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sirz345
22 Apr 2014, 15:58
So I was planning on posting many little facts and such about Shinto in the Eastern Traditions forum but I felt it would be quite useless for me to post information that you guys would not be all that interested in. So I thought I will ask you guys for what kind of information about Shinto are you curious about? And please post questions about Shinto here, and I may just answer them here instead which would save space and a lot of typing time.

okoserce
22 Apr 2014, 16:57
Other then some very basic knowledge ..nature based religion, spiritual worship etc; I've had the chance to visit Shinto shrines and have seen some movies and have read stories with Shinto themes but I'm not super familiar with it..However, I would love to learn more about the Shinto faith and its practice. So maybe start with a basic rundown of what it is and isn't and go from there?

GabrielWithoutWings
23 Apr 2014, 01:09
How do you define a Kami?

sirz345
23 Apr 2014, 14:48
How do you define a Kami?

Given how significantly easier your question is, I will start with it. So a Kami is basically the spirit of each natural thing, it is also applied to the gods and living things. There is a difference between say a god and the Kami of a mountain, but the same word is used to describe both, I like to think of it in terms of "God Kami", "Nature Kami", and "Living Kami" to make it easier. So it is a lot like the spirit within you, when you die in fact, that spirit is released and you with it as you begin the descent to Yomi, but trees and rocks and mountains can have it, in some things it doesn't live in a dying host, like in a mountain, although when you think about it, everything does die, a great boulder can be crushed and its Kami then released. So I guess unless you want more, that is basically it, it is essentially a soul that all things have.

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Other then some very basic knowledge ..nature based religion, spiritual worship etc; I've had the chance to visit Shinto shrines and have seen some movies and have read stories with Shinto themes but I'm not super familiar with it..However, I would love to learn more about the Shinto faith and its practice. So maybe start with a basic rundown of what it is and isn't and go from there?

To begin, it is the indigenous faith of the Japanese Islands, it also spread to the island of Okinawa (Kingdom of Ryukyu) before Japanese isolation in the 17th century. With the influx of Japanese immigrants who traditionally practiced this religion, where there are Japanese immigrants, there are bound to be a few Shinto. So Shinto is literally the "Way of the Gods", it revolves around maintaining yourself in a certain manner, paying rights to ancestors such as offerings and prayer, praying to the gods, respecting nature, offerings to the gods, ritual purity, and adhering to the ten Shinto precepts (I listed them in another forum post by me if you are curious). Ritual purity is HUGE in Shinto, a very easy way to maintain it (and hence the reason bathing is so ingrained in Japanese culture) is to keep yourself clean and bathe regularly. Your cleanliness will repel bad spirits like maniacal ghosts, monsters, and just general bad energy, while attracting the gods' blessings, your ancestors' guidance and good tidings while in nature (you are about to fall on a mountain, you are clean so the wind's kami blasts so you can regain footing before falling flat on your face). Aside from ritual purity, Shinto is very central around the Imperial Family of Japan as they are descendants of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu (she is the grandmother of the first Emperor, Jimmu), she is not dead though as she is a god and therefore immortal (it's complicated). But despite this, the main focus of Shinto is the moral code of the precepts, revering the gods and ancestors, and maintaining ritual purity.

Shinto however is not what it has been made out to be by many ill informed barbarians. It has been suggested and is even taught outside of Japan that there is no moral code, however the precepts are quite similar to the Christian ten commandments, some of them even being paraphrased from one another they are so close, saying Shinto has no moral code is like saying Christianity has no moral code. Also, it is taught to many people when studying WW2 that Shinto encouraged and taught the horrific tragedies committed by the IJA and IJN, this is not the case at all, these were in fact discouraged, the fifth precept is "Do not forget the world is one great family." the massacres of Chinese and torture of POWs directly violates this precept, their journey to Yomi was most likely horrific if they committed these crimes. The fact that Yasakuni Shrine honors war criminals of the Empire of Japan has nothing to do with Shinto support or not supporting the war crimes, the fact of the matter is that these men gave their life for Japan and the Emperor who is essentially a living god, not to mention they are ancestors and regardless of an ancestor's actions, they are to be revered and prayed too. There is also no Human sacrifice, I heard this said by a particularly stupid boy in my history class when we were learning about the faith (I obviously didn't need a lesson:D), he said he heard that Shinto allows human sacrifice and encourages it, while an offering can technically be anything, this violates the fifth precept again, would you sacrifice your own brother? No, which is why Shinto doesn't come anywhere close to encouraging it, in fact the values of Bushido which have slowly intermingled with Shinto and many faithful believe in, does not believe in fighting unarmed opponents, a sacrifice is unarmed and therefore highly shameful to sacrifice. Now please, if you'd like to know anything else please ask.

Riothamus12
23 Apr 2014, 17:17
What does your religion say on the matter of ethics? I've heard all manner of things about how it boils down to showing respect for nature, maintaining ritual purity, maintaining balance, and respecting the Deities, ancestors, and spirits, but never from the mouth of an actual Shintoist. So I am curious to know. I've also heard that honesty and sincerity are of high ethical value.

I've heard many things about Amaterasu being the chief deity of Shinto, but never actually being called such? Is this actually true? Whether it is or is not the case, why does this perception exist?

What do followers of Shinto believe about the afterlife?

What is said about wicked spirits and their nature?

How does one "become" Shinto?

okoserce
24 Apr 2014, 09:58
So Shinto is literally the "Way of the Gods", it revolves around maintaining yourself in a certain manner, paying rights to ancestors such as offerings and prayer, praying to the gods, respecting nature, offerings to the gods, ritual purity, and adhering to the ten Shinto precepts (I listed them in another forum post by me if you are curious).



Yes I would love to hear more about this, thank you! Also a bit more about the moral precepts and practices. :)

Also..You spoke about the precepts being compared to the Ten Commandments..and I find that fascinating.. And have already noticed some correlations between many eastern and western faiths so this is just one more thing to add to the list. ^_^

Cobra
29 Apr 2014, 10:26
May I join in on providing answers from my own perspective?

sirz345
29 Apr 2014, 13:55
What does your religion say on the matter of ethics? I've heard all manner of things about how it boils down to showing respect for nature, maintaining ritual purity, maintaining balance, and respecting the Deities, ancestors, and spirits, but never from the mouth of an actual Shintoist. So I am curious to know. I've also heard that honesty and sincerity are of high ethical value.

I've heard many things about Amaterasu being the chief deity of Shinto, but never actually being called such? Is this actually true? Whether it is or is not the case, why does this perception exist?

What do followers of Shinto believe about the afterlife?

What is said about wicked spirits and their nature?

How does one "become" Shinto?

Well I have the ten precepts on my other posts if you could scroll on over to my profile and find them, they are a lot like the ten commandments in the way of being an ethical code. Ritual impurity is actually the result of performing what is equivalent to a sin, the difference being that in Shinto, if you are impure, while you are alive there are complications, such as kami refusing to grant you blessings, or simply making your life a living hell. In many ways it does boil down to common sense and respect for nature and other people, which respecting other people is an ethic is it not? You are 100% right, sincerity and honesty are of high value, acting on your rage is sinful, killing someone and not being thankful they gave their life for their master is also sinful (if someone is robbing your house because they need to sell stolen items to eat, their hunger is their master and they died in its service), desecrating the dead is sinful, harming nature is sinful, refusing to maintain purity is sinful, desecrating shrines is sinful, etc. You will find many things that are taboo in Japanese culture are sinful in Shinto, as the two are extremely close and Shinto is responsible for a good 90% of values endorsed by Japanese people, even those that are no longer Shinto.

Amaterasu is in a way the chief deity because of her power of the people on the earth (no sun=no life), but according to the tales of the Kojiki, she is very moody and unreliable, Susanoo, her older brother, may fight with her a lot but he is more powerful (master of seas and storms, occasionally associated with the moon) and much, much more wise and helpful to those that pray. That being said, a prayer in Shinto is addressed to all the gods, there are prayers to just certain gods, but the common daily prayer is addressed to all the gods. If you pray at a shrine to a certain god, that is one way to pray just to that god. I will say there is no real chief among the gods, Amaterasu is perceived as such due to the high-importance of the sun to the Japanese people (have you seen their flag?), the less informed in Shinto sort of assume she is the head based on the sun's importance to the Japanese and their culture, she is one of the major gods, but by no means their leader or does she posses absolute power.

The afterlife in Shinto is... complicated to say the least. I will give you the bare bones and talk about a bit of the other philosophies as none are the official belief so technically they could all exist. When we die, our spirit leaves our body and becomes ancestral kami, your spirit will travel to Yomi (the underworld) on a path of predetermined difficulty based on your actions in life and purity upon death, injuries and other things acquired in this journey will stick with you for eternity in the afterlife (a broken leg that never heals, permanent limp), some, such as great heroes can ascend to heaven and live with the gods. Now that is the bare minimum belief, but there is also another where in Yomi, we eternally suffer and there is no hope or happiness, this is a commonly discarded belief on the afterlife as it is just sad and depressing, the gods would not waste their time with us if that is all that we would aspire to in the afterlife, the one I choose to believe is that Yomi is a lot like normal life here on earth and we do travel one of the paths, but the faithful, good, respectful, and pure Shinto followers can ascend to heaven and live alongside the gods, not just great heroes or martyrs, but any and all faithful that fit certain requirements which just basically mean they were a good person on the earth. The ancestral kami (which is basically your soul and your ancestors' souls outside of your body) can also dwell in shrines (they are commonly thought of as "kami houses") and in personal shrines known as kamidana kept in their descendants' homes. No kamidana, no ancestral spirit blessings.

Wicked spirits are a strange animal, their are demons which are not good ever, and their are spirits that only become wicked against the impure. Most spirits are good, but when someone is impure, they will cause mischief in that person's life until they are purified, being it moving items in the house, tripping them, making noise, sickness, and even death if the spirit is powerful enough. Demons on the other hand can only be banished through a special powder that can be attained through a special powder you can find at shrines, this can be used to purify ones home and keep out demons for around a year if I remember correctly, these demons cause basically the same problems but they are only negative and it is usually more extreme stuff like sickness, physical harm, and death. Also if you are impure, your ancestors' spirits cannot properly give you blessings, the may do things such as hide things and such to drive you to purification because when you are impure, they can only perform negative deeds on you.

Becoming Shinto is extraordinarily easy compared to most major religions and many minor religions. It is as simple as following the gods' path and way. There is a special prayer one can used to declare their faith, but as long as you follow the basic tenets of Shinto, consider yourself Shinto, and pray to the gods you are Shinto.

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May I join in on providing answers from my own perspective?

Of course man, multiple perspectives are good.

LunarHarvest
29 Apr 2014, 20:50
Shinto has properly fascinated me, but I still have some questions regarding the faith. Thank you in advance for your answers.

1) How should one pray to the Kami, and how do Kami consider prayers?
2) What should one do if they lack the means to worship or pray properly (ie. there are no shrines in their area)?
2) Are the Kami more personal or impersonal, and how does this effect their responses to prayers?
3) How easy, or quick, are the Kami to anger, and what are the consequences of angering a Kami?
4) Where are some good places to learn more about the Kami themselves (their likes and dislikes, personality, their areas of power, et cetera)?

Thanks for your time and answers. I look forward to expanding my views on Shinto. :3

Riothamus12
29 Apr 2014, 22:55
Wicked spirits are a strange animal, their are demons which are not good ever, and their are spirits that only become wicked against the impure. Most spirits are good, but when someone is impure, they will cause mischief in that person's life until they are purified, being it moving items in the house, tripping them, making noise, sickness, and even death if the spirit is powerful enough. Demons on the other hand can only be banished through a special powder that can be attained through a special powder you can find at shrines, this can be used to purify ones home and keep out demons for around a year if I remember correctly, these demons cause basically the same problems but they are only negative and it is usually more extreme stuff like sickness, physical harm, and death. Also if you are impure, your ancestors' spirits cannot properly give you blessings, the may do things such as hide things and such to drive you to purification because when you are impure, they can only perform negative deeds on you.

Becoming Shinto is extraordinarily easy compared to most major religions and many minor religions. It is as simple as following the gods' path and way. There is a special prayer one can used to declare their faith, but as long as you follow the basic tenets of Shinto, consider yourself Shinto, and pray to the gods you are Shinto.
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Fascinating. In many way these spirits sound a lot like the fae. They are generally pleasant spirits and benevolent in their nature, but they do not shy away from letting someone feel the sting of their justice when they have been crossed or you have crossed someone. Of course this was some what distorted by Christian lore, but if you look at fae lore following the decline of Druidism you will see the names of Celtic Deities listed as kings and queens of the fae. However there are also "fae" that are just plain capricious and cruel that some call unseelie. It was also noted that Celts worshiped Deities and spirits of specific locations such as Shinto believers are known to do. I know these are very different cultures but I cannot help but notice the similarities in some regards. Have you ever heard of these comparisons before?

I have noticed the presence of a number of colors in Shinto, red alongside white being two of the most common. What is the significance of red in Shinto?

I also have questions about Izanami and Izanagi. Are they actively worshiped? I've heard of the active worship of many Deities but not much about specific prayers, rites, festivals, or shrines dedicated to them.

I see a fair amount of associations with wolves in Japanese culture. What is the significance of the wolf to the followers of Shinto?

What exactly is it that miko do in traditional Shinto practice?

sirz345
01 May 2014, 17:14
Fascinating. In many way these spirits sound a lot like the fae. They are generally pleasant spirits and benevolent in their nature, but they do not shy away from letting someone feel the sting of their justice when they have been crossed or you have crossed someone. Of course this was some what distorted by Christian lore, but if you look at fae lore following the decline of Druidism you will see the names of Celtic Deities listed as kings and queens of the fae. However there are also "fae" that are just plain capricious and cruel that some call unseelie. It was also noted that Celts worshiped Deities and spirits of specific locations such as Shinto believers are known to do. I know these are very different cultures but I cannot help but notice the similarities in some regards. Have you ever heard of these comparisons before?

I have noticed the presence of a number of colors in Shinto, red alongside white being two of the most common. What is the significance of red in Shinto?

I also have questions about Izanami and Izanagi. Are they actively worshiped? I've heard of the active worship of many Deities but not much about specific prayers, rites, festivals, or shrines dedicated to them.

I see a fair amount of associations with wolves in Japanese culture. What is the significance of the wolf to the followers of Shinto?

What exactly is it that miko do in traditional Shinto practice?

Apologies, I am no Kannushi (priest), although I do act as one for a friend of mine who has drifted to the faith (I never claim to be all-knowing on Shinto though), I do not know the answer to your first, third, and fourth questions. I can however answer the second, it is obviously not a universal truth as many gods are only worshiped in certain areas of Japan (doesn't make much sense to place tons of importance on the sea god if you live inland right?), but Izanami is kind of the ruler of Yomi (underworld) and regarded as a mean-spirited woman who is evil and cruel, I have never seen any prayer to her but Izanagi is honored as he is the father of Japan, Izanami the mother.

On the note of the similarities, yes I have noticed these similarities between several "pagan" traditions! (I view pagan as a derogative term towards polytheists, call me weird) I like to explain it this way; the gods revealed themselves to all the world's peoples when we first began requiring answers to life's questions, but they never gave us their names, the different cultures and languages gave them their own names, but really, we are all the same faith, we just used different names for the same things. It's a little far-fetched but I just thought I'd throw that out there.

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Shinto has properly fascinated me, but I still have some questions regarding the faith. Thank you in advance for your answers.

1) How should one pray to the Kami, and how do Kami consider prayers?
2) What should one do if they lack the means to worship or pray properly (ie. there are no shrines in their area)?
2) Are the Kami more personal or impersonal, and how does this effect their responses to prayers?
3) How easy, or quick, are the Kami to anger, and what are the consequences of angering a Kami?
4) Where are some good places to learn more about the Kami themselves (their likes and dislikes, personality, their areas of power, et cetera)?

Thanks for your time and answers. I look forward to expanding my views on Shinto. :3

1) The kami are not picky, it technically acceptable to write prayers towards specific kami and ask for very specific things, but some of the more jealous kami like Amaterasu may get jealous and give you curses for not acknowledging them. The form of prayer is not necessarily important but you must NOT interrupt the prayer once it has begun until you finish. There are several daily prayers which address all the gods and ask for just good things in general. I really can't tell you how the kami consider prayers as I do not dwell in heaven with them, but I do know that prayers from the ritually pure will always be heard before the impure.

2)Perform daily prayer (there is a book of Shinto prayers, if you google it you'll find it), buy a kamidana, or have a reserved shelf in your house purified and use that as a kamidana and pray to that. (look up how to pray at kamidana, it is a bit hard to explain)

3)Could you please elaborate?

4)It varies from kami to kami, some are very easily offended where others might literally let you get away with anything, damaging or desecrating torii or shrine is a GUARANTEED way to piss off all of them or at least most of them. They might cause general bad luck and misfortunes; sending illness through your family, causing you physical harm, moving items from where you left them, causing you forgetfulness, a god might be able to do something such as cause a great storm (in the case of Susanoo) that will destroy just your home but affect others around you, it varies based on a kami's power and other such things.
5)Check the Kojiki, books on Japanese mythology, Japanese fables and legends, and the internet (just look up Japanese mythology) while it isn't mythology to me and around 900,000,000 other people, it is generally considered mythology in the west because the predominant faith here is not very tolerant of other faiths and considers most to be fake.

Gleb
30 Jun 2014, 08:36
Is there something as fate and/or destiny in shinto?

LunarHarvest
30 Jun 2014, 20:02
Is there something as fate and/or destiny in shinto?
In a religious sense?
Not generally, although it should be understood that Shinto does have significant variance in beliefs since it is more of a tent term for a collection of different spiritual beliefs.

There is no divine plan for an individual that is designated by the Kami, or any other spiritual force for that matter, before, upon or after the birth of a person, and there is especially no plan or destiny which determines the actions of the individual. Ultimately it is up to humans to find their own meanings, callings and purposes in life.

Gleb
30 Jun 2014, 20:06
In a religious sense?
Not generally, although it should be understood that Shinto does have significant variance in beliefs since it is more of a tent term for a collection of different spiritual beliefs.

There is no divine plan for an individual that is designated by the Kami, or any other spiritual force for that matter, before, upon or after the birth of a person, and there is especially no plan or destiny which determines the actions of the individual. Ultimately it is up to humans to find their own meanings, callings and purposes in life.
Thanks very much :)