Shinran and His Work, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
At the last moment before publication I have been fortunate enough to make a "find" which I hope will interest my readers, both in Japan and elsewhere. It bears out what I have said previously in a note about Abraxas, and forms another important link in the chain which connects the Mahāyāna with the Gnostic heresies of the New Testament times.
S. Irenaeus, in Book I chap. 24, speaking of the Gnostic Basilides, tells us that, besides Abraxas, he and his followers used a word Caulaucau, to denote, apparently, either God or the Universe—the two ideas were about the same to the Gnostic mind. Caulaucau is also mentioned by Epiphanius, Theodret, John of Damascus, and other Greek Fathers (for the exact references I will send my reader to the volume of Irenaeus in Migne's Patrologia), as a term connected not only with the heresy of Basilides but also with that of Nicolas of Antioch, who, having been one of the Seven Deacons, became the founder of a Gnostic sect. The word is explained as meaning "the World," "the Saviour," "a Prince." Epiphanius and others imply that it has no meaning in particular, that it was taken from the Hebrew text of Isaiah xxvii. 10, ("precept upon precept, line upon line") as being an imposing word to pronounce, and likely to impress ignorant converts to Gnosticism. Now, at a Japanese funeral (in the Jōdo sect, certainly: I think, in all) a flat wooden post,
known as a sotoba, is carried to the grave and erected there after the ceremony, remaining until the grave stone is ready to be put up. It bears the following inscriptions: on the one side, Om, written in debased Sanskrit: on the other, also in Sanskrit, the letters kha la ka va a. The letters are sometimes transposed: but appear generally in this order. They mean, I am told, (i) the five skandhas which constitute the mind, (ii) the five elements which constitute the Universe, (iii) mind itself, and, (iv) the Universe itself. The word is also said to be a variant form of Abarakakia, which is Abraxas.
I venture to think that kha la ka va a is the Gnostic Caulaucau, being identical with it in meaning and also in sound. (The Greek text gives the word with variants, as though the letters composing it were sometimes transposed, as in Japanese; thus Abraxas sometimes appears as Abrasax.)
Thus I think that I have now four links in the chain connecting the Japanese Mahāyāna with New Testament times and heresies. 1. Abraxas, 2. Caulaucau, 3. the evident resemblance between the thirteen Buddhas, guardians of the dead according to the Shingon and other sects, and the thirteen realms of the dead through which the soul is made to journey in the Gnostic book, Pistis Sophia, 4. the great similarity, amounting almost to identity of conception, between the Buddhist conception of Amida and the Christian conception of Christ, as explained in these pages, together with the fact that the two teachings make their public appearance in the world almost simultaneously.