• Srijita Pathak

Understand the significance of Shintoism to discover the meaning of life

The place resonates peace and calmness which Shintoism offers!

‘Meaning of life’, most of us strive to find the explanation of this phrase. The ‘meaning’ is ambiguous and subjective, but the essence of growing and moving forward is the common factor among all of us. As we age and mature, our priorities change, our meaning of life also changes.

The world has provided us with various ‘schools of thought’ and principles to form an idea about the way of life.

One such is Shintoism

It is a religious or spiritual faith system which originated in China providing us with a wide array of religious and life principles.

Shinto,[a] also known as kami-no-michi,[b] is a religion originating in Japan. Classified as an East Asian religion by scholars of religion, its practitioners often regard it as Japan's indigenous religion and as a nature religion. Scholars sometimes call its practitioners Shintoists, although adherents rarely use that term themselves. There is no central authority in control of the movement and much diversity exists among practitioners.

Shinto is polytheistic and revolves around the kami ("gods" or "spirits"), supernatural entities believed to inhabit all things. The link between the kami and the natural world has led to Shinto being considered animistic and pantheistic. The kami are worshiped at kamidana household shrines, family shrines, and public shrines. The latter are staffed by priests who oversee offerings to the kami and the provision of religious paraphernalia such as amulets to the religion's adherents.

Other common rituals include the kagura ritual dances, age specific celebrations, and seasonal festivals. These festivals and rituals are collectively called matsuri. A major conceptual focus in Shinto is ensuring purity by cleansing practices of various types including ritual washing or bathing. Shinto does not emphasize specific moral codes other than ritual purity, reverence for kami, and regular communion following seasonal practices. Shinto has no single creator or specific doctrinal text, but exists in a diverse range of localised and regionalised forms.

significance of Shintoism
Man offering his payer!

Belief in kami can be traced to the Yayoi period (300 BCE – 300 CE), although similar concepts existed during the late Jōmon period. At the end of the Kofun period (300 to 538 CE), Buddhism entered Japan and influenced kami veneration. Through Buddhist influence, kami came to be depicted anthropomorphically and were situated within Buddhist cosmology. Religious syncretisation made kami worship and Buddhism functionally inseparable, a process called shinbutsu-shūgō. The earliest written tradition regarding kami worship was recorded in the eighth-century Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. In ensuing centuries, shinbutsu-shūgō was adopted by Japan's Imperial household. During the Meiji era (1868 – 1912 CE), Japan's leadership expelled Buddhist influence from Shinto and formed State Shinto, which they utilized as a method for fomenting nationalism and imperial worship.

Shrines came under growing government influence, and the Emperor of Japan was elevated to a particularly high position as a kami. With the formation of the Japanese Empire in the early 20th century, Shinto was exported to other areas of East Asia. Following Japan's defeat in World War II, Shinto was formally separated from the state.

Shinto is primarily found in Japan, where there are around 80,000 public shrines. Shinto is also practiced elsewhere, in smaller numbers. Only a minority of Japanese people identify as religious, although most of the population take part in Shinto matsuri and Buddhist activities, especially festivals, and seasonal events. This reflects a common view in Japanese culture that the beliefs and practices of different religions need not be exclusive. Aspects of Shinto have also been incorporated into various Japanese new religious movements.; source- Wikipedia.

There is no universally agreed definition of Shinto.[1] However, the authors Joseph Cali and John Dougill stated that if there was "one single, broad definition of Shinto" that could be put forward, it would be that "Shinto is a belief in kami", the supernatural entities at the centre of the religion.[2] The Japanologist Helen Hardacre stated that "Shinto encompasses doctrines, institutions, ritual, and communal life based on kami worship",[3] while the scholar of religion Inoue Nobutaka observed the term was "often used" in "reference to kami worship and related theologies, rituals and practices.

shintoism teachings

The symbols

The symbols of the kami include man, animals, objects of nature, crests, sacred vessels, Shinto structures and equipment, amulets, and charms. The original symbolic use of these has been either lost or greatly altered; only the form remains today. This is especially true of man as a symbol of the kami.

The purpose of life in Shinto is to enjoy and value nature's beauty, observe rituals, and show allegiance to ones family, group, community, and to the kami of the area in which one was born, or the kami worshiped by ones ancestors.

· Tradition and the family: Understanding that family is the foundation for preserving traditions.

· Love of nature: Holding nature sacred.

· Ritual purity: Ritual bathing to spiritually and physically cleanse yourselves before entering a shrine to worship the kami.

· Matsuri: Worshiping and honoring gods and ancestral spirits

There is no absolute right and wrong, and nobody is perfect.

Shinto is an optimistic faith, as humans are thought to be fundamentally good, and evil is believed to be caused by evil spirits