Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Hōden < 宝殿 > can be literally translated as the "treasure shrine". It is the storage shrine where the sacred treasures or the offerings are stored. Usually the storage shrines are apart from the main shrine, honden < 本殿 >, either behind the main shrine or somewhere in a hidden unnoticeable place.
However, at The Grand Shrine of Ise, it is different. The two hōden are placed on both sides of the honden. At the Gegū, the outer shrine, when the visitors are facing the main shrine, the two treasure shrines are in the front, and you see the main shrine in the back center. It seems as if the two treasure shrines are holding the sacred energy, and the god is worshipped by the visitors through that channel. At the Naigū, the inner shrine, the honden is in the front center and the hōden are placed at the back on both sides.
Some scholars say that these positioning are symmetric images of the celestial map. The main shrine is the North Star. The two treasure shrines represent the pair, the Big Dipper (the seven stars in the northern sky) and the Milk Dipper (the six stars in the southern sky). The fact that the two treasure shrines are placed in the front at Naikū and in the back at Gegū, signifies the summer and the winter solstice. I totally agree with the scholars on this.
But I would like to add a little more about the spiritual energy of the hōden, the two treasure shrines. At the Gegū, where the treasure shrines are placed in the front, I always feel an enormously strong divine power from the front. However, when I visit the Naikū where the two treasure shrines are placed in the back, the divine power is felt more from the back. I always thought strange of this.
So I asked the spirits of this secret. The answers I received was about the magnetic energy, the divine power, that comes from the hōden. The hōden are full of artworks/offerings that were made by the masters who put their soul into the craftsmanship. The art pieces hold the sacred magnetic energy from the craftsman. When the craftsmen are asked to donate their work to The Grand Shrine of Ise, they start from finding the right material. For example, if it was a lacquer dish, he would start from finding the right wood, the right lacquer. We could not imagine how many people become involved in this process. I have heard that some craftsman would surround his workspace with a shimenawa, sacred rope, and only allow limited people to enter his workspace. The offerings that are made with such care and soul would have a very high vibrational magnetic energy.
The hōden, the treasure shrine, that stores many of these offerings is like a high voltage battery. But the batteries do need to be changed after a while. And it seems like every twenty years is the right cycle. Even if the batteries are high in its spiritual voltage, after twenty years it is weakened.
At The Grand Shrine of Ise, they hold a big event every twenty years called “Shikinen-Sengu” <式年遷宮>. They rebuild the whole structure of the shrines and the offerings or the treasures.
As an esoteric art, this every twenty year ritual seems to be a pragmatic one. The people in the ancient times knew that the twenty year cycle was the limit for the objects to hold a high spiritual voltage to protect the divine power for the sacred land.
Thank you for letting us live