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What Does Shintoism Teach Us About Ecology?

February 28, 2015

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Nature as Divine
Shinto tradition acknowledges a deep debt to the blessing of nature and the spiritual power which brings about life, fertility, and prosperity. This life-giving power was called Musubi (divine power of growth), and perceived in all the workings of nature. Since the Japanese people felt the divine within nature, they came to hold the ideal of a life that was in harmony with and united with nature. Mountains peaks, deep valleys, and the wide ocean were viewed as dwellings for the divine, and other natural objects such as evergreen trees and huge rocks were considered to be symbols of divine spirits.
Shinto and Agriculture
The Japanese way of life depends heavily on rice cultivation, the form of agriculture best suited to the Japanese climate. Rice is treated as a sacred and indispensable food. Matsuri festivals are traditionally held seasonally in each region to invoke the success of the rice harvest. Over thousands of years, the rituals and festivals associated with rice agriculture gave form to the religion of Shinto. Shinto is therefore both the indigenous folk religion of Japan, and the history of the Japanese people’s way of life.
Shrines as forest sanctuaries
Along city avenues and in the valleys formed by busy urban streets, wherever the Japanese people make their lives, one will always find a luxuriant green of trees. The grove is a ritual space for the worship of the deities, and as such is a part of nature which has been preserved by the Japanese people since ancient times. And it is within such groves that one finds the kami deities are enshrined.