The Shugendo Now film is a documentary about the holy mountain of Shugendo which is considered as the path is used for training so that one can achieve spiritual powers. The documentary has received a lot of attention in various forms of Japanese, religious expression which include Zen Buddhism, Japanese Confucian-ism and some types of Shinto. The mountain is considered holy because it is a significant Kami- Buddha combinatory cult that merges well with the pre-Buddhist mountain worship. The Chinese have beliefs that the mountain is a home for the death and also the gods of agriculture. They travel out of their towns to the forest and mountains so that they reconnect with the gods, who live in Shugendo with the hope earning magic powers, healing powers and also for long life. This paper entails an analysis of whether Shinsei’s description of Shugendo as a physical, spiritual practice which engages body, heart, and mind is true.
Shugendo as a Physical Spiritual Practice that engages the Body, Heart, and Mind
I noticed that the entire journey is considered as a physical, spiritual exercise because it involves walking up the mountain and performing a lot of material exercises along the way. These exercises are compulsory for every individual who chooses to participate in the practice. The participants take part in exercises such as seclusion, participating fasting, meditation, magical spells, recite sutras, and engage in austere feats of endurance such as standing and sitting under the cold water from the mountain (Thumas, 2013). While I was watching the film, I realized that each of these exercises has its purpose. For instance, I learned that seclusion was important so that an individual can take his or own time with Buddha. Others such as endurance were meant to taste someone’s faith and to determine whether one is ready to reconnect with Buddha or not.
I also realized that Shinsei’s description that the practice engages the body, heart and the mind was true because I first noted that the Shugendo was a religious practice which needed one to have a strong faith. The practice which had taken the shape of organized religion happened around the end of the Heian period during the attempt by numerous foreign religions to impact the ancient Japan religion (McGuire, 2013). When I noted various physical practices which required one to be physically fit, I realized that the practice also needed the practitioners to use the body. The fact that the participants of this practice needed to have a strong faith for them to sway and reconnect with Buddha, shows that the journey also engaged the heart. Judging from the practices I saw in the film, I concluded that one need not to have a faint heart for him or her to be successful with the practice.
Watching the Shugendo Now film was interesting and educational. I learned a lot of information about the Japan religion that I had learned in the past. I noted that the practice meant a lot to the practitioners and one needed to have a strong faith to go through with the whole practice. I also realized that Shugendo was a physical, spiritual practice that engaged the body, heart, and mind.
McGuire, M. P. (2013). Participatory Filmmaking among Contemporary Shugendō Practitioners: Representing an Esoteric Tradition in an Accessible Documentary Film. Journal of American-East Asian Relations, 20(4), 325-339.
Thumas, J. (2013). Shugendo Now. Journal of Religion & Film, 17(1), 28.