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malsmith
02-10-2006, 09:07 PM
So right now in my bible class at school we are getting ready to write papers and research all different kinds of religions. We were given a list of different religions that we could study, most of them I had either never heard of or did not really have an interest in, but Buddhism and Shintoism were on the list(which I thought was really cool), but our teacher told us to cross out Shintoism.

When I asked him why, he said we did not have to learn about it because it was impossible for any of us to practice Shintoism because we are not Japanese.

Is that true that you have to be Japanese to practice Shintoism???
I would also like to add that I don't know very much about Shintoism, but I couldn't find anywhere that it said that only Japanese people could practice it... or maybe that is just one of those things that I should already know? :rolleyes:

Edwin Neal
02-10-2006, 09:12 PM
to my knowledge there is no racial requirement for shinto... but it is a uniquely japanese system, and very interesting to study... buddhism is commonly thought of as a religion but is actually more of a philosohy, although there are many different types of buddhism, and some are more religious than others... others on this site could help you more...

koz
02-11-2006, 03:54 AM
Shinto is esentially an animist practice. And since animism is not restricted to the Japanese islands, I'd say that argument is fairly invalid.

Peter Goldsbury
02-11-2006, 05:31 AM
To Mal Smith,

I think your teacher is misinformed and you can tell him so from me (but do it nicely and delicately :) ). If he protests, tell him to contact me privately (my contact details are in my profile).

Why? Because there is a certain kind of 'mythology', often trotted out here and abroad, to the effect that the Japanese are uniquely unique among the vast range of (national) cultures. Thus, it is sometimes stated that shinto is Japan's 'indigenous' religion, meaning that there are no 'foreign' influences on shinto.

I think this is not true, but I have seen it stated in a catalogue published by no less an institution than the British Museum and this suggests to me that the mythology is also believed and fostered outside Japan.

So, if it is a religion, in the sense that Christianity is a religion, it can be practised by anybody. You do not need a passport to be a believer. If it is not a religion in the Christian sense, but a name for an hochpotch of local Japanese folk beliefs and rituals, it might be difficult to practise in the US. But not impossible. There is a Shinto shrine in the US and the priest is an American. Check Google for Tsubaki Kannagara Jinja.

Best wishes,

jeff.
02-11-2006, 07:24 PM
hey mal

here's the weblink for a shinto shrine in seattle, who's head priest is an american, and not of japanese decent: http://www.tsubakishrine.com/test/home.asp

good luck!

jeff.

James Kelly
02-11-2006, 09:54 PM
Mal,

Perhaps you should ask your teacher if you can put Shinto back on the list and use it as the subject of your paper. You’ve already started the research and he might learn something along the way.

Don_Modesto
02-11-2006, 11:08 PM
There is a Shinto shrine in the US and the priest is an American. Check Google for Tsubaki Kannagara Jinja.

Also, http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20060209f2.html

There's also a Shinto 'study group' in Texas somewhere...

A great book for this topic is The Protocol of the Gods : A Study of the Kasuga Cult in Japanese History (eBook) by Grapard, Allan G., available at http://netlibrary.com/.

Good luck with the paper.

David.P.T.Smith
02-12-2006, 07:42 PM
The BBC has a radio documentory on shintoism, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/people/highlights/010712_shinto.shtml
if thats of any help?

Jorge Garcia
02-12-2006, 08:13 PM
There's also a Shinto 'study group' in Texas somewhere...



I think that study group is associated with John Hidalgo from the Round Rock Martial Arts Center. Their web site appears to be down though.

Michael Young
02-12-2006, 09:45 PM
The Texas Shinto group on yahoo:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/texasshinto/

They've got suggestions for further research...nice people too. You can subscribe to their e-mail list if you like.
I used to view Shinto as pretty much an animist practice too, but have recently come to the conclusion that it is significantly more complicated and complex than simple nature worship.

-Mike

Charles Hill
02-13-2006, 01:45 AM
My understanding is that shinto is a hodgepodge of Japanese folk beliefs and rituals (to use Prof. Goldsbury`s words.) This is what it is, I believe, when you look at it as a whole. In individual areas, one might find a singular entity, a singular set of rituals. Shinto is based on kami (dieties?) which are either confined to a location or a family/people. One of the protector kami of the farming village where I live is a wild boar. We are forbidden from eating wild boar for that reason. This is a belief limited to this small area.

If we look at Shinto negatively, we can say that it is made up of rituals and superstitions arising in a particular area, in a particular time, to particular people. Thus, for "outsiders" to practice it is a mistake. And of course, why would anyone want to adopt another`s superstitions?

If we look at Shinto positively, we can say that it is made up of rituals to keep all powers in balance in a particular area and with a particular people. The rituals arise/come from the energetic structures of that particular area. To import them to, for example, North America is not so simple and may invite disaster (this is looking at it from a Shinto perspective.) N. America, like every other area, has it`s own "kami" and it`s own long-time residents who may or may not be in tune with the area`s dieties/kami/energy structures.

Can one practice Shinto outside of Japan? I really don`t know, but I imagine it would take a lot of sensitivity and flexibility on the part of those practicing.

By the way, there was an article in the Japan Times recently about a European Shinto "priest." He was told by his teacher to find a sacred area in his country where he could do his practices. He hiked the mountains extensively and finally found an area where he could feel a vibration in his hands. The interesting thing for me was that he could not just set up shop anywhere and practice. The place was the most important thing.

Charles

Don_Modesto
02-13-2006, 01:34 PM
In my (academic) study of Shinto, I came to learn a new adjective: Procrustean--

"2 : marked by arbitrary often ruthless disregard of individual differences or special circumstances"

http://m-w.com/dictionary/procrustean

"ETYMOLOGY: After Procrustes, a mythical Greek giant who stretched or shortened captives to make them fit his beds, from Latin Procrusts, from Greek Prokrousts, from prokrouein, hammer out, to stretch out : pro-, forth; see pro--2 + krouein, to beat."

http://www.bartleby.com/61/85/P0578500.html

If we look at Shinto negatively, we can say that it is made up of rituals and superstitions arising in a particular area, in a particular time, to particular people. Thus, for "outsiders" to practice it is a mistake. And of course, why would anyone want to adopt another`s superstitions?

Yes, but even in medieval times, the kami and other objects of Shinto were already being interpreted allegorically. Huge differences in concepts were accomodated in most procrustean ways. This is why current thought disparages the rigid distinctions between Buddhism and Shinto. Through time, they exchanged DNA. The very structure of Shinto was provided by Buddhism.

See especially, Teeuwen, Mark, From Jindo to Shinto: A Concept Takes Shape: http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/jjrs/pdf/636.pdf .

Actually that whole issue (JJRS) is terrific.

Also, William Bodiford has a very interesting article about how Soto Zen priests were able to set up shop in areas unpenetrated theretofore by Buddhism by accomodating, but incontestably defeating, KAMI. Can't recall where it is, a book, I think. PM me if interested in the ref.

If interested in more, do a search of HONJI SUIJAKU. The goddess of compassion would find an alter ego in the ferocious god of war, e.g.

If we look at Shinto positively, we can say that it is made up of rituals to keep all powers in balance in a particular area and with a particular people. The rituals arise/come from the energetic structures of that particular area.

If I put things together aright (and quite possibly, as an autodidact I don't), this is influenced in part by the work of Kuukai, (8-9 th centuries). He imported "esoteric" Buddhism into Jp from China. Esoteric here doesn't mean "difficult", but "initiated." There was a whole system of interpretation whereby you understood one thing in terms of another--"I am the universe", e.g. His (tantric, but with no sexual reference necessary) rituals were meant to take practitioners beyond verbiage to experience. This is where we get the phrase Mind, body, and spirit unified.

The Weaving of Mantra by Ryûichi Abé discusses this very nicely.

To import them to, for example, North America is not so simple and may invite disaster (this is looking at it from a Shinto perspective.)

Transmission is always dicey. DT Suzuki roundly disparaged Zen outside of Jpn as irrelevant. Aristotle reversed Plato. My dad's generation hated Rock. Luther redirected the church.

Whether the transmission is across time or across cultures, change is the only constant.

N. America, like every other area, has it`s own "kami" and it`s own long-time residents who may or may not be in tune with the area`s dieties/kami/energy structures.

Seems like a tautology to me. If it doesn't work for someone, it's because of some inconsistency of culture/nature, ie, if it doesn't work, it's because it doesn't work. There were times when it didn't work in the Jpn context either. Was that because Jpn culture/nature is inconsistent with itself?

tedehara
02-13-2006, 07:11 PM
...And our friend the sociologist said to his friend the Shinto priest, "You know, I've now been to a number of these Shinto shrines and I've seen quite a few rites, and I've read about it, thought about it; but you know, I don't get the ideology. I don't get your theology."

And that Japanese gentleman, polite, as though respecting the foreign scholar's profound question, pause a while as though in thought. The he looked, smiling, at his friend. "We do not have ideology," he said. "We do not have theology. We dance."

Which, precisely, is the point. For Shinto, at root, is a religion not of sermons but of awe: which is a sentiment that may or may not produce words, but in either case goes beyond them. Not a "gasp of the conception of spirit," but a sense of its ubiquity, is the proper end of Shinto. And just because this end is to an astonishing degree rendered, the personifications of Shinto are "vague and feeble" as to form. They are termed kami, which is a word that is ill translated either as "god," which is the usually given equivalent, or as "spirit," the term that I have used in the Kojiki passages above.from Oriental Mythology (Japanese Mythology) pg 476.

Something to consider.

Peter Goldsbury
02-13-2006, 07:55 PM
Grapard is very good, but you might also find Shinto: The Way Home, by Thomas Kasulis (University of Hawai'i Press), of some use. It is somewhat less heavy-going than Grapard (which is a rewriting of his doctoral thesis).

malsmith
02-13-2006, 09:24 PM
wow.... thank you so much... you all have been a big help! :)

Charles Hill
02-15-2006, 03:07 AM
Hi Don,

Thanks for the comments on my post. I am familiar with the concept of honji suijaku, but funnily enough, I had to look up the meaning of "tautology"!

In the book Prof. Goldsbury recommends, Kasulis divides shinto into two types, existentialist and essentialist. Followers in the first group "spontaneously" practice in a way that an outsider could view and label as "shinto." In the second group, one makes a decision to be a shintoist and then acts accordingly. If I understand the idea correctly, Mr. Barrish in WA, the people in Texas, the guy I mentioned above,as well as members of so-called shinto-based new religions could be considered to belong to the second group. My mother-in-law is a member of the first. Kasulis says that mainstream shinto since 1800 is a "malign" form of essentialist. I think "mainstream" shinto means (to Kasulis) that shinto promoted by the government and maybe espoused by professors at Kokugakuen. It is not really important, but I think that mainstream shinto is that practiced by little old ladies making daily offerings at thousands of shrines across the country everyday, such things as spreading salt around after viewing a dead body, and visitation of shrines by millions every New Year. These kinds of things were not directly influenced by Meiji government policy.

As for honji suijaku, your (Bodiford`s?) use of the word "defeated" is entirely consistent with all descriptions I have read of the import of Buddhism to Japan. However, I am not sure this is accurate. If we borrow Kasulis` "existential" and "essential", we might say that the faith in place pre-buddhism was existential and the imported Buddhism was essential. Buddhism was knowledge based and had to be understood through texts imported from China/India. Shinto was ritual passed down through the ages, we have to dance and play sumo infront of the shrine or Amaterasu was going to go back into her cave and pout again. They knew what to do because their grandfather`s grandfather`s grandfather was there when it first happened and if the ritual didn`t work, the itako or saniwa would go into a trance and come out with what new ritual had to be done.

The Buddhists used Shinto dieties to explain Buddhist bodhisattva ex. Shingon`s Mahavairocana really is Amaterasu, right? So the new kami are imported but the basic thinking hasn`t changed. This is why my mother in law lights a stick of incense and places a rice offering in front of a picture of Nichiren each morning. She says a prayer hoping that "nichiren-san" will make good health and good crops happen. It seems to me that this is really shinto ritual with a Buddhist mask on it. My in laws are solid supporters of the local temple but I am sure that they have never heard of the four noble truths, let alone be able to name any. I think in terms of actual practice by the largest number of Japanese, shinto has solidly defeated buddhism. Of course, this has happened all over Asia.

Kukai did receive a transmission from China and there is a lineage that goes back to India, but it is my understanding that the major influence on Shingon is Kukai himself. He spent a very short time in China and most likely would have his understanding of tantric buddhism colored by his previous 30 years of life as a Japanese in Japan. Also, the ritual aspect of Shingon seems to have been heavily emphasized because that is what his rich Japanese patrons wanted.

My comment on shinto in N.America wasn`t clear. I meant that as the kami are tied either to the land or to a people, the "kami" in the States don`t speak Japanese. If an american shinto priest does a Japanese ritual, the resident diety will at best ignore the guy, at worst display some wrath.

Sorry about the length, this is an interesting topic for me.
Charles

Josh Reyer
02-15-2006, 08:55 AM
I meant that as the kami are tied either to the land or to a people, the "kami" in the States don`t speak Japanese.

How do we know that?

Ron Tisdale
02-15-2006, 10:09 AM
Charles, very interesting, and thank you. I'm afraid that for a lightweight though, it just whets the appetite....

Could you speak for a moment to Josh's question? I think I know what your answer would be, but I'd be interested in hearing it...

Best,
Ron

Don_Modesto
02-15-2006, 02:43 PM
Hi Don,

Thanks for the comments on my post. I am familiar with the concept of honji suijaku, but funnily enough, I had to look up the meaning of "tautology"!

Hi, Charles. Actually, I enjoyed your post. As you see from the length of my own, it was thought provoking. Thanks.

I wrote my comments thinking of the original poster. I wasn't trying to tell you what to bone up on, fwiw.

In the book Prof. Goldsbury recommends, Kasulis divides shinto into two types, existentialist and essentialist….

My understanding as well. I avoid using the term "Shinto" for the former.

(For Mr. Smith in particular, but anyone else following this with interest, an excellent summary of the issues was submitted by Wm. Bodiford at e-Budo, Post 18 http://www.e-budo.com/forum/search.php?searchid=112303&pp=25&page=2 ).

As for honji suijaku, your (Bodiford`s?) use of the word "defeated" is entirely consistent with all descriptions I have read of the import of Buddhism to Japan. However, I am not sure this is accurate. If we borrow Kasulis` "existential" and "essential", we might say that the faith in place pre-buddhism was existential and the imported Buddhism was essential. Buddhism was knowledge based and had to be understood through texts imported from China/India. Shinto was ritual passed down through the ages, we have to dance and play sumo infront of the shrine or Amaterasu was going to go back into her cave and pout again. They knew what to do because their grandfather`s grandfather`s grandfather was there when it first happened and if the ritual didn`t work, the itako or saniwa would go into a trance and come out with what new ritual had to be done.

Ha! Mr. Smith's not going to need any of the references we've posted if he just rereads this thread. Nice stuff.

My in laws are solid supporters of the local temple but I am sure that they have never heard of the four noble truths, let alone be able to name any.

Surprised to hear this. Mine is only book learning here. You seem to have some experience on the ground. Interesting.

I think in terms of actual practice by the largest number of Japanese, shinto has solidly defeated buddhism. Of course, this has happened all over Asia.

I think the academic consensus would be that it doesn't make sense to speak of one defeating the other any more. In the beginning, Buddhism made its inroads at the expense of indigenous practices and thus "defeated" something. Also, despite the avatars flying back and forth, during state rituals, the Buddhist monks sat in the front ranks, Shinto folk behind. This is said to have rankled. Thus the 14th or 15th century effort to reverse the Buddhist order of HONJI SUIJAKU such that the KAMI were primary and the Buddhas the avatars. This is the point Teeuwen says that nationalistic Shinto was born, IIRC.

Sorry about the length, this is an interesting topic for me.

For me, too. No apologies necessary. Thanks, Charles, interesting stuff.

Charles Hill
02-16-2006, 08:39 AM
Thanks again for the replies. A couple of thoughts.

My experience "on the ground" is really just looking around and I certainly don`t assign a whole lot of value to it. I think book learning is the first important step and the second might be to find a teacher who deals in the pragmatics like Koichi Barrish. I have learned things that give me a somewhat good understanding of everyday Japanese culture, for good or bad. They certainly haven`t helped me develop myself not my aikido practice.

One thing about how this all relates to aikido, there is a researcher/academic named Kuroda Toshio that says that this idea of an ancient indigenous shinto is all b.s. and was created by the Meiji era politicians to support their government. It is my understanding that his theory is widely accepted in academia. Here is the rub, at least in my mind, Morihei Ueshiba`s whole philosophy seems to be based on the "b.s." If it is b.s., how does that affect Aikido philosophy? An interesting question to me.

Now, how do we know the American kami don`t speak Japanese? Because they didn`t communicate to the indigenous people in Japanese. The comment was half a joke, but the other half was serious. The idea in aboriginal religion, as I understand it, is that the dieties themselves teach how to worship them. Of course this idea is from the limited worldview of each belief system which is location bound. I had a hard time really grasping the thought process of such a religion because I was raised Christian and Christianity, like Buddhism, Islam, and a few others have nothing to do with location. I think it might be similarly hard for most of us to understand.

One more note. I began my Aikido practice with Akira Tohei in Chicago. He used to deflect most questions about O`Sensei even though he was a Honbu Dojo shihan when O`Sensei was alive. He would say, "Ask Joanne." who was his wife. Joanne Tohei reportedly spent a lot of time with O`Sensei. Years ago, at a summer camp, she taught a class. We spent most of it doing ritual she had learned from Native Americans. She seemed to think it represented what she had learned from O`Sensei.

Charles

Ron Tisdale
02-16-2006, 09:29 AM
I know a number of people who have grafted their own 'religeon / spiritual" underpinnings on to their practice of aikido. I have always been somewhat suspect of this, as I am of the 'christian martial arts' genre, as I am of holidays like Kwanza (and I am African American myself, so please, no calls of racism). It has always seemed odd to me that our own cultures are so deficient that we must start grafting bits and pieces of things together to come up with meaning. But maybe that is no worse than importing something like aikido wholesale. Its not like most of us are shinto practitioners, or even speak the language. This whole area can be very confusing to me.

Best,
Ron

Fred Little
02-16-2006, 11:11 AM
One thing about how this all relates to aikido, there is a researcher/academic named Kuroda Toshio that says that this idea of an ancient indigenous shinto is all b.s. and was created by the Meiji era politicians to support their government. It is my understanding that his theory is widely accepted in academia. Here is the rub, at least in my mind, Morihei Ueshiba`s whole philosophy seems to be based on the "b.s." If it is b.s., how does that affect Aikido philosophy? An interesting question to me.

Charles:

The "theory (that) is widely accepted in academia" is a little more nuanced than that, but there's more than a kernel of truth in what you say. As Don has pointed out, under the "honji suijaku" or "ryobu shinto" paradigms, there was a lot of mixing of concepts between native and imported Buddhist practices from the first millenium forward. Starting in the late 18th Century, kokugaku scholars like Motoori Norinaga began what turned into a long-term effort to extract out the "native Shinto" elements and "re-nativize" a great many practices, culminating in the Meiji era rescripts that separated Buddhist and Shinto religious establishments. Shrines and temples were clearly designated as one or the other and inheritance laws were changed so that such properties could only be passed down through family inheritance. Among other things, this was the final nail in the coffin of monastic celibacy in Japan, at least for temple heads.

That said, it's necessary to distinguish between at least four strands of Shinto: shrine shinto, ancestral shinto, imperial shinto, and ritual shinto.

Shrine shinto, as the name suggests, is organized around particular shrines that are associated with natural wonders, mytho-historical events, and social groupings at the local level. This form of shinto seems to predate the introduction of Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist thought to Japan.

Ancestral shinto is much more family/clan based (though yes, there is some overlap in categories). It was a natural fit with some elements of Confucian thought, but also seems to predate the historically documented introduction of "continental religions" to Japan.

Imperial Shinto is where things get tricky. On the one hand, the Ise Shrines didn't just pop up during the Meiji period, but on the other, their prominence certainly rose during the period of Shrine Consolidation in the first decade of the 20th Century. Shrine Consolidation was an aggressive program that combined codification of a hierarchy of state-recognized shrines, the redrawing of municipal boundaries on a more modern "western" basis, timber sales from the sacred groves surrounding "eliminated" or "discontinued" shrines and real estate development on the newly cleared lands, all with the aim of strengthening and legitimizing the government and its relationship with the Emperor.

In the case of "ritual shinto" there is a great deal of evidence of mixing of practices, but the proof is in the practice, which can arguably be carried out without any of the first three strands.

Now, how do we know the American kami don`t speak Japanese? Because they didn`t communicate to the indigenous people in Japanese. The comment was half a joke, but the other half was serious. The idea in aboriginal religion, as I understand it, is that the dieties themselves teach how to worship them. Of course this idea is from the limited worldview of each belief system which is location bound. I had a hard time really grasping the thought process of such a religion because I was raised Christian and Christianity, like Buddhism, Islam, and a few others have nothing to do with location. I think it might be similarly hard for most of us to understand.

This is an interesting point. One Buddhist priest I discussed this with emphasized that in the Buddhist diaspora from India, there has always been a practice of reaching an accomodation with local deities, and suggested that this would occur in the Americas through accomodations with the practices of the First Peoples.

In this respect, although Buddhism is like other "world religions" insofar as it isn't tied to a particular location, it differs markedly from Abrahamic traditions, all of which have a well-documented historical pattern of aggressive iconoclasm and genocide directed against indigenous beliefs and their practitioners.

It is, arguably, a crude slur to suggest that a system like Shinto, or other animist traditions, because it recognizes an "outcropping" of the divine in a particular location, does not recognize or possess a broader concept of immanent or transcendent divinity. I don't wish to put words in your mouth or suggest that you share that view, but it is a common, and deeply mistaken, error that has been used to justify classifying animist traditions as "lower" or "less-sophisticated" religions that aren't evolutionarily fit for survival.

Importing Imperial Shinto to the Americas makes little sense, ancestral shinto makes sense only as a family matter, and that leaves shrine shinto and ritual shinto.

All shrine shinto requires is a "charged" location and someone to note it, and all ritual shinto requires is a practitioner and a ritual.

To return to the notion of "accomodating" local deities, that may mean nothing more than the recognition of certain "charged" locations and an adjustment of ritual to acknowledge the "kami" that provide that charge. Whether or not such an acknowledgement requires an invocation of that entity by way of its "true name" and whether or not that "true name" can only be found in one human language is a question ritual specialists have argued over for millenia and I don't see any quick consensus developing in my lifetime.

Hope this helps,

FL

senshincenter
02-16-2006, 11:19 AM
Hi All,


I would not disagree with anything that has been mentioned thus far, but I would like to add that underneath all of this is the fact that “Shinto,” as both a word and a concept, is far from complete in its own process of origination. That is to say, “Shinto” has not yet been defined in any “once and for all” kind of fashion. It is because it is being pulled this way and that way, by this person or that person, in line with this trend or that trend, for the sake of this institution or that institution, etc., that “Shinto” appears both concrete and abstract, both particular and ambiguous, both extremely local and universal, etc. For better or for worse, scholars are often a huge part of this overall process.

If we understand things in this way, it is very possible for one person to say something like, “You have to be Japanese to practice Shinto,” (which could come from the idea that the founding myths deal with the birth of Japan and the Japanese state, etc.) and another person to say, “No you don’t” (which could come from the idea that Shinto deals with Nature – with a capital “N”). It is possible for one person to say, “Shinto is about a specificity of place and of one’s relationship to that place,” (which could come from the ideas of ancestor worship and sacred space, etc.) and another to say, “Shinto is about the dance” (which could come from how different ancestors and space are treated from each other almost everywhere you go). Etc.

With this in mind, in my opinion, scholars should restrict themselves to a given place and time when they wish to study shinto-related phenomena. They should leave the question of “What is Shinto?” to the theologians and practitioners. Not only will this leave the manufacturing of the word’s meaning to folks that actually have a stake in such things, it will greatly increase one’s overall interpretative accuracy because they will tend not to fall victim to the propaganda of any side. Additionally, for one interested in the birth of the concept “shinto,” a scholar, to avoid entering into the debate as a player, should not ask “What is the concept Shinto?,” nor should they ask, “How was Shinto conceptualized?” Rather, they should be studying the process by which social and/or cultural possibilities produced themselves via a given conceptualization of “shinto.” This will again increase one’s overall interpretative accuracy, and it will prevent one from having to make huge assumptions in order to support one’s conclusions (e.g. “My own view is different. First of all, the Japanese of this period were too sophisticated in the ways of diplomacy to believe that a rhetoric of imperial power based on the emperor’s descent from and control over indigenous deities would impress the Chinese. Obviously, this kind of rhetoric was designed to have a domestic impact, rather than an international one.”)

Thus, for Mal, if you want to study something of Shinto that aims at being more universal in terms of time and space, culture and humanity, etc., you might want to look at the website for Koichi Barrish’s Shrine – following the various links, etc. However, if you do, you might want to be aware that this type of shinto is fairly new to the historical landscape (regardless of what its practitioners might say). In other words, the putting forth of Shinto as a candidate for world religion status (i.e. as something that can speak to all people, all places, and all times) is not only a modern effort, it is a mid to late 20th century modern effort.

I think much of what was said here can be said of Aikido itself. There are many battles over both the word “Aikido” and the concept of Aikido – as there are battles being fought over understanding Aikido as either a word or a concept. Much is at stake here and much is left to be settled once and for all. Additionally, scholars, scholars like Stanley Pranin, are definitely playing a role in these battles. For some Aikido is a word and so one can point to Ikkyo, Nikyo, Sankyo, etc., test for these things, write books about these things, produce videos on these things, give seminars on these things. Etc. Others have an interest in understanding Aikido as a concept. Etc.

thanks,
dmv

Fred Little
02-16-2006, 12:02 PM
Hi David,

Without disagreeing with many of the points you made, let me point out some small difficulties.

Untangling "academic study" and "engagement" is one of the central problems of anthropology and studies in comparative religion. In cases of esoteric practices that require initiation of some kind (and some of these are found in some strands of Shinto) the difficulty becomes even greater. How can a non-practicing "scholar" interpret texts or practices without the "interpretive key" conferred in the process of initiation(s)?

That question remains an issue actively debated by academics studying such matters and I'm not proposing a definitive answer.

With regard to the social construction of concepts and its relationship to power and history, I note in passing that the foundation of that line of scholarship rests on Marxist and neo-Marxist theories of materialistic historical processes along with Freudian psychoanalytic theory, both of which, the assertions of their proponents notwithstanding, may be reasonably construed as religions rather than as "scientific" or "empirically grounded" interpretive methods.

I am quite sympathetic to the scholarly necessity of carefully circumscribing truth claims. But that is a very different matter than asserting that scholars are necessarily not practitioners, or vice versa.

FL

Josh Reyer
02-16-2006, 01:20 PM
Now, how do we know the American kami don`t speak Japanese? Because they didn`t communicate to the indigenous people in Japanese.


I'm afraid that's begging the question. But I think I've got your larger point.

senshincenter
02-17-2006, 11:53 AM
Hi David,

Without disagreeing with many of the points you made, let me point out some small difficulties.

Untangling "academic study" and "engagement" is one of the central problems of anthropology and studies in comparative religion. In cases of esoteric practices that require initiation of some kind (and some of these are found in some strands of Shinto) the difficulty becomes even greater. How can a non-practicing "scholar" interpret texts or practices without the "interpretive key" conferred in the process of initiation(s)?

That question remains an issue actively debated by academics studying such matters and I'm not proposing a definitive answer.

With regard to the social construction of concepts and its relationship to power and history, I note in passing that the foundation of that line of scholarship rests on Marxist and neo-Marxist theories of materialistic historical processes along with Freudian psychoanalytic theory, both of which, the assertions of their proponents notwithstanding, may be reasonably construed as religions rather than as "scientific" or "empirically grounded" interpretive methods.

I am quite sympathetic to the scholarly necessity of carefully circumscribing truth claims. But that is a very different matter than asserting that scholars are necessarily not practitioners, or vice versa.

FL

These are great points Fred - thanks for bringing them up.

I would suggest that an anthropologist do so in a way similar to how a (good) historian must - contextualize his/her questions and answers.

For example, I do not feel that a historian needs to practice Aikido in order to understand how it is being understood by those that do practice it and/or the battles over such understandings. At the same time, the historian might not ever be able to say what Aikido is - since he/she does not practice it - but he/she will definitely be able to say what others that do practice it feel it is. Equally, if a historian does practice Aikido, and then goes on to say what it is, he/she reduces their position to just one of many - which another, better trained historian, is sure to pick up on.

For me, the issue of being initiated becomes relative only when it is related to information access. So I see it really as an "access to sources" problem and not really a matter of subjective insight. This is where I am coming from. As historians are trained, you know, one gets very use to "access to sources" problems. I would think historians face this problem even more than anthropologists, in fact. Sometimes, a lot of times, you then have to say, "Oh well, can't study that topic yet." Anthropologists would have to say the same thing too - when they cannot gain access to information and/or when they cannot have a trustworthy informant share such information. Regardless, information access issues will never make the subjective experience more than it is - one person's view captured by a field of local history and individual experience. Of course, in some circles, in relation to the unattainability of true objectivity, such subjective works are proving to be quite popular - just not for me. For example, if I were to write a piece on what Aikido is, I would never consider that piece to be more than what I think it is - and as such I would consider it to be in part wrong (since I'm leaving all that other stuff out that is not of my experience but that is definitely a part of Aikido as a historical phenomena).

As to your other comment, in my opinion, I would have to say that everyone following Marx is a neo-Marxist to some degree - this whether they like it or not, and this whether they are doing "empirical" and/or "scientific" research or not. Today, one is either acting with or reacting to Marx in one way or another. Additionally, I do not think that the human sciences can ever get away from matters of faith (e.g. belief in one's interpretative models, etc.), certainly not more than the hard sciences can (which also share a lot "religious" elements the higher up you go in research theories). For me, the issue is accuracy, and I understand that as establishing a consistency between what one sees and what one says - in most cases, learning to say no more than one sees.

However, maybe this is now getting a bit off topic. Or, perhaps, to tie it in... I could suggest that the breakdowns made above on the types of Shinto only appear to be useful - but only for someone that is not actually studying Shinto in practice. Why? Because, such breakdowns give the impression that one could find anywhere, at least somewhere, some agent (living or dead) that functioned according to them - when in fact there would be none. The amount of overlap is so varied and so high in most cases that it is not enough to offer a caveat concerning grey areas and then go on to use them. Such categories are going to blind more than they reveal. In my opinion, one is better served by letting go of them altogether - unless one wants to study those battles over defining "Shinto" as a word. In that case, they are very relative. In my opinion, if one wants to understand "Shinto" the concept, one can do so by taking on a locally specific context (in which case one will not come upon those terms references above being used by the agents - especially if one takes on a historical case). Alternately, one can opt to study the battles taking place today and perhaps throughout history concerning how to understand "Shinto" the word - in which case one is using such divisions as a topic for investigation and not as a tool of investigation.

On another way of returning to the thread...

Mal's teacher seems to be interested in providing his students with some experience regarding alternate religious practices - to gain some insight (perhaps) into his own tradition by gaining some insight into the practice of another. Man - none of what has been said here is going to do that for you Mal. Additionally, I wonder how much Shinto is open to such an exercise and/or how much Shinto scholarship has taken on such a task. If anything, I would suggest to stop trying to find "Shinto" proper and start looking at how folks are dancing with it - maybe even trying the dance yourself. An easy way of doing this, for the sake of your exercise, might be looking at the New Religions - even Omoto-kyo - and/or perhaps tying that into your Aikido experience. There are some of Osensei's writings on this topic at Aikido Journal (do an author search). And, I've even written a piece on such things here at this forum and at the Aikido Journal Reader Blog. Perhaps from these things you can see some tie-ins - some way of fulfilling your teachers wishes for the exercise in question.

Good luck.

And thanks again Fred. Your comments are very relative - very important to consider (always!). Like you, I have no definitive answer, only what I consider the most reasonable attempt at solving such issues.

take care,
dmv

Fred Little
02-17-2006, 01:25 PM
Thanks for the response David.

As somebody who tends to be very critical of interpretive strategies......(I'm not even going to try to stop myself from saying this).....that are then reified into ding an sich and themselves treated as independently existent objects of analysis, I welcome your well-placed skepticism about "categories" like state shinto, ritual shinto, shrine shinto, and ancestor shinto.

As we've seen in a number of past and current threads here and elsewhere, metaphor is a tricky thing.

These "categories" in my usage are less like distinct filing cabinets than they are like the differing images that a camera would produce of the same thing, in four successive shots using different filters. I'm certainly not arguing for the actual existence of discernably seperate "strands."

But I tend to forget that notions I take for granted such as the "emptiness of all dharmas" have yet to make much headway in this part of the world, so it's more than a bit likely that a whole realm of caveats that I take as given might entirely escape any reader of the thread, had you not pressed the point.

And I do very much like the dance metaphor. I hear rumors that Shiva does too.....

Best,

FL

senshincenter
02-17-2006, 02:43 PM
Hi Fred,

Man - that sure would be cool to see/read - your filter approach to the same topic! I wonder if anyone has done that yet - taken one topic and looked it from such perspectives? Know of anything like that? But, boy, how much work would that be?!!!

Thanks,
take care,
dmv

Fred Little
02-17-2006, 04:33 PM
Rashomon comes to mind.

Most of the examples I could give are fiction. It could be done with a short ritual practice with many caveats about the sort of inherent "speculative/projective" elements that were required to give each perspective enough meat to seem satisfying.

But as with Rashomon, the point would not be establishing any one of the perspectives. Far from it. The point of that kind of exercise is precisely creating a compelling series of perspectives that cuts the ground out from any of them as definitive. At that point, questions of "what utility for what purpose at what time and place" take the foreground.

What I find interesting about East Asian ritual systems is the way in which they have developed (which I'm using consciously as opposed to "constructed") so as to allow more, rather than less, divergence in (here comes a bugbear) subjective meaning, as opposed to the more typical construction (which I'm using consciously as opposed to "developed") of Abrahamic systems in terms of orthodoxy and heresy (and yes, I do acknowledge counter-cases in both instances...).

But then, I'm the guy who shook his head in momentary stunned wonder and admiration when Donald Rumsfeld uttered his tetralemna regarding "known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns," so what do I know?

FL

senshincenter
02-17-2006, 07:54 PM
Well that has been my only exposure to this as well - fiction. Right now I'm reading a book based on the Wizard of Oz but told from the witches perspective - amazing.

I love your take on this though. Seems so doable and so worthy a project. You got to let me know if you ever take it on and/or come across something in the human sciences where someone else takes it on.

Man - I'd love to see this done. It seems like it should have been something we should all do our first year in grad school. However, deep down, I truly wonder if historical data changes as much as methodologists would like us to believe simply due to the theory we use. I imagine there is much more resistance to "facts" than any theorist is likely to say or believe while in the midst of a philosophical discussion.

Very interesting ideas Fred - thanks for sharing.

dmv

RobertBrass
02-24-2006, 06:51 PM
I love Aikiweb. This is all so interesting and politely discussed. We are all so lucky to have this forum. It is quite unusual from what I have seen in fifteen years on-line. Thank you everyone.

nekobaka
02-24-2006, 09:54 PM
wow, you guys are academic, so I'll keep it short.

in the edo period the government prohibited the creation of new temples and shrines and tried to reduce the number of existing ones. that's why now you can go to and see both in the same area. at one time they may have been separate, but since no one wants to stop "worshiping" a god/Buddha that was a way to get around the reductions.

for me personally when I go to a shrine with "power" it's a great spiritual experience. this doesn't mean they all have power. the power is a result the people who go their and how intent their "respect" is. I have a friend who is a medium/Buddhist nun, and she can see and communicate with the gods. One thing she does is go to a place where they are going to build, and communicate with the local gods. By showing respect, the gods in turn give protection. this, in my opinion, is the most important part of shinto.

sorry about over use of quotation marks, japanese concepts don't translate well, and these words don't really express it best.

Erick Mead
02-27-2006, 12:27 PM
Most of the examples I could give are fiction. ... the sort of inherent "speculative/projective" elements that were required to give each perspective enough meat to seem satisfying. ... creating a compelling series of perspectives that cuts the ground out from any of them as definitive. At that point, questions of "what utility for what purpose at what time and place" take the foreground. Man - I'd love to see this done. It seems like it should have been something we should all do our first year in grad school. dmv
It' s been done. Alfred North Whitehead and Bertand Russell's Principia Mathematica pretty much destroyed the validity of argument from objectification of sense objects from a purely rational, empirical standpoint, elaborating the fundamental flaw in reason laid out in the Liar's Paradox. What is left is process phenomena.
Edmund Husserl took these ideas into the psycho-philosophical study of phenomenology. No less that Karol Wotylja (John Paul the Great) while still a bishop, took Husserls' work and fully theologized it within the Western tradition.

I agree as to the fundamental importance of these thoughts. Although the work on process philosophy/ theology is still unfamiliar to many despite being nearly a hundred years on, this is not novel ground, even in the West.

A precis of Whitehead's ideas is here:
http://www.philosophyprofessor.com/philosophers/alfred-north-whitehead.php

Husserl's phenomenology here:
http://www.phenomenologycenter.org/phenom.htm

And John Paul II's personalism and its significance described, here:
http://www.nfpoutreach.org/Hogan_Theology_%20Body1.htm

the Theology of the Body, itself here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2TBIND.HTM

For us here, in discussing aiki principles and budo, the relevant point is that John Paul's personalism explores the body considered as process of loving intimacy. The body can also be explored as an process of struggle against material limitation or conflict, e.g. --budo, jihad (struggle).

O-Sensei's statement that "True Budo is love," could hardly be more apt, or cautionary in its fundamental significance.
Bitter conflict and loving intimacy are often complements of one another, happy or unhappy, as the case may be. Shakespeare made an eternal reputation for himself from plowing this rich field. The tempestuous relationship between Ares and Aphrodite has never ceased. Venus has been known to be more fickle and vicious even than Mars.

The precise topic of sexual intimacy is of less relevance than John Paul's careful example of the process used in exploring it. Physical conflict involves the integrity and essence of the human "person" nearly as much as sex. Love begins with Self encountering Other and succeeds to the extent that the self encompasses both Me and Thee; Conflict orbits the same unreconciled distinction.

This approach should be as valid in Christian theological practice, Islamic exercises in ijtihad (reasoned judgments (fatwa) from Koranic statements), in exploring the meaning of Dharma-kaya. This is equally so with Shinto apotheosis, divinizing the personal and mundane, a process concept with deep connections to Christian thoughts about the implications of Incarnation.

Rich fields, indeed.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
02-27-2006, 12:53 PM
Erik,

Yes, the idea has been around for a long time, and of course, the argument has been presented and "proved" in any number of fields, etc., - totally agree. However, we were wondering if anyone from history or from anthropology (or even sociology, etc.) had taken a single topic/subject and looked at it from two or more "competing" interpretative models for the sake of showing how two different models yeild different, even contradictory, conclusions, etc. Do you happen to know of any works that fit that bill? If so, I'd greatly appreciate it if you could pass the title along.

Thanks in advance,
take care,
dmv

Erick Mead
02-27-2006, 02:27 PM
we were wondering if anyone from history or from anthropology (or even sociology, etc.) had taken a single topic/subject and looked at it from two or more "competing" interpretative models for the sake of showing how two different models yeild different, even contradictory, conclusions, etc. dmv

As for a single person doing so, I do not know. As for otherwise like-thinking people coming to contradictory conclusions from the same irreducible objective principles, the examples are many. A good example occurs among Libertarians.

If it is understood from the get-go, that I raise the topic in itself not for purposes of the content but the analytic comparison, consider the differing Libertarian stance(s) on abortion.

Libertarian thinking is premised on a basic moral value "Non-intitiation of force by one person over another person." A very "aiki" sort of stance to take.

Who is a person? Depending on your answer to this question -- a fetus -- is /is not -- a person The simple principle above is applied at complete odds with itself in the resulting action dictated.

If the fetus is not a person, then it is an illegitimate initiation of force to interfere in a woman's decision to abort a pregnancy.

If the fetus is a person, then the abortion itself is an illegitimate initiation of force against this person.

(I will not elaborate the side arguments on compromise line-drawing -- arbitrary or principled.)

Each of the contemplated forceful acts is thus legitimate or illegitimate, completely depending upon the question of personhood. The issue is not further reducible by objective means.
Both positions are equal in the presence/lack of social construct involved --- which also depends on one's view of "person."

Which shows that our concept of personhood is devoid of objective content. (Whitehead would have approved this example, BTW.)

The less negative way to put the statement that "persons are not objective constructs" is:: "All persons are Subjects."

That observation does not end the discussion, however, for we have yet to apprehend the incidents and source of the Subjective content that informs both views. The implications that flow from that debate are manifold.

Or to put it another way, "Who is uke? -- Who is nage?"

Is this the kind of thing you meant?

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
02-27-2006, 04:10 PM
Hi Erick,

Like I said, I realize this stuff goes all over the place, and all the way back to at least the formulation of the Yogacara position (as a kind of sophisticated and systematized philosophy), etc. Additionally, I realize that folks in the human sciences address these various ideas at the level of methodology, etc. It's just that in talking to Fred, I realized that I've never seen one person take on one topic via varying methods to see if actual data is in fact so open to subjective interpretation (as the field of methodology often implies). Hence, why I was asking if you heard of such a study yourself.

Thanks though for replying,
dmv

Erick Mead
02-27-2006, 04:29 PM
I've never seen one person take on one topic via varying methods to see if actual data is in fact so open to subjective interpretation (as the field of methodology often implies). Hence, why I was asking if you heard of such a study yourself.

Methodology as a field -- as opposed to? ... study of "method" versus study of ... ?

I do not necessarily agree with the premise as to the utter malleability of fact, but even so, I am curious as to what form of knowledge or inquiry you posit may more readily avoid the admitted rational paradox of method.

After all, a sword is a tool -- but a rotten shovel.

What serves as your shovel ?

Cordially,
Erick Mead