Shinto Exam Preparation Notes

10 October 2016

Shinto is a native Japanese mythology/religion influenced by Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Kami, a key concept in Shinto’s belief refers to the superior, mystical or divine, that permeates the natural world. Origins of the universe: – Earliest Shinto text is the Kojiki or ‘record of ancient matters’ written in 712 CE – Kojiki tells the story of how the cosmic order arose out of chaos during the age of the kami when something like a huge celestial egg split in half to form heaven and earth.

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The earliest gods attended this spontaneous development and they produced a second generation of divinities who were paired with one another as brother and sister (also husband and wife) the last pair of divine siblings named Izanagi and Izanami were instructed by their elders to create the islands of japan. They did this, and the country they made compromised the whole creation of time. The stories and myths about creation -The celestial pair gave birth to the sacred land of japan and to all the kami or ‘superior spirits’ that inhabit the land. They bore the divine kami of the rivers and rocks and mountains and trees and also gave birth to the spirits of the natural forces such as wind and fire and so on.. -Eventually the great mother goddess, Amaterasu, kami of the sun, comes into being, along with her wild and intractable brother, the god, Susanoo-o-Mikoto, kami of storms. These two kami of the sun and of the storms become the paramount deities in subsequent Shinto mythology. Principle beliefs -The universe has three levels- plain of heaven: where kami live (hight) the present human realm: the middle land (where humans live) and at the depth (below) is the world after death.

More sophisticated Shinto mythology but in the hearts of the common people they prefer the perpetual country or ‘tokoyo’ view that the eternal spiritual domain where the kami abide in perfect tranquillity with the human realm. (everything is on the human/middle level) they believe in the middle land (perpetual country or tokoyo). -Fundamental idea in Shinto is that of kami. Kami is the indefinable quality felt in spiritual realities. They also believe in the kami of ideas such as creation, growth and development. Kami is the awe inspiring sacred nature of things. the sacred is understood through actually experiencing, but cannot be captured in theories or words. -They communicate with the kami directly so they have no need for elaborate or formal theories. -Shinto is a religion of sentiment rather than sermons. The proper end of Shinto is not to grasp the idea of kami but to feel its boundless presence. Rituals -Jinja Shinto- takes place at shrines and is domestic and local (local shrines are where regional kami are worshipped ie. River kami, beach kami.

This allows local communities to affirm their togetherness in the presence of their local kami.. every home has a shrine called a kamidana at at this level Shinto can be seen as the way a family worships their ancestors[mirror covered by a door]). -Minzoku Shinto- relates to folk religion in japan (what everyone follows) -Koshitsu Shinto- practiced at a national level and relates to the emperor and his family. (at a national level, shrines dedicated to the imperial family[descendants of the gods] help japan celebrate its unity as a nation).

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