Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Importance of Shinboku (神木)

There is a word called “Chinju-no-mori(鎮守の森).” “Chin” means to becalm or a weight. “Ju” means care taking or protect. “Mori” is forest. With all the meanings combined, it implies that something precious is protected in a calm manner in the forest(=yashiro/shrine).

In the ancient Ko-Shinto, they wrote,「神社=もり」so people would read Jinjya (shrine) as mori (forest). In the ancient days, shrines did not exist. People payed a visit to the forest and mountains. One part of the forest was segmented as kapu - a sacred ground. It was prohibited to step inside the area. And people sent offering of the gratitude energy.

One of the origin of a shimenawa(注連縄) comes from placing it in front of the kapu area in the forest. They put a rope to close the area. A forest without any human invasion is a space full of oxygen produced by the plants. By the energy of gratitude sent by humans reaching into this space, I could see both plant energy and the gratitude energy intertwining in a spiral form. This ki would reach and purify the local area that will influence the heart of the local people.

One of the origin of a Shinto priest (shinkan) is the person who stood inside a shack by the kapu rope. He was the keeper protecting the forest. Therefore, a shrine without a forest or many trees is not a true shrine. Without the trees, the divine energy cannot descend to the place. The trees in a shrine with divine energy descending, grows very well. In the country, we often come across a shrine with trees growing abundantly. You could tell whether the shrine is a good shrine or not by looking at the trees.

By protecting the forest with a kapu area, they were protecting the plants. At the shrines of today, each tree, a shinboku – sacred tree, in the shrine site represents a forest. Therefore, you must not touch the trees. When it is touched by many humans, the ki will be disturbed and it could block the divine energy to descend.

When there are kenzokus, the guardian spirits watching over the shrine, whoever touched the tree may get into trouble. The kenzokus will be angry at you. Sometimes they could be like the wasps and unmerciful.

At The Grand Shrine of Ise, I often see an oni demon kenzoku guarding the shinboku. I have catched them in my camera few times. They could punish you by breaking a bone. If you had touched or even worse hugged the shinboku, please apologize in your heart.

You could have your own shrine at home. The sakaki leaves and water would become the forest on your kamidana altar. Send your gratitude to the sakaki leaves and the water. Do have a sense of manner to wash your hands before you touch the sakaki.

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live


Mamikay said...


"Thank you for letting us live" sounds regid, I feel. How about saying "Thank you Lord for letting us alive"...

Overall I've just admired your translaiton, fantastic work!!

- Mariko K - said...

Thanks for your comment. Please choose a wording that you feel is best for yourself.