Monday, March 05, 2007

Hakko Shinden

This is one of three headquarters for that new Shinto religion Tenseishinbikai I visited last Sunday. This building is actually quite famous for its acoustics if you google it. It reminds me of a spaceship or a building you’d find in a computer game. But nonetheless it’s an absolutely beautiful building and grounds; a work of art (but quite disappointedly we could not walk on the grass and there were no benches outside.) Inside the two towering walls were clear glass sky with eagles and crows circling ominously around (quite a wonderful distraction from the service!)

The devout followers all had on white tuxedoes as you can see. Inside we listened to teachings, people fell asleep, and we watched a fantastic ritual of presenting offerings to God (called the Big Light: "大光”) and then listened to a symphony perform a medley of Handle’s Messiah, ending with the audience singing along to the hallelujah chorus in Japanese. It was quite the multicultural service.

This religion is a fantastic mix of Christian, Buddhist, and Shinto elements, with the organs and music and devotion found in Christianity, the Ancestor worship and earth-energy loving wisdom and magic of Shinto, and the chanting/bodhisattva impulse of Buddhism. However, it has also inherited that annoying evangelism of Christianity, which is quite a turn off. I’m always asked when I will become a member of the church, which involves paying $100 for a special necklace that transmits the power of the messiah into my body. “Don't you want to be able to help others and create miracles?” they ask. If God is everywhere, then I don't need a special necklace to harness care and miraculous power. But hey, whatever they need to get motivated. Japanese culture is full of magic objects and charms: little key chains to help you win exams and keep you from getting into accidents. Love charms and potions and rituals. The closest thing we have might in the west to this kind of magic is holy water. However, we are quite superstitious as well, I think.
But just the other day I was at Ikku shrine (with the thousand year old trees) and a new car pulled up to the front of the Shrine and the priest came out in full dress and waved a special wand over the car to bless it. The couple then thanked the priest and left. Never hurts, I guess. Unless it gives a false sense of security. That can be fatal. (anyone interested in tenseishinbikai should visit their homepage or email me. I have a lot to say.)

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