SPEAKING PEACE TO THE NATIONS

by Rev. Yukitaka Yamamoto

compiled by Stuart D. B. Picken

 

Introduction by Prof. Stuart D. B. Picken

1. For the Renaissance of Mankind

2. Tolerance in Shinto and its Limitations

3. The Meaning of Misogiharai

4. Misogi-harai and Misogi-Shuho

5. The Meaning of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

6. Shinto: Japan's Spiritual Roots

7. Kannagara : Shinto in Everyday Life in Japan

8. Nature in the Shinto Tradition

9. Shinto: Japan's Source of Renewal

10. The Formative Influence of Shinto on Japanese Daily Life


INTRODUCTION

 

The Reverend Yukitaka Yamamoto is a man whom I have known and respected for many years. It is a privilege for me to have the opportunity of preparing a collection of lectures and addresses given by him to members of the International Association for Religious Freedom, the IARF, over a period of years since the beginning of his involvement in it. He possesses a charisma and an individualistic style that mark him out for religious leadership and that are immediately identifiable to any who have the good fortune to come into contact with him.

He comes from a long line of priests and while conscious of his precious heritage, is by no means a prisoner of tradition. Indeed, he is as much a prophet as a priest, a combination of roles and skills rarely found combined in one personality. In these papers, he is the prophet rather than priest. He speaks from a background which more than justifies his approach. He saw Japan destroyed by fanatical militarism and by the atomic bomb. He opposed the war as did his father, and both lived to see the vindication of their beliefs. He helped in the process of reconstruction and has been committed to the way of peace more ardently than ever since those early days.

The title Speaking Peace to the Nations may seem presumptuous, but if it is borne in mind that he was addressing members of the IARF, its appropriateness is justified. The IARF is a peace-making movement and Yukitaka Yamamoto is a prominent member of it. lie has served several years as its international treasurer. He is a man, worthy and qualified in all respects (although he would probably refuse the claim) to lead the IARF. It is my personal hope that one day he will be given that opportunity.

In presenting these papers, I have tried to maintain the free flowing style which is characteristic of his presentations so that something of his dynamic spontaneity may be felt. If there is any rigidity or excessive formality, the fault is mine. There is to be seen also, the evolution of a deeper understanding of Japan and Japan's place in the modern world and the willingness of at least one man to express that meaning in terms of international committment. Many of those who read these words will know him personally. For them, they will serve more as a reminder of a powerful personality and a sincere mind and heart rather than as an introduction to the ideas of' a 20th century Shinto visionary . Whatever else, they can function as a reference point in any discussion of his ideas.

For the records, Paper I was given at an IARF Conference at Tsubaki Grand Shrine in August 1979. Papers 2 to 5 were presented at the 23rd IARF Congress held at Oxford in the United Kingdom in August 1978. Paper 6 was read at Vancouver in 1983, Paper 7 at Groningen University in 1984 and Paper 8 at Harvard in 1985. Paper 9 was given at Stanford University in March 1985 and Paper 10 at Bad Boll in West Germany in 1986.

They are presented to members of the IARF with all good wishes and in the hope that they will serve the ends of the 1987 Congress and its theme -- the peace which our sorely tried world deeply and desperately needs.

Stuart D. B. Picken,
Tokyo,
May 1997

1. FOR THE RENAISSANCE OF MANKIND

Since the dawn of history, mankind has been foolish enough to fight constantly against himself and against his own nature. Man against man, group against group and nation against nation, we have fought for centuries. These wars have not only been for political and economic reasons alone, but also for academic, ideological and religious reasons. These wars were in direct opposition to the will of the kami, the manifest presence of the divine in the world.

Today we face a world filled with confusion, disunity, and despair. More than one third of the world's population lives under an ideology that denies the existence of kami, of the divine. But even in the free world, an ever-increasing lack of faith is evident, especially among the young. Why is this so? It is so because mankind has concentrated all its effort on material development while the development of the spiritual dimension has been entirely neglected. Contemporary man is, in a sense, crippled both mentally and spiritually.

In order to relieve this condition we must create a new unity of spiritual enlightenment and realize a renaissance of mankind. How can we do this? We can do it only by possessing the wisdom we can attain through philosophy, and to me, philosophy, the love of wisdom is following the will of the kami, the will of the divine.

We find as a characteristic of the twentieth century the claim that "God is dead", made by many philosophers and even some theologians. Here we see God crucified, leaving man alone and abandoned in the universe. The true value of man's life is undermined by a totally materialistic civilization. In the confusion of modern society we find a limited and twisted Man, divorced from and hostile to the universe, united only in the desperate pursuit of false values, empty pleasures, and fanatic, inhuman ideologies.

Does God exist or not? This is a question whose answer can never be empirically proven. It can be only answered by Faith. Shinto's answer to this question is that God/kami is Spirit without form ever present in both Heaven and earth. When we interpret this statement, Heaven and earth means the universe itself. The symbol of the universe is the Spirit and that Spirit is God/kami.

Mother Nature in this universe gives us daily blessings and the force of life. This life force is called kannagara which, directly translated means "like kami" or "the Way of the kami". This concept is the source of Shinto religion -- it is the Principle, the Truth, and the Way to perfect ourselves in the ideal of the plan of the kami and Mother Nature. Although the name may differ, kannagara is in fact the basis of all religions. Its presence in all religions unites them inherently and also allows the unity of mankind, but only through our realizing the truth enshrined in this point.

This is the basic idea and teaching of Shinto. The teacher who shows us the way to live according to nature is Sarudahiko, primal kami of guidance, and I am the 96th generation of High Priests to serve this kami. God/kami ceases to exist only when the image vanishes from man's mind, when we lose track of the way or when everything in the world ceases to be meaningful.

Present-day institutionalized religions have not been able to save the world or convince mankind of the affirmative reply to the vital question of the existence of God/kami'. This is due partly to the inability of the world's religions to unite in self-examination. Superficial differences in rituals and interpretations of belief have kept them in constant conflict . The young are losing confidence and faith in institutions they feel do not live up to their own standards. And if we cannot inspire our youth, we cannot expect a meaningful future.

How then, can the world's religions revitalize and unify themselves to complete the task that God/kami has given to us? Now is the time for us to aside our trivial differences and concentrate our energies on a more constructive effort to create a basic unity among the world's religions. Present- day religions as they are are unable to save mankind, and yet it is only religion through its contact with cosmic powers that can in fact save mankind. We must realize, therefore, that despite the differences in style, the purpose of our worship is the same. We must unite in a firm belief in each other before we can make a serious effort to deal with the critical issues faced by modern man.

We cannot hate the world we live in, nor can we live hating ourselves. We cannot Sit back, shaking our heads and criticizing ourselves . Today, half the population in the world is starving while the other half, better off materially, is dying of spiritual starvation. A famous Japanese writer once said of this century as experiencing the laughter that comes at the end of a civilization. Indeed, our empty laughter with no spiritual joy seems to echo wildly in this vast solitary universe. God/kami intended an ideal world in which man could live in perfect moderation balancing the material and spiritual life. Instead, we live in a world of excess. There is little or nothing spiritual but an excess merely of material greed and isolation.

It is for us to decide the fate of modem mankind. We are responsible to God/kami for deciding whether our technical civilization will lead us to Heaven or to Hell. We must unite ourselves in prayer, self-examination and purification in the spirit of kannagara to realize the spiritual re-awakening of mankind. Only when we have done this successfully can we dare to say that we have a truly modern civilization, in which the spiritual aspects of life are in perfect balance with the technical.

The philosophy of life and the philosophy of the conscience are the necessary tools for man to achieve this goal. Shinto can contribute these tools to this common effort. It would give me the greatest joy, pleasure and pride, as the High Priest of the Tsubaki Grand Shrine, to be able to join and make my contribution, however modest to the monumental task of creating a renaissance of mankind.

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