Huston Smith: Essays on World Religion

By Huston Smith; M. Darrol Bryant | Go to book overview

A Note on Shinto

All life-forms look out upon the world from a center of individual identity, and this holds for collectivities as well as for individuals. For the Japanese people Shinto constitutes their identity while Buddhism opens them to the world--most directly to the peoples of China and Korea, but beyond those to India and all Asia. Thus while Buddhism is centrifugal, Shinto is centripetal; at heart it is reverence and love for things Japanese. Spatially this reverential love is directed towards the land, the Japanese islands. Temporally it focuses on a genealogy which, beginning at home and in neighborhoods with family and clan, moves through the myths of the imperial family to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, symbol of the metaphysical reality from which all things proceed.

Actually, the land too is included in this lineage, for the Nihonji reports that the islands of Japan arose from drippings from a jeweled spear that Izanagi and Izanami plunged into the briny sea. By virtue of that miraculous origination, nature in these islands is sanctuary, a truth that finds expression in tori-i placed to frame sacred landscapes, and in the designation of notable natural objects--mountains, groves, springs--as kami. One of the most treasured objects in my own home, the gift of a Japanese professor who visited me while I was teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a kakimono whose handsome inscription reads (The universe is spiritual). I treasure it for its beauty, but even more for its message as a corrective to the lifeless, mechanistic cosmology that scientism has foisted on the West.

____________________
This note is excerpted from the Introduction to the projected Japanese edition of Smith's The World's Religions. It was pre-published in the Atheneum Society Review (Spring 1985), pp. 79-80.

-93-

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Huston Smith: Essays on World Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Notes xxix
  • PART I FOUNDATIONS 1
  • Accents of the World's Philosophies 3
  • Accents of the World's Religions 18
  • Conclusion 32
  • Notes 33
  • Truth in Comparative Perspective 37
  • PART II THE SPLENDID PRISM 55
  • East Asia Transcendence in Traditional China 57
  • Tao 1 Now: An Ecological Testament 71
  • A Note on Shinto 93
  • Spiritual Discipline in Zen and Comparative Perspective 96
  • "Celestial Mirages": Reflections on Thought and Truth 113
  • Conclusion 123
  • Notes 124
  • South Asia India and the Infinite 129
  • Vedic Religion and the Soma Experience 135
  • Conclusion 152
  • BIBLIOGRAPRY 155
  • The Importance of the Buddha 161
  • Tibetan Chant: Inducing the Spirit 1 166
  • References 175
  • The West The Western Way: An Essay on Reason and the Given 176
  • The Conceptual Crisis in the Modern West 197
  • Western Philosophy as a Great Religion 205
  • PART III CONSEQUENCES: SOCIAL, EDUCATIONAL, AND ECUMENICAL 225
  • The Relevance of the Great Religions for the Modern World 227
  • Another World to Live in, or How I Teach the Introductory Course 237
  • This Ecumenical Moment: What Are We Seeking? 250
  • Conclusion 260
  • Postmodernism's Impact on the Study of Religion 262
  • References 279
  • Bibliography 281
  • Index 288
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