungry ghosts (preta), and hell beings. The realm of form is called, for meditative purposes, the four dhyanas, and has further divi­ sions. The formless realm also has its divisions of the bases of infinite space, infinite perception, and so on. These divisions are known from early Buddhist literature and are discussed acutely in the branch of literature called Abhidharma. According to the tantric literature as will be cited below, the way a yogin like Maudgalyayana can gain entrance to those worlds is analogous to how a person might go there after death by reason of destiny. In short, the yogin concentrates in a special way on various body orifices that are deemed to be correlated with the beings of various realms, while the person who dies with his stream of consciousness passing through one orifice or another, goes to the appropriate realm of the inter­ mediate state (antariibhava) . The orifices themselves are made salient in ancient Indian literature . The rest may well have been strictly oral for

centuries ; but there are suggestions of the rather curious theory herein unfolded in the wide-spread injunction to think of a deity in the hour of death so as to go to the realm of that deity. Such a teaching is found in the Hindu classic, the Bhagavadgitd, and the famous American Sanskritist Franklin Edgerton once collected many materials on this subject for an article in Annals of the Bhandarkar Institute ( 1 927).