Frithjof Schuon on Shinto

Frithjof Schuon’s essays on Shinto, included in Treasures of Buddhism (2003), are a record of Schuon’s discovery of two obscurantist like minds in Motoori Norinaga, about whom nothing more need be said for those familiar with this subject, and Genchi Kato, whose work I have summarized in a past essay.

Schuon is writing about a subject he knows nothing about, so I will be brief. Repeating Norinaga’s unique and unjustified pseudo-Christian interpretation of the Kojiki, he seems to believe that the first kami named in the Kojiki is equivalent in the Japanese mind to the creator God, when in fact each national history assigns a different name and function to that original kami. This is irrelevant to someone who lives in the real world, though, because the closest thing to a “creator God” you’d find in the average Japanese mind is Mr. Sun (お天道様), who brings warmth to all human beings and is always watching over us. The Kojiki has been fussed over considerably by Norinaga, but we should be reminded that both it and the Nihon Shoki are first and foremost a record of the imperial ancestors and their noble deeds, and are cited in Japan’s traditional society for this reason and not for their mythical symbolism. He constructs an analogy between Japanese and Greek “myth”, which I have also taken a look at and found not very intellectually profitable. Anyway it seems that if this symbolism can be better understood by a foreigner than it can by most Japanese people then is really not relevant to how the Japanese tradition functions at all, and is the mission field only of syncretic religionists and people with too much time on their hands.

Posted: July 30th, 2012 | Japan, Secular-Religious, Tradition