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  • Writer's pictureAkiko Murakami

"MISOGI", the first step to going back to your true Self

Waterfall of priest KUYA(空也の滝)

Can you imagine yourself standing under this waterfall ----(in winter)?

Such a training actually take place as a traditional Shinto (or some Buddhist sects, or martial arts) practice of ceremonial purification called Misogi.

I have seen the practitioners of Misogi on TV or in pictures number of times, but saw one in front of my eyes for the first time last December.

It was Quin, an American friend of mine.

Before talking about Quin, let me tell you about Misogi in general. ---------------

In Shinto, purification is a very important ritual, because we usually gain Tsumi (sin) and Kegare (uncleanness ) in our daily lives.

(well, I should write about Tsumi and Kegare in another blog..)

Therefor, in order to return to our original Self with good ki (気)energy or vitality, people practice Misogi in a ceremonial manner.

Every year, many groups take pilgrimages to sacred waterfalls, lakes and rivers, either alone or in small groups.

Generally, women put on a special white kimono (robe) and a headband and men put on a fundoshi (loin cloth) and head band.

Before encountering Misogi, members generally undergo some sort of preliminary purification like prayers, fasting, or some sort of physical activity is common.

They then begin furitama (降り魂) or "spirit shaking" by clenching their hands in front of the stomach and shaking them up and down, vibrating the upper torso. The purpose of this is to become aware of/unified with the spirit's presence within.

Following this is a "warm-up" or tori-fune (鳥船) or "bird boat" rowing.

After, the leader begins to speak out invocations/ prayers that are said to activate the spirit. The followers generally speak along with them, thus affirming the potential for realizing one's own spirit, and thus unifying them with the kami , or shinto deities and nature spirits around them.

The above exercises are done so participants raise their metabolism and some groups accompany this with deep breathing.

They may be sprinkled with purifying salt and sake (rice wine) to spit into the waterfall in three mouthfuls.

As they enter the waterfall, sometimes the participants throw purifying salt. (This practice is similar to Sumo wrestlers preparatory do before they are getting ready and face each other. )

In some groups, the leader counts to nine and then cuts the air while shouting the word "yei!" to dispel the impurity. (九字切り)

The participants then enter the waterfall while continuously chanting the phrase ;

“harai tamae kiyome tamae rokkon shōjō (祓い給え清め給え六根清浄)” This phrase asks the kami to wash away the impurity from the six elements that make up the human being, the five senses and the mind.

Until Edo period (1603-1867) there were many well-known sacred sites for Misogi . Today, some of those sites are Mount Ontake, the Kii mountain range and Mount Yoshino.

(ref. Misogi: Wikipedia )

If you ever visited a Shinto Shrine, you must have seen a place with water where people cleanse their hands and mouths. Actually, it is a simplified version of Misogi, getting ready our body and mind and spirit before going into a holy sanctuary to face kami.


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