How does Shinto provide a distinctive response to the search for human meaning?
Introduction • Shinto pervades Japanese life at every level • Shinto is a way of life, of daily living • Shinto is one of the few examples of a simple folk religion still flourishing in a modern industrial society, seen as a living museum of religion
What about ‘god’?• There is no concept of the transcendent because everything, including the spiritual, is part of this world, one single unified creation, with no founder.• Shintoists understand they live in a world full of powerful forces that they must appease and remember.• In order to please the kami adherents strive to makoto (sincerity of heart), revering the kami’s mushi (powers of creation and harmony)
• Shamanism, a disputed branch of Shinto, communicates with the kami – spirits who enter the bodies of mediums and send messages, advice and oracles• crossing the bridge to the other world which Izanagi and Izanami stood on when they made islands of Japan
What makes the good life?• Shinto is expressed through simplicity of life• Shinto is not a way of explaining the world, not a religion in the western sense of the word. However, it is a vital part of society• It is accepting of other religions and many embrace more than one of these, especially Buddhism• Morally speaking, people must do no harm and their actions should benefit others. Emphasis is placed on right practice, sensibility and attitude
• They appeal to who sense through music, dance, architecture and landscaping rather than through intellectual doctrines• In people’s homes, they are encouraged to follow the examples of the ancestors (kami?)• At the local level, Shinto is very good at using festivals to reaffirm society
How to know what is the right way to live?• Shinto sees people as basically good and has no concept of original sin• Shintoism has no fomalised ethical code as this would only be needed for unethical people!• The priority is the felt needs of people rather than following a code of verbal laws and philosphys of life• The rituals affirm the spiritual origin and nature of reality• The mind must be kept open and free to enjoy the spirit of life directly.
What is the relationship to nature? • Shintoists have a strong sense of their role in the environment • They embrace the natural world as a spiritualised and meaningful whole • They see in nature answers to life’s big questions. When nature is truly known and followed, then life becomes truly fulfilling • Shinto associate the spiritual with the aesthetic – religious feelings aroused by beauty around: poetry and music, as much as sacred texts or rituals eg Mt Fiji is seen as a religious pilgrimages
• The focus is on being moved by a sense of gratitude and awe in the mystery of life• Shinto poem by worshippers at Shrine of Ise: “Unknown to me what resides here, Tears flow from a sense of unworthiness And gratitude”
What about life beyond death?• The primary goal of Shintoism is to achieve immortality among the ancestral beings, the Kami.• All people are capable of deep affinity with the Divine.• Salvation is achieved in Shinto through observance of all tapas (penance) and by avoiding people and objects that might cause impurity or pollution.• A persons Kami nature survives death; therefore, fulfillment of duty is paramount to a Shinto being remembered with dignity after his death.• Whenever a child is born according to a local Shinto shrine adds the childs name to a list kept at the shrine and declares him or her a "family child", called ujiko.
• After death an ujiko becomes a "family spirit", or "family kami" called ujigami.• One may choose to have ones 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",mizuko, and are believed to cause troubles and plagues.• Mizuko are often worshipped in a Shinto shrine dedicated to stilling their anger and sadness, called mizuko kuyo.