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Study of Religion. WEEK 7: Space How is the study of space relevant to the study of religion?
Grapard, Allan. History of Religions, Vol 21 (3). 'Flying Mountains and Walkers of Emptiness: Toward a Definition of Sacred Space in Japanese Religions' pg 195 - 221, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982.--
Japanese have 'throughout most of their history', had 'a mythic conception of their nation which they have expressed in diverse ways'. 'the establishment of a sacred geography' for Japan. 'this article is an attempt to define successive stages in this process of sacralisation of space' o and suggest ways in which Japanese definitions of sacred space have been related to conceptions of time and notions of the relationship between the sacred and the profane. 'ever-changing reality in which different categories of sacred space represent different categories of the religious experience and diverse human perspectives on the universe.' 'three distinct categories of 'sacred space' evolved in medieval japan.' o 1) first category= 'sacred site'- 'a wellstructured, clearly delimited space seen as the actual residence of a divinity.' o 2) second category= 'sacred area' -'a more extensive geographical area than the sacred---
site, usually consisting of the territory covered by a pilgrim during pilgrimage' o 3) third category= 'sacred nation', 'broadest category of all...this concept included all of Japan and in much Buddhist philosophy could be expanded to include the universe itself.' P197- 'there are more than 80,000 Shinto shrines in Japan. Each marks a site where a divinity has manifested itself and made its dwelling.' Shrines contain 'a certain object which was the point of contact for the divinity with the earth' e.g. stone, tree. o 'when the landing site is a stone, it is set on a bed of white pebbles surrounded by other stones, wooden/bamboo pillars erected at the corners and connected by ropes' o Enclosed area is purified. 'in the act of purification of the Shinto shrine, the act of binding is seen as trapping the power of the divinity within the sacred space' P198- 'such sites would have been most appropriate sites for the appearance of divinities and for the performance of set rituals.' P199, ''shintai', the body or support of the divine' 'a shintai may be a knot, a tama, a mirror, a sword, or any object of striking appearance...even a mountain.' Shintaizan= mountain as shintai. 'A shintaizan was a mountain which in its entirety was regarded as the support/site of residence for the divine or as the actual body of a divinity/divinities.'
Possible explanation for the deification of mountains: 'characteristics of mountains as opposed to plains. Human activity belonged to the plains...mountains were untouched/areas of nonactivity.' 'hence the mountain was seen as a space whose nature was Other.' 3 different categories of 'mountains deified in Shinto' o 1) 'mountains revered for their importance in agriculture' o 2) 'mountains that may be seen simply as a contact place of the divine' o 3) 'the notion of the mountain as the realm of death.'
? 'in Shinto, just as the nature of time-inlife is seen as different from the nature of time-in-death, so a distinction is made between the space-of-life and the space-of-death.' o 'this is precisely the same distinction that is made between the plains and the mountains.' Relation of mountains to death -'after death, souls are seen as undergoing a process of purification, at the end of which they become gods' Pg202 'sacred space was organized by priests according to the theory of the five elements and chosen according to the theories of divination which were accepted by the Bureau of Religious Affairs and the Buddhists' Chinese influence, account of the 'tonomine ryakki' (text from Heian period) shows that 'the mountain in question is seen as axis mundi, the centre of the
universe, but with a mention of the four directions, which is a Chinese element.' The Beginnings of Interaction between Shinto and Buddhism in the Definition of Sacred Space'-9th century- Esoteric Buddhism introduced to Japan, 'complex interaction began between Shinto an Buddhism' resulting in 'the emergence of a second category of sacred space, that of the sacred area' 'according to early Esoteric Buddhism, sacred space was the 'site of the realization of Buddhahood.' Early practitioners were trained in mountain areas Pg203 'rituals used to sacralise a particular area in Esoteric Buddhism reveal interesting parallels with Shinto rituals.' Excerpt 'written for ceremony surrounding Mount Koya' demonstrates o Pg 204 'striking parallels with Shinto' o 1) 'a mountain has been chosen as the holy site of practice' o 2) 'no differentiation is made between the realm of the Buddha and the realm of humans.' o 3) 'the holy site is ritually purified by chasing away all enemies of the Law' o 4) 'protection for the living is offered by the spirits of' past rulers and the dead. Esoteric Buddhism- 'in Kukai's text it is not only by ritual that profane space is made sacred.' Also occurs through 'an internal process leading to Awakening'
CONCLUSION- 'by the middle of the Heian period, a sacred geography had evolved in Japan according to which a clear distinction was made between the plans (the world of the secular) and the mountains (the world of the holy)'in both Shinto and Buddhism, only those sites which had been ritually defined possessed he characteristics of metaphysical realms.'The Sacred Area--
'the concept of the sacred area underlay two important features of medieval Japanese Buddhism, the pilgrimage and the mandala.' 'buddhist notion that the religious experience was a process... gradually, a network of roads was mapped out for believers, leading to various sacred spaces.' o 'the entirety of the path followed by the pilgrim was seen to be sacred.' Movement from the profane to the sacred ('which is the site of the manifestation of the divine/chosen site of practice leading to Buddhahood.' 'the farther pilgrims move from their common world, the closer they come to the realm of the divine.' 'when the pilgrims arrived at the mountain, their general attitude had already changed.' Pg207' through participation in religious practice, a fusion had to occur between man and the sacred environment.'
'the ecstasy felt at the summit of a mountain was said to eliminate all pain and all existential malaise, and to introduce the awareness of another order of existence' Pg208 - 'in Kukai's thought Awakening could bring about the transformation of polluted profane space into pure space, a Pure Land, the original residence of the Buddha's heart mind' A mandala= 'a representation of the residence of the Buddha', 'a metaphysical space which provided an insight into what Buddhism called the Realm of Essence.' o 'a mandala described the organization and mysteries of the universe from the perspective of things as they are in their fundamental 'suchness'' 'a practitioner of Esoteric Buddhims 'enters' a mandala through its gate, invokes the divinities which are represented, and identifies with them one after the other until reaching the centre, in which there is a representation of the cosmic Buddha from which all other Buddhas and their lands emanate. o 'the practitioner goes from the manifestation to the source, from the form to the essence.' 'mandalization of Japan... the 'Jinteki mondo' divides all of Japan into 2 mandalas, one in the east and one in the west.' o-
Shinkoku = 'divine nation' SUMMARY- 'the mandalization of space was a vast historical process which aimed at making all Japan a sacred site: that
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