Hi, this is my little theory I´ve come up with recently, before you guys start reading make sure read the upper part that explains the theories concept to avoid confusion, thank you!
Samsara is a religious concept in Buddhism and Hindu, which the japanese have also assimilated into Shinto, that roughly translates into “Wheel of suffering”.
Here is somewhat of a loose explanation since as a religious concept it´s too complicated to explain in a short amount of time.
I´ve stumbled upon this explanation, when I searched for the inspiration for the 6 paths of Pain in Naruto.On my search I coincidentally found out, that the Hitman Reborn series also got their inspiration for some abilities based on those religious beliefs.
That´s where it struck me and I thought why wouldn´t Oda use it as a theme?
Oda may answer this in an SBS after they are all introduced, since he usually doesn´t tend to adress his tributes blatantly but rather hint at them as inspirations for his themes.
The Yonko and 6 paths huh? There are just 4 Yonko how does that even fit?
Well to my knowledge the Yonko system is fairly new, Brook didn´t knew about it during his prime and Roger wasn´t a Yonko although being the Pirate King. The road to become the pirate King won´t be a steep one, that´s for sure. Luffy will have to be a Yonko at least for a short time, his first stepping stone into becoming the Pirate King will be to reach that status. Blackbeard replaced Whitebeard and became the 5th Yonko. So since Luffy´s aim is to beat them all he´ll be the 6th man to reach that status.
Therefore the 6th paths/realms.
Short explanation the six realms of Samsara (wheel of suffering),consists of the 6 realms of non enlighted beings (non Buddhas) a Buddha transcends and leaves the cycle of death and rebirth because of the enlightment he reaches. Those realms are: 1.Beings in Hell, 2.Hungry Ghosts (Preta),3.Animals,4.Asuras (demigods who can be good or evil),5.Humans and 6.Devas which are basicly gods (not omnipotent ones though).In general it´s to be aspired to be born within the Human realm, because although humans don´t have the superior abilities of the Asura or the divinity of the Devas (no pain, diseases etc), they are not hold back through envy or pride. The human realm, is the easiest one to reach transcendence or “enlightment”aka become a Buddha.
So now to my theory:
Every Yonkos theme mirrors figuratively one of Samsara paths similar to Pain´s 6 bodies in Naruto.
Keep in mind that this mirrors “mainly” the Yonko. Not always his overall crew.
1. Beings from Hell,Blackbeard´s theme. Blackbeards Jolly Roger displays 3 skulls which made some people believe Blackbeard may have a relation to Cerberus (the keeper of the underworld). On top of that his ability is the power of darkness which is called Yami in japanese and is tied to the underworld Yomi. He also recruited his members from the “depths of Hell” Impel down. One of them is also seemingly heavily associatred with death, the crew´s doctor Doc Q. Worst of all, he commited the greatest sin of all, that´s despised in any culture, the killing of a comrade. That should foreshadow Blackbeard´s destination when the series ends.
2.Hungry Ghosts, Big Mom´s theme. She supposedly ate her own people, seems to be the biggest glutton within the One Piece universe and her powers may as well be tied to eating, maybe a stronger version of Wapol. People wrote off this theory, but machvise showed us that Oda does recycle his abilities from time to time. Lava>Fire, which brought me to the conclusion that there may even be a Water Logia.
But back to Big Mom. remember food or especially candy was more important to her than even gold or power, I will update this when we get more hints.
3.Animals. Kaido´ s theme. For this one I have more hints. Kaido commands an army of “Animal fighters”. Which he intends to expand, he´s the strongest “being” within the One Piece world and people claim he may not even be a human. Why? We´ve seen Fishman be pirates. Winged angel humans, even monkeys. Who know´s there is a chance that he´s not a zoan like many assume but literally an animal.
4.Asura, Luffy´s theme, obviously.Zorro, says enough, read the explanation on Asura on the link I posted, should tell enough.They are demigods, with superior powers compared to humans, but don´t reach enlightment because of their jealousness over the devas. They are also beings of constant fightning and good as well as evil ones exist among them.
5.Humans Shanks theme.Similar to the Asura realm humans can be good or evil but tend to be chaotic and blended by their desires, which is why Shanks theme is the theme most similar to Luffy´s. Why is Shanks theme the human one and not Luffy´s, Shanks most likely has no Devil fruit, possibly his whole crew relys solely on Haki and their battle prowess alone. They are not monsters like Luffy´s crew. Devil fruit users, demon childs,skeletons, incarnated asuras and the devils legs.
6.Devas (celestial beings), Whitebeard´s theme:Whitebeard is the closest thing to a godly being in terms of power that´s been shown so far and isn´t related with the WG. His first mate uses a Devil Fruit that´s rarer than Logia (Mythical Zoan), only Senghok´s power was compareable. He was renowned as “the strongest” man on earth. He was modest compared to other pirates, not seeking for gold or treasure but he incorperated the worst sin of them all, Devas downfall, their pride. Whitebeard only lost the war because he was too prideful and took that attack from Squard for no reason. He also went up against the “godly world governement” and faced off against a “Buddha”.
My theory is that the “enlightment” which in Budhism means the breakout of Samsara, within One piece is reached through finding out the truth of the void century. Keep in mind, what Rayleigh said towards Luffy´s quote: “I think the freest person on the ocean is Pirate King”. But we know finding One Piece is tied to that goal and furthermore it´s hinted that the void century is also tied to that goal (One Piece).
Knowing the truth=Enlightment=Freedom. That´s where I think Shinto plays a role. Shinto is very oriented to the living world, it doesn´t associate itself much with the afterlife. “Live your life to the fullest and don´t think about tomorrow.” At the same time the Strawhats never hurt someone for their own benefits like regular pirates would do.Whitebeard a “Deva” was the closest to reach enlightment, finding the One piece and become Pirate King. But he didn´t care, because as the religious devas he was happy with what he had, he didn´t strife for enlightment,(devas are less likely to find enlightment than humans because they don´t search for it).Currently Shanks is the one closest to become Pirate King, he represents the “human path” and may reach enlightment if he opens his eyes.(finds out the truth).Blackbeard the”Being from hell ” is the farthest away from reaching it. That´s why Whitebeard said, Roger the guy who reached enlightment, found out the truth,was the freest man(died in peace) is not waiting for him. Kaido as an “animal” doesn´t even know how to become Pirate King and Big Mom “as a hungry ghost” doesn´t care, all she wants is to eat.
The “Deva” who the “Asura” tend to envy and therefore holding them back with their mockings,is dead. The biggest obstacle for Luffy is Shank´s who is the only one capable of becoming Pirate King besides him, not Blackbeard. The final Showdown before Luffy will be Pirate King won´t be between the Blackbeard Pirates and the Strawhats, that´ll come earlier. Shanks will be the last obstacle Luffy has to overcome. The new generation will have to beat the old one.
Furthermore Sengoku who is “the Buddha” knows the truth, as the fleet admiral he is enlightened, but he isn´t free. He fears the wrath of the Gorosei “the fake Gods” therefore he is not truly enlightened.
Sengoku is a “fake” Buddha, (he´s depicted as being fat, a traditional buddha is slim).
The world government pretends to be omnipotent in many occasions.
But they are not, no one is ominpotent in Shinto or Buddhism, even Kami (gods) die, Kami grow old in age, Kami have emotions. It´s a reoccuring theme in One Piece. Enel, the Tenryubito, Doflamingo, they all overestimate themselves.
Zoro’s claim that he doesn´t believe in God(Kami), but using religious references (such as Asura/Purgatory) on several occasions, is falsely interpret by many, as him being a hypocrit, or that Oda fucked up his character. He´s not, Buddhism or Shintoism are religions that don´t neccecarily require the belief in god´s or deity´s.The most recent example of this is Fujitora when he screams: “Who does the world goverment think they are? Are they truly omnipotent?” That´s what the future will tell. Luffy will challenge the gods. Not alone, but with the friends he makes. He´ll be the Asura to challenge the Kami and show them that they are not omnipotent. He will be the one that brings war, but this time to the Kamis.
*Theory by OralJackson