Shinto Life
September 5, 2011 · 11:00pm EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
We have been asked if it is absolutely necessary to embrace a Shinto Life to be able to apply Budo to our lives effectively. First we should understand what we call Shinto Life in our tradition. The most basic teaching of Shinto is to have gratitude towards the Sun, the Earth, the Creative Force, the Great Nature from which everything natural emanates which we call Kami. Gratitude, respect and a deep sense of indebtedness is our direct connection with that force. Our gratitude is our appreciation for Life. Our respect comes from the knowledge of its wondrous vastness. Without true gratitude and respect a man's spirit is deaf and blind. It is a low spirit.

Living Shinto life is very difficult nowadays. A man may be born with a clean spirit, but it is up to his character to determine if he chooses to live in contact with Nature or separate from it. If we live feeling separate from Nature, ignoring the Sacred Living force that is in every natural thing that surrounds us, this attitude breeds in us the kind of indifference, selfishness, and arrogance that has brought us collectively to a deplorable spiritual stagnation that is ever so evident in the current times. That separation limits our perception and our true capacity for learning. It affects us from inside and outside (uchiki and sotoki). A human being tends to set his thinking process and awareness to be in tune with the most common trend of his environment and adjusts his outer behavior to go with the flow of the easier path, or the path that offers the greater personal profit, as he understands it. He applies this adjusted pattern to various aspects of his intellectual and physical life, and it sinks deeply into his sub-conscious, emerging as his logic, his philosophy and even his religion. It becomes the reason and justification for his actions, but a man of a good spirit does not compromise his values. Some say that a man must be aware and evolve with the times, but being aware is not surrendering his identity. And losing one's nobility is not evolution, but corruption. Without true respect and gratitude to offer to a greater source, a man invariably erects himself in his own mind, overtly or covertly, into the sole truly deserving recipient of those feelings. Never before has Man been surrounded with so many things that are conducive to such exaggerated sense of entitlement that makes a man believe that the Sun must shine for his sake, or worse yet, that he is his own Sun. Thus the separation.


Inochi is the result of the application and manifestation of Ki. Ki is the source of existence. But Shinto Life is not merely existing. It means to live in connection with Nature, appreciating the moment and knowing that each breath we take in is a privilege. If a man forgets, or refuses to acknowledge this, he takes life for granted and is much more inclined to squander that privilege. How often we have heard men say boastfully 'my life', as if he was fully responsible for it, and yet, we have never heard of a single man who had wished himself into being.

Living in contact with Nature, with the Sacred Life Force, does not mean planting a vegetable garden, moving into a deep forest and dressing oneself in a gown of leaves. Living in contact with Nature is a matter of remaining respectful of it and humble before it. It is a matter of awareness, true knowledge and true wisdom.

It is not the mere act of worshiping either. Rituals are necessary. They have deep meaning and deep reasons, but a ritual a man does while filled with arrogance or indifference is as tasteless and useless as a good play performed by bad actors. The so called modern man resists and scorns the belief in sacred things. He may even refuse to consider that the Great Life Force is sacred. Nevertheless, how often we have seen men who feel that way put up quite a struggle or run at great speed when his own little life force is threatened. One teacher used to say that when one's opponent runs away it is form of self worship. A man who feels respect and gratitude, who is fully aware of his indebtedness and does not feel fully entitled to whatever comes within his reach is a man who appreciates life, is not only a man who can be taught but it is the only kind of man who can truly learn.

A man without respect and gratitude lives in contempt of many things. He pollutes himself and the environment in which he lives. Look at the places you visit here and around the world. You will find areas with garbage scattered here and there, messy streets, walls covered with graffiti, defaced monuments. What you see is not material misery, but spiritual misery. When a spirit rots it turns to poison and it needs to contaminate everything around itself. It needs to offend and tear, to mock and revile. It craves exposure. It wants to be heard and make its presence known which is also a form of self worship. We are not referring to slums, or places of poverty. We can see the same thing in big cities, in the wealthiest places, even in places of apparent culture, where this contamination manifests itself through many different mediums, including music, fashion, art. There are many forms of pollution. Bad manners, bad language, bad attitudes, violence, and vice are the symptoms of a common cancer that does not discriminate among social or ethnic differences.

Budo is certainly not exempt from pollution and deterioration. An elderly priest, a friend of our family for many years, recently came in contact with the Internet for the first time and decided to research Budo with the help of a student, taking advantage of his knowledge of Languages. What he found there horrified him. As he described it, most of what he saw was arrogance, strife, betrayals, vicious slander, communications filled with unmanly gossip, abuse, mockery, and he was appalled by how many delighted in partaking of those things, since the ones who willingly receive them are no better than the ones who offer them. He was saddened by the total lack of dignity, decency, and respect. He later wrote that the attitudes he witnessed by what he read and saw were more akin to those of the lowest of the old hashirigane of Watakano island than to men of Budo, which, he fears are very scarce nowadays.

A low spirit is easy prey to that corruption, and soon becomes indistinguishable from it, but a man of true respect and true gratitude is incapable of such things.

Shinto begins and ends with Purification. One way to define Shinto is life progressing in harmony with the Great Nature. The constant and infinite movement of the Great Nature is the Way of Kannagara (the way of the Kami). This is one of the meanings of the rituals at the Jinja (Shrine), at the dojo, or at one's own home. Progressing along with the flow of the Seasons is the most direct way to bring happiness to human life. We cannot alter the state of the Cosmos. We cannot alter the course of a comet, or stop the passing of time. Those things we have to accept. But we do not have to do the same with the state of our own spirit. We can do our best to be a worthwhile part, not matter how insignificant, of the Great Nature. We can diligently and constantly do what we must to preserve the noblest aspects of ourselves. The purification ritual of harai kiyome, which has been handed down across many generations, was and is practiced by many teachers of the Old Way. Someone may say it is just an old ritual, but even if it were so, the sincerity of the desire, the honest intent, gives it much more validity and reality than the most proven theorem. Basic Shinto also involves cleaning, beautifying and purifying your surroundings, not just a Shrine, or dojo, but also at home. Misogi begins at home. We purify ourselves and our surroundings to improve every aspect of our lives and our fate. Cleanliness and tidiness are very important in Shinto, for many reasons. Dirtiness and untidiness have always been associated with bad fortune, but there is a lot more than that. It has a strong spiritual impact. Tsumi / kegare, dust, impurity, disharmony and negativity all accumulate each day. To purify from such things thoroughly by literal cleaning and proper rituals is a fundamental belief of Shinto, as is the End of the Old Year and Beginning of the New Year and other rituals. They are extremely important. Susu, Tsumi / kegare (dust/negative energies) is a term associated with Shrines, Temples and dojos. Since many people with as many types of issues, situations, thoughts, intentions and feelings, come to the shrines, temples and dojos they must be properly cleaned each day. That is susuharae.

In truth, true Shinto is simple. All that is required of us is respect, gratitude and sincerity of intent. If those things are true in us, the result is wisdom. The product of true wisdom is a noble character and a high spirit. A high spirit is the one capable of choosing the right path, and drawing power from it. When we say 'Harae Tamae Kiyome Tamae Rokkonshyojo' we can be renewed, revitalized. This comes from Harae (from harau, to dust off, to clean. purify) and Kiyome (from Kiyomeru, to receive fresh Ki, Power from Divine Nature) and Rokkonshyojo (the 6 roots of our being, that is eyes, ears, nose, mouth, body and mind).

We can say that one of the most important Shinto Prayers is いただきます (said before a meal). The deeper meaning of Itadakimasu implies an awareness of divine nature of eating. It is an expression of respect and appreciation. The food stores energy of sunlight and nutrients of soil, receives rain from heaven and grows under the moonlight. A farmer's effort also grows the food, the grocers distribute, someone prepares it, when we chew and digest it it produces KI, energy, that will sustain our lives in the precious current moment we are meant to appreciate. Kansha means gratitude but carries the nuanced meaning of the kind of deep gratitude that is the natural result of conscious awareness of the indescribably sublime gifts of life as well as the vertical connection ( tate musubi) between Taiyo (The sun's energy, the symbol of Life), man, and Earth. And the horizontal connection (yoko musubi) between all life and all things sharing this current moment of life around us. After a meal we say ごちそうさまでした (lit: it was a feast). Gochisosama-deshita means thank you for this gift of life sustaining nourishment and also for the human effort that made it possible. It is an expression of gratitude. We also face the Kamidana or the morning sun each day and pray Misogi-no-Harai-no-Kotoba, pledging to do our best that day. At night we can say arigatou (sincere thanks) for the gifts of the day before retiring to restore our power.

A man of respect and gratitude means each word and gesture without reservation, and his words are kind and measured. He appreciates sunlight, air, food and knowledge as valuable privileges. His presence in a place of worship or a place of learning is not a matter of exchange, or trade. It is a selfless and timeless offering. His respect and his gratitude are not dependent on a personal gain of equal measure. A man who truly embraces these virtues is a man who can be trusted, a man of constant loyalty, therefore is a man who can be taught, whether or not he knows the meanings of Mikusa no Takara Mono (the three Sacred Treasures of Shinto: Magatama, the jewel; Kagami, the mirror; and Tsurigi, the sword.) So, to the question of whether it is absolutely necessary to embrace a Shinto Life to apply Budo to our lives effectively, my answer is no. It is not absolutely necessary, as far we are men of true respect and true gratitude, who are unwavering and fully accountable to these virtues at all times and for the rest of our lives.

For such a man, the path is always clear, and leads to the right destination.

A sample Shinto prayer for those who requested it:


Translation of MISOGI-NO-O-HARAI: Upon the will of the Great Spirit, by which the Universe is initiated in the cosmic force of creation by the Kami of birth and growth, and through which the cosmos is united in the force of harmony by the Kami of Yin and Yang, the Kami of purification came to exist from the impurities which Izanagi-no-Mikoto cleansed from his body in the divine river of heaven. We will be able to recognize the Kami, only after we purify ourselves of all negativity and impurities and restore ourselves to what we are meant to be.


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