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SHINTOISM The Way of Japan

Main Focus: Motohisa Yamakage:

Main Focus: Motohisa Yamakage “The essence of Shinto is found in our relationship and interdependence with Kami . It is the path through which we seek to realize ourselves fully as human beings by acquiring the noble character- istics of Kami . It contains within it knowledge of ceremony, manners, rituals, methods of divination, traditional medicine . . . . It is an inclusive and comprehensive form of knowledge.”

Religious Census Of Japan “Estimated”:

Religious Census Of Japan “Estimated” Shinto: 3.5 million self-described to 100 million who worship at Shrines annually Buddhist: 85 to 100 million New Religions: 10 to 30 million Christianity: just under 1 million

Signs of Religious Presence:

Signs of Religious Presence 100,000 Shinto Shrines 75,000 Buddhist Temples (8 major and 16 minor schools of Buddhism) Over 80,000 different gods ( kami ) associated with natural phenomenon, powers, and places

Syncretistic Religion:

Syncretistic Religion Religion in Japan is a matter of personal belief based on individual experience and needs. Diversity is the hallmark of religion Religious action/practice is much more important than religious belief. Observe practices of several traditions Shinto is not a single self-conscious religious tradition but rather an overarching label applied to ways of honoring the spirits of nature.

“Big Picture Summary”:

“Big Picture Summary” Mix of ancestor worship w/reverence toward nature, add a touch of shamanism and divination to the beliefs of eastern fertility cults = experiential faith. Animistic belief in the kami = polytheistic Advocates virtues such as honesty, kindness, respect for elders & superiors Emphasizes right practice, sensibility & attitude over conceptual understanding.


INTRODUCTION NO FOUNDER, no orthodox canon of sacred literature, no explicit code of ethics Sacred writings: (not in strictest sense), early 8 th century CE Kojiki (“Documents of Ancient Matters”) Nihongi (“Chronicles of Japan”) In these Japanese texts, historical facts, myths and theology are harmoniously blended with political twists and literary embellish- ments .

“Connection to the Past”:

“Connection to the Past” Indigenous, nature-focused religion of Japan—religion unique to the Japanese people. SHINTO = “The Way of the Gods” or “The Way of the Spirits” or “The Way of Those Above” History stretches from pre-history to the 21 st century.

“Diverse Meaning” (Like Hinduism):

“Diverse Meaning” (Like Hinduism) In Shinto, the spiritual tradition is allowed to evolve freely, since there is no definite pattern or model. Shinto has NO Doctrine Precepts or commandments Objects of worship such as symbols or idols


“Nature-Based” Shinto has evolved out of the life and experience of the Japanese people. Defined as a religion revering “great nature,” rooted in animism. Expresses a profound perception of the law of nature and the mysteries held within the natural world.


“Spirit-Focus” Shinto is a form of nature/ancestor worship. Focuses on reverence for kami or divine spirits. Kami is anything or anyone inspiring awe, respect and devotion = “the sacred” Shinto teaches to revere “Great Nature,” that means that everything in nature is the transformation and creation of kami, therefore the sacredness of kami dwells within it. Emphasizes harmony with nature, sincerity, and ritual purity

Nature Itself Is Sacred :

Nature Itself Is Sacred “[Traditionally] the Japanese viewed nature not as an adversary to be subdued, but rather as a sacred space overflowing with the blessings of the kami, and toward which they were to act with restraint. . . .” Don’t escape from the world but rather be in harmony with it.

Good = the Pleasing, Pleasant, and Beautiful:

Good = the Pleasing, Pleasant, and Beautiful Shinto teaches neither salvation nor sin. Shinto conceives of good and evil in aesthetic terms, likening them to straight and curved lines. “Straight” is traditionally associated with honesty and clear thinking, while “crooked” is associated with dishonesty or neurosis. “To be fully alive is to have an aesthetic percep-tion of life because a major part of the world’s goodness lies in its often unspeakable beauty.”

Moral Behavior Is Key:

Moral Behavior Is Key These concepts form the basis of moral judgment. Good or moral behavior is associated with balance of mind, body, and spirit; evil or immoral behavior with imbalance, be it spiritual, intellectual, or physical. Ethics and aesthetics are closely entwined.

Religion of Peace/Harmony:

Religion of Peace/Harmony Shinto is a path of peaceful coexistence, in which each person’s beliefs and experiences are valued. It does not matter how one believes in and chooses to describe the divine power or powers, as long as that belief is not used to justify destructive ambitions, or to do evil to others.

Kannagara = GOAL:

Kannagara = GOAL Goal of life : to follow the kami is to bring life into harmony with nature . Kannagara is “the way or nature of the Kami ,” under-stood as Natural Religion. “Natural Religion” is the spontaneous awareness of the Divine that can be found in any culture. Kannagara means being in communion with the natural forms of beauty and so with the highest level of experiences in life.


Kannagara “Natural Religion is the spontaneous awareness of the Divine that can be found in any culture . . . The Spirit of Great Nature may be a flower, the beauty of the mountains, the pure snow, the soft rain or the gentle breeze. Kannagara means being in communion with these forms of beauty and so with the highest level of experiences of life. When people respond to the silent and provocative beauty of the natural order, they are aware of kannagara .”

The 4 P’s of Shinto:

The 4 P’s of Shinto Quality of impurity or misfortune is called tsumi that requires purification. Presenting oneself appropriately to Kami is essential in Shinto. Worship rituals revolve around the 4 P’s: purification, participation, prayer and presentation

Focus on Ritual:

Focus on Ritual Historically promoted rituals that were closely linked w/the seasons: planting & harvesting patterns. (Very similar to Indigenous Religions) Shinto is wholly spiritual in its subcon-scious realization that the entire universe is divine spirit.

Shinto Mythology:

Shinto Mythology Japanese Islands created by two kami: Izanagi = “male who invites” Izanami = “female who invites” Standing on the Floating Rainbow Bridge of Heaven and stirring up the ocean with a jeweled spear. When spear was pulled out of the ocean, the dripping foam coagulated into eight islands.


Creation From the left eye of Izanagi came the deity most revered in Japan, the sun-goddess, Amaterasu . Great-grandson of Amaterasu is first human emperor of Japan & ancestor of all subsequent imperial houses. The emperor of Japan is a descendant of the sun-goddess herself & is known as the “manifest kami .” Japanese Islands = the center of creation Japanese People = descended from the kami

Popular/Folk Religion:

Popular/Folk Religion Included divination, inspired healings, ancestor veneration, spirit possession, and the worship of other deities and spirits. Through religion, people express a desire to live in harmony with the cycles of nature and to respect the spiritual power manifest in natural phenomena. Priest or Shaman is leader who can tap into the power of the kami and bring the sacred to bear on everyday life.

Samarai Warrior Tradition:

Samarai Warrior Tradition “Bushido” Influence of Confucianism on Shinto Bushido = the military-warrior-way of the samurai warrior Developed in the Kamakura Period and systematized in the Tokugawa Period. Honor and Service Samurai bound to their feudal lords with loyalty and to nature with reverence. Virtues associated with Bushido = courage, truthfulness, respect, justice and honor. Death is preferable to disgrace to true samurai.


Bushido Bushido reflects the influences of Confucianism with its emphasis on filial piety, loyalty and the five basic relationships Zen Buddhism in its focus on self-discipline and spontaneity of action Shinto in its aesthetic appreciation of nature and pride in one’s ruler.


FOUR AFFIRMATIONS 1) Family & tradition : reveres major life-cycle events 2) Reverence toward nature = stay in balance is core of Shinto devotion 3) Purity : physical cleanliness: symbolic, ritual, physical 4) Matsuri = festivals in honor of kami ; serves as social bonding time

Ritual Purification:

Ritual Purification Purification must be earned; it is an ever-present ideal to keep the self-conscious mind from lingering in debasements. Impurities retard spirit’s earthly self-development= oharai -priest supervised rite In misogi , a cleansing ritual, a believer may stand beneath a waterfall, letting its force hit the shoulders and carry impurities and tensions away.

Shinto Worldview:

Shinto Worldview There is no central authority establishing an orthodoxy in Shinto. Shinto has different meanings for different people. Allegiance to Shinto not viewed as exclusive. One can be Shinto and follow other traditions.

View of Humanity:

View of Humanity Since Japanese islands are the land of the kami and the Japanese are the people of the kami , there is a rootedness/connection to the land. This creates a strong sense of solidarity and interconnectedness associated with Japanese culture.

Human Dilemma:

Human Dilemma Problem = impurity and disharmony/ alienation Humans need to overcome the impurity brought on by disharmony with the kami . Failure to maintain harmony with the kami leads to chaos for individuals, families and the nation as a whole. Problem arises when people promote them-selves over their families, their clans, their companies or their nation.

Cause of the Dilemma:

Cause of the Dilemma Alienation takes several forms: Humans can be ritually unclean, in need of purification Estranged from the kami, in need of communication Alienated from family, ancestors, community, emperor through loss of face, in need of restoration

Solution to the Dilemma:

Solution to the Dilemma Reconciliation is the answer to the human problem. Purification at a shrine can remove ritual pollution Reconciled by offerings and prayers Reverence for ancestors and prayers Heroic deeds atones for alienation from state.

Purpose of Shinto:

Purpose of Shinto Shinto’s ultimate goal is cosmic harmony, with all elements in balance. Like Confucianism, the focus of Shinto harmony is this-worldly and social. Shinto is concerned with life before death, maintaining harmony and purity in the here and now.

Torii & Jinja:

Torii & Jinja

Shrine Worship:

Shrine Worship Jinja = shrines to various kami , at which adherents pay respect for and seek to gain harmony with the kami Torii = sacred open gateway at the entrance of shrines that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.

How to Achieve Purpose:

How to Achieve Purpose Principal path to harmony is through participation in temple rituals. Major focus is on purification rituals. Most popular shrine is the Grand Imperial Shrine of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu located at Ise . Moral self-cultivation is important, particularly sincerity ( makoto ) and acting with a “truthful heart.”

Central to Shinto:

Central to Shinto “As imperfect beings, we often fail recognize our mission. These failures come about because we have lost something of our natural purity. This is why purification, or misogi , is so central to Shinto. It enables one to cultivate spirituality and to restore his or her natural greatness.”

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