An Intro to Shintoism


Tomorrow, Tuesday Jan 22 at 7pmSLT I’ll host this discussion on Shintoism. Click here for the SLURL. You may need to IM me for a tp, as the SLURL will take you to the main landing point. Hope to see you all there!

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Welcome everyone to Sengoku! I want to thank everyone here, and a special thanks out to Cat who made this all happen! Please feel free to leave a donation if you like what you see and want to support the sim growth.

Today we are going to discuss the basics of the Shinto religion of Japan. Please feel free to share any comments or questions at any time.

The word “Shinto” is comprised of two Chinese characters: Shen (divine being) and Tao (way), meaning “Way of Spirits.”

Shinto practitioners believe in invisible spirits called “kami,” which are worshiped in shrines or temples called “Jinja.” Kami can also be things that possess power, like mountains and earthquakes.

Using the term “spirits” for kami is a simplification. Kami are beings that respond to prayers and can influence the environment or a situation, but aren’t spirits like ghosts as Westerners think of them. They are forces of nature that exist independently as well as in large forces like storms.

Everything contains kami. It’s like a yogi saying that energy exists in all of us and in everything. Kami is a property that we all have access to. It is what makes an object itself rather than something else.

While everything has kami within it, only those things which show it in a striking way are referred to as kami.

We must note that kami are not omnipresent, are not divine, are not inherently different from human or nature, but are a higher manifestation of life energy.

Three types of kami are very important:

-Ujigami, the ancestors of the clans: in tribal times, each group believed that a particular kami was both their ancestor and their protector, and dedicated their worship to that spirit

-Kami of natural objects and creatures, and of the forces of nature

-The souls of dead human beings of outstanding achievement

Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, is considered to be a kami. Other Gods are also considered to be kami.

The shrines that are used to worship kami can be as large as thousands of acres per shrine, or as small as a few square feet.

Rather than Shinto being a belief system of its own, it’s more a system of rituals which can be incorporated into many other religions.

For this reason, Shintoism has coincided peacefully with Buddhism, Confusianism, and Animism, among others.

Shintoism has no direct belief in a transcendental other world such as heaven, and has no specific God or Gods in which it follows.

Shintoism doesn’t have a single scripture, like Christians with the Bible or Buddhism with the sutras. However, you can find written works about Shintoism throughout history.

There are, however, symbolic structures and objects practitioners use to go about their rituals. These include torii gates, which are usually located in water, and shimenawa ropes.

The practice is not based on commandments or laws that tell one how to behave, but on the will of the kami. Note: Kami are not perfect, and they do make mistakes.

Shintoism sees everything as a single unified creation, meaning there is no split between a natural world and a supernatural world, or a body and a spirit.

However, it does distinguish between the visible world (kenkai) and the invisible world (yukai); the invisible world being an extension of the visible world.

Ethics

The overall aims of Shinto ethics is to promote harmony and purity in all spheres of life. By saying “purity” we mean not just spiritual purity but moral purity; having a pure and sincere heart.

In Shinto ethics there are no moral absolutes; the good or bad of a situation or action is determined based on the context of which it occurs.

There are a few things which are considered bad on most occasions:

1. things which disturb kami

2. things which disturb the worship of kami

3. things which disrupt the harmony of the world

4. things which disrupt the natural world

5. things which disrupt the social order

6. things which disrupt the group of which one is a member

The followers of Shintoism believe that the world and humans are essentially good, and that evil enters the world through evil spirits which affect human beings in a similar way as disease.

Impurity refers to anything which separates us from kami, and from musubi, the creative and harmonizing power.

The things that make us impure are called tsumi (pollution or sin).

Tsumi can be physical, moral, or spiritual.

Impurities can be removed by cleansing or purifying rituals. These rituals can be completed by anyone, and do not require someone like a priest.

The concept of purification originates in the legend of the god Izanagi no mikoto, who washed himself free of pollution after visiting his wife in the Land of the Dead.

The following are some examples of purification rituals (called misogi):

-haraigushi: the use of a wand made from a stick with streamers of white paper or flax fastened to one end. Waived by a priest over the person, place, or object to be purified.

-oharae: ritual used on a large group, usually performed in June and Dec in the Imperial Household and other shrines to purify the whole population. Also used after disasters.

-shubatsu: sprinkling of salt, used in sumo wrestling to purify the ring, among other things.

As you can see, Shintoism is more a single practice, which makes it accessible to anyone, anytime, whether from home, school, work, or in a shrine or temple.

It does not require anything of the practitioner, nor does it tell them how to live their lives.

The most relevant use of Shintoism in modern days is to ask the kami for a favor, whether its getting a good grade on a test, making your grandmother well, or saving the people from a tsunami.

Because of this relaxed use, many Japanese still practice it today, without really knowing that they are. Also, people from all religious backgrounds are able to incorporate it into their daily lives. You can practice it anywhere in the world, at any time.

Any questions or comments? I open the floor.

The Psychology and Physiology of The Instant


I’m reading Susan Sontag’s journals, and I couldn’t help but use this quote as our discussion topic tonight. Join us at the Thinktank! 7pmSLT

Psychology and Physiology of ‘the instant’

Everything can change in an instant – the universe may have been created in less than an instant. Time influences everything. Without time, there would be no change. There would be no progress, no aging, no understanding. But, some would argue that there is no time without the observation of the mind and space.
As individuals, we experience time subjectively. Everyone calculates time differently.
I had a friend once who said “time is throwable,” and another who says, “time is squishy.” What do they mean by that? Can you physically pick up time and throw or squish it? No, of course not. Time is not apprehended by any senses. We notice time because of change. Change of our thoughts, our environment, etc. Music is all based on time. But, time is malleable. If you’re really excited for something, time will tick slower than you’ve ever felt it go before. We can remember things that have happened in the past, and some of us claim to “see” things that will happen in the future. A lot of our personality is based on our experiences, which would not be possible without time.
This brings us to the different experiences of time within ourselves. Our right hemisphere sees only “this instant.” It deals only with feelings, senses, emotions. It is the experiential focal point of the brain. On the other side, the left hemisphere, we can remember our past and think of the future. The left side is all about information and storage. We can see here how information comes in the right brain through our immediate experiences and gets translated into the left brain as a narrative – a story of our lives and experiences. The right brain is unbiased, whereas the left brain holds judgements, assumptions and expectations based on our past experiences. So, we can see that time has a large effect on who we are right now. This affect of the left brain is called a “time paradox”, as it influences every decision you make, but that you are totally unaware of. The left brain turns time into fiction.
How does all this relate to our understanding of the instant? The right brain lives in the instant. The right brain is what we try to tap into during meditation. It is what allows us to have completely innocent, unbiased experiences. I want you all to think of a very important part of your lives – something that has happened that was a kind of turning point. What if you could take a snapshot of a single instant in that experience? What would you find there? Would you understand what was going on? What emotions would you feel? Would you be able to understand the event better? Or would it be exactly the opposite, where it would make no sense and have absolutely no relevance to the outcome of the event? If you could go back and change something in that particular instant, what would you change?
Why is this experience of the right brain important – why do meditators try to reach it? To our minds time is linear, and every instant influences the next. If we could directly perceive time, what would the world look like? What would it smell like? Feel like? Taste like?
But, we all know that time isn’t a directly experienceable subject. So, our minds must construct it. It must be dependable on our observation of it. Does time exist independently of ourselves? Is time personal and subjective? Relative?
Time is the fourth dimension. The first three are dimensions of space. Is time reliant on space, and space reliant on time?
How important is an instant in time? What can you experience in just one instant? Does time even fit into an instant, or does an experience of time have to be a larger chunk of it? If so, how large. And if an instant isn’t important, how important is time at all?
I open the floor.

Hemisphere Hopping


This weekend is a yoga workshop I’m attending, but we talked about this video yesterday, so I thought I’d share with you all. The power of the two hemispheres is fantastic.

Here’s a bit of what we talked about:

Left brain – “The files of that which I know.”

When our minds think of the past and future they must fantasize, write a narrative.

The left brain handles the language centres. It’s where all our internal chattering comes from. When meditating, you are (attempting) to turn off the left brain and use only the right.

Systems are developed in the left brain. For instance, we know 1+1=2. That is a system. All judgements and labels come from here.

Right brain – experiential focal point. i.e. the heart in Chinese medicine as the emotional centre is equivalent to the right brain.

The right brain deals only with this moment.

The left brain “hijacks” the moment and turns it into a narrative, tells you what you’re experiencing. Your detailed understanding of the moment comes from the left brain, but the understanding of the eternity of this moment is the right brain.

“We are all one” comes from the right brain.

The level of unconscious of the world is what allows troubles to arise. If we could all learn to utilize each side of our brain at the appropriate moments, or “tap in” to the right brain we would be able to handle situations better, and understand the world better. The left brain forces your experiences to act as if they already know everything. Your right brain tells you that you know nothing. Imagine experiencing everything as if it was the first time you’ve experienced it. Go into the world with the eyes of a child. Innocence, openness, nonjudgemental, forgiving – all qualities of the right brain.

Any intention you set is handled differently by each hemisphere. The left side solidifies, solidifies, solidifies, as though building a brick house and each brick is a different detail. The right brain will leave it to manifestation, let it come to you. For instance, you have an intention to travel to Thailand. Your left brain would calculate how much money you need, when to take time off work, book the flights, etc. whereas your right brain would just let it pan out, let it happen. In a way the right brain is attraction, where what you think and feel and want will be attracted to you. So if you think about going to Thailand, and let your body experience that desire, you may get a phone call saying, “We’re looking for a yoga teacher in Thailand, so we’ve called you. You won’t get paid too much, but we’ll cover your living costs and food.” And suddenly, it’s there. Take the path of least resistance.

This is a beautiful system of thinking, that connects to so much, nadis, Tao, energy work, manifestation, attraction, yoga, and so much more.

What does this all mean? I’m not entirely certain. But, it’s a building block in how we can make ourselves and our world happier, easier, and more comfortable. How we can get along with each other. It all links back to empathy, too.

Anyway, that’s just touching the surface, but comments are always welcome! What do you think?

Karma as Creativity and Jan 2013 Events!


Happy new year to all! I do hope this year starts out bright and beautiful for all of you! The way the year starts is a sign about how the rest of it will go. Just like waking up every morning with a positive thought makes the day to come more positive.

Speaking of positive and negative, I’d like to introduce a new event to all of you! I call it “Creativity.” Why creativity? Many people think of karma as fate, or determinism. But, really, karma is creative. It is unbounded. The common interpretation is when someone has something bad happen to them, we call it “bad karma.” But this common interpretation of karma is misunderstood. We typically see karma as an uncontrollable factor in our lives. But, the literal translation of karma is “action” – human action. It does not control us. In fact, we control it. When we utilize action (even non-action is a form of action), we are influence karma. When we are compassionate and friendly to others it’s because we want the same treatment in return. The reason to be compassionate should not be in anticipation of receiving it in return, but because it’s the right thing to do. Invite into your life what you want to share with others; we are all connected. If any one of us suffers, all the rest of us suffer. Everything you create in your life, every intention, though, and action, will shape the rest of your creations. In every moment there is rebirth, in every moment there is death. We are always changing. But we are in control of that change. We can be whatever it is we want to be. Be creative with the way you live your life. Be aware of every moment, every thought. Be the witness, but also be the creator. So, the event is called “Creativity” because I want us to have a forum where we can explore ourselves, our ideas and our beliefs freely and openly, so we can expand our idea of what we want to bring into our lives, and share with others our thoughts without being put down. Since I believe that there is no such thing as teaching, we will experience mutual learning. I learn just as much from each of you as I may share with you. Let’s share some creative karma!

☯Creativity, every Tuesday at 7pmSLT
Jan 8 – Happiness @ http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Silver%20Serpent/104/65/25
Jan 15 – The Psychology and Physiology of ‘the instant’ @ http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Silver%20Serpent/104/65/25
Jan 22 – The Ideas of Shintoism @ http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ocarina%20Beach/197/190/51
Jan 29 – Eastern Medicine @ http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Tolkien/71/114/57

*Venues and topics subject to change

And, a new double-feature with Lyle! We’ll be bringing together Lyle’s storytelling and my poetry for some open-mic sharing.

☯The Magic of Storytelling cohosted with Lyle Lindman, 7pmSLT
Jan 4 & 19- http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife//29/188/22

If you would like to collaborate on an event or have a topic or venue suggestion, please IM me or send me a notecard. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Hugs, Chrae ♥