Author Archives: Okunomichi

About Okunomichi

Okunomichi represents a group of seekers of sacred wisdom of the East. We are focusing primarily on the wisdom of ancient Japan, when there was not even a nation by that name. Yet, over a long period of time, an advanced civilization grew and developed high levels of understanding of the universe and how to live in harmony. This knowledge, these teachings, have been hard to discover for us in the West. We are finding them, and we are sharing them, with you.

Kototama and “Now” — An Izumo Taisha Shinto Perspective

Izumo Taisha

KOTOTAMA

Okunomichi and WoshiteWorld are deeply interested in the study and practice of Kototama. This is another in the Kototama series of expository articles. Here, we share a Shinto view of Kototama. We received the statements below from a representative of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. 

Introduction

Izumo Taisha (Izumo Ōyashiro) is one of the oldest and largest Shinto shrines in Japan. The taisha enshrines Ōkuninushi no Ōkami, kami of earth and spiritual world.

Shinto is the native Japanese religion which is based on traditional nature worship and animism. It does not have a particular founder, doctrine, or scripture. This is similar to old Hawaiian and Native American religions.

Nakaima, The “Now”

The word Nakaima comes from a national history book, Shoku Nihongi, Sequel to Chronicle of Japan, 797 CE [sequel to Nihon Shoki, 720 CE]. Nakaima is made up of two words, naka and ima, where the former means middle and the latter means now, the present time.

As Shinto does not have concepts about heaven and hell in the hereafter, “this world” is considered the most valuable and important time for all lives. It is the “middle” between the past and the future. “Now” is the precious time to reflect the past and expect the future.

Kototama of Norito

Shinto prayers, norito, are based on Kototama, the worship to words and language itself. From ancient times, it is said that, “The words can move the heaven and the earth” especially in the Japanese poems (waka, tanka). Traditionally, people use and choose words very carefully when they compose the poems because of Kototama, especially yamato kotoba (ancient Japanese classical words). This is why norito is composed only from yamato kotoba. When the words are pronounced, Kototama is involved — with its vibration toward the world.

Kototama and Nakaima

In Shinto cosmology, Kototama is the basic tool to affect Nakaima.  

Experience Kototama and Nakaima

To experience Kototama in Nakaima, recite Ōharae no Kotoba, the prayer for Great Purification, one of the most famous norito. 

HARAE NO KOTOBA, PRAYER FOR PURIFICATION AND BLESSING

The Harae no Kotoba below is an invocation often recited at Izumo Taisha asking Ōkuninushi no Ōkami, and all the myriads of Kami to join in the ceremony. There are three basic types of harae purification and blessing:

  • the body (to maintain health and well-being, to heal or avoid illness;
  • the soul or spirit of the living and the dead;
  • our surroundings and natural environment.

The last three lines can be recited as a short prayer for purification and blessing.

Harae no Kotoba

kakemaku mo kashikoki Izanagi no Ōkami

Tsukushi no Himuka no Tachibana no Odo no

Ahagihara ni misogi harai tamaishi toki ni

narimaseru haraido no Ōkami tachi

kamunagaranaru Ōmichi no naka ni umarete

arinagara sono mikage woshi fukaku omowazute

sumekamitachi no mimegumi wo oroka ni omi

tarishitoki ni ayamachi okaseru wa saranari

ima mo tsumi-kegare aramu woba harai tamai

kiyome tamae to mousu kotowo yaoyorozu no

kamitachi tomoni kikoshimese to

kashikomi kashikomi mo mousu



harai tamai kiyome tamae

harai tamai kiyome tamae

harai tamai kiyome tamae

References

Izumo Taisha, Izumo Ōyashiro, website:  http://www.izumooyashiro.or.jp/’

Izumo Taisha: https://yamanomiya.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/eleven-shrines-in-izumo-izumo-taisha/

Norito and Oharae:  [https://japanshrinestemples.blogspot.com/2015/09/norito-incantations.html]

Kototama on Okunomichi and WoshiteWorld: Type the word “Kototama” in the Search box.

This post also appears on WoshiteWorld.

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“The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening”

Book by Steve Taylor, New World Library, 2017

Here is a book we highly recommend about “The Leap” upward after “The Fall” in consciousness. Instead of giving a book review, we let the author speak for himself.

We are, I believe, on the threshold of an evolutionary leap… There are a number of signs that this evolutionary leap is under way and that wakefulness is collectively emerging with the human race. [p.255]

Everywhere there are signs of a growing sense of connection and empathy, a wider conceptual outlook, and a movement beyond both ego-isolation and egocentrism. [p.260]

But our collective awakening also means more than this. It means regaining what we lost at the same time as gaining something new. The wakefulness we’re developing now is different from that of earlier human beings. At the same time as representing a return, it represents a progression. [p.261]

But what seems to be happening now — and the reason why we’re undergoing an evolutionary advance rather than just a return — is that we’re retaining the heightened intellectual and conceptual abilities we developed with the Fall, at the same time as regaining the heightened perceptual awareness and the sense of connection of earlier human beings. [p.262]

Despite the positive trends I’ve described above, we live in a time of crisis. It’s true that we’re living in a time of unprecedented spiritual awareness, unprecedented compassion and connection. But we’re also living in a time of unprecedented danger. [p.264]

The big question: Can we wake up collectively in time? Can the positive traits associated with wakefulness transcend the negative traits associated with sleep before our present crisis leads to catastrophe? [p.265]

This is why it’s imperative for us as individuals to follow our own individual impulse to awaken. It’s important for us not to suppress this impulse… but to allow it to guide us toward spiritual practices and paths and consequently toward wakefulness. [p.266]

Gradual awakening means practicing meditation and mindfulness, service and altruism. It means embracing quietness, simplicity, and inactivity so that we become comfortable within our inner space and learn to be.     [p.266]

Even if we don’t survive, the earth will recover eventually. Evolution will continue. Its trajectory can’t be reversed, only slowed down or frustrated temporarily. Eventually new living beings will emerge who will experience the expansiveness and clarity of wakefulness as their normal state. [p.267-68]

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Kototama of Wosite and Hotsuma

Kototama

Kototama, which is written in kanji as 言霊, is the study and practice of the energy/power in words and speech. Kototama can be translated as “the spirit of words,” and as “the language of Spirit.” Kototama refers to the power of human words to create, to create things. Okunomichi has several posts on this topic and they can be found by using the Search box to the right and entering “Kototama”.

Wosite Language

The Wosite language used in writing the Hotsuma Tsutae, the Futomani, and the Mikasafumi documents is a Kototama language. Wosite studies are posted at https://woshiteworld.wordpress.com/. Recently, WoshiteWorld has published posts on the Kototama of Hotsuma and Wosite. They are: “The Kototama of Wosite,” and ““Process of Kototama”. In addition, there is a discussion of the waka poetry of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

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Ōharano Jinja  大原野神社

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Ōharano Jinja  大原野神社

Ōharano Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Nishikyō-ku, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Ōharano is dedicated to Amenokoyane, who composed the Mikasahumi document in Wosite.

Amenokoyane

Amenokoyane was a great-great-grandson of Toyoke Kami. He was named the first Kagami Tomi by Amateru Amakami. His responsibility was to discern light (ka) from dark (ga) and to keep society on the Amenaru Path. Amenokoyane received the honor name, Kasuga Kami. He was buried at the ancient Hiraoka Jinja in Osaka. Later in 768, he was enshrined at the Kasuga Taisha in Heijō-kyo (Nara) by his descendants, the Fujiwara. The capital was at Heijō-kyo from 710–40 and from 745–84. 

DSC06112 Oharano

DSC06113 Oharano altar

Emperor Kanmu transfered the capital from Heijō-kyo to Nagaoka-kyo (784-794). Nagaoka-kyo was located in the current Mukō  City and Nishikyō-ku which is part of Kyoto City. Kanmu enshrined Kasuga Myojin here at Ōharano Jinja. The main shrine building was constructed in the year 850 in the style of the Kasuga Taisha. There are four handsome honden behind the haiden prayer hall. We can only see the tips of two sets of chigi. The four enshrined kami are (1) Takemikazuchi, (2) Futsunushi, (3) Amenokoyane (Kasuga Kami) and (4) his wife, Hime Kasuga.

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Koisawa-ike

The Koisawa-ike Pond was built as a facsimile of the Kasuga Taisha’s Sarusawa-ike. It is a famous spot for viewing colored leaves. Overlooking the pond is Wakamiya auxiliary shrine which honors Ameno-oshi-kumone-no-mikoto, son of Amenokoyane. 

DSC06117 Wakamiya Sha

DSC06118 Koisawa-ike

DSC06120Kouyou

Ōharano Jinja is a lovely spot for autumn colors and for feeling a connection with the spirit of the wise Amenokoyane.

Map

https://www.behance.net/gallery/69551523/KYOTO-OHARANO-JINJA-MAP

 

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Seoritsuhime and Sakunado Jinja

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Sakunado Jinja, 2018.10

Lake Biwa

Sakunado Jinja 佐久奈度神社 is an integral part of the Lake Biwa river system of Shiga Prefecture. Biwako, as the lake is called, is the largest lake in all Japan. The lake was called Awaumi in olden times, and gradually the pronunciation changed so that the area around the lake is called Ōmi. The area has been occupied since at least the Initial Jōmon period (~9300 years ago). Biwako has only one major outlet, the Setagawa  瀬田川, which becomes the Uji 宇治川 downstream, then the Yodo 淀川, before it flows into the Seto Inland Sea at Osaka.

Sakunado Jinja  佐久奈度神社

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Sakunado Jinja overlooks the Setagawa. It is the shrine that ‘oversees’ the river system. The enshrined kami are the four haraedo purification kami, the first and foremost of them being Seoritsuhime 瀬織津姫. Note that the first syllable, the first character, in the name of Seoritsuhime and of Setagawa is Se, which means swift current. 

Setagawa River

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The view of the Setagawa from Sakunado Jinja looks peaceful. However, just upstream to the right (the east) of this spot is the treacherous bend with its strong undertow. Many young people have lost their lives playing here.

SakunadoJinjaMap

Sakunado Jinja is at the bottom of this map, where the Setagawa turns west. Note that the Setagawa drains southward out of Lake Biwa near Ishiyama. Downstream from the Sakunado, the river’s name changes to Ujigawa, Uji River, as it flows into Kyoto. The Uji merges with two other rivers, the Katsura–gawa and the Kizugawa in Kyoto Prefecture. The Katsura has its headwaters in the mountains of Kyoto Prefecture, while the Kizu comes from Mie Prefecture. Starting from the confluence of these three rivers, the main river becomes the Yodo River. It flows south, through the city of Osaka, into Osaka Bay. The length of the river is 75 km (47 mi). 

Oharai Norito

This is the shrine of the Nakatomi Ōharai no Norito purification invocation to Seoritsuhime Kami.

Jinja Home Page 

Sakunado Jinja  佐久奈度神社   http://sakunado.jp/

 

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A Modern View of Shinto:  Scholar and Shinto Priest Minoru Sonoda

Chichibu-Jinja

Entrance of Chichibu Jinja. Photo by Commons Wikimedia

Preface

Dr. Minoru Sonoda (薗田/稔) is chief priest of Chichibu Jinja (秩父神社) Shinto shrine in Saitama, as well as professor emeritus of Kyoto University and professor at Kogakkan University. His doctorate in religious studies is from Tokyo University.

Dr. Sonoda is chairman of the International Shinto Research Association for the exchange of research with people overseas who are studying Shinto. Although Dr. Sonoda is identified with Shinto, he promotes the idea that Shinto is not a “religion” in the Western sense of the word. Rather, Shinto is a type of community tradition that has naturally developed. Instead of being an individual faith-based activity, Shinto is community, culture, and heritage closely tied to nature. When put this way, doesn’t it seem that Shinto is far from being exclusive to Japan, and instead can be understood and practiced by people around the world?

Interview

An interview conducted by Satsuya Tabuchi appeared in SPF Voices Newsletter of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in 2006. Click here for the full report in English. An article about Dr. Sonoda appears here. Click here for Chichibu Jinja’s home page.

Here are some highlights of the topics discussed with SPF. We presume that Dr. Sonoda, as Shinto priest, used the term kami which was translated into gods. Since the word kami does not accurately translate into the Western word gods, we prefer to keep the term kami. 

Kami, unseen spirits behind the scenes

Kami abide in specific places such as sources of water or other places that are important to life. Kami are unseen to the human eye. What is sacred “lurks in the depths of the forest. It is a psychic center behind the community, not in the middle. Even if Japan’s gods don’t have form, they dwell within pure objects as spirits.”

Culture and agriculture

Shinto is the product of agrarian culture. The word culture comes from the Latin colere meaning to inhabit, cultivate, protect, and honor. People who settled peacefully in a particular place developed culture. People grow crops and receive their life. Receiving life and giving thanks for it is how Shinto views life. This world view developed naturally in the agrarian society.

Nature and life

Human beings, imbued with life by nature, live together with nature. Shinto honors the preciousness of life.

What is life?

“Life isn’t something that lasts just one generation. Life is life precisely because it’s passed on from parents to children. This is the most valid way for human beings to view life.”

Afterword

Dr. Sonoda is proactive in the chinju no mori sacred forest movement. What is chinju no mori? Mori means forest. Chinju is written 鎮守. The first character 鎮 is read as shizumeru, to calm the spirit; the second character 守 is mamoru which means to protect. Thus, we may say chinju no mori is a forest whose tranquility is protected. In other words, let’s protect the peace and serenity provided us by forests.

Related to this is the shinrin yoku trend, often translated as “forest bathing.” Shinrin is the compound word, forest-grove, and yoku simply means to bathe. People are going to forested areas for personal peace and tranquility as well as for proven health benefits.

 

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Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, August 6-8, 2018

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Sendai Tanabata

Sendai Tanabata festivals have been popular events since the time of the first lord of Sendai and hero Date Masamune (1567 – 1636). Two million visitors have been attending in recent years. The civic center and business areas are festooned with colorful streamers representing light coming from stars. To adjust for our modern solar calendar, Sendai observes Tanabata in August. This year, the dates were August 6, 7, and 8, 2018. Tanabata has become a romantic story of two Milky-Way-crossed lovers who meet once a year on this night. This adjunct to the original weaving theme probably came from China in the 8th century, and was further enlarged upon by Sendai merchants in the 17th cenury. So it is now a far cry from the simple nature-based Jomon festival.

Tanahata Maturi of Jomon Period

The Tanabata Hoshi Matsuri goes far back to Jomon times, when it was called Tanahata Hosi Maturi, the weaving loom star festival of the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. This is the night of the first quarter moon of our eighth month. On that night, Jomon people would look up at the Milky Way and thank ancestors for providing food and shelter and clothing. As part of the ceremony, they would perform ritual weaving on the tanahata loom. And in their gratitude and joy for all their blessings, they would dance all night. Weaving is a metaphor for the orderliness of Universe, where warp and woof threads are properly aligned and balanced. And where warp and woof represent male and female, without their meeting there would be no children.

This is one of the many seasonal maturi described in the the Hotuma Tutaye and Misakahumi ancient documents written in Wosite characters.

Modern Tanabata Decorations

These photos were taken on August 8, 2018 in Sendai. Note the kusudama balls below which streamers of washi paper float in the breeze. The traditional tanzaku strips of paper have wishes written on them and are hung on bamboo branches. There were many modern designs as well. And, as usual, there are decorations of thousands of origami cranes for peace.

Enjoy these cheerful works of art as you send your prayers of gratitude to your ancestors.

 

 

 

 

Photos by (c) C.N.

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