Shinto is the Japanese native religion,with its roots stretching back to 500 B.C.Shinto or Kaminomichi ,is not really an "ism",but only a teaching and also it is not a set of verbal theories or concepts,but based on Animism.Shinto is an all-pervading indefinable way which is quite universal.It is a religion of the heart,which is a natural and real spiritual force which pervades the life of the Japanese.It is a creative or formative principle of life and there is neither great philosophy nor complicated rituals in Shintoism.
Shinto means the spontaneous following of the 'Way of the Gods' and 'Kami' means the God,deity or a the soul.The Sun Goddess is regarded as the principal deity of Shinto, particularly by the royal families.The Japanese is called "Nippon",which literally denotes "the Origin of the Sun". The Japanese national flag has one red disk in the center, and it symbolizes the sun.
There are many Gods in Shinto, but the ancestral Sun-God, Anaterasu-omi Kami, stands supreme above them.Susano-o-no-Mikoto is the impetuous divine brother of the Sun-God. He is the God of rainstorm. Tsukiyomi-no-Mikoto is the Moon-God.These three constitute a divine triad.They preside, respectively, over the plane of High Heaven,the vast ocean, and the realm of Night.
The mirror, the sword and the jewel have a figurative meaning in the course of the development of Shinto.They symbolise wisdom, courage and intelligence.These three are the holy ensigns of royalty of the Sovereign Emperor.They are supposed to symbolise the dynamic working of the Great Way and so they are found in the forefront of every Shinto shrine, popularly known as "Mistu-tomo-e" or "The three big commas".
Purity is one of the fundamental virtues of Shinto ethics.There are two types of purity.One is outer or bodily purity and the other is inner or purity of mind. If a man has true inner purity ,he will surely attain salvation.
The study of Shinto helps to know the Japanese nation and their culture.Shinto is divided into two classes ie - the Sectarian Shinto,which is sub-divided into 13 sects and the Shinto of the national faith of the Japanese, or the State Shinto Religion.The Shinto principle is the base of Japanese culture, code of ethics, fine arts, family and national structure.
It must be mentioned that,Shinto is not a religion adopted by the State,however,Shinto has restored, modified and reinforced the social and religious life of Japan.Today there are about four millions of Shinto followers in the world.
Shinto is poly-theistic (Universal belief),which venerates almost all the natural objects ranging from trees and mountains to dead notables.Sinto is a kind of personal religion,which ascribes divine attributes to every being.So,for the Japanese, nation means a big family of individuals and salvation,for the Japanese,means the Salvation for the whole nation instead of an individual.
Sun Goddess Amaterasu
10 Priciples of Shinto
*1* Do not violate the will of the gods !
*2* Do not forget your obligations to ancestors !
*3* Do not offend by violating the decrees of the State !
*4* Do not forget the profound goodness of the Gods !
*5* Do not forget that the world is one great family !
*6* Do not forget your own limitations !
*7* Do not ever become angry !
*8* Do not be inactive in your work !
*9* Do not bring blame to the teaching !
*10* Do not get influenced by foreign teachings !
The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form.
Even the wishes of an ant reach to heaven.
Leave the things of this world and come to me daily with pure bodies and pure hearts.
A single sincere prayer moves heaven. You will surely realise the divine presence through sincere prayer.
Where you have sincerity, there also is virtue. Sincerity is a witness to truth. Sincerity is the mother of knowledge. Sincerity is a single virtue that binds Divinity and man in one.
Retribution for good or ill is as sure as the shadow after substance.
To do good is to be pure. To commit evil is to be impure.
To admit a fault is the beginning of righteousness.
The first and surest means to enter into communion with the Divine is sincerity.
If you pray to a deity with sincerity, you will surely feel the divine presence.
There was a Goddess of the sun and the ruler of the heaven,called Amaterasu,who was believed to be the legendary ancestor of the current Imperial Family.Once Amaterasu was so much offended by the ill acts of her brother that she came to the earth and hid herself in a cave.Due to this there was a pitch dark on the earth and evil deeds started taking place.
The worried Gods and Goddesses assembled near the cave to call her out.The goddess performed a dance in front of the cave, causing the crowd to shout in rejoice.While dancing ,her clothes blew away,drawing cheers from the Gods.
On hearing the excitement of the crowd,Amaterasu peeped from inside the cave's entrance.The dancing Goddess,with a mirror in hand and said, "We are celebrating for a new goddess".Soon,Amaterasu stepped out of the cave to see the new Goddess and in the mirror she saw her own reflection.Immediately,a strong God caught her by hand and pleaded her,never to hide again.
Today's Emperor Akihito, is said to be the 125th direct descendant of Emperor Jinmu,the legendary first Japanese emperor and a mythical descendent of Amaterasu.It is said that the Japanese calendar year starts from 660 B.C., the year of her accession.The reigning emperors were considered to be the direct descendant of the Sun Goddess.
* Shrine architecture
A full-fledged Shinto shrine is made of two-part structure as represented by the famous Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture: one is the oratory called Haiden, before which worshipers say a prayer, and the other is the inner sanctum called Honden, the main dwelling of the deity built behind the Haiden. Honden contains no statues but houses symbolical and sacred objects of worship such as mirrors and swords, in which the spirit of the deity is believed to reside. Haiden is more spacious than Honden as it is used for rituals and ceremonies.
* Torii gate
Torri is the symbolic gate of a shrine.Worshipers pass under this sacred gate.
Purification is essential before offering a prayer and it is performed through exorcism called Harai, cleaning one's body with water.In a large shrine, there is a stone wash-basin and devotees are supposed to rinse their mouth and wash hands before reaching to the deity.
* Komainu, or guard dogs
There ia a pair of dog-statues,facing each other,in front of the shrine,who are called,the guardian dogs. The right side dog always has its mouth open,as if to say 'ah' ,while the other has its mouth closed and looks like saying 'um'.
* Method of prayer
During the prayer ritual,the devotees bow down twice and clap their hands twice (as if to alert the God),bow down once more and toss the coins into a offertory box.
* Kagura - the Shinto music and dancing
Kagura is a ritual dance with the traditional Japanese Court music called Gagaku,which involves a standard musical instrument called "Sho".The Imperial Household Agency has the Imperial Ensemble and its musicians are hereditary dating from the ninth century.One of them is the Togi family and they are now employees of the Imperial Household Agency. Kagura and Gagaku are thought to help provide communications between the God and worshipers.
There are several Shinto shrines in Japan, however four are superior - Hachiman , Tenjin , Inari and Jingu.
Hachimangu enshrines 15th Emperor Ojin,the official first emperor since all emperors before him were legendary.Hachimangu is mentioned among the most prestigious ones, and offers a wide array of Shinto rituals and ceremonies.
Tenjin literally means the heaven's god, but is dedicated to the memory of Michizane Sugawara (845-903), the patron deity of scholarship or learning.
Inari is the shrine for the god of harvest and is popularly called fox deity since the fox is believed to be messengers of this god.
Jingu is associated with the Imperial Family.
Norito - Shinto Prayer
The inspiration of the prayer is based on the concept of 'Koto-dama',the spiritual power,which resides in the words.As per the ancient belief, beautiful, correct words bring good omen, while the evil language is the cause of losses.
Norito is praise for the deities and lists of offerings,expressed in elegant, classical language,which was derived from the work compiled in the 10th century.The wording of the prayers recited at public shrines were determined by the government,when the State Shinto was under the control of political authorities.Now,the chief priest of a shrine recites the Norito on behalf of the worshipers.
Takaamahara Ni Kami Tsumari masu.
Kamurogi Kamuromi no Mikoto wo Mochite
Sumemioya Kamu Izanagi No Mikoto
Tsukushi No Himuka No Tachihana No Odo No
Ahagi Hara Ni Misogi Harai Tamau Toki Ni
Narimaseru Haraidono Ookami Tachi
Moromoro No Magagoto Tsumi Kegare Wo
Harai Tamae Kiyome Tamae To Mousu Koto No Yoshi Wo
Tamatsu Kami Kunitsu Kami Yaoyorozu No Kamitachi Tomomi
Ameno Huchikoma No Mimi Furitatete Kikoshimese To
Kashikomi Kashikomi Mo Maosu
Spirits of purification
created for order of and the mother
that they inhabit the Sky,
exactly as when
The God Izanagi no Mikoto
bathed in the narrow estuary
of a covered river with trees
permanently leafy, in the South region.
With all the respect from the depth of our hearts
We ask that they hear us, such as the spirit that hears our
intent, with sharpened ears, together with
Spirits of the Sky and the Land,
Take the badnesses, disasters and sins and purify all.
You bless us and proteject us
You bless us
and protect us For expansion of our soul
And the fullfillment of your will !