Saturday, October 24, 2009

Come to a Realization

The news was talking about a man who was released from prison after 20 years. He was accused of murderer but was discovered as false charge. There was a TV show about his life after the release.

He was going into a Ramen shop. I was touched by the way he was eating the noodles. You can see that he was really enjoying the moment. He was not acting. It was coming from inside and I could tell even from the TV screen. Inside the prison, they probably wont’ be serving such good hot ramen. Being away for 20 years from tasty food can really make a man look so happy with one bowl of ramen. It was beautiful to look at.

In Shinto, a “naorai” (直会) is held after a *shinji, Shinto ritual. At a naorai, the participants gather to enjoy the offerings (food and sake) after the ritual. Many people think it’s just a party to celebrate the ending of the ritual. But it is actually a part of the ritual. It is an important ending for god and human to merge as they share the offerings.

So if you only attended the ritual and skip the naorai, it means that you didn’t complete the whole. The offerings will be filled with divine energy from the god during the ritual. Thus by eating the offerings after the ritual, you become one with god.

I am suggesting that the woman in the house should be taking care of the home altar. She should be the priestess of the house. The reason for this comes from the same concept as the naorai.

When the woman of the house who takes care of the altar cooks meals for the family, the same thing as the naorai is happening. If you live alone and take care of the altar by yourself and cook for yourself, that would be the same as well.

Naorai is nao=直 and rai=会. 直 means directly. 会 means to meet. So the meaning of naorai is to meet directly with the god.
The meals should be taken as a *shinji. One should eat slowly to appreciate it. Laughter is another good thing to have during a meal.

Even in the mythology, it talks about the importance of laughter. When the sun goddess Amaterasu-ohomikami hide herself in the cave after knowing there are so many crimes in the world, the laughter of the party outside made her come out.

Going back to the story about the man who was false charged, he went to the park after eating ramen. The children came around him probably because of the camera shooting. Surrounded by children, he looked very happy with an innocent smile. In the interview, he told about being lonely living alone that he didn’t have anyone to talk to. In prison, at least he had others to talk to. In any case life is hard. But if you could come to a realization for what you have, rather than what you don’t have, you will be able find peace.

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live

*Shinji <神事>: Shinto ritual, divine service

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Filth Becomes Manure

Most of the famous Zen monks have left many scrolls and paintings. However, many of them leaves desire for fame or ambition in the content. Even the famous Hakuin (白隠) left some of these traces in his writings. One of the very few pure hearted one was Ryōkan who has become popular in the recent years.

Many people are fond of someone like, Ryōkan, a hermit. But much is misunderstood. If Ryōkan would have become successful, he probably had killed himself. He was someone who had suffered from the success of his ancestors. The success had actually left filth in his ancestral spiritual pipeline. He was born to a rich commercial family. At the same time, the family had a long history as a Shinto priest of Ishi Shrine in Niigata.

It is interesting that most of the Zen monks who became famous had a Shinto family background. As long as you live in Japan, the Ubusuna-kami (the birth place god) will come to interfere when it comes to the advancement of a soul.

When a family has a long history in doing one business, business related problems are always there, and people suffer from jealousy and grudges. Employees might have died from accidents. Those things will create filth in the spiritual pipeline of the family. I sense that Ryōkan suffered from unreasonable anxiety and apathy from a very young age. In spite of being the eldest son in the family, he rejected to inherit the business and left his family at the age of 18 to become a monk. He had difficulty with his father who had so much hope for him. His mother, on the other hand, was a wonderful person who Ryōkan adored. He saw her as the prefect example of motherhood. His father later killed himself after the fall of his business. Ryōkan was deeply hurt by the incident.

Funny episodes are told about Ryōkan. One day when he was taking a nap on the veranda, a flea came out from his sleeve. He talks to the flea, “hey, where do you think you’re going? Come back home” and puts it back into his sleeve. Another story tells about him breaking his own roof of his shabby home for the bamboo shoot that came out from his floor. He was also once caught being mistaken for a robbery and was buried into the ground alive. Even then, he didn't try to defend himself and kept silent.

There is something about him that is very childlike and innocent. But the reason behind his character comes from breakdowns, sadness and sense of impermanence.

He acted as he was a free spirited man. His image seems to have no relation to discipline. But actually, another side of him had ninety disciplines. That makes him different from vagabonds.

Some of his disciplines were:

* Don’t interrupt when others are talking.
* Don't try to convince your beliefs.
* Don’t under value others.
* Don’t quibble while drunk.
* Don’t try to hide your mistakes.
* Don’t show off your intelligence.
* Don’t make promises easily.
* Don’t talk about regrets.
* Don’t make a fake smile.
* Don’t be proud of your position.
* Don’t scold people with your ugly thoughts.

Ryōkan was a man of effort.

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Don’t think of Kami like your Personal Servant

御祈祷(go-kitō) or 祈願 (kigan) is a ceremony to offer gratitude to kami (god) in hopes that we receive continuous protection. The shrine offers two types of gokitō, 御饌(mike) and 神楽(kagura). Both the Naigū (Inner Shrine) and Gaigū (Outer Shrine) provide a Kaguraden (a ceremonial hall). And the priests and the maidens will performs in front of kami as the conveyor on behalf of the offerer. (quote from Ise-Jingu official website)

I feel, using these two words, 祈祷 (kitō)・祈願 (kigan) should be reconsidered at this time.

Because these two words or Chinese characters are used, the people misunderstand the way to worship a kami.

These letters were used by the influence of Buddhism, and it has a hidden meaning such as curse, win, battle and request personal desires. They are all self-centered evil attitudes of human and what kami dislikes.

Most people think that kami is there to ask for wishes. That is a misfortune. Why is it a misfortune?

You are asking kami for your personal desires to come true. This is a rude attitude towards a kami, and most people do not know about it. This is happening because the priests of today’s shrines cannot sense the kenzokus (the spirits that protects the kami). They have forgotten the osore - the reverence towards kami.

How would you feel if your child come to you, hand you a small coin and say “I pay you this much so would to make a move to make my wish come true?”

Do you think the kami who has given you life and who is completely in the position of justice would say “yes, I shall make it happen” to every personal desires?

If your wish comes true, there will always be someone in trouble on the other side. That is how the balance is created in this society. Is that what you want?

If my child came to me to ask for a wish, because I love him I would really want to make it happen. But then, I think whether it would be good for him. I might secretly help him make it happen. But I would never say yes to everything he asks for. Sometimes, I would scold him that it’s not going to happen and life is not that easy.

You shouldn’t be asking for small details to the almighty god. Simply send gratitude for what you have at this moment, for being alive. Put your heart to it. The energy of gratitude will reach to kami. And if he thinks you need help, he shall help you. The gratitude prayer would work much stronger than a wishful prayer. Wishful thinking should be left in your daily moments to encourage and bring focus to yourself.

It is the shrine’s responsibility to have led the mass to a wrong way of praying.

When you are asking for a formal prayer (mike or kagura) the priest would ask what the purpose would be? And give you a list. Select 神恩感謝 (shin-on-kansha) gratitude sending to kami. Some shrines don’t even have this on the list. What a shame.

If the shrine does not have this in their listing, ask for 家内安全 (kanai-anzen), safety of family. During the ceremony, think as you are offering this to kami rather than asking for protection and be in gratitude.

The energy of gratitude will create 神気 (shinki), divine energy. The energy you send will always come back to you and change your life in someway.

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live