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Renzaburo
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 3:24 pm    Post subject: Question about Shintoism Reply with quote
Shintoism is of course polytheistic, based as it is on a Multitude of gods. But it also does Not have any Supreme-Being. Do we conclude from that non-belief that Shintoism does Not believe in any Creation? In other words, does that mean that the Universe was always here?
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Well, Shinto is actually fairly complicated, and there's even debate on whether it should be classified as a religion. In any case, here's the basics.

1) Shinto, not Shintoism. Shintoism is like Christianityism or Islamism. It doesn't work as a word.

2) There is no one Supreme Being in the sense of a Judeo-Christian "God". But that doesn't mean there wasn't a Creation Myth. In the Kojiki, it is recorded that the twins Izanami and Izanagi (who were also married) created the islands of Japan and descended down to Earth and gave birth to the other islands and other gods...

3) But really, the notion of "gods" in Shinto is also problematic. Yes, they have multiple "gods", so it is a form of polytheism. Yes, there are gods with names and stories and personalities and domains (rain, storms, wealth, rice, etc) like in Greek or Roman or Norse pantheons. But there's also this much vaguer, hard to define concept of kami, which designates those "gods" as well as the spirits of individual places and things, which very often are not named or described, but are simply acknowledged as being sacred.

A tree can be sacred, a river can be sacred, a rock or a mountain can be sacred, without having a given named "god" associated with it.

4) One of the things that makes Shinto problematic to classify as a religion is the fact that it doesn't deal with a moral/ethical code, nor does it deal much with Heaven, Hell or other forms of afterlife. It does have a Creation story but doesn't focus too much on the "big questions" - the nature of man, the nature of the Universe, questions of who created the universe or how or when. It's not that Shinto assumes it was always here, or not; rather, it's simply that Shinto doesn't address the question.

Shinto is much more about rituals - rituals for a good harvest, praying to do well on your exams, wedding ceremonies, rituals to bless your possessions - and about respecting, acknowledging, and appreciating the sacred in everyday life, than it is about living your life according to a given code, or about addressing these theological, philosophical "big questions."

I hope that I've helped to clear up some of your confusion.

You can find out a lot more about Shinto by Googling it.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Um.. also, why should the absence of a single Judeo-Christian style God automatically mean that a given culture doesn't believe in a Creation myth?

Nearly every culture has one. the Wikipedia article actually has a rather nice list of a lot of different myths. In many cultures, there is a creator god, or two, who subsequently give birth to many other gods and who do not hold a place as Supreme Deity.

In other words, the Creator, whether it be Izanagi or Mbombo or Kamui or Chaos, does not necessarily have to be the King of the Gods in any given pantheon, and more often in fact is not.

There are actually very few religions in the world that are monotheistic, believing in a Supreme Creator God as the Jews, Christians and Muslims do.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Question about Shintoism Reply with quote
Renzaburo wrote:
In other words, does that mean that the Universe was always here?


Stephen Hawking would have some interesting answers to this question as well.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:


4) One of the things that makes Shinto problematic to classify as a religion is the fact that it doesn't deal with a moral/ethical code, nor does it deal much with Heaven, Hell or other forms of afterlife. It does have a Creation story but doesn't focus too much on the "big questions" - the nature of man, the nature of the Universe, questions of who created the universe or how or when. It's not that Shinto assumes it was always here, or not; rather, it's simply that Shinto doesn't address the question.

Shinto is much more about rituals - rituals for a good harvest, praying to do well on your exams, wedding ceremonies, rituals to bless your possessions - and about respecting, acknowledging, and appreciating the sacred in everyday life, than it is about living your life according to a given code, or about addressing these theological, philosophical "big questions."



Isn't this the reason why Shinto and Buddhism are sometimes intertwined as dual religions? Buddhism "answers" all the big issues you mentioned. It's like someone practices Shinto rituals throughout life to succeed and turns to Buddhism to deal with the afterlife.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Exactly. Rather than seeing the two as contradictory or competing religions, the Japanese see them as complementary, filling in the gaps the other leaves.

We recently discussed in one of my courses the original introduction of Buddhism to Japan...

On top of other aspects, other considerations, it was seen as a nice complement to native beliefs in terms of providing additional spiritual protection. People prayed at shrines and performed rituals to ward of storms and disease, for example, and so if building a temple could help ward off storms and disease too, then you're doubling your spiritual protection. Might as well go for it.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The early mixing really depends on when you are talking about. Initially, Buddhism was seen as a rival to the native kami-based religion, since many clans' power was tied to their management of various ritual duties. This was really more a secular power struggle than a religious one, though, at least in my view of it.

For some of the earliest mixing of the philosophies you can probably look at Usa Hachiman's endorsement of the Buddhist priest Dokyo's bid for power in the 8th century, though even in the Heian period certain ritualists were expected to keep themselves "pure" from Buddhist teaching and ritual (which was seen, at least later, as sinful but acceptable, since you could strive for Buddhist Nirvana in your next life). The shrine maidens of Ise are an example, here.

Still, I think the common folk tended to blend the two together from an early age, even doing the same with early Christianity in the 16th century (I've heard of people taking the Christian prayers and using them as essentially mystical chants for protection), though Christianity was not as flexible as Buddhism regarding the position of kami (they couldn't all be explained away as saints as had often been the case in Pagan Europe).


-Josh
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
[quote="lordameth"]
1) Shinto, not Shintoism. Shintoism is like Christianityism or Islamism. It doesn't work as a word.

Actually, redundant as it seems, Shintoism with the suffix "ism," is acceptable. Because I looked it up in the dictionary, and both words, both Shinto and Shintoism are acceptable.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
And most dictionaries will also offer the incorrect "octopi" as an acceptable plural of "octopus".

It's a Japanese area specialist thing. We don't pluralize Japanese nouns, and we don't add "-ism" to "Shintô".
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
JLBadgley wrote:


Still, I think the common folk tended to blend the two together from an early age, even doing the same with early Christianity in the 16th century (I've heard of people taking the Christian prayers and using them as essentially mystical chants for protection), though Christianity was not as flexible as Buddhism regarding the position of kami (they couldn't all be explained away as saints as had often been the case in Pagan Europe).


-Josh
Lack of flexibility indeed! As I understand it, the Portuguese Jesuits took a very intolerant view of any "pagan" practices, while the Dutch Protestants said "we're just here to trade; worship however you want." Guess who got to stay and who got tossed out? Just Kidding Of course, the Christians ruined it by tipping off Ieyasu that religious conquest will inevitably be the doorway for military conquest. (But then again, I think Ieyasu was savvy enough to figure that one out on his own).
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And most dictionaries will also offer the incorrect "octopi" as an acceptable plural of "octopus".
I remember this from a flame war in the 90's. Since "pus" is a Greek word for "foot," the plural would have to be in the Greek form, "octopodes." Not that I know Greek or anything, but I remember this particular word in this particular context. Now that I've read more historical texts, I flinch a little when I see "ronins" or "shoguns" and the like. Just like the Nemuri Kyoshiro thing.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
onnamusha wrote:
Lack of flexibility indeed! As I understand it, the Portuguese Jesuits took a very intolerant view of any "pagan" practices, while the Dutch Protestants said "we're just here to trade; worship however you want." Guess who got to stay and who got tossed out?


The Jesuits weren't too bad--and most seem to have been Italian (to specifically try to separate the Church from the state of Portugal), but after Spain gained dominion over Portugal and they were forced to open up to a lot of the Spanish Dominicans and Franciscans (the same ones doing such a lovely job in the Americas), the friction really kicked off.

However, the "flexibility" I'm talking about has more to do with co-belief structures. Christianity can tolerate people practicing another religion next to it, but doesn't tend to do so well in a syncretic relationship--that whole "one God" thing tends to get in the way (as it does in Judaisim and Islam). Thus, if you want to convert, you pretty much have to give up worshiping other deities. Buddhism, on the other hand, allows you to worship just about whatever deities you want.


-Josh
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
onnamusha wrote:
I remember this from a flame war in the 90's. Since "pus" is a Greek word for "foot," the plural would have to be in the Greek form, "octopodes."

Actually, Greek for octopus is octopodos, and plural, octopodoi ! Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
If we were actually using the Greek word, yeah. Wink (And I think that's okto...) Cool
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Octopus χταπόδι chtapodi
Eight οκτώ okto
Foot πόδι podi
Feet πόδια podia
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Akaguma wrote:
onnamusha wrote:
I remember this from a flame war in the 90's. Since "pus" is a Greek word for "foot," the plural would have to be in the Greek form, "octopodes."

Actually, Greek for octopus is octopodos, and plural, octopodoi ! Smile
In my own defense, I'd like to say, I already said I don't know Greek, and now I guess I've proven it! Laughing
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Since the topic seems to have turned to the octopus, it reminded me of a chambara TV series where one of the main characters was known as Tako, which, as you know, is the Japanese word for octopus. The TV series was Sanbiki Samurai(Three Samurai)starring Takahashi Hideki as one of the three protagonists. But I don't know the name of the actor who played Tako. What I was wondering is, why did the character have the nickname of Tako. At first,I thought that maybe due to the octopus's tentacles, it might metaphorically mean that the character is lanky and gangly. But that was Not the case since the actor had a medium build. Also his weapon of choice was a spear, but I don't think it had anything to do with his nickname. So I was wondering if anybody might know why a person would be called Tako. It might be due to something peculiar to the Japanese culture.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Was he bald with bug eyes?
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 2:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Or have a blustery, reddish complexion with a personality to match?
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
These names below can all be pronounced ‘Tako’. Are you sure the fellow in the drama uses the ‘octopus’ versions? I made up what could be a similar meaning in English terms for what could be nickname or familiar names.

多巨 nickname like in ‘the big guy’
多子 maybe like ‘the kid’
多古 could be ‘gramps’
田子 ‘little farmer’
太古 ‘old fatty’
蛸 ‘octopus’ I’ve heard some women complain about guys that have hands like one
田児 maybe ‘baby farmer’
夛湖 ?? lake’
夛胡 ?? barbarian’
鮹 another kanji for ‘octopus’
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
"Octopus" is neo-Latin based on the Greek word for scorpion (octopous) (Webster's), therefore we have the Latin plural "octopi."

A nisei friend of mine in the US is named "Utako," but everyone calls her "Tako" because in English the 2nd syllable is accented so heavily. She lived in a area where there were lots of Spanish speakers, so whether one associated her name with the animal or the flat-bread tacos, her name provided a laugh.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
"Octopus" is neo-Latin based on the Greek word for scorpion (octopous) (Webster's), therefore we have the Latin plural "octopi."

...and ancient Greek for octopus is polypous ("many feet"). Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Just as an afterthought,it might be worth noting to add that since the Tako character used a spear, it was at least for me the first time I saw a main character on a television series using a spear on a regular weekly basis. Can anybody add any other television series which did that, or was Sanbiki Samurai the Only tv series to do so?
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Lots of characters used spears as their primary weapon in Japanese TV series. The most prominent one I can think of at the moment is Seki Daisuke on the Kirisute Gomen series.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2009 9:59 am    Post subject: the God of Martial Arts Reply with quote
From a book on Shinto, I read of a diety known as Myojin, that it was the God of Martial Arts. Consequently, Swordsmen would pay tribute to that Myojin diety in order to hopefully improve their Swordsmanship.

But nothing else was said about Myojin. Even from searching the internet, I could find hardly anything. Only that there is a shrine which includes Myojin. What I wanted to know is the background and story of Myojin. Can anybody enlighten me?
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2009 2:11 pm    Post subject: Re: the God of Martial Arts Reply with quote
Renzaburo wrote:
From a book on Shinto, I read of a diety known as Myojin, that it was the God of Martial Arts. Consequently, Swordsmen would pay tribute to that Myojin diety in order to hopefully improve their Swordsmanship.

But nothing else was said about Myojin. Even from searching the internet, I could find hardly anything. Only that there is a shrine which includes Myojin. What I wanted to know is the background and story of Myojin. Can anybody enlighten me?


I think you might be thinking of Fudo Myo-o, who is considered the patron deity of swordsmen, but he's a figure out of esoteric Buddhism.
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