Shinto (Redirected from Shintoism) Shinto (神道 Shintō?

) is the native religion of Japan and was once its state religion. It involves the worship of kami (神?), spirits. Some kami are local and can be regarded as the spiritual being/spirit or genius of a particular place, but other ones represent major natural objects and processes: for example, Amaterasu, the Sun goddess, or Mount Fuji. Shinto is an animistic belief system. The word Shinto, from the original Chinese Shêntao (神道),[1] combines two kanji: "shin" (神?) (loan words usually retain their Chinese pronunciation, hence shin not gami), meaning gods or spirits; and "tō" (道?), meaning a philosophical way or path (originally from the Chinese word dao). As such, Shinto is commonly translated as "The Way of the Gods". Some differences exist between Koshintō (the ancient Shintō) and the many types of Shintō taught and practiced today, showing the influences of Buddhism when it was introduced into Japan in the sixth century.[2]

A torii at Itsukushima Shrine.

Typical Shinto shrine with paper streamers made out of unprocessed hemp fibre. After World War II, Shinto ceased to be Japan's state religion, although it continued to be considered the native religion of Japan. Some Shinto practices and teachings, once

given a great deal of prominence during the war, are no longer taught or practiced today, while others still exist as commonplace activities such as omikuji (a form of fortune-telling) and the Japanese New Year to which few people give religious connotations. Important national ceremonies such as coronations and royal marriages are conducted at the Three Palace Sanctuaries in Tokyo. Definition Shinto can be seen as a form of animism and may be regarded as a variant of shamanist religion. Shinto beliefs and ways of thinking are deep in the subconscious fabric of modern Japanese society. The afterlife is not a primary concern in Shinto; much more emphasis is placed on fitting into this world, instead of preparing for the next. Shinto has no binding set of dogma, no holiest place for worshipers, no person or kami deemed holiest, and no defined set of prayers. Instead, Shinto is a collection of rituals and methods meant to mediate the relations of living humans and kami. These practices have originated organically in Japan over many centuries and have been influenced by Japan's contact with the religions of other nations, especially China. Notice, for example, that the word Shinto is itself of Chinese origin and that much of the codification of Shinto mythology was done with the explicit aim of answering Chinese cultural influence. Conversely, Shinto had and continues to have an impact on the practice of other religions within Japan. In particular, one could even make a case for discussing it under the heading of Japanese Buddhism, since these two religions have exercised a profound influence on each other throughout Japanese history. Further, the Japanese "New Religions" that have emerged since the end of the Second World War have also shown a clear Shinto influence. Some feel Shinto was used as an ideology during the militaristic beginning of the Shōwa period, following the Meiji Restoration. Because Shinto has no absolute authority, some feel what was a natural expression of the beliefs of the people was hijacked by radical nationalists, who desired to unify the Japanese people against the "inferior" people in other nations. Others wonder if the emphasis Shinto places on Japanese exceptionalism made such developments inevitable. Even today, some far right factions within Japanese society want to see a greater emphasis placed on Shinto and increased reverence shown to the Emperor as part of a project to restore Japan to its "rightful place" as the leading nation of the world.

Characteristics

Torii at Itsukushima Shrine The most immediately striking theme in the Shinto religion is a great love and reverence for Nature in all its forms and for natural artifacts and processes. Thus, a waterfall, the moon, or just an oddly shaped rock might come to be regarded as a kami; so might charismatic persons or more abstract entities like growth and fertility. As time went by, the original nature-worshipping roots of the religion, while never lost entirely, became attenuated and the kami took on more reified and anthropomorphic forms, with a formidable body of myth attached to them. (See also: Japanese mythology.) The kami, however, are not transcendent deities in the usual Western and Indian sense of the word. Although divine, they are close to humanity; they inhabit the same world as we do, make the same mistakes as we do, and feel and think the same way as we do. Those who died will usually become kami, with their power and main characteristics given by their doings in life. Those believing other religions may be also venerated as kami after death, if there are Shinto believers who wish them to be. Practices and teachings

Tying her fortune (omikuji) at Kasuga Shrine.

Afterlife Unlike many religions, one does not need to publicly profess belief in Shinto to be a Shintoist. Whenever a child is born in Japan, a local Shinto shrine adds the child's name to a list kept at the shrine and declares him or her a "family child" (氏子 ujiko?). After death an ujiko becomes a "family spirit", or "family kami" (氏神 ujigami?). One may choose to have one's name added to another list when moving and then be listed at both places. Names can be added to the list without consent and regardless of the beliefs of the person added to the list. However, this is not considered an imposition of belief, but a sign of being welcomed by the local kami, with the promise of addition to the pantheon of kami after death. Those children who die before addition to the list are called "water children" (水子 mizuko?), and are believed to cause troubles and plagues. Mizuko are often worshipped in a Shinto shrine dedicated to stilling their anger and sadness. Because Shinto has co-existed with Buddhism for well over a millennium, it is very difficult to untangle Shinto and Buddhist beliefs about the world. Though Buddhism and Shinto have very different perspectives on the world, most Japanese do not see any challenge in reconciling these two very different religions, and practice both. Thus it is common for people to practice Shinto in life yet have a Buddhist funeral. Their different perspectives on the afterlife are seen as complementing each other, and frequently the ritual practice of one will have an origin in the other.

Four affirmations

A man praying at a Shinto shrine. Though Shinto has no absolute commandments for its adherents outside of living "a simple and harmonious life with nature and people", there are said to be "Four Affirmations" of the Shinto spirit: • • Tradition and the family: The family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. Their main celebrations relate to birth and marriage. Love of nature: Nature is sacred; to be in contact with nature is to be close to the kami. Natural objects are worshipped as containing sacred spirits.

• •

Physical cleanliness: Followers of Shinto take baths, wash their hands, and rinse out their mouths often. "Matsuri": Any festival dedicated to the Kami, of which there are many each year.

[edit] Impurity Shinto teaches that certain deeds create a kind of ritual impurity that one should want cleansed for one's own peace of mind and good fortune, not because impurity is wrong in and of itself. Wrong deeds are called "dirtiness" (穢れ kegare?), opposed to "purity" (清め kiyome?). Normal days are called "day" (ke), and festive days are called "sunny", or simply, "good" (hare).[3] Killing living beings should be done with reverence for taking a life to continue one's own, and should be kept to a minimum. Modern Japanese continue to place great emphasis on the importance of ritual phrases and greetings (挨拶 aisatsu?). Before eating, many (though not all) Japanese say, "I will humbly receive [this food]" (戴きます itadakimasu?), in order to show proper thankfulness to the preparer of the meal in particular and more generally to all those living things that lost their lives to make the meal. Failure to show proper respect can be seen as a lack of concern for others, looked down on because it is believed to create problems for all. Those who fail to take into account the feelings of other people and kami will only bring ruin on themselves. The worst expression of such an attitude is the taking of another's life for personal advancement or enjoyment. Those killed without being shown gratitude for their sacrifice will hold a grudge (怨み urami?) and become a powerful and evil kami that seeks revenge (aragami). This same emphasis on the need for cooperation and collaboration can be seen throughout Japanese culture today. Additionally, if anyone is injured on the grounds of a shrine, the area affected must be ritually purified. [edit] Purification

A bride at a Shinto wedding in Kamakura, Japan. Purification rites are a vital part of Shinto. These may serve to placate any restive kami, for instance when their shrine had to be relocated. Such ceremonies have also been adapted to modern life. For example, a ceremony was held in 1969 to hallow the Apollo 11 mission to the moon,[4] new buildings made in Japan are frequently blessed by a Shinto priest during the groundbreaking ceremony, and many cars made in Japan have been blessed as part of the assembly process. A more personal purification rite is the purification by water. This may involve standing beneath a waterfall or performing ritual ablutions in a river-mouth or in the sea (misogi). These two forms of purification are often referred to as harae (祓). A third form of purification is avoidance, that is, the taboo placed on certain persons or acts. To illustrate, women were not allowed to climb Mount Fuji until 1868, in the era of the Meiji Restoration. Although this aspect has decreased in recent years, religious

Japanese will not use an inauspicious word like "cut" at a wedding, nor will they attend a wedding if they have recently been bereaved.

Gateway to Shinto shrine with torii gate

Shinto shrine in Fujiyoshida [edit] Shrines The principal worship of kami is done at public shrines, although home worship at small private shrines (kamidana) (sometimes only a high shelf with a few ritual objects) is also common. It is also possible to worship objects or people while they are still living. While a few of the public shrines are elaborate structures, most are small buildings in the characteristic Japanese architectural style. Shrines are commonly fronted by a distinctive Japanese gate (torii) made of two uprights and two crossbars. These gates are there as a part of the barrier to separate our living world and the world the kami live in. There are often two guardian animals placed at each side of the gate and they serve to protect the entrance. There are well over 100,000 of these shrines in operation today, each with its retinue of Shinto priests. Shinto priests often wear a ceremonial robe called a jo-e. Kami are invoked at such important ceremonies as weddings and entry into university. The kami are commonly petitioned for earthly benefits: a child, a promotion, a happier life. While one may

wish for ill fortune on others, this is believed to be possible only if the target has committed wrongs first, or if one is willing to offer one's life. Though Shinto is popular for these occasions, when it comes to funerals most Japanese turn to Buddhist ceremonies, since the emphasis in Shinto is on this life and not the next. Almost all festivals (matsuri) in Japan are hosted by local Shinto shrines and these festivals are open to all those that wish to attend. While these could be said to be religious events, Japanese do not regard these events as religious since everyone can attend, regardless of personal beliefs. [edit] Kami Shinto teaches that everything contains a kami ("spiritual essence" which is sometimes translated into "god", though perhaps soul or spirit would be more accurate). Every rock, every squirrel, every living and nonliving thing contains a kami. There is also a main kami for groups of things: for example, there is a kami within a rhino, and there is also a main kami residing over all the rhinos of the world. Shinto's kami are collectively called yaoyorozu no kami (八百万の神), an expression literally meaning "eight million kami," but interpreted as meaning "myriad". The most widely worshiped of all kami is the sun-goddess Amaterasu. However, Japanese do not specifically worship her or invoke her name to ask for help. Her main shrine is the Grand Shrine of Ise, but many lesser shrines are dedicated to her. Within the shrine, she is often symbolised by a mirror. Alternatively, the inner sanctum may be empty. This emptiness does not mean non-existence; rather, it symbolizes that everything that one sees through the mirror is the embodiment of Amaterasu and every other kami. Until the end of World War II, the Tenno (Emperor) was believed to have been descended from Amaterasu and father of all Japanese, and was therefore a kami on earth (an ikigami or "living kami"); this divine status was popularized during the Meiji Restoration. This did not prevent military governors (Shogun) from usurping power, but the emperor was always seen as the true ruler of Japan, even when his rule was only nominal. Although Emperor Hirohito renounced his divine status in 1946 under American pressure (Ningen-sengen), the imperial family remains deeply involved in the Shinto ritual that unifies the Japanese nation symbolically. Because Shinto does not require a declaration or an enforcement to be worshiped (considered "unharmonious,") this declaration, while serving political reasons, is religiously meaningless and merely means that the state enforcement has ended. Ema

Ema at Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine in Tokyo In medieval times, wealthy people would donate horses to shrines, especially when making a request of the god of the shrine (for example, when praying for victory in battle). For smaller favors, giving a picture of a horse became a custom, and these are popular today. The visitor to a shrine purchases a wooden tablet with a likeness of a horse, or nowadays, something else (a snake, an arrow, even a portrait of Thomas Edison), writes a wish or prayer on the tablet, and hangs it at the shrine. In some cases, if the wish comes true, the person hangs another ema at the shrine in gratitude. Kagura Kagura is the ancient Shinto ritual dance of Shamanic origin. The word "Kagura" is thought to be a contracted form of kami no kura or seat of the kami or the site where the kami is received.(Kobayashi, Kazushige p.3) There is a mythological tale of how Kagura dance came into existence. The sun goddess Amaterasu became very upset at her brother so she hid in a cave. All of the other gods and goddesses were concerned and wanted her to come outside. Ame-no-uzeme began to dance and create a noisy commotion in order to entice Amaterasu to come out. The kami (gods) tricked Amaterasu by telling her there was a better sun goddess in the heavens. Amaterasu came out and light returned to the universe. Music plays a very important role in the kagura performance. Everything from the setup of the instruments to the most subtle sounds and the arrangement of the music is crucial to encouraging the kami to come down and dance. The songs are used as magical devices to summon the gods and as prayers for blessings. Rhythm patterns of five and seven are common, possibly relating to the Shinto belief of the twelve generations of heavenly and earthly deities. There is also vocal

accompaniment called kami uta in which the drummer sings sacred songs to the gods. Often the vocal accompaniment is overshadowed by the drumming and instruments, reinforcing that the vocal aspect of the music is more for incantation rather than aesthetics.(Averbuch, Irit pp.83-87) In both ancient Japanese collections, the Nihongi and Kojiki, Ame-no-uzeme’s dance is described as asobi, which in old Japanese language means a ceremony that is designed to appease the spirits of the departed, and which was conducted at funeral ceremonies. Therefore, kagura is a rite of tama shizume, of pacifying the spirits of the departed. In the Heian period (8th-12th centuries) this was one of the important rites at the Imperial Court and had found its fixed place in the tama shizume festival on the eleventh month. At this festival people sing as accompaniment to the dance: “Depart! Depart! Be cleansed and go! Be purified and leave!” (Kobayashi, Kazushige pp.4-5) This rite of purification is also known as chinkon. It was used for securing and strengthening the soul of a dying person. It was closely related to the ritual of tama furi (shaking the spirit), to call back the departed soul of the dead or to energize a weakened spirit. Spirit pacification and rejuvenation were usually achieved by songs and dances, also called asobi. The ritual of chinkon continued to be performed on the emperors of Japan, thought to be descendents of Amaterasu. It is possible that this ritual is connected with the ritual to revive the sun goddess during the low point of the winter solstice. (Averbuch, Irit p.12) There is a division between the kagura that is performed at the Imperial palace and the shrines related to it, and the kagura that is performed in the countryside. Folk kagura, or kagura from the countryside is divided according to region. The following descriptions relate to sato kagura, kagura that is from the countryside. The main types are: miko kagura, Ise kagura, Izumo kagura, and shishi kagura. Miko kagura is the oldest type of kagura and is danced by women in Shinto shrines and during folk festivals. The ancient miko were Shamanesses, but are now considered priestesses in the service of the Shinto Shrines. Miko kagura originally was a shamanic trance dance, but later, it became an art and was interpreted as a prayer dance. It is performed in many of the larger Shinto shrines and is characterized by slow, elegant, circular movements, by emphasis on the four directions and by the central use of torimono (objects dancers carry in their hands), especially the fan and bells.(Averbuch, Irit p.15) Ise kagura is a collective name for rituals that are based upon the yudate (boiling water rites of Shugendo origin) ritual. It includes miko dances as well as dancing of the torimono type. The kami are believed to be present in the pot of boiling water, so the dancers dip their torimono in the water and sprinkle it in the four directions and on the observers for purification and blessing. (Averbuch, Irit, p. 16) Izumo kagura is centered in the Sada shrine of Izumo, Shimane prefecture. It has two types: torimono ma, unmasked dances that include held objects, and shinno (sacred No), dramatic masked dances based on myths. Izumo kagura appears to be the most popular type of kagura. (Averbuch, Irit, p.16) Shishi kagura also known as the Shugen-No tradition, uses the dance of a shishi (lion or mountain animal) mask as the image and presence of the deity. It includes the Ise daikagura group and the yamabushi kagura and bangaku groups of the Tohoku area (Northeastern Japan). Ise daikagura employs a large red Chinese type of lion head

which can move its ears. The lion head of the yamabushi kagura schools is black and can click its teeth. Unlike other kagura types in which the kami appear only temporarily, during the shishi kagura the kami is constantly present in the shishi head mask. During the Edo period, the lion dances became showy and acrobatic losing its touch with spirituality. However, the yamabushi kagura tradtion has retained its ritualistic and religious nature. (Averbuch, p.16) Originally, the practice of kagura involved authentic possession by the kami invoked. In modern day Japan it appears to be difficult to find authentic ritual possession, called kamigakari, in kagura dance. However, it is common to see choreographed possession in the dances. Actual possession is not taking place but elements of possession such as losing control and high jumps are applied in the dance. Cultural effects Shinto has been called "the religion of Japan", and the customs and values of Shinto are inseparable from those of Japanese culture. Many famously Japanese practices have origins either directly or indirectly rooted in Shinto. For example, it is clear that the Shinto ideal of harmony with nature underlies such typically Japanese arts as flower-arranging (生け花 ikebana), traditional Japanese architecture, and garden design. A more explicit link to Shinto is seen in sumo wrestling, where, even in the modern version of the sport, many Shinto-inspired ceremonies must be performed before a bout, such as purifying the wrestling arena by sprinkling it with salt. The Japanese emphasis on proper greetings and respectful phrasings can be seen as a continuation of the ancient Shinto belief in kotodama (words with a magical effect on the world). Many Japanese cultural customs, like using wooden chopsticks and removing shoes before entering a building, have their origin in Shinto beliefs and practices. Also, a number of other Japanese religions, including Tenrikyo, have originated from or been influenced by Shinto. Tenrikyo is a religion of Shinto origin with some Buddhist influence.

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