Monday, July 6, 2009
In India where Buddha was born, creating a grave was never a custom. Today, it is still the same. They cremate the body and flow it in the river, returning to the ocean.
Originally, all creatures came from the ocean and eventually evolved to live on land. So it’s a natural cycle to return to the ocean at the end of one’s life. The idea of running through a river returning to the ocean is much similar to the idea of Shintoism.
The place where Buddha was born never had a grave. But in Japan, Buddhist temples are full of graves. Buddha would not know any of the manners or rules we have in Japanese Buddhism. He wouldn’t know any of the sutras that are chanted.
If he is listening to the sutras that Japanese are chanting, he should be amazed of the meaningless sounds. All of the sutras were made few hundred years after his death.
It is scary when you think of this. The Japanese Buddhism has no spiritual foundation. They are sending the deceased back to heaven with a method Buddha has never heard of but in the name of Buddhism. It is natural to think that the deceased is not sent to heaven properly.
So before the Buddhism became popular in Japan, how did people take care of the deceased?
In Jōmon Period (apprx. 12000 yrs ago ~), I sense that people had a joint burial mound.
When people died, they inhumed the body in the ground in a location separated from the residential area. They would bury next to each other and once it had spread too far, they started to pile them on top of each other. It would look like a small hill.
I sense that this form of a small hill became the style of a tomb for the Imperial mound.
In the ancient days, people died and returned to the nature. Nature was God. So we returned to the nature and became a part of god.
The original idea of Shintoism was about being grateful for the great nature=god. Thus sending gratitude towards ancestral spirits came natural, considering the spirits returning to nature.
People gathered to send their gratitude to ancestral spirits at certain times of the year. And the timing was determined accordingly to the movement of the sun.
The modern Buddhist funeral ceremony in Japan seems to be overly expensive with too many unnecessary rituals. Disappointingly, the most important gratitude sending seems to be neglected. I sincerely wish that each sect would add some words that express gratitude towards the deceased. At the same time, I wish that the Buddhist priests would do their service only by donation.
It was a mistake that the Shinto gave the funeral ceremonial service to the Buddhist.
The idea of “kegare(穢れ)” made the Shintoist wanting to separate god and the dead apart. Since it was separated in the Jōmon Period, the righteous spirituality disappeared from Japan. Shintoists monopolized the Gods and turned it into a business as if they had the patent rights. Different sect would have each of their own norito having too much self-assertiveness. This kind of egoistic approach will never reach to the gods.
It is very important NOT to separate the gods and the deceased. Simply send gratitude to both of them. This ancient and original idea must revive.
Thank you for letting us live