The religion with 8 million gods and goddesses

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Mar 23, 2016.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Seems abit of overkill doesn't it? But I kind of like that concept. That as the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus put it, "there are gods in everything." Suffice it to say life in this sort of universe is probably a political game of constantly appeasing this and that offended deity. One has to appease one's gods afterall for never quite paying enough attention to them. Call it "existence guilt."

    "What does Shinto mean? What do its followers believe?
    Shinto means the way of the gods. Shintoism is an Ancient religion of Japan. It started at least as long ago as 1000 B.C.E. but is still practiced today by at least five million people. The followers of Shintoism believe that spiritual powers exist in the natural world. They believe that "spirits" called kami live in natural places such as in animals, plants, stones, mountains, rivers, people and even the dead.

    Where do Shinto followers worship?
    Shinto places of worship are called shrines and are usually found in beautiful natural settings. The shrine contains an Inner Hall which is only entered by Shinto priests since it is believed kami are present. Shinto priests can be either male or female. Purity is important to Shinto followers and therefore they rinse their mouths and wash their hands and hang up wooden tablets with prayers on them before entering the prayer hall. Once inside, the kami is summoned with a bell and offered rice or money. After which the worshiper bows twice and claps twice to welcome the kami then bows again.

    Shinto shrines are marked by a special archway called a torii. This archway is believed to separate the sacred world of the shrine from the world outside. There are about 80,000 shrines all over Japan. Each shrine has a yearly festival in which people pay their respects to the kami and celebrate with food and drink.

    Worship also happens in homes and at work through simple offerings of rice and tea and prayers. The rice and tea is placed on a special shelf called a "godshelf" . Prayers are often addressed to the family ancestors.

    Who is the most important kami?
    The most important kami is Amaterasu, the sun goddess. She is believed to be the ancestor to the emperors of Japan. Her shrine is at Ise and is the most important shrine in Japan. Inari, the rice producer, is also an important kami since rice is such an important food in Japan.

    Is it possible to be practice both Shintoism and Buddhism?
    Yes, it is and many Japanese people practice both. The beliefs are very compatible and not contradictory."

    "Shinto Gods" by Luis Navarro

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    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    It seems to continue to this very day, the primeval desire behind conceiving non-living circumstances of the world as having a sapient interface that can be communicated with. As exemplified by Siri and other personified aide / guide systems. Even when no more than a voice, both ancient and current peoples apparently relate better to an anthropic "mask" placed the over the guts of passionless phenomena and periodic routines. "Demeter, goddess of harvest, send us a sign that our crops will blessed this season." __ "Siri, tell me which place has the best deal."

    The future sports a technological realization of animism: Microbots organized as self-repairing larger objects, housing AIs which serve as the deity of the tree, the deity of the brook, the deity of the hill, etc. The artificial forests and landscapes which their hosts reside in busting out of theme parks and running market-wise over the Earth as they replace natural flora / fauna and geological features. Cyborg Judy sits down on a bench beside a post-biological tree and has a conversation with the latter's dryad persona.

    Old myths with their anachronistic anticipation and accidental mimicry of tomorrow...
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    One senses the influence of Shintoism in Japanese manga comics and animated features like Ghost in the Shell and Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke and Ponyo etc. Imagine getting to believe that your cartoons and comic books actually portray reality as it really is or could be!

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    In my own ontological reveries I have fancied a future "smart" universe where trees and cars and buildings and products will have a limited AI that enhances our use of such things. Imagine walking thru a park chatting with each tree as it tells you all about itself and its daily experiences! Imagine having a can of beer reciting beat poetry interlaced with gentle suggestions about not overdrinking. lol!
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    In Shinto, the word being translated as 'god' is 'kami'. 'Kami' doesn't typically mean the same thing as our word 'god'. Nature spirits and the spirits of dead ancestors are imagined as kami. In fact, anything amazing or uncanny can be a kami. (The Japanese have traditionally associated kami with mountain-tops. So a common form of religious pilgrimage in Japan is climbing mountains.)

    That's pretty vague, which explains why kami are thought to be innumerable. ("8 million" is just a way of saying "lots".)

    While some kami are highly personified and take leading roles in Japan's national myths, especially those associated with the origin of the nation and the imperial line, most kami aren't personified at all and are something like impersonal forces.

    A word with similar meaning in English might be 'holy':

    Belonging to, derived from or associated with a divine power. Sacred. Regarded as deserving special respect or reverence. Endowed with extreme purity or sublimity.

    A similar idea in the Western traditions might be 'the Sublime'

    Seen this way, the connection with popular culture and manga is obvious. Superheroes and great monsters display the intrusion of the uncanny into this world and hence would be expected to be associated with traditional kami.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016
  8. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

    The Japanese 'kami' is rather like the Roman concept of a 'numen', which makes some sense as both are animistic concepts. Numina are not so much "spirit" as a being itself, but the spirit-of-a-thing. It is the impression that being leaves behind on a place or person, and the acting force of the being. Kami are much like that: the spirit of a rock, a tree, a creek, a piece of land, or the spirit of a higher being. Gods have numen, but other things do as well. Kami are gods, but are also spirits of place or spirits of the dead.
  9. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    I've participated in a few Shinto ceremonies. It's pretty fun

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    The Shrines are fascinating. While most Japanese would not consider themselves 'Shinto', nearly all Japanese adhere to the ceremonies and will attend ceremonies celebrating birth, year 3, 5 (boys) or 7 (girls) as well as marriage. They will also pray at the Shrines for good luck. Funny enough, our New Year is a pretty popular Shinto event now. Buddhist perform funerals. Some strict Buddhist have Buddhist marriages (not all that common, although I have participated in one once). I recall a fat American woman once commenting to me, something along the lines of: These shrines sure are beautiful, it's a shame they're all going to hell. And then she waddled away.
  10. PaulJames Banned Banned

    Is that enough?

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