Category Archives: Shinto

2020 Spring Festivals in Kyoto Postponed

Aoi Matsuri, May 2018

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.

Green Shinto has posted a timely article on festivals in Kyoto that are postponed this year because of the pandemic. They include the Aoi Matsuri of May 15, 2020.

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.

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MIND OF SHINTO

The World of Shinto, 1985

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.

p29

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 Kunge text 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.

p36

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).

p38

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.  

p38

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. “

p39

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. 

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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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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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