Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan, and the recognized master of the Haiku. He made a living as a teacher, but renounced the social and urban life of the literary circles, and wandered throughout the country to gain inspiration for his writing. His poems are influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often catching the feelings of a scene in a few simple elements. Here Basho is leaning on his staff when he encounters two farmers celebrating the mid-autumn moon festival. The Haiku reads:
“Since the crescent moon, I have been waiting for tonight.”
So far as we know, Ogasawara Sensei wrote only one book in English and it is difficult to find. One of Ogasawara’s students was Masahilo Nakazono who moved to the U.S. and published several kototama books in English.
Waki Shuppan, the Waki Publishing Company, has been publishing a series of books on kototama, the power of sound, the spirit of speech.
Nanasawa Kenji 七沢 賢治is a student of Ogasawara Sensei. Nanasawa has published a number of books based on the Ogasawara teachings.
The book we are looking at today is entitled, 言霊開眼. The Japanese title is read as Genrei Kaigan, and it can be interpreted as Kototama Enlightenment. The…
From the writings of the classical Greek period, we know the term “Five Elements.” The concept is found in many other cultures. Wosite, too, has its version. In this essay, we share some observations about these various views of the universe and humans.
Greek Five Elements
According to Aristotle, the Five Elements which are the basic building blocks of the physical world are:
Aether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth
These were part of the system of explaining observed phenomena in Greek physics. As Wikipedia notes, Plato used the term “element” in reference to air, fire, earth, and water. The ancient Greek word for element, stoicheion (στοιχεῖον), meant a letter or a syllable, the smallest component of a word.
Tibetan Prayer Flags
We received a string of paper prayer flags from ICT, the International Campaign for Tibet. The enclosure, shown here, explains the symbolism of…
This year, the Wesak Festival which we first wrote about in 2016, takes place on May 5 – 9 this year of 2020.
The Wesak Festival at the time of the Taurus new moon is said to take place when the Buddha and the Christ meet in the mysterious Shambhala Valley in the Himalayas. A powerful energy combines Wisdom and Love to elevate human consciousness.
Wesak is especially important when the entire globe is engaged in a struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic. Let those of spiritual inclination join together in meditation with the intent to foster the coming of the new Light.
The Lucis Trust (lucis means light) is dedicated to the establishment of a new and better way of life for everyone in the world based on the fulfillment of the divine plan for humanity.
The Lucis Trust has posted their message for Wesak 2020 and an excerpt follows.
Wesak is widely celebrated throughout the East as the Festival of the Buddha. For esotericists it is the high point of the spiritual year when forces of enlightenment ﬂow from the higher worlds into the mind of humanity.
A new world is now being conceived by many – it is being actively looked for, and when the eye of the soul is opened, it will be seen to be more real than the world that is revealed by the ﬁve senses. The new light is on its way. The annual Wesak blessing plays a crucial role in the coming of that light.
On the Lucis Trust Wesak page, you can download a 24-page copy of the booklet, The Wesak Festival.
The Aoi Matsuri, the so-called Hollyhock Festival of Kyoto, is one of Kyoto’s finest events. Around 500 people participate in the procession in Heian period dress. The photo above was taken by Okunomichi on May 15, 2018.
In Japan the emergency has coincided with the flowering of cherry blossom, symbolic of life’s brief beauty.
Green Shinto informs us that this festival began in the 6th century to appease the kami.
The festival is claimed as one of the oldest in Japan, with its roots in the sixth century according to the Nihon shoki (720). It may have been that an epidemic had spread through the country at a time of famine and earthquake.
An earlier post on Okunomichi mentions the Aoi Matsuri along with other ancient festivals. According to the Wosite documents as reported by WoshiteWorld, there were from Wosite Jomon times these seasonal festivals:
In the annals of the Wosite documents of Jomon Japan, annual festivals of the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth lunar months are mentioned as follows:
1/1 Hatsuhi, New Year’s Day
3/3 Momo no Sekku Peach Festival of Girls Day (Hinamatsuri)
5/5 Aoi Matsuri, Hollyhock Festival of Kyoto
7/7 Tanahata Matsuri, Star Festival
9/9 Kiku-kuri Matsuri, Chrysanthemum-Chestnut Festival
There is a wonderful video of the Yasurai Festival at Imamiya Jinja, in the same Green Shinto post.
We look forward to the resumption of the traditional observances next year.
This year, we are having a very early spring equinox. Astronomical spring arrives on March 19th at 9:49 pm MDT. Already, we see signs of spring, such as the redbud and plum blossoms. On a recent walk, we delighted in the variety of colors and shapes — and scents!
Nature is full of life. So creative in the variety of leaves and flowers.
Look for the honeybee on the yellow freesias and amongst the wisteria blossoms. It is so gratifying to see our pollinator friends.
Rarely do we see deep thoughts of Shinto in open literature. This unassuming book is valuable not only for Shinto studies, but also for consciousness studies in various spiritual traditions. This post is but one of a number of Okunomichi’s series on consciousness and Mind. By Mind, we refer to the great Mind of Universe as well as the higher consciousness of the human Mind.
The World of Shinto, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, 1985, 268pp, 4892374113.
The contents of this book were first made into modern Japanese in 1977 by Professor Kamata Jun’ichi of the Okura Institute for Spiritual Cultures. Then it was rendered into English by Norman Havens of Kokugakuin University. The book is published by the Buddhist Promoting Organization.
The book contains a number of essays by members of notable Shinto families. We present excerpts from five essays written during the 12th, 14th, and 16th centuries.
Nakatomi no Harae Kunge (An Explication of the Nakatomi Liturgy of Purification)
Written near the very end of the Heian (794 – 1185) or early in the Kamakura period (1185-1333).
“The individual mind, my mind, should be viewed as something which communes with heaven and earth, nature, the cosmos. When considered in this way, we know that the gods ruling the cosmos exist within my very mind. When I come to this realization, I can comprehend the mind of the deities within my own mind. And that becomes the purification of no-mind, no-thought. When I confront the deity with this no-mind, no-thought, god and man are united, namely, I become one with god, and it is clear that all my thoughts, all my desires, are in communion with god. Namely, this is a means, a discipline for knowing my own mind, and by that, I am changed into my true self. The union of god and man means the road whereby I return to myself.”
Notes: Nakatomi no harae refers to the ritual invocations of the oharae great purification ritual which was recited on the last day of the sixth and twelfth months by the Nakatomi clan. The Nakatomi no Harae Kungetext is the oldest-known commentary on this ritual. The commentary found in the text is based upon the esoteric teachings (taimitsu) of the Tendai Buddhist sect.
Toyoashihara Jinpuu Waki (A Simple Record of the Divine Wind in Japan, by Jihen*, 1340)
“The correct way of Shinto practice is not to be misled by senseless words and theories, but merely to seek the sole true source of the mind [kokoro]. To know its origin and ultimate, and to become one with it, one must merely endeavor earnestly. Not to be led astray on false paths, but to awaken to the root of the Way, and to teach that Way even to fools, and to those who have forgotton virtue and become lost — such is the true method of Shinto practice. To act in such a way is to be in accord with the command of heaven, the fundamental Way of the universe; it can be said to be in communion with the fundamental spiritual essence of the universe.”
*Jihen was the son of the Shinto diviner Urabe Kaneaki. He was a Buddhist and became interested in Shinto, developing a unique viewpoint and theory regarding Shinto. Jihen was a strong influence on Shinto thought in the Nambokuchō and Muromachi eras, formulating the “Root, Branch and Flower” doctrine (konpon shōka, wherein Shinto represented the root, Confucianism the branches, and Buddhism the flower of the order of all things).
Shinto Yuraiki (Records of the Origins of Shinto, by Yoshida Kanetomo** 1435-1511)
“That which governs heaven and earth is called deity [kami]. That which governs the individual things in the world is called spirit [rei], while that which governs the individual human being is called mind [kokoro]. At the same time, the human mind is the very place where the kami—who govern the entire universe—dwell, a sacred place within which thus resides the root origin of the cosmos and all things. “
**Yoshida Kanetomo was the founder of Yoshida Shinto (Yuiitsu, “One and Only Shinto”). He was from the family of Shinto diviners called Urabe. They served as priests for the Yoshida, Hirano, and Ume no Miya shrines.
Yuiitsu Shinto Myoubou Youshuu (Essentials of the Distinguished System of “The One and Only Shinto,” by Yoshida Kanetomo, 1435-1511
“The center of heaven and earth is kami. Kami is also the center of all things. Even devils and beasts—compassionless things—have kami at their center. The core of grass and trees, this is kami. If so, then how can it be that the human center, mind [kokoro] can be anything but kami? Certainly, the human mind, too, is kami. The spirits possessed by all things within this world—there is none that is not kami. There is nothing within which the kami does not dwell. “
Shinto Taii (An Outline of Shinto, by Yoshida Kanetomo, 1435-1511)
“Kami is that which was there before the appearance of heaven and earth, and which gave form to them; that which surpasses the yin and the yang, yet has the quality of them. This kami is thus an absolute existence, governing the entire universe of heaven and earth, yet at the same time, it dwells within all things, where it is called spirit [rei]; omnipresent within human beings, it is called mind [kokoro]. “
” In other words, human mind communes with the kami which is ruler of heaven and earth; mind and kami are one and the same. Kami is the root origin of heaven and earth, the spiritual nature of all things, and the source of human destiny. Itself without form, it is kami which nurtures things with form. Residing within man’s “five organs,” the deepest part of the human, kami becomes the five kami. “
“For this reason, the character 神 is read not only as “kami,” but also as “tamashii” [spirit or soul]. We see color with our eyes, yet the color is not in our eyes. That which is the root source of our seeing color is kami. We hear sounds with our ears, yet it is not the ear which produces the sound. That which is the hearing is kami. Our noses’ smelling, our mouths’ tasting, the feeling of hot and cold by our skin—all these are the same. And from this, we know that mind is the dwelling place of the kami, one and the same with the origin of heaven and earth. “
Note: We suggest you re-read these essays, substituting for kami, the words Mind or consciousness. The Japanese word, kokoro, means heart-mind, heart, or mind.
This is a continuation of our previous post on Jomon obsidian. The first blade technology emerged in the Upper Paleolithic, around 36,000 years ago. The Upper Paleolithic was from around 38,000 to 16,000 years ago; the Jomon period was from around 16,000 to 2,800 years ago.
“The Japanese Paleolithic is unique in that it incorporates one of the earliest known sets of ground stone and polished stone tools in the world, although older ground stone tools have been discovered in Australia. The tools, which have been dated to around 30,000 BC, are a technology associated in the rest of the world with the beginning of the Neolithic around 10,000 BC. It is not known why such tools were created so early in Japan.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_Paleolithic
“Prehistoric Human Activities Around Obsidian Sources in Central Japan”
This journal publication by Kazutaka Shimada contains a great deal of information about prehistoric obsidian sources in Central Japan. His Figure 2 is a detailed map of obsidian mining sites in the Central Highlands. Many Jomon sites have been found near obsidian mines in the mountains of the Central Highlands at altitudes between 1,200 to 2,000 m. We may think that the Jomon were hunter-gatherers, but they lived a semi-sedentary existence with lithic technology higher than we may have imagined.
Obsidian is distributed along volcanic zones, and sources of obsidian in the Japanese archipelago are therefore limited. Around 200 obsidian sources have been identified in Japan, the three main regions being northeastern Hokkaido island, central Japan of Honshu island, and northern Kyushu island.
During the Upper Paleolithic, the technique for the production of obsidian blades were done in lithic workshops. Early on, obsidian was gathered from the surface, and by the Jomon period, the people mined underground deposits by digging pits. The Central Highlands served as a “hub” of the Jomon residential areas, and its obsidian was widely distributed.
“The Jomon exchange networks reflect both the establishment of the local group(s) who exclusively managed the source areas and controlled obsidian circulation, and the emergence of highly sophisticated social relations among the regional Jomon societies of central Japan.”
This thoroughly documented paper offers a window into the lifestyle of the Jomon. We recommend you study it if you have any interest in the obsidian industry of Jomon Japan.
The Kanayama Megaliths from the Jomon period have been following the path of the sun in the sky for thousands of years. Thirty observations are made per year to determine the super-accurate solar calendar, an astronomical calendar. One of the most important observations is shown above. The photo was taken by Chika-san at Higashinoyama on December 22, 2019 when the sun rose above the neighboring mountains, and appeared directly ahead of the 9-meter long megalith.
Civil and Astronomical New Years
In many countries, the new year begins on the first day of January. Why? It is a civil calendar created for Western society beginning with the Roman calendar for the running of society. Astronomical calendars are based on major astronomical events such as solstices and equinoxes or risings of important stars and asterisms.
Astronomical New Year
In ancient societies in Europe and in Asia, indigenous people eagerly awaited the the return of the sun to their hemisphere after winter. They used an astronomical calendar. They carefully determined winter solstice day, the shortest day of the year and the day when the sun is lowest in the sky. They celebrated, for the sun is returning!
There are revival ceremonies in Japan to welcome back the sun. One of them is the Asadori Winter Solstice ritual that has continued for thousands of years in Central Japan.
Bonfire before and after being lit on winter solstice morning at Asadori shrine. Photo by Chika.
When we were in Nagano last year, we visited the Togariishi Jomon Archaeological Museum in the city of Chino. There I bought a black obsidian pendant. Ever since then, I have been curious to learn more about obsidian. Why was the museum selling obsidian pendants? What has obsidian to do with the Jomon of prehistoric Japan? We answer these questions in a two-part post.
What is Obsidian?
Obsidian is a volcanic glass, predominantly glossy black, that forms as igneous rock through the rapid cooling of magma. It has been used for cutting tools with sharp edges such as arrowheads and knives, and also as jewelry. Because it is shiny, it is like a mirror and is thought to expose hidden truths. Allowing negativities to be cleansed, obsidian is known for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.
Obsidian in Japan
Obsidian has a long history in Japan and is found in many places throughout the archipelago. It is called kokuyo-seki (黒曜石; koku is black and seki is stone). Obsidian has been mined from many sites in the Central Highlands since Jomon times. What are the Central Highlands? They cover the prefectures of Nagano, Yamanashi, and Gifu.
“It is believed that there are more than 100 obsidian mining sites in the Japanese islands, extending from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south. Among these, much of the obsidian from sites in Nagano Prefecture is of high quality, features sharp fracture intersections, and is easy to work and shape. For this reason, Nagano obsidian was the preferred material for making arrowheads, knives, and other stone tools and was widely used by the people of that period….Over a period of several tens of thousands of years from the Paleolithic to the Yayoi period, Nagano obsidian—obsidian only produced in Nagano Prefecture—was distributed in large quantities across a wide area.” https://jomon.co/en/story/
“30,000 years ago, obsidian was transported as raw stone, but 20,000 years ago, stone tools were made at the place of origin and transported to various places. In archeological sites such as Takayama and Mangakukura in Nagawa-cho, Nagano Prefecture, materials and fragments that are traces of stoneware processing have been found. ” https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASL9H46V9L9HUOOB003.html
Obsidian in Shinshu
Shinano Province or Shinshū (信州) is the traditional name for Nagano Prefecture. Located in central Honshu—the primary island of Japan—Shinshu flourished in ancient times as a cultural crossroads between Eastern and Western Japan. With the easy access from Tokyo and the fame the 1998 Winter Olympics brought to Nagano, Shinshu is today a popular tourist draw for people from both within and outside Japan. Bordered on the west by the Japanese Alps, a range of 3,000-meter class mountains, Shinshu provides excellent opportunities for such activities as skiing at Hakuba and hiking in Kamikochi (the Upper Highlands) as well as beautiful mountain views and other natural scenery. https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/shinshu/
“A historic ruins from the mid-Jomon period, located on the plateau on the west foot of Mt. Yatsugatake at an elevation of 1,070 meters. An archeological survey was carried out in 1930 by a local researcher, Fusakazu Miyasaka, which resulted in the excavation of numerous pit dwellings and hearth remnants, along with earthenware and stoneware revealing mid-Jomon culture and settlements that flourished in the Chubu Highlands. It was designated as a National Historic Site in 1942, and as the first Special Historic Site from the Jomon period in 1952. Moreover, north of the Togariishi Ruins and across a shallow valley with flowing natural spring water, the Yosukeone Historic Ruins were also added to the designation in 1993.” https://www.city.chino.lg.jp/site/togariishi/