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One of the beautiful things about Shinto is that it has no founder, sacred scriptures, or set dogma. While these factors maybe intriguing to those living in the Western world, these very same attributes of the Shinto faith indicate its origins are found in an advanced culture. This point is eloquently described in The Yi Jing Apocrypha of Genghis Khan:
“The idea of a religion having a founder and its practitioners must follow a set of “sacred” writings can only be defined as someone from an advanced civilization sharing its culture with an uncivilized people. Think about it for a second. Although religious mythology throughout the world may vary, there is one point that is consistent among these; all of the world’s “prophets” that carried a “divine message” had to deliver such to an uncivilized people, or a nation that fell in disaccord with the way of heaven and earth.”
In an online edition of The Japan Times, in an article entitled, Seeing Where Shinto and Buddhism Cross, we read:
“It is believed that before Buddhism was introduced in Japan, however, Shinto was born from an existing primitive form of religion that worshipped nature…..The ancient people of Japan honored sacred spirits that they recognized in nature, manifesting in mountains, rocks, rivers and trees. As communities grew, they began erecting shrines where they could worship these deities, and the shrines became centers of regional life and culture….Tanaka, a Shinto priest of Iwashimizu Hachimangu, Kyoto, explained it as simply as he can: “In comparison to Western religions, such as Christianity, for which people believe in an absolute God, followers of Shinto sense kehai (presence of spirits) in the nature.
“Shinto never had holy scriptures like the bible to follow, nor does it have a doctrine. It’s more of a way of living, or the wisdom of how to live in harmony with the nature, while being grateful and respectful of all the spirits of life,” he continued. “Shinto has permeated everyday life in such a way that most people are not particularly conscious of its influence.”
Shinto is a way of life. Over the past decades knowledge of Shinto and some of its associated practices are being followed by people of all walks of life. This is a very beautiful thing indeed. Recently, however, i was disheartened by a personal experience where someone made the statement that since our practices are outside of Jinja Shinto then what we are doing is not a legitimate form of Shinto. due to this sort of propaganda, I thought it would be good to discuss the many varieties of Shinto and its oneness. In the Art of Ninzuwu we do not advocate that one expression of Shinto has rank over the other. Nor do we belive that just because someone is in charge of a tourist attraction that they now have the right to dictate what is Shinto and what isn’t. Ideas of this nature an unfounded in Shinto itself, as no one can dictate what form the kami may choose to communicate with their children, since these are among all humanity.
Shinto is Not Controlled by the Understanding of One Person or Group
One principle that was transmitted to me by my mentor in regards to Shinto is that a person’s emotional state creates their reality. Ultimately, the rites of purity, prayer, and etc, are all useful tools in the cultivation of a certain consciousness that many practitioners of Shinto associate with kami-hood. When a person goes about talking about another person’s spiritual practice in a negative manner, it is they themselves who are engaging in the impure act of transmitting negative emotions, a case usually illustrating that one has become a victim of badger spirits. It is quite understandable that we should not involve ourselves with practices that bring harm or discriminate against others. We also must keep in mind that the authenticity of a religion or spiritual practice is not necessarily determined its relationship with the state or said government. There have been many examples of enlightened people who were at odds with the government the lived under or was persecuted for their religious beliefs and exercised great faith to preserve a set of teaching that would exist today, if it weren’t for their integrity. Just because something has an official document from a government agency does not necessarily determine its status in the spiritual world. There are many examples of this in the Shinto faith as we will discuss shortly.
We also have to keep in mind too, that in Japan, religion is not a widely talked about subject as it is in the Western world. It is a very personal thing. One expresses their spirituality in how they live not necessarily what they profess. In Japan, for a person to call someone out on their spiritual or religious belief, is considered rude and insulting. Similarly, it is also understood that “the Way of the Gods” is nature and life itself. No one person holds an understanding of what Shinto is in which all must adhere, for in such thinking is the exact opposite of the nature of Shinto itself. In the discussion of world cultures, Richard Hooker.Com provides the following history of Shinto:
“Several things, though, can be said about Shinto. First, it was a tribal religion, not a state one. Individual tribes or clans, which originally crossed over to Japan from Korea, generally held onto their Shinto beliefs even after they were organized into coherent and centralized states….. Second, all Shinto cults believe in kami , which generally refers to the “divine.” Individual clans (uji ), which were simultaneously political, military, and religious units, worshipped a single kami in particular which was regarded as the founder or principal ancestor of the clan. As a clan spread out, it took its worship of a particular kami with it; should a clan conquer another clan, the defeated clan was subsumed into the worship of the victorious clan’s kami . What the kami consists of is hard to pin down. Kami first of all refers to the gods of heaven, earth, and the underworld, of whom the most important are creator gods (all Shinto involves a developed mythology of the creation of the world). But kami also are all those things that have divinity in them to some degree: the ghosts of ancestors, living human beings, particular regions or villages, animals, plants, landscape—in fact, most of creation, anything that might be considered wondrous, magnificent, or affecting human life. This meant that the early Japanese felt themselves to be under the control not only of the clan’s principal kami , but by an innumerable crowd of ancestors, spiritual beings, and divine natural forces.”
In the definition of Shinto, cited above, we find the existence of several cults, who expressed faith in either a specific kami, ancestral kami, and had a distinguishing nature from other cults that would later be categorized as Shinto as the history of Japan was developed.
One popular figure, whose life illustrates that no one group or person has a trademark on Shinto, is legendary martial artist O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba. While O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba is often cited as the founder of Aikido and missionary of this martial form respectfully, he was also a very spiritual man and regarded as a mystic by many.
O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was a follower of Oomoto-kyo, which is often described as a Japanese new religion and outside the jurisdiction of what is known as more “traditional” Shinto. I know quite a bit about Oomoto since my great-aunt was a member, as well as my first mentor’s mother.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s Oomoto-kyo was greatly suppressed by the Japanese government. Some attribute this persecution to the group’s growing influence during this time and their views which were quite different from State Shinto. Still in all, O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba would find great spiritual refreshment in the teachings of Oomoto-kyo. Wikipedia reports O’Sensei’s relationship with Oomoto leader Onisaburo Deguchi:
“Onisaburo Deguchi led a small group of Ōmoto-kyō disciples, including Ueshiba, on a journey to Mongolia at the invitation of retired naval captain Yutaro Yano and his associates within the ultra-nationalist Black Dragon Society. Deguchi’s intent was to establish a new religious kingdom in Mongolia, and to this end he had distributed propaganda suggesting that he was the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. Allied with the Mongolian bandit Lu Zhankui, Deguchi’s group were arrested in Tongliao by the Chinese authorities—fortunately for Ueshiba, whilst Lu and his men were executed by firing squad, the Japanese group were released into the custody of the Japanese consul. They were returned under guard to Japan, where Deguchi was imprisoned for breaking the terms of his bail.”
While some may speculate on Onisaburo Deguchi’s approach to Shinto spirituality, still O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba benefited greatly from the wisdom of Oomoto-kyo. Aikido of Gainsville mentions the following about O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba on their website:
“The Oomoto religion was promoting world peace and love and trying to establish a global harmony with many religions. However, the Japanese government was already promoting global expansion through direct acquisition and felt the Oomoto religion’s goal of world peace was a deterrent to their goals. Deguchi was a charismatic, eccentric, spiritual mystic, who had already been arrested and investigated for some time. His grandmother was the daughter of a master of Kotodama, the study of effects of sounds. Ueshiba became a close student, confidant, body guard and close friend of his mentor….One of the things that Onisaburo taught to Morihei was the Kotodama. He continued to study Kotodama and used it in his Aikido to great effect.”
People who are familiar with the life of O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba know, as cited in the information above, that O’Sensei’s development of Aikido was largely influenced by the wisdom he learn through the application of the teachings of Oomoto-kyo. In this lies a very important point!
Imagine if someone was to advise O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, early in his career, that he should give up following Oomoto-kyo because it wasn’t connected to Stat Shinto, or Traditional Jinja Shinto. Now if Ueshiba-san followed such advice Aikido wouldn’t exist! So when anyone goes around saying that if one is not following Shrine Shinto then it’s not real Shinto, then they are forgetting that their have been some wonderful contributions made by adherents of Sect Shinto groups and other obscure forms of Shinto faith that many benefit from. The work of O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba is a great testimony to this truth!
What i find interesting about all of this is that in Japan groups with differing views are learning from each other. That’s the Way of the Kami. Not someone trying to appear as presenting to be more “official” than another group or form and calling another one “bogus” and all this non-sense and black magic ideologies. I read a recent article that expressed some of the views of Rev. Mitsuyoshi Takeuchi, one of Japan’s top Shinto priests. The article appears on Oomoto’s official website and is entitled, World Peace? Consider The Japanese Garden, where it states:
“With his message of peace and harmony, the Rev. Takeuchi sees the world much the same way Oomoto does. This common perspective is only natural given that Oomoto’s roots are deeply embedded in Shinto, an ancient indigenous religion which continues to exert enormous influence on the cultural values, spiritual attitudes and religious practices of 21st century Japanese…..Shinto grew from various folk beliefs and rituals that were held by the agrarian people of pre-recorded history in the Japanese archipelago. These beliefs and rituals, and the myths upon which they are based, have more in common with the beliefs of native Americans or Africans of pre-recorded history than they do with the major monotheistic religions that evolved in the past four thousand years…..Some people call these indigenous beliefs the “religion of the forest” because ancient life was so deeply rooted in the forest. It’s a phrase used often in official Shinto literature, which asserts the Japanese have long believed that the people, land, mountains, rivers and trees –in other words, all of nature–are offspring of the same deities, or kami. The ancient people made no distinction between themselves and nature. It’s a belief that continues in modern Shinto. “Trees, stones, water, earth and soil. They all have individual spirit,” says the Rev. Takeuchi. “And we respect each individual spirit.”
There are some really good points in this article. it also talks about the struggle Oomoto and other perspectives. The Art of Ninzuwu is closely related to Ryujin Shinto practice, but we consider ourselves adherents of the Shinto faith. We do not feel that a certain form of Shinto practice is the “official” Way of the Kami. Those are man-made ideas. Nor do we cater to one or two ethnic groups, conduct extravagant ceremonies with no community outreach and then criticize adherents of Shinto for not practicing the way we do. We try to reach out to other practitioners of the Shinto path while being secure in our own. We recognize that different paths of Shinto-based practice largely encompasses different agendas that several groups may have as their aim.
The Esoteric Black Dragon Society list our aims and vision on our website. We seek to spread knowledge about Shinto worldwide and use its technology in aid of human evolution. Normally, we provide certain initiations in order to detoxify the new initiate. This process usually takes about a year, and then we go into he deeper aspects of Shinto practice and the like. Our members come from various walks of life into the one fold of the Art of Ninzuwu practice.
We respect the faith of others as long it is not a vehicle used to bring harm to other people and etc. If anyone has good intention and find our teaching contrary, they can simply email us for further explanation. we are confident in our practice and do not look to outside organizations, or people, for validation. Shinto is not a personality cult in the East nor in the West. We wish everyone all the best on their spiritual endeavors.