Shinto, the religion that belongs to Japan indigenously, before the arrival of Buddhism, is an animist religion. It believes that the physical world and the spiritual world are inseparable, that natural phenomena are also living entities like human beings, and that humans dwell in the world of nature merely as part of it, never as lords and masters.
Today Japan bore witness to that belief in an awesome and terrifying way. A devastating earthquake — jishin — and a scouring wave — tsunami– testified to human insignificance in the face of nature’s might.
Modern technology enabled the rest of the world to look on in horrified fascination as the towers swayed and shook, the earth rumbled and cracked, and the waters roared over the land sweeping everything, animate and inanimate, before them in a jumble of destruction.
I have many friends in Japan, and I thank the heavens that all of them are safe, although some endured many hardships. But hundreds, perhaps thousands, did not survive. One friend began, “It is devastating,” then closed her email repeating, “It is devastating.” Another emailed quite simply: “This is Japan.”
In tribute and in recognition, this youtube video of Nikko, a Japanese temple garden in the rain. It may be fanciful here in the West to say that nature is weeping in tribute to some of her creatures. But in Japan, in Shinto, it is simply — what it is.
Each of the rain drops has a tale to tell
about the sorrows of people
about the hardships living things go through
about the arrival of sparrows.
Yamamura Bocho (20th century)
(On View from the Woods, this icon of HOME in Japan, from my photo memories)