Monthly Archives: May 2017

frogs

the sun hides behind the dark mountain
a low murmur seeps into my silent soul
the familiar chill of evening covers me

mosquitos hum their high notes
and the languid stars gradually appear
upon the blue-black washed sky

there, the waltz of the moon
continues among the stellar crowd
the organic night comes to life

unseen, in the shadows their talk
turns into song, i meditate to the drone
of late spring, early summer

and by morning light their chorus
fades to become scattered distant croaks
replaced by the ensemble of birds, bugs

The main religions of Japan – a quick guide

There are, in my opinion, four main groups of religions in Japan. I will go through each below.

Shintoism
Shintoism is what can be considered the indigenous religion of Japan. It is at least 1,300 years old but possibly much older. It describes the power struggles in its early history in the disguise of creation myths of the country. This points to migration from Korea as the possible source of its history but also indication of much an earlier culture. It is generally a religion of animism, where mountains, trees, the sun, machinery, virtually anything has a spirit. It is also a religion which promotes purity and fertility, both for agriculture and sex. Shintoism is seen as one religion but can be thought of as having facets of folk, state and culture. From the 6th century until 19th century Shintoism was synchronised with Buddhism (see below).

Buddhism
Buddhism was introduced into Japan from China in the 6th century. It is a religion which originated in north-eastern India in the 6th century BCE. Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha. Buddha taught it is possible to find happiness by thinking and living correctly. There are different “denominations” with Jodo-based sects being the most predominant and the Zen sects being second most predominant in terms of temple count.

Christianity
Christianity was introduced into Japan in the 16th century when Francis Xavier arrived with Christian converts. Although it makes up a small percentage of followers (around 1% of the population) it is nonetheless prominent within Japanese culture. Most weddings are “Christian” weddings with rites performed by a “priest” (read: ‘foreigner’). Christianity functions thus as marriage officiate, while Shinto functions as life celebrating, and Buddhism for Funerary. All major Christian denominations are represented in Japan.

New religions
Most ‘new religions’ are based upon one of the “traditional” religions – Shintoism, Buddhism and/or Christianity. Some were established after 1868 – when Japan began its modernisation period – but many sprang up after 1945. While some do have real ideological differences to their foundation religion most new religions were created for tax-break purposes.


Below are some “keywords” in each of the religious groupings.

Shintoism – inari, hachiman, susa, Izumo, Ise, fertility, creation myth, purity.

Buddhism – Jodo, Jodo Shin, Shingon, Tendai, Nichiren, Zen, death.

Christianity – Francis Xavier, Jesuit, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, marriage.

New religions – politics, tax-haven, Neo-Shintoism, Neo-Buddhism, Neo-Christianity.

Please … show me something that is permanent 

It isn’t that something permanent does exist (though that is highly unlikely because if it does exist it has been hiding pretty well) but that it hasn’t shown itself whatsoever. 
Some say the proof is God but nobody has made visual identification of him. There have been no “last seen at …” but just talk. It is all talk. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word is God,” someone named John wrote. But isn’t this just a clever (read: wilful) metaphor?
No, there will never be any way for us to prove that God doesn’t exist. But neither do they have a way to prove that he does (and a capital ‘H’ for He isn’t proof, but only again a choice on the part of the writer. 

What is karma?

Karma is volitional action caused by intention (cetana). The result of karma is its fruit (karmaphala). Karma are of two types – wholesome (kusala) and unwholesome (akusala). Both of these lead to rebirth (samsara). Wholesome karma leads to a superior rebirth while unwholesome karma leads to an inferior rebirth. 

Rebirth does not necessarily pertain to the rebirth of a lifespan. Every moment is a rebirth so long as it is conditioned by an action from an intention. Rebirth is akin to sustainment or continuity. Actions not stemming from an intention are without karma and therefore without fruit. Karma without fruit is therefore desirable in Buddhism.