Tangible spirituality

I was sitting in the library, peering out the window, when I watched in amusement a squirrel jumping from one tree to another.

Scurrying off the high branch

The squirrel in air

Landing just barely

I find it so interesting that Japanese religion and spirituality is so “present and local” (Lecture 1/23).  Most monotheistic religions emphasize the idea of God and heaven being separate from the realm of reality of mortals.  They emphasize God as an entity beyond reach, but may be available through certain means, but those means themselves are not God, but represent this distant Being. It’s somewhat comforting to think of spiritual objects in the Japanese way, “not as representations of kami but as kami.” (Kitagawa 45).   The tangibility of Japanese spirituality is nice and calming.  I also appreciate the “sense of mutual participation” in divinity. (Kitagawa 48)  It humbles man, and urges him to seek beyond himself for the definition of self.  This definition of sacredness idea seemed foreign at first.  However, reflecting back on my youth, I realized my Bengali culture instilled a bit of this notion in me.  Children are often told to touch the feet of elders as a sign of respect, this is known as salaam. To give salaam meant to acknowledge someone’s sacredness.  Elderly were not the only persons/things that were sacred, but so were books, kitchen counters, musical instruments. If I ever stepped on a book, it felt disrespectful and it felt necessary to salaam it.  Books contained knowledge, they themselves are knowledge, and stepping on it was like stepping on sacred knowledge.   This visceral need to pay respect to small objects around me has dissipated a bit since, but it’ll be nice to revisit this concept and explore it further in class.

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