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Thread: Shinto afterlife beliefs

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    Shinto afterlife beliefs

    From I've heard, the Shinto afterlife is somewhat similar to the Sumerian afterlife where the dead wander around in the afterlife and don't have any peace but some say that people who go to the Shinto afterlife experience peace and can even be deified later. I am wondering what is the Shinto afterlife really like as some debate on what it is. If it does have a negative view, why would one practice it?

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    Re: Shinto afterlife beliefs

    From what I understand, Shinto doesn't have too much in the way of afterlife beliefs (although if I remember correctly ancestors can become kami). Afterlife beliefs in Shinto have been influenced by Buddhism. There's a saying I've heard bandied about: "Live as a Shintoist, die as a Buddhist."

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    Re: Shinto afterlife beliefs

    Double-checked with my guy,who graduated in Japanese and linguistics in college: Shinto has no afterlife beliefs. It's based entirely on purification and pleasing/pacifying the kami. This is part of why it dovetailed with Buddhism so easily. Buddhism is all about afterlife, and so the two didn't step on each other's toes and eventually just became "being religious" in Japan, leaving a footprint on a number of cultural activities as well, like Sumo.

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    Sr. Member Cobra's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto afterlife beliefs

    I would venture to say that there are a few implied afterlife beliefs, but a lot of it is left up to the person to decide. Shinto is more about life than death. In fact, things associated with death are considered very impure or polluting. It is correct that ancestors are considered family kami, which implies an afterlife. There is also a belief that children who die early without their names being put up at the shrine will bring bad luck to the family in spirit.

    Futhermore, there are many kami; many are small and are connected to very specific places. I tend to think they are often human spirits who felt a very close connection with a place and chose to watch over it in spirit. The world of the kami is considered to be connected directly to ours.

    The Kojiki mentions yomi, which is is exactly what you described in the OP. It is noted in a very important myth as the place Izanami went upon death. The Kojiki also contains references to "the High Plain of Heaven."

    I would certainly say it depends on the person. Shinto also sees no issue with following other religions as well, so that may factor in for some people. My personal belief is in a spirit world directly connected to ours with varying levels. I interpret yomi as being low and the High Plain of Heaven as being high.

    So, there is my explanation. All in all I would say it is possible to get a vague sense of afterlife with Shinto alone.

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    Re: Shinto afterlife beliefs

    To my knowledge the land of the dead in Shinto is the Yomi-no-kuni which is ruled by Izanami-no-Mikoto, and the Takama-ga-hara which is the dwelling place of the amatsukami (kami of the heavens). When the world was young the stuff that made of up the world was all together but eventually began to separate. The pure, lighter elements moved upwards and became the heavens, the heavier elements became earth and the most dense, polluted elements became the land of yomi beneath the earth.

    The heavens have considerably less information about them than the yomi and most of the information on yomi is blurred by Buddhist and Chinese influences. The yomi is a land of darkness and pollution filled with rot and decay and populated by ugly hags with insatiable appetites. There are several rivers according to Japanese Buddhism where the dead cross based on how they acted in life, sometimes suffering punishment from oni like Datsu-Ba. There's many similarities between the yomi in Japan and the Greek concept of the underworld.

    Japan has a great tradition of ghost stories too. Souls who have strong emotions or improper burials return to haunt the living as yūrei, though not all are necessarily malevolent. For some reason usually are female rather than male. They're more folklore and popular culture than a religious indication of the afterlife though.
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    Sr. Member sirz345's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto afterlife beliefs

    Quote Originally Posted by Alienist View Post
    From I've heard, the Shinto afterlife is somewhat similar to the Sumerian afterlife where the dead wander around in the afterlife and don't have any peace but some say that people who go to the Shinto afterlife experience peace and can even be deified later. I am wondering what is the Shinto afterlife really like as some debate on what it is. If it does have a negative view, why would one practice it?
    You see, to the dead in Yomi, where they will eternally rest, they do experience an immortal life there, however, to the living, they appear rotting and disfigured (see the story of Izanagi and Izanami in the underworld), but to the other dead, there is nothing wrong with them, they look as themselves and it is suggested that they actually feast daily (similar to the feasts of Valhalla). So it is basically life, things function, go about (it is not necessarily normal life, there are mythological creatures that they live alongside in Yomi), but ancestors can leave Yomi, not in their physical form that is said to descend to Yomi, but as ancestral kami that can reside in small shrines, called kamidana, kept in the households of their relatives and receive offerings left their for them and the gods themselves.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Corvus View Post
    To my knowledge the land of the dead in Shinto is the Yomi-no-kuni which is ruled by Izanami-no-Mikoto, and the Takama-ga-hara which is the dwelling place of the amatsukami (kami of the heavens). When the world was young the stuff that made of up the world was all together but eventually began to separate. The pure, lighter elements moved upwards and became the heavens, the heavier elements became earth and the most dense, polluted elements became the land of yomi beneath the earth.

    The heavens have considerably less information about them than the yomi and most of the information on yomi is blurred by Buddhist and Chinese influences. The yomi is a land of darkness and pollution filled with rot and decay and populated by ugly hags with insatiable appetites. There are several rivers according to Japanese Buddhism where the dead cross based on how they acted in life, sometimes suffering punishment from oni like Datsu-Ba. There's many similarities between the yomi in Japan and the Greek concept of the underworld.

    Japan has a great tradition of ghost stories too. Souls who have strong emotions or improper burials return to haunt the living as yūrei, though not all are necessarily malevolent. For some reason usually are female rather than male. They're more folklore and popular culture than a religious indication of the afterlife though.

    There we go, this is basically what I was trying to talk about. This guy really knows his stuff.

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