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Thread: Shinto Group Thread

  1. #21
    Supporter Jembru's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    I was searching 'Scotland' to see if I could find anything about the referendum but instead found this. I'm interested in Japanese culture so think I'll will enjoy reading this thread. I have a few questions already.

    1) I know you're struggling to find current statistics but based on your experiences so far, do you think that Shinto is growing in popularity in the West?

    2) I had a short period where I was interested in learning more about Shinto. At the time I felt the Kami had no interest in me at all. Later when I came to discuss my experiences with other pagans, they reported similar feelings with some people going so far as to say unless you are of Japanese origin, you will never be accepted into Shinto. Since then though, I have met non-Japanese people who genuinely found their home in Shinto, as you appear to have. So, do you think the Kami themselves are beginning to reach out further and identify honest followers from other countries and ethnicity?

    3) In the absence of a local shrine, where do you prayer to the Kami? Do you create an altar? Strange question but.. do you still pay before you prayer and if so what do you do with the coins? Sorry if that was a dumb question. I've never actually prayed at a Shinto shrine, but I learnt how to by watching an episode of Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo.
    夕方に急なにわか雨は「夕立」と呼ばれるなら、なぜ朝ににわか雨は「朝立ち」と呼ばれないの? ^^If a sudden rain shower in the evening is referred to as an 'evening stand', then why isn't a shower in the morning called 'morning stand'?

  2. #22
    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    1) Yes! There have been Shrines appearing all over the Western world. :3 From Australia to New Zealand, to the Netherlands to the United Kingdom, and the States and Canada across the pond, shrines and communities of Shinto practitioners have been appearing. It is still in its very early stages of development, but I feel like Shinto could easily become an actively present part of Western Society, at least that is my hope. :3

    2) Shinto is to the Japanese what Christianity is to the West, as a cultural religion of sorts. In this way, to paraphrase what I recently saw someone state, "Japan is Shinto-centric, but Shinto itself is not solely Japanese-centric." The Kami have always been in the universe around us. Everything within the universe, has in itself a proper Kami. Just because something is not in Japan does not mean that said object does not have a Kami. Many Kami also exist beyond Japan. Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, for example, is the same no matter where you go in the world, as we all see the same moon, and experience the night, on this planet. :3

    The issue is that there really were not many, if any, followers before, and it is (like paganism) a very recent thing for the religion to be expanding in the West. The Kami have always been around and within each of us, and we have simply not looked or acknowledged their existence, but anyone can pray or revere the Kami regardless of where they live or what race they are.

    3) There is another way for a practitioner to pray without a local shrine. It is called a Kamidana, or "home shrine". The home shrine will provide the same function of a regular shrine, and will have Kami enshrined within it like a regular shrine. I am still in the broom closet about being Shinto though, so I don't have one.

    When I pray I purify myself of impurity through ritual purification, and turn to face nature. I then pray just like I would if I had been at a shrine. It may not be as good or ideal as praying at a proper shrine, but since there are Kami existing everywhere, and within everything, I feel like it shouldn't be an issue. I did have a small makeshift altar for my ancestors, and food offerings, during Obon (a three day festival honouring ancestors), but that was about it.

  3. #23
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    Hey, thanks for the reply! I found the other Shinto threads after I posted, so if I would be better off posting there, please redirect me!

    I always wondered where that feeling came from, that Shinto only belongs to the Japanese. My Japanese friends certainly don't seem to agree (although as you have said, the majority of Japanese just 'go through the motions' so aren't that knowledgeable about the spirituality behind Shinto).

    One of the reasons I am so curious (besides the fact that my second language is Japanese, which I realise isn't a good enough basis on which to choose a spiritual path) is that I can't quite see how my current beliefs really differ from Shinto. I give my deities different names, but I worship local Celtic deities that we know were revered in the region due to the shrines that were left behind by the Romans acknowledging local deities. I also don't see a distinction between what we now call 'faeries' 'fairies' 'shee' 'sidhe' or whatever you want to call them, and gods, other than their power and for want of a better word, 'ranking' within their hierarchy. While I haven't really tried to create a celtic-based path, the fact that I feel more at home acknowledging local spirits just naturally led me to Celtic deities and by extension my beliefs have taken on a loosely Celtic flavour. Most of the names I know my gods by were given to them by an invading race, and I am not aware of what they were called by the Celts themselves. I don't really think the specific name is so important. So say I DID choose to call my path Shinto, for want of a better name, surely I would be worshiping exactly the same beings?

    My family (my mum, sister, niece and myself), perform a sort of ritual every Thursday.. I've just done it in fact, where we light a green candle to drawer prosperity and protect us from poverty. My sister started this and we all just latched onto the practice, calling one another every Thursday to make sure no one forgets! When I do this, I also throw a 5 pence piece into a vessel of water, to represent the concept of the wishing well (I chose 5p because it looks like a little silver moon). When it gets full, I donate what I've collected to a food bank, because they're there to help people in my region when they fall on hard times, so it seems fitting. Then when I saw that episode of Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo it made me think of this little custom of mine and I started to wonder if something is subtly leading me more towards Shinto. I just don't want to fall into the trap of confusing an interest in Japan with an interest in Shinto, especially when the path I'm already on seems to be working so well for me as it is.
    夕方に急なにわか雨は「夕立」と呼ばれるなら、なぜ朝ににわか雨は「朝立ち」と呼ばれないの? ^^If a sudden rain shower in the evening is referred to as an 'evening stand', then why isn't a shower in the morning called 'morning stand'?

  4. #24
    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    You're identification for Shinto beliefs is quite similar to myself. I found myself to have almost identical spiritual beliefs to Shinto. I also did not properly identify as a practitioner, but for a different reason. I was, at the time, heavily opposed to ritualism, which I thought disqualified myself from being a Shinto practitioner. I also had different names for the Kami, for example I referred to Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto as Luna. Over time, as my faith in the Way of the Kami grew, I grew to perform the tradition rituals of Shinto, but everyone is different.

    In terms of names for the individual Kami, that is really only for identifying the individual Kami. In Shinto, local areas and creative forces also contain Kami, and the beings of a place are also Kami. So the cities of Corcaigh (Cork) and the city of York - that rhyme was complete unintentional I assure you :3 - would have their own proper Kami just as they would anywhere in the world. Even the Kami with no proper 'assigned' names are still Kami, so I do not see why referring to Kami by different names would be a deal-breaker.

    In my mind, I would say that Kami are not bound by names, but by the understanding of the nature of Kami. Call the Kami of Moon and of Night Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, or Luna, the Kami you are revering does not change. The most important aspect of Shinto, and Kami worship, is not that you refer to the Kami by a specific name, or any name for that matter, but that when you do so, and pray or perform rituals to them, you do it with sincerity.

  5. #25
    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    So I found this author discussing his book "Shinto: A Celebrations of Life", in which he talks about the relevance of Shinto to modern western spirituality, and I found it to be quite interesting. I don't know if the man himself is Shinto, but he certainly seems to have some understanding of the basics. What do you think?

    In addition, I would also like to open up discussion on two different topics in Shinto spirituality; Kannagara and some of the more folkloric aspects of Shinto such as Yōkai.

    To me, Kannagara is the understanding and awareness of the world around us, and how it is interconnected in all of its areas. It is the understanding that the world will always rebalance itself and change, and that even the smallest actions taken play a part in this. Kannagara to me is the understanding and awareness of the spiritual nature of all things. That being said, this is only my opinion.

    I will admit that I don't properly know where I stand on Yōkai. I tend to not be much of a follower of the folklore aspects of Shinto. That being said, I don't properly understand what exactly Yōkai are supposed to be so I can't get a full conclusion on the topic. Are they supposed to be spiritual beings similar to Kami, in some sense, or are they of a different nature? What about other areas of mythology and folklore?

  6. #26
    Sr. Member Cobra's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    The only criticisms I have for the author in the video are that he says Buddhism is the "intellectual side" and Shinto is the "intuitive side" and when he says that Shinto has no concept of sin. First of all, I think it is very possible to be intellectual and Shinto and to think about its philosophy and believe in it with both thought and spirit. Secondly, there is a concept of sin, it's just not the same as in Western religions. I liked how he pointed out that Shinto doesn't have the types of prohibitions that can be found in the West. Of course, I agree with him that Shinto and its ideas are relative in this age, and outside of Japan.

    Kannagara is an interesting concept I think. Even Kokugakuin University's Encyclopedia of Shinto says that there are multiple definitions for it. The way I usually take it is that kannagara is the "underlying spirituality of all religion"... how we say in Shinto that we are not "exclusive." I think kannagara plays into how all peoples of different faiths have valid religious experiences.

    Yōkai are not exactly kami. I suppose maybe they could even be caused by kami. Yōkai can be a lot of different things... ghosts, weird creatures in stories, strange things. They are distinct from yūrei, which I generally take as just being ghosts, spirits of people. Most people think of a lady when they think of yūrei, this is pretty common but I think it results from the fact that the first time somebody saw a yūrei and painted it, it was a woman's ghost. Take a look at these two links.

    http://hyakumonogatari.com/2013/11/1...rei-and-yokai/

    http://hyakumonogatari.com/2013/06/1...host-of-oyuki/

    Oh yeah, and sorry for not replying to those questions about Shinto... I think LH covered it quite well, so I didn't have anything to add.

  7. #27
    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    I agree entirely with what you said Cobra. I personally have the view that the relationship between Shinto and Buddhism is much less about intellectual and intuitive pursuits, but rather can be properly explained by the view that Shinto is the spiritual understanding of life, and Buddhism the spiritual understanding of death. That being said, to say that it did not have some spiritual impact would not be accurate, as Kami such as the Seven Kami of Good Fortune trace their original understandings to Buddhism - even if they are now considered to be proper Kami of their own right.

    I have to say that I personally did disagree with the author on some points - like what we have already discussed - but I was pleased at his understanding of Shinto beyond what I have seen by many other people who discuss Shinto in the West.

    One thing I really liked about Shinto even before I joined the ranks as a practitioner was how open and non-exclusive it was. It considers that there is a proper way to worship Kami through the rituals, shrines, festivals and prayers, but at the same time does not view the practices of other religions and faiths as being a 'wrong way' to revere and worship the divine. I think that Kannagara could very well be understood as a part of this, as you say, by being a fundamental recognition of a sort of universal experience of spirituality, for lack of a better term.

    On the topic of yūrei, I think that I must agree with you that it is possible for them to encompass more than just women. If they are indeed supposed to be considered the spirits of the restless dead, to summarise a more complex definition, then why would this be limited to a single gender?

  8. #28
    Sr. Member Cobra's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    I personally take all of my understanding of death from Shinto. I have discussed before that there is enough in Shinto to develop an idea of it, and then an individual may interpret it. In my opinion, we can see that there is something because I believe that the ancestor kami that are revered of course exist in the spiritual realm, so to speak, and they at one time were the souls of living people. The Kojiki also contains some material to that regard. Past that, it is up to a person's interpretation. I should note that in no way should death be focused on... it detracts from celebrating life, and is polluting. I believe that what Shinto tells us about ancestors and celebrating life is enough to stop a person's worrying about death and letting it pollute their life. I have experienced this firsthand... death is polluting because you worry about it, but if you have a sincere connection to the Divine you realize there is nothing to worry about. I don't hold Buddhist beliefs in almost any way, really.

    Regarding my interpretation of kannagara, I think you said it better than was able to.

    Again, I think yūrei brings an image of a woman to mind first because of Ōkyo's painting, popular culture, and stories of loss that you can read about on the site I linked to. I once read a long blog post about a group of men who traveled to Aokigahara forest. Two of them got lost for a while and met a Buddhist monk who told them which way to go. When they exited the forest, they came out into a parking lot and some twenty people crowded around them. One of them (might have been both) was able to speak Japanese well and told the people that they had not thought of suicide, and instead had just gotten lost. The people calmed down until he mentioned the monk that they met. They believed that the monk may have actually been a yūrei that had apparently been seen before, and advised the men to go to a shrine, which they did. I could find the blog post for you if you wanted.

  9. #29
    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Cobra View Post
    In my opinion, we can see that there is something because I believe that the ancestor kami that are revered of course exist in the spiritual realm, so to speak, and they at one time were the souls of living people. The Kojiki also contains some material to that regard. Past that, it is up to a person's interpretation. I should note that in no way should death be focused on... it detracts from celebrating life, and is polluting.
    You just described my positions on Buddhism and death almost exactly. For me there is the ancestral Kami, which all persons who are at peace and given proper respect and burial ritual join, while those not given a proper burial ritual or who hold a great attachment to something on Earth essentially become yūrei. Other than this I hold no real beliefs about the afterlife. To me, as you have stated, to focus on death and afterlife detracts from the focus of living a fulfilled life. The focus of spirituality is not how to best live in preparation for the afterlife, but to instead seek how to best live.

    The topic of the Kojiki and other books of Shinto lore and mythology is something which is also interesting. As Shinto has no central scriptures or written dogma, a practitioner of Shinto could simply choose to ignore the Kojiki entirely, and not be at a fault, or technically drift from Shinto teachings. I have read parts of the Kojiki, if memory serves, but I personally do not consider it to play altogether much of a role in my Shinto faith. That being said, I am admittedly no expert on the mythology, so I wouldn't say that I dismiss it without any proper consideration. They just haven't formed a crucial part of my understanding of Shinto.

    That is indeed an interesting story. I do like the possible idea that yūrei can be helpful instead of their common malicious perception among the West, and even among those in the East. As for finding the blog post, it would certainly be an interesting resource to have, but don't feel like you have to.

  10. #30
    Sr. Member sirz345's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    Welcome to the thread! I've been a rather devout follower of Shinto for about four years and your second question intrigued me very much so! I've actually talked with Rev. Lawrence Koichi Barrish (link to his shrine's page: http://www.tsubakishrine.org/) about this very same subject! You see Rev. Barrish in many ways disproves the idea that you MUST be Japanese to be Shinto, after all he is the first non-Japanese Shinto kannushi (priest) who broke barriers placed by people arguing that only Japanese can be Shinto. In our discussion we talked about how in reality, a jinja (shrine) does not NEED to be near you to be Shinto (although it is quite important in many cases), what is important is you living in harmony with divine nature and honoring the kami and such. He would explain it far more eloquently than me and I encourage you to reach out to him (his email is on the jinja website and he answers all emails). His final statement in the discussion was really about how since the sun is the only thing required to be Shinto as it is the great mother so-to-speak, as long as you receive energy from the sun you can be Shinto.

    And in my honest opinion, very few faiths (Shinto is VERY different from what someone in the west would use to describe a faith but still) discriminate based on ethnicity, and while Shinto is central to Japan, no where is it said that you must be from a specific area to revere the gods and live with divine nature as they are an eternal truth and just leaving an island chain will not remove them as they are all around us. That's my 2 cents on the matter but Japanese is a very central language to the faith and either way some understanding is encouraged of that language. I hope this helped!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by LunarHarvest View Post
    You just described my positions on Buddhism and death almost exactly. For me there is the ancestral Kami, which all persons who are at peace and given proper respect and burial ritual join, while those not given a proper burial ritual or who hold a great attachment to something on Earth essentially become yūrei. Other than this I hold no real beliefs about the afterlife. To me, as you have stated, to focus on death and afterlife detracts from the focus of living a fulfilled life. The focus of spirituality is not how to best live in preparation for the afterlife, but to instead seek how to best live.

    The topic of the Kojiki and other books of Shinto lore and mythology is something which is also interesting. As Shinto has no central scriptures or written dogma, a practitioner of Shinto could simply choose to ignore the Kojiki entirely, and not be at a fault, or technically drift from Shinto teachings. I have read parts of the Kojiki, if memory serves, but I personally do not consider it to play altogether much of a role in my Shinto faith. That being said, I am admittedly no expert on the mythology, so I wouldn't say that I dismiss it without any proper consideration. They just haven't formed a crucial part of my understanding of Shinto.

    That is indeed an interesting story. I do like the possible idea that yūrei can be helpful instead of their common malicious perception among the West, and even among those in the East. As for finding the blog post, it would certainly be an interesting resource to have, but don't feel like you have to.
    The kojiki is basically a story book with spiritual meaning. You are absolutely right that you don't need to read it to be Shinto. Many of the stories teach us lessons about life but still they are not essential. Hell, most stories originating in Japan can be considered Shinto stories too if you think about it. Shinto has a dogma per se but it isn't written, it is more implied and people just go along with the way it is.

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