What Shinto is Not

The following represents the personal view of the author.

It seems to me that Shinto is often misrepresented by those that speak and write about it. In my view this is inevtiable because, one of the most important aspects of Shinto is that it does not hold that religious truth may be effectively transmitted by the word.

Protestant churches, Islam and Judaism are against "craven" images of God. The inside of an Islamic temples, Synagogues and Churches often very plain, reflecting the severity of their iconoclastism . I think that the reason for this absence of the images results from the the fact that these religions hold that God cannot be represented by an image. Nonethe-less, despite warnings by Maimoides, Jews are seem much less senstive to the dangers of misrepresenting god with words. Islamic temples lack all images but proudly portray the linguistic name of God. The Christian bible goes so far as to equate the word with God and most versions of Christianity place a great deal of emphasis upon transmitting the gospel.  Shinto on the other hand does not have a linguistic dogma. And  it even can even be argued to have the same attitude towards words that the book religions take to wards images - words misrepresent god just as much as images. Words which are products of human society miss the mark. Shinto avoids them.

At the same time, Shinto gods are not mountains, and for the most part Christian Judaic and Islamic preaching distinguish between the word and God. But just as in the biblical religions there is a strong connection betweeb God and his holy word, in Shinto there is a very strong link between the God-body (as natural or man made artifact) and god itself. Shinto emphasises the link between holy sites and God. One American follower of Shinto expressed what a Shinto experience of God in the following way -

There are times when I've found an Especially Lovely, or Wonderous Spot, that I feel like I'm in a Holy Place, it's hard for me to explain, it's just a Feeling.

No rules, no words

There is nonetheless no rule in Shinto, that states that the word cannot convey God, because in Shinto there are no rules.  And why are there no rules in Shinto? I think be held that in Shinto, that in a sense there are no words, there are only writings, utterances, or, like now, images on screens. So, if  the bible does it for you more than your favorite lake, tree or mountain then even that is okay by Shinto too, in the sense that your bible (the book itself) will be taken as another object that is capable of inducing the same holy awe and an experience of God (which is not the book itself).  Indeed there are some Shinto Shrines wherein Buddhist scriptures are enshrined as the God-body.

However, it my personal opinion that books certified and approved by the National Shrine Shinto Organisation and or the two national universities place a little too much emphasis on written tradition such as the Norito, the Kojiki and Nihonshoki  Myths and Sumiyoshi Shinto.  Some priests, educated at the above establishments, claim that the Shinto does indeed consist in the correct interpretation of the myths and writings of ancestors, I am not a supporter of the notion that Shinto has or could have a written creed, dogma or bible. I believe that Shinto cannot be effectively transmitted without experience of Shinto action (ritual) and Shinto environment.

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