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Old 02-10-2006, 08:07 PM   #1
malsmith
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Shintoism

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?
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:12 PM   #2
Edwin Neal
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Re: Shintoism

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...

Edwin Neal


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Old 02-11-2006, 02:54 AM   #3
koz
 
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Re: Shintoism

Shinto is esentially an animist practice. And since animism is not restricted to the Japanese islands, I'd say that argument is fairly invalid.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.

Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching, Ch48
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Old 02-11-2006, 04:31 AM   #4
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Shintoism

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,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 02-11-2006, 06:24 PM   #5
jeff.
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Re: Shintoism

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.
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Old 02-11-2006, 08:54 PM   #6
James Kelly
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Re: Shintoism

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.
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Old 02-11-2006, 10:08 PM   #7
Don_Modesto
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Re: Shintoism

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
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-b...0060209f2.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.

Don J. Modesto
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Old 02-12-2006, 06:42 PM   #8
David.P.T.Smith
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Re: Shintoism

The BBC has a radio documentory on shintoism, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/pe...2_shinto.shtml
if thats of any help?
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Old 02-12-2006, 07:13 PM   #9
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Shintoism

Quote:
Don J. Modesto wrote:

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.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 02-12-2006, 08:45 PM   #10
Michael Young
 
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Re: Shintoism

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

Last edited by Michael Young : 02-12-2006 at 08:47 PM.
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Old 02-13-2006, 12:45 AM   #11
Charles Hill
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Re: Shintoism

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
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Old 02-13-2006, 12:34 PM   #12
Don_Modesto
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Re: Shintoism

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

Quote:
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/...rs/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.

Quote:
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 Ryűichi Abé discusses this very nicely.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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?

Last edited by Don_Modesto : 02-13-2006 at 12:37 PM.

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Old 02-13-2006, 06:11 PM   #13
tedehara
 
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Exclamation Re: Shintoism

Quote:
Joseph Campbell wrote:
...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.

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Old 02-13-2006, 06:55 PM   #14
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Shintoism

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).

P A Goldsbury
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Old 02-13-2006, 08:24 PM   #15
malsmith
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Re: Shintoism

wow.... thank you so much... you all have been a big help!
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Old 02-15-2006, 02:07 AM   #16
Charles Hill
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Re: Shintoism

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
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Old 02-15-2006, 07:55 AM   #17
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Shintoism

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
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?

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 02-15-2006, 09:09 AM   #18
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Shintoism

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

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Old 02-15-2006, 01:43 PM   #19
Don_Modesto
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Re: Shintoism

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
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.

Quote:
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.p...3&pp=25&page=2 ).

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
Sorry about the length, this is an interesting topic for me.
For me, too. No apologies necessary. Thanks, Charles, interesting stuff.

Last edited by Don_Modesto : 02-15-2006 at 01:49 PM.

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Old 02-16-2006, 07:39 AM   #20
Charles Hill
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Re: Shintoism

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
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Old 02-16-2006, 08:29 AM   #21
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Shintoism

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

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Old 02-16-2006, 10:11 AM   #22
Fred Little
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Re: Shintoism

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
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.

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
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
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Old 02-16-2006, 10:19 AM   #23
senshincenter
 
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Re: Shintoism

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

David M. Valadez
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Old 02-16-2006, 11:02 AM   #24
Fred Little
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Re: Shintoism

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
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Old 02-16-2006, 12:20 PM   #25
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Shintoism

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
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.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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