Shintoism In Japan

.. rther Kami. Izanagi goes to the underworld to visit his wife. Upon his arrival she asks him not to look at her disfigured form. Izanagi sees her and is horrified, he quickly flees with her chasing him.

He makes it to the upper world safely, where he must purify himself from the experience. Ethics in Shintoism are fairly vague. Ethics in Shintoism can be described as situational ethics (Ross 108). In each situation an answer must be earnestly sought and then put into practice. There are no definitive answers, it depends on the particular circumstances and the individual. The basic attitude towards life can be expressed by the word makoto.

Makoto is common among both humans and Kami. It is usually translated as honesty, conscientiousness or truthfulness. A person who practices makoto is true to the whole situation. This person is in harmony with Kami and is doing their best under the circumstances. When a person is untrue to a situation and does harm to themselves or others it is not due to a source of evil inside of oneself. Evil is seen as arising from external influences. The concept of soul in Shintoism is also fairly vague.

The word Tama is used, which means beautiful jewel or mysterious rock, to describe a spirit or soul. A variation of this is Tamashii, which meant ball wind .. this would correlate it with the ancient words for soul in other languages, suggesting wind, air, or breath. (112) Four spirits are mentioned: the spirit to rule with authority, ara-mi-tama, the spirit empowered to lead to harmony or union, nigi-mi-tama, the spirit causing mysterious transformations, kushi-mi-tama, and the spirit imparting blessings, saki-mi-tama. The early Japanese believed a person has several kinds of souls.

Shintoism believes that a persons soul can temporarily leave their bodies. Many rituals are dedicated to the pacifying of the soul. Shinto’s view of human nature is that it is fundamentally good, there is no inherent evil or badness in people. The worlds of the Kami and humans is believed to be the same. They live and participate with another. Humans are believed to be the descendants of Kami and have them in their flesh.

There is no final goal of heaven or paradise. The goal of the faith is the flourishing of all people. Having the right inner attitude includes having the right attitude towards nature. Shinto lacks a judgmental approach to life as well as any code of law. Shinto shrines are typically very simple and always constructed of wood.

They have never built a stone cathedral; their holy places were temples of nature wherein a group of huge trees rivaled a Gothic tower.(Underwood 50) Every Shinto shrine has a tori-i standing at its entrance. It is a simple structure, either in wood or stone, made up of two quadrangular beams laid horizontally above the head and supported by two round columns.(51) The shrines are generally made up of two rooms. The first room is one of general worship where all devotees can use. The other room is upon only to the priesthood and contains the emblem of the deity to which it is dedicated. Each temple also has a gohei, which is a small pole of wood or bamboo in which is inserted a piece of paper or cloth, so cut that the two parts hang down on the two sides of the pole and each part looks plaited.(51) The only visible objects of worship are the emblem of the deity.

There is also a shintai, god-body, usually a mirror but sometimes a sword, pillow or round stone. A famous example of this is the mirror of Amaterasu in Ise. It is believed to be the a mirror given by Amaterasu to her grandson. The mirror has never been seen by human eyes. It is wrapped in a silk bag, and when the silk is deteriorating another silk bag is placed overtop.

Daily worship at Shinto Shrines is not congregational but individual. A worshipper enters the shrine presents their offering bowing before and after. The priests serving in these ceremonies glide in and out of the sanctuary in silence. These offerings consist of products of the earth and ocean. Often fish, vegetables birds or sake are offered.

The offerings are brought one after another and are raised to the forehead. After the ritual is recited the worshipper is lead away by the priest. The offering is believed or hoped to cleanse the devotee from impurity. On some occasions dances with music and dramatic representations are given in front of worshippers. No systematic instruction is ever given to the people by the priests. There are also ceremonies which are held and are classified by the Yengi-shiki as: the Greater Ritual, the Middle Rituals, and the Lesser rituals. The Oho-nihe, great tasting, is the Greater Ritual.

The ceremony was celebrated by the emperor in the eleventh month of his accession. The ceremony consisted of the emperor offering to the gods rice and sake, which the emperor and the court would eat. It included frequent purifications and prayers to the gods. The Middle Rituals were all agricultural ceremonies which were observed annually. An example of the Middle Rituals was the Toshigohi, praying for the harvest.

Prayers were offered to numerous amount of gods in hopes for an abundant harvest. The Lesser Rituals included prayers for abundant rice crops and praying for rain. In the Kojiki and the Nihongi Amaterasu is described as wearing her own divine robe at her palace and herself tasted the first fruits of the year in order to worship the Father Kami of heaven. This representation of Amaterasu depicts her as priestess and Kami. Each priest in Shintoism holds a position of authority due to its close connection with the state.

Every Emperor in Japan’s imperial lineage has served as both sovereign and priest. The Emperor was head of the Shinto faith as well as head of the nation. This in turn transferred down the ranks. The heads of the provinces were also head of Shintoism in that province. The head of each clan was the head priest for that particular clan.

And the head of each family was the head priest of that family. And even today the priests of Japan’s over 50 000 Shinto shrines are under state control. Shintoism is a uniquely Japanese religion. It is inseparable from the Japanese state and is critical in defining Japanese culture. Shintoism is a thriving religion as many people in Japan follow both the teachings of Shintoism and Buddhism without any difficulties. The religion stresses the importance for respect of nature and oneself.

Religion Essays.

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