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Thread: Tori Gates

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    Default Tori Gates

    Hi guys,

    What exactly is a Tori gate and what is its religios signifance or is the gate merely a japanese architural decor ?
    Prince Loeffler
    Shugyokan Dojo

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    Default Tori

    Hi,
    The Tori Gate marks the entrance into holy precincts, it is important to show suitable respect at the Tori, Japanese worshipers bow at this point while at the same time remembering that standing in the middle of the Tori when bowing prevents the Kami passing back and forth.
    There are several different styles of Tori. The most common form is where a column on each side supports crossbars, which can vary in number.
    Brian Carpenter

    Haruchi Umuchi Tsuzuchi !

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    Default Tori

    Thanks Brian,

    So this architecture holds religious symbolism. Considering there are many branches of buddhism, would this symbol be limited to shinto only ?

    Without going off on the thread, Would Shinto be considered Buddhism ? I do know that Shinto is the primary or first religion of japan, while Buddhism comes from India ( I think ?) thus they can't be related or be of the same branch..Can they ?

    I have seen pictures where these gates are found sometimes near or middle of the lakes. A friend has a version, according to him the tori gate was supposed to be a perch of some spiritual bird to rest upon. Is he making this up ?

    Brian, I really appreciate the time you have given in answering these mundane questions. I am starting to have some interest in shinto.
    Prince Loeffler
    Shugyokan Dojo

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    The early inhabitants of Japan lived in an environment of nature that often displayed fierce earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, howling wind and rain, cold fronts and drought...etc.
    Faced with such a fierce natural environment, the early Japanese turned to prayer to escape their fear and to try and calm the anger of nature. Their thoughts and feelings about nature became the starting point from which they developed their conception of the gods and to try to live in harmony with the gods. Of course, at this early time, terms such as `religion` or `Shinto` did not exist.
    But then in the 6th century, things changed with the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. This was when the term `Shinto` (way of the gods), came into being to distinguish native religious traditions from the imported faith, Buddhism.
    Anyway, to try and keep a long story short,When Buddhism finally settled in Japan (after much resistence)Prince Shotoku Taishi saw the need to achieve harmony in the religious systems. Then a new theory evolved in that Kami and Buddhas were both manifestations of the same essential existence. As this theory took hold, it gave birth to Ryobu Shinto (Shinto heavily influenced by Buddhism) and worship of famous mountains.

    So I think that todays Shinto will have lots of Buddhist influence, the evidence can be seen in Shinto Shrine`s in Japan, most have Buddhist structures inside the shrine precincts.Where as Koshinto is a more pure form. My Head Shinto priest, Toshu Fukami is also an ordained priest of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism.

    Hope this helps a bit.

    Last edited by Moriki; 8th June 2003 at 16:12.
    Brian Carpenter

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    Default Re: Tori Gates

    QUOTE]Originally posted by Prince Loeffler
    Hi guys,


    What exactly is a Tori gate and what is its religios signifance or is the gate merely a japanese architural decor ?
    [/QUOTE]


    First off, the word should be torii, a two-character compound that literally means "bird perch"; ("tori" is just a bird). I don't know where that name actually comes from, it may just be descriptive.


    In any case, torii mark entrances to Shinto institutions. They're what may be termed a yonic symbol--the female equivalent of a phallic symbol--so that crossing through one into a shrine represents re-entry to the womb.

    I don't know of this sort of symbolism being used in any Japanese Buddhist context--certainly the torii itself isn't found at the main gates of Buddhist temples. On the other hand, the separation of Buddhism and "Shinto" is really a modern phenomenon, arising out of political motives during the Meiji Restoration era. Prior to that, the distinction between the two religions was literally academic--medieval Japanese religious practices were combinative, and geographically, rather than doctrinally, centered.

    Hope this helps!
    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

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    Default Torii gates

    Hi Karl,
    I have heard that the two vertical pillars are said to represent the divine spirits of the deities Kamurogi and Kamuromi while the centre has the divine spirit of a central deity. This deity brings together the divine procreative powers of the two pillars, which represent the male and female.
    What are your thoughts on this?
    Brian Carpenter

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    Originally posted by Moriki
    worship of famous mountains.

    Hope this helps a bit.

    This famous mountain would be Mt. Fuji, Right ? Brian, Everything helps, I really apprciate the time and effort.
    Prince Loeffler
    Shugyokan Dojo

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    This famous mountain would be Mt. Fuji, Right ? Brian, Everything helps, I really apprciate the time and effort.

    Generally speaking, Mountain worship in Japan falls into four patterns. The fist centers on distinctive peaks, especially volcanoes, like Mt. Fuji, Mt. Aso and Mt. Chokaisan. This faith has its origins when ancient Japanese stood in fear and awe of these `fire mountains`.
    The second form is centered on high mountains where snow and rain fall almost constantly like Mt. Hakusan.
    The third form of mountain worship is rooted in the ancient belief that the souls of the dead migrate to the mountains. This form can be found at mountains like Tateyama and the three Kumano peaks.
    The fourth form is the cult of the sacred mountains.

    The "big three" in mountain worship are Mt. Fuji, Tateyama and Hakusan. Other prominent peaks are Izu Hashiriyu, Togakushi, Daisen, Onntake san, Haguro san, Kumano Sanzan and Hieizan.
    Brian Carpenter

    Haruchi Umuchi Tsuzuchi !

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    Dr Friday,

    Morohashi has an explanation on p.780, Vol. 12 of his "Dai Kanwa Jiten", to the effect that the horizontal beams of the torii were dwelling places for niwatori offered to the kami. In his explanation, the character for niwatori is not the usual {, but uses the older furutori radical (172). Actually. he uses both characters in the same explanation, so presumably there is a difference at least in nuance.

    Best regards,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Default Re: Torii gates

    Originally posted by Moriki
    Hi Karl,
    I have heard that the two vertical pillars are said to represent the divine spirits of the deities Kamurogi and Kamuromi while the centre has the divine spirit of a central deity. This deity brings together the divine procreative powers of the two pillars, which represent the male and female.
    What are your thoughts on this?
    Sorry, but I've never heard of these two deities--and I can't find them in any of my reference books. Are you perhaps thinking of Izanagi and Izanami, the progenitors of the earthly deities in the Kojiki and Nihonshoki accounts?

    In any case, I don't remember ever coming across the explanation for the symbolism you describe, but it sounds plausible as an academic/ascriptive explanation. It sounds like the sort of thing that "nationalistic" late medieval or early modern religious scholars (like Motoori Norinaga) might have coined.

    It's almost certainly not the original meaning of the torii, however. "Shinto," as you noted earlier, represents an amalgamation of ancient, locally based (and, more important to the point here, locally-diverse) cults. Some symbols, including the torii and shimenawa (the rope with the lightning -shaped paper strips attached that hangs around or in front of sacred places), clearly predate the synthesized, imperial cult-centered mythology reflected in the Kojiki and Nihonshoki stories. So it would be very unlikely that this kami-come-lately centralized mythology could have played a significant role in the origins of torii.
    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

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    Extremely interesting. Just thought I'd offer that when I visited Eiheiji, the headquarters of the Soto Zen sect of Buddhism (located in Fukui Prefecture) there was what appeared to be a small Shinto shrine on the grounds of the temple. I am aware that religious syncretism is said to be a hallmark of the Japanese approach to religion, but I thought perhaps someone here could enlighten me as to the significance of this and throw a little light on how such a relationship would work.

    Also, I have a question tha perhaps Dr. Friday or Professor Goldsbury could help me with. It seems to me that the word shuukyou (sorry, don't know how to do diacritical marks) refers, in the minds of the Japanese, to foreign religions, or, at least, to a foreign concept of religion in general, and I am curious about this. A story:

    I was once walking along a street in a residential area of Tokyo in the evening when I heard what sounded like gagaku music coming from down the street. I looked and saw some sort of booth or stand set up with some cloth hangings. Light was emanating from what looked like an open carport and there were some people milling about (it was late spring or early summer as I recall). The booth was manned by a couple of old men dressed in summer kimono who, seeing my interest, waved me down and encouraged me to have a drink of omiki (consecrated sake, if I got it right). I asked what was going on, and they told me that the neighborhood was having the annual festival of their local ujigami. I looked inside the carport and saw an omikoshi and an altar of some kind, I think, which was piled high with votive offereings of sake and fruit, etc. I was told that the neighborhood people would be taking the omikoshi around the perimeter of the neighborhood to invoke the protection of the deity and then returning it to the local shrine where they would then perform some votive dances and pray for the safety and prosperity of the neighborhood which was watched over by this particular deity.

    Needless to say, I was very excited, as I felt I was finally getting a Japanese to tell me what Japanese religion was all about. Whenever I had asked anyone what Shinto was all about, or what people did and what they prayed for, I was met with either blank stares or embarrassed shrugs.

    "So", I said, "this is Japanese religion (shuukyou), right?" The two guys stared at me blankly for a moment and then shook their heads vigorously while waving their hands horizontally back and forth across their faces.

    "No, no", they said. "This isn't shuukyou! It's just our local festival."

    Color me perplexed. I can only assume that to them, their native practices, while clearly of a religious nature, at least as Westerners understand the term, do not fall under the rubric of shuukyou (that is, the "teachings of a sect"). So, this word must mean something different to them. Does it refer to foreign religions, or is Shinto not considered a religon because it has no clear doctrinal teachings or dogma? Or is this just indicative of a post-war uneasiness with the idea of religion in general and Shinto in particular?

    Any comments appreciated
    Last edited by Earl Hartman; 10th June 2003 at 20:01.
    Earl Hartman

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    Originally posted by Earl Hartman
    It seems to me that the word shuukyou (sorry, don't know how to do diacritical marks) refers, in the minds of the Japanese, to foreign religions, or, at least, to a foreign concept of religion in general, and I am curious about this. A story:

    Long SNIP

    "So", I said, "this is Japanese religion (shuukyou), right?" The two guys stared at me blankly for a moment and then shook their heads vigorously while waving their hands horizontally back and forth across their faces.

    "No, no", they said. "This isn't shuukyou! It's just our local festival."

    Color me perplexed. I can only assume that to them, their native practices, while clearly of a religious nature, at least as Westerners understand the term, do not fall under the rubric of shuukyou (that is, the "teachings of a sect"). So, this word must mean something different to them. Does it refer to foreign religions, or is Shinto not considered a religon because it has no clear doctrinal teachings or dogma? Or is this just indicative of a post-war uneasiness with the idea of religion in general and Shinto in particular?

    Any comments appreciated
    Although I am overstating the case to some (perhaps a considerable extent), the degree to which different lineages and practice teachings within Buddhism (I'll get to Shinto in a second) are considered separate SECTS with independent histories and the whole shebang has increased markedly since contact with the Protestant West; particularly in the 20th Century, when Japan, as part of its nation (and national-consciousness) building program, the adoption of Western patterns of scholarship (or use of such patterns as a benchmark) to classify religious and sociological phenomena has resulted in a lot of retrospective cut-and-paste which has done great damage to our understanding of the historical development of Japanese culture and institutions. Even so, while it is fairly common to see references to Tendai-shu, Shingon-shu, Jodoshin-shu, Zen-shu, etctera, a look at the lives of many of the historic figures in Japanese Buddhism will show that studying in different traditions was quite common. Bumping it up a linguistic notch to refer to Shu-kyo (either alone or as part of a compound noun like Shingon Shukyo) might be taken as referring not just to a sect, but as referring to a group with Sectarian Views, which is usually negative here, and more so there. So they may have thought you were saying: "So, this is Japanese Sectarianism, eh?" And their thought is, "no, everybody in the neighborhood takes part, how can he think we are Sectarian?"

    On the other hand, a great many of the so-called "New Religions," which are classified as "Shinto" but generally centered on a charismatic founder do use "kyo" as part of their name: Omoto-kyo, Konko-kyo, and so forth. And there is also the crypto-Buddhist dangerzone of Aum Shinrikyo. These groups tend to have been formed of the dispossessed and outcast of various stripes and, having individually found themselves "outside" tend to form more totalistic communities that cater to a wider range of devotees wants/needs/desires than either local shrine Shinto or any particular Buddhist temple might for those who observe one or another practice in their holy precincts.

    And again, this is a whole different ball of wax from ujigami shinto (basically ancestor veneration and arguably crypto-Confucian Shinto, but that's another post), shrine shinto, culture hero shinto, or the authentic ersatz 20th Century State Shinto which is only sectarian if all Japanese are automatically sect members, though from a global perspective....

    Well, I'll just shut up before I get in any more trouble with this tarbaby.

    In the hope that I've shed some light and not too much heat....

    Fred Little

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    Thank you for your reply Dr. Friday,

    Sorry, but I've never heard of these two deities--and I can't find them in any of my reference books. Are you perhaps thinking of Izanagi and Izanami

    In the beginning of the Amatsu Norito it says:

    `Taka ama hara ni Kamuzumarimasu Kamurogi Kamuromi no mikoto Mochite`

    `Following the word given by Kamurogi and Kamuromi the first pair of gods residing in the heaven of heavens`
    Brian Carpenter

    Haruchi Umuchi Tsuzuchi !

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    Default Re: Tori Gates

    Originally posted by Prince Loeffler

    What exactly is a Tori gate and what is its religios signifance or is the gate merely a japanese architural decor ?
    The precise significance of any torii depends on the purpose for which it is being used and the persons so using it.

    In general, torii found along the pathways of Japanese shrines serve to mark zones of transition from one type of geography to another. They designate the points where the person passing by should re-orientate himself or herself toward something else. According to standard Kokugakuin explanations, when moving inward deeper into the shrine grounds, torii typically imply that one should conduct oneself with a heightened sense of propriety and purity. When moving outward away from the shrine, the torii typically imply that one should conduct oneself with a greater confidence and energy.

    Of course, the average person has never been instructed in these so-called standard explanations. For them, torii simply mean "shrine (i.e., treat with deference)."

    There are many conflicting theories regarding the origin and meaning of the term torii. Personally, the one I find most convincing is that it derives from the Sanskrit term torana, the standard word for the simple gateways that mark the four directions (North, South, East, West) around Buddhist ritual sites. In India today one can find many torana made out of wood beams that look 100% identical to Japanese torii. Similar gateways were used in many Japanese Buddhist rituals prior to 1868, when the Japanese government ordered the creation of "pure" Shinto institutions (which required all Buddhist institutions and ritual practices to be stripped of their so-called "shinto" elements).

    Why would "torana" be pronounced "torii" in Japan? No one knows. The two words are not as far apart as they might first seem, though. The missionaries from Central Asia who first introduced Buddhism to China spoke dialects in which Sanskrit words frequently lost their last syllable. For example, early Chinese Buddhist texts transliterate "buddha" as "bud" and transliterate "dhyana" as "zhan." Only much later did the Chinese adopt more accurate transliterations (such as "bud-da" or "zhan-na"). Therefore, it is possible that torana originally was transliterated as "tora" and in Japan this word became "torii." Alas, we might never know. Objective research on this topic has never been completed. It goes against too many taboos.

    I hope this helps.
    William Bodiford
    Professor
    Dept. of Asian Languages & Cultures
    UCLA

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    Default Re: Re: Tori Gates

    Originally posted by W.Bodiford

    There are many conflicting theories regarding the origin and meaning of the term torii. Personally, the one I find most convincing is that it derives from the Sanskrit term torana, the standard word for the simple gateways that mark the four directions (North, South, East, West) around Buddhist ritual sites. In India today one can find many torana made out of wood beams that look 100% identical to Japanese torii. Similar gateways were used in many Japanese Buddhist rituals prior to 1868, when the Japanese government ordered the creation of "pure" Shinto institutions (which required all Buddhist institutions and ritual practices to be stripped of their so-called "shinto" elements).

    Why would "torana" be pronounced "torii" in Japan? No one knows. The two words are not as far apart as they might first seem, though. The missionaries from Central Asia who first introduced Buddhism to China spoke dialects in which Sanskrit words frequently lost their last syllable. For example, early Chinese Buddhist texts transliterate "buddha" as "bud" and transliterate "dhyana" as "zhan." Only much later did the Chinese adopt more accurate transliterations (such as "bud-da" or "zhan-na"). Therefore, it is possible that torana originally was transliterated as "tora" and in Japan this word became "torii." Alas, we might never know. Objective research on this topic has never been completed. It goes against too many taboos.

    I hope this helps.
    Yes. The Sanskrit-derived 'torana' explanation is also given by Morohashi on the same page as I cited in an earlier post, as "?". Morohashi also prefers the Chinese ON reading of CHOU-KYO, for the 'basic' meaning of bird perch or bird house, reserving the Japanese kun reading for the more 'elevated' meaning to do with niwatori as divine messengers/ offerings etc. Probably Morohashi also read his fair share of Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane.

    Best regards,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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