Lawrence Koichi Barrish
Triangle, Circle, Square
Three Principles - by Rev. Dr. Yukitaka Yamamoto
Shinto and Human Life
The principle of sanmi-sangen explains the mystery of life. Sanmi-sangen means the three elements that constitute the basis of all forms of existence. these basic symbols guide the destiny of human life. We can see sanmi-sangen operate at many levels, and it is the interaction of theselevels that can product forces that will work for the benefit and well-being of those who follow their lead - people whose behavior and thinking are characterized by the way of the Kami.
At the level of the Kami, Amaterasu-OmiKami, the deity of the Sun who lives in Takama-no-Hara, the Utopia of brightness, is principal aamong the three important parts of the cosmological dimension of existence. The sun is the source of life, of growth and of creativity. Without its heat, power and energy, life could not exist. Thus, the universe is totally dependent upon the primal force of the sun.
Tsukuyomi-no-mikoto, the Kami of the moon, is the guardian of night, the time of silent growth and development, the necessary complement to the day. The moon symbolizes these in its cycle: the new moon, the half moon, the full moon. the moon waxes and wanes as does life in the process of growth. Shinrabansho, or everything in nature, depends on the growth time of the moon, just as everything depends on the light and power of the sun.
Susanoo-no-mikoto, the deity of the stars, was given authority over the vastness of the ocean, unabara. Without water, the earth cannot live. The ebb and flow of the life is under higher governance and that governance is the destiny of man whose place is creation is described in Japanese by the expression banbutsu-no-reicho, the lord of everything under the sun.
These three, the deities of the sun, moon, and stars, are called the san-ko, the three lights and their existence is fundamental for all forms of life in the universe.
When spring comes all the flowers begin to bloom towards summer, insects begin to appear, birds sing and human beings begin to move in response to their Ki, power or energy. Spring is naturally the time of romance when love blossoms, people marry, and the soul of man enters the female spirit and body and new life comes into being. The flow of all things is from the gaseous state to the liquid and then to the solid. Ki generates feeling which turn into solid. Ki generates feelings which turn tot he liquid forms of love and then the solid forms of birth and reproduction. Thus nature flows eternally and is as we know it. In Shinto symbolism, the triangle symbolizes the gaseous, the circle symbolizes the liquid, and the square smbolizes the solid.
This symbolism encompasses all aspects of cosmic and earthly existence, showing how life is built and governed and how its destiny should flow. The Buddhist expression for this is rinne, transmigration of the sould, samsara in Sanskrit.
To have meaning life must have balance between mission and destiny. We must think quite deeply about these. Mission has quite a specific meaning. If two people produce a child, this does not mean the presence of mission. The child who is not the product of mission and destiny is the child who will perhaps end up abandoned, whose conception and birth were not surrounded by the protective structures that the union of life, mission and destiny can produce. If these are present, however, that life can be nurtured properly and grow into the fulfillment of its own destiny. In addition that life, in union with another, will continue its natural flow, projecting life into the future, united in mission and destiny, according to Kannagara. So the generations are born and life ceaselessly flows.
Mission Life Destiny
Sangen in Daily Ife
Sangen, the rule of three main factors, works at the level of everyday life and at the level of human destiny. In every shrine, offerings to the Kami on sambo (offering stand), include certain items apart from sake, vegetables and fruits - namely salt, rice and water. the offerings, called shinsen, presents the basis of life.
For Japanese, life has been based on rice and rice requires water for growth. The ancient Japanese knew the power of water to make rice grow. The Shinto terms minaoshi (forward) and kikinaoshi (obedient) contain the secrets of how that power was harnessed.
Water in a bottle can be passive and obedient, but uncontained, water can be a torrent tearing down trees and destroying walls. Water can fertilize and stimulate growth. If people could live like creative water, they would find life less tiring. The flexibility of water is a great lesson.
Allied to the role of water and of equal importance is time and timing. The shrine's nenchu gyoji - schedule of rituals - covers the entire year, and each stage in life. Shinto is very time conscious. What is the most important aspect of human existence? Some might answer, "life," but I would say, "time," because life is very much a sequence of events.
These events follow in order, and that order cannot be changed. Cherry blossoms will not appear in December. No matter how much you may wish to see them, you have to wait until spring. That is their time. Time is perhaps why Japanese are so time conscious. Time you cannot see, but it is time that enables us to understand the processes of nature. This is turn encourages us to feel thankful. Thankfulness is important in Shinto because it expresses our repectful dependence on the powers that determine the flow of our lives.
Discontentment will lead only to frustration. If there is one word or one sentiment that should govern our way of thinking and that expresses the true spirit of Kanngara, it is the Japanese term Kansha - simply giving things to the powers that make people their care and that assist them in reaching the true greatness of spirit they were born to know.
Sankaku-no-Irimi Taru Musubi
En-no-Irimi Tamatsume Musubi
Chokusen-no-Irimi *This symbol and chart
are the exclusive property
of Tsubaki O Kami Yashiro
and are not to be printed or
reproduced without expressed
Excerpts from a letter written by Rev. Koichi Barrish in response to a question about Sankaku Maru Shikaku.
May I share this information from Ise-noKuni Ichi-no-Miya, Sarutahiko Daihongu Tsubaki O Kami Yashiro?
In his book Kami no Michi, Rev. Dr. Yukitaka Yamamoto, the 96th generation High Priest (Guji) wrote:
"The Principle of 'Sanmi-Sangen' explains the mystery of life. Sanmi-Sangen means the three elements that constitute the basis of all forms of existence. These basic symbols both explain the meaning of and guide the destiny of human life. We can see Sanmi-Sangen operate at many levels."
In Shinto cosmology, the relates to "Gogyo Gogen." Following the blueprints created by the Amatsu (heavenly) Kami, the Kunitsu (earthly) Kami made the "Ki" of trees, fire, soil, gold and water. Gas turns to be a liquid and a solid , while a solid turns to a liquid and gas . This transformation (Kami Musubi - a Fire & Water Knot [Musubi = Tie where existence and non-existence are unified]), is holographically mirrored in the aiki waza of Ueshiba O'Sensei.
Archetypically, aiki progresses as follows:
Sankaku-no-irimi: Sankakutai - the hanmi prior to deai (initial physical contact) . Establishment of angle and radius of entry (triangle) is power of harmonization.
En-no-irimi: The spiralic movements (omote and ura) of aiki technique
Chokusen-no-irimi: The explosive power (shunpatsu rokyu) of a kokyu nage like extension and the expanding echo (zanshin) or osae waza (pinning technique)