Mysterious

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Mysterious or "Mythological Beasts" include gigantic animals, beings that have an extremely astonishing appearance or do unexpected or uncharacteristic things, also hybrids and creatures of mixed characteristics that might be considered monsters.

Contents

Hybrids

Very rarely a creature or child is born that resembles a mixture of forms.  Its appearance requires some explanation, so one wonders what the comments ca. 1850 were concerning the unfortunate American (Ozarks) mother of a "snake child" daughter that lived to be 19 years old.

According to the Buddhist tradition hybrids, or what we might call monsters, originated  during the time right after the Buddha's Awakening when all hatred vanished from the world.  Then, animals that had been foe and prey mated with each other, and produced offspring such as these.

The Three Fighters of Disharmony

Notice that in a characteristic Vajrayana fashion, the "fighters" which are images of chaos themselves, are the ones to fight disharmony.

According to Dagyab Rinpoche, 

"The Symbols of Victory in the Fight against Disharmony, or Disagreement, are three mythical animals, each of which is composed of parts of two mutually hostile beasts:

.the Eight-Legged Lion (seng-ge rkangpa brgyad-pa)
.the Fur-Bearing Fish (nya spu rgyas-pa)
.the Makara-Cocodile (chu-srin ma-ka-ra)

"According to myth,they are each supposed to have sprung from the union of two rival animals. I give a short description of each following the text Grub-chen lu-i-pa'i lugs-kyi dpal 'khor-lo sdom-pa'i bskyed-rim he-ru-ka'i zhal-lung:

"The eight-legged lion is the son of the union of a garuda and a lion.  He has the overall body if a lion, [but] with two wings. He has claws at the knees ... . The fur-bearing fish is the son of a fish and an otter.  He has the overall body of a fish, [but] with an otter's fur... .  The makara crocodile is the son of a snail and a crocodile. His whole body is firm like a snail shell. He is [also] generally regarded as the son of a union between crocodile, dragon, and snake. His tail forms entwined patterns (patra)."

In artistic representations, the lion, contrary to the text, always has the head of a garuda. The claws at his knees are very seldom depicted.  The fish is nearly always shown with the body of an otter, but with a fish's head and flippers.

Although the Tibetan term chus-rin is always translated "crocodile in the secondary literature, in Sino-Tibetan literature it is more of a fabulous monster than a crocodile.  Accordingly, when depicted in combination with the snail shell, it is shown having a head with a mane, and its shape is only vaguely reminiscent of a normal crocodile."

Rinpoche adds:

"Among the signs of victory ... a sign with applied animals was
mentioned, which in normal Tibetan usage is called a banner (ba-dan), but is described in classical Tibetan literature as a sign of victory (rgyal-mtshan). The animal applications always take the form of the three pairs of animals described here. The only explanation I can find for the use of these animal symbols to represent a strong tendrel for the spreading of harmony is that they depict combinations of mutually hostile animals. The victory signs thus adorned are called "signs of victory in the fight against disharmony"(mi-mthun g.yul-las rgyal-ba'i rgyal-mtshan). These symbolic beasts are also shown on painted scrolls, miniature cult pictures, painted on walls and beams, on tents and marquees, tables, beds, and vessels for religious and everyday use, as butter ornaments for sacrificial cakes, and depicted on thrones."

~ from chapter 9, entitled mi-mthun g.yul-rgyal, of Dagyab, Loden Sherab's Buddhist Symbols in Tibetan Culture, illustrated with line-drawings. Wisdom Publications, 1995.  ISBN 0-86171-047-9

~ Jamyang Lhamo at lotsawa list in response to query

Qilin

The mysterious one-horned hooved beast (i.e., a "unicorn,") that somewhat resembles the Tibetan snow lion is not associated with Buddhism, but rather Taoism.  Chinese legend has it that it first appeared during the reign of legendary emperor Fu Hsi, when it emerged from the Yellow River and presented him with a document which is the basis for the Chinese language.

One again appeared to Confucius (6thC BCE) and spat out a jade tablet upon which was written that the great philosopher would be the "uncrowned king" of China.  Thus, the Kilin  symbolizes worldly success.  In the Chinese form of Buddhism, Vaisharavana (Tib. Dzambala) rides a Kilin, rather than a snow lion. 

In Japan, its name is pronounced kirin, and its horn appears more like an antler.  Sometimes it is depicted as scaly and dragon-like, thus resembling the chimera of the ancient Greeks.

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monster: The word comes from the Latin word for "warning sign."  The connotation here is that the unexpected form is a portent of impending danger.  Hence, in mythology monsters are often linked with a belief in an underlying, or a pre-theistic, state of chaos.  Though "The Little Mermaid" might seem a sweet little being, she is in fact, a monster.


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