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Old 05-16-2004, 08:14 AM   #3
Fred Little
Dojo: NJIT Budokai
Location: State Line NJ/NY
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 632
Re: Dedication of Kamiza

kamiza = god seat [shinto usage]

shinden = god transmission (place) [shinto usage]

tokonoma = space of display [general usage]

butsudan = buddha shelf [buddhist usage]

Are you seating or enshrining gods? Or are you simply providing a physical focal point for the dojo in general and the bowing at the beginning and end of practice in particular?

It makes a big difference.

In usual circumstances, incense would not be burned before a kamiza or a shinden, though it might be used for a tokonoma in some circumstances as a matter of simple aesthetics, and would almost certainly be appropriate at a butsudan. Similarly, while flowers are often used in buddhist altars, shinto altars generally use bunches of particular greens. In the US, it is sometimes possible to find a florist selling a green sold under the name "ruscus" which is quite close to the traditional sakaki branches.

Use of incense in overtly Shinto practices seems to be an indicator of previous mixing between local practices and Buddhism, and is fairly unusual. Ditto flowers.

If your instructor's intention is to consecrate a kamiza, he should find himself a shinto priest. If he wishes to consecrate a butsudan -- which is also quite traditional in many East Asian dojo -- he should find himself an ordained buddhist priest.

But a tokonoma doesn't require professional help or signify alignment with any particular tradition; it is my view that most American dojo have tokonoma rather than kamiza or butsudan. That's just fine.

This is quite appropriate in a public dojo in a secular society. Whatever one's beliefs, one can always quite sensibly simply keep the tokonoma and the dojo clean and beautiful, forget about the sectarian intricacies, and take the attitude that whatever individual beliefs we hold, in an aikido dojo it is the sincere aikido practice that occurs before the tokonoma that is the real continuing act of consecration of significance.

Nine times out of ten, the rest is mere exoticism.

Hope this helps,

Fred Little
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