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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

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on 26 May 2017
A clear explanation of this lovely way of life. It should be compulsory for a peaceful world.
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on 4 July 2007
I was looking for a book about Shinto. Now, I think I was lucky enough to find this handy, complete, and easy to read explanation about Shinto, written by a 79th generation Grand Master of Shinto!

I also found surprisingly, that the reading of this book was a relaxing one, with a sense of beauty and peace. You will discover that Shinto "has no founder, no doctrines, no precepts or commandments, no idols and no organization", which is something quite astonishing for someone like me, who has been educated in the catholic religion!

The book consist of 8 chapters:
1. Shinto for the New Millennium.
2. What is Shinto?
3. What is Jinja?
4. The idea of Misogi (Purification)
5. The idea of Harai
6. Koshinto: Theory of one spirit, four souls
7. Koshinto: view of the "Other World"
8. The systematic training method of chinkon

No doubt,this is a reference book for anyone insterested in Shinto.
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on 15 June 2014
I've always been interested in Japanese Shinto and Buddhism.
This book tells us the story of Shinto.
Things the Japanese consider "custom", in many occasions come from Shinto belief.

The writer takes you to the core of Shinto, things beyond Shinto ceremonies and architectural structure which foreigners (like me, previously) use to identify Shinto.

Unbelievably easy to read, yet informative and very well written.
I never thought I would be able to finish any religious books within 2 days, but I did.
I will recommend this book to anyone who has interest in Japanese culture.
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on 25 October 2010
If your looking up Shinto you'll have some idea of what Shinto is. The problem is that there is very little written about it, in books and on the internet. This book explains what it is and what it is not, and it has a benefit of being written by a master not some academic or some second rate author, its simple and precise. It does not go into great detail but through this book you can grasp Shinto's "essence", its form or shape. It gives you enough information of the basic practice to allow you to, how master Motohisa Yamakage put it, discover your own Shinto. So far I have read this little book three times and I am always learning from it. It is probably the best guide to Shinto practice without having to go all the way to japan to study it.
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on 1 November 2011
Having heard of the Shinto 'religion', I wanted to find out what it was all about. After reading the other customer reviews which highly praise this book, I thought I couldn't go wrong, but this was not what I expected. First off, the book is almost solid text throughout. As I have never visited Japan to see a shrine and I have little knowledge of Japanese customs, having images would have helped me understand the 'essence' of Shinto a lot better. The book starts introducing a lot of (complex) Shinto ideas and the associated terminology, but I didn't feel that the terminology was well enough explained, and I often didn't understand the concepts. The book didn't really explain what Shinto traditions/ideologies are, instead dwelling on such topics as the precise way that you should hold energy in your stomach when meditating after a bath or the correct wording for inviting the spirit of Kami (all in Japanese, of course). I did not find this book a useful overview of Shinto, as I found it too in-depth for someone who has no knowledge of the subject. The most interesting parts were on Shinto history and the author's personal experiences. There is a lot of stuff about what to do when visiting a Shinto shrine, but as I do not live near any Japanese shrines, it's going to be hard work putting the concepts into practise. After reading this book, I am left with the impression that Shinto is simply the embodiment of the Japanese culture, and the two are pretty much inseparable. I don't think Shinto is a religion which can be learned - it's too embedded in the Japanese culture. Unless you are fluent in Japanese and are accustomed to visiting shrines, I'm not sure what you will be able to take from this book.
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on 3 September 2016
Shinto or Shintoism is often regarded as the original religion of Japan. It's centered on the veneration of spirits known as Kami, who manifest themselves in various natural objects. From the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the defeat of Japan in World War II, Shinto was the proscribed state cult and often came into conflict with other religious traditions. This seems to have been an anomalous state of affairs, however, since Shintoism has usually co-existed peacefully with Buddhism, the other great religion in the land of the rising sun. Many Japanese practice both. Many Japanese also belong to so-called New Religions, many of which are syncretistic in character.

“The Essence of Shinto: Japan's Spiritual Heart” is a book by Motohisa Yamakage, a spiritual teacher who claims to be the 79th Grand Master of an orthodox Koshinto lineage going back to ancient times. However, it seems that Koshinto (“Ancient Shinto”) isn't older than the Edo period (1603-1868), and Yamakage's group is apparently regarded as a New Religion. The group claims to have access to esoteric teachings previously unknown to anyone but a few initiates. Thus, Yamakage's book should be read, not as a general introduction to Shintoism, but rather as a introduction to the author's own spiritual worldview, which may or may not resemble how Shinto is actually practiced.

Yamakage believes that the goal of humans is to become Kami. In Western terms, humans are called upon to become “spirits”, “angels” or “gods”. There are several steps in this process. The most elementary is to strive for balance and purity in one's own personal life, something done through ethics, aesthetics and various rituals of purification. The latter is especially important when interacting with the Kami. There is a tension in the book between seeing Nature as holy since the world is a manifestation of the divine (apparently a kind of pantheist world-soul), and seeing the physical world as contaminated with impurities which must be removed before the Kami can descend to our plane of existence. A good portion of the book deals with these more “exoteric” practices, including the setting up of home altars, ritual baths, and so on.

The more esoteric practices involve meditation and chanting. They eventually give the practitioner access to the spiritual world. He can see a great light, have out-of-body experiences and become possessed by a Kami. We are also informed that there are many hierarchical levels in the spirit-world, and that our path to perfection continues after our physical death. Yamakage also reveals that humans have four different souls, and discusses their fates after the death of the physical individual.

“The Essence of Shinto” is clearly veered to a Western audience, with references to the Gaia hypothesis, Blavatsky and Steiner. Yamakage claims that Shinto has no founder, no doctrines, no idols and no conception of sin, presumably desirable traits in the New Age milieu. He is also at pains to portray Shinto as in some sense monotheistic, since all Kami are ultimately one, and therefore really aspects of a single deity. This, of course, is a desirable trait among Christians. Personally, I suspect that a forthrightly pagan polytheism would work just as well even in the West these days. The author also emphasizes the need for faith and the desirability of direct spiritual experiences.

I admit that I didn't find Motohisa Yamakage particularly interesting, but it's possible that I was brought into disharmony by the small print! I will nevertheless give the book three stars.
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on 23 May 2014
Arrived quickly and in good condition. An interesting read for a beginner. Lots of info and instructions on diff rituals.
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on 28 October 2016
A very important book to discover the Shinto religion and philosophy. I think it also helpful to understand a part of the spiritual background of some martial arts, as aikido. O-Sensei was shintoist beliver.
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on 13 June 2010
This book is, without dought, worth every penny its very very well writen easy to read and it realy does have a very calming effect on the reader.It is full of easy to understand information and you can feel the writers spirituality, almost as if he reaches out from the pages right into your spiritual heart. 100%+
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on 12 October 2016
an excellent intro to shinto theory and practice.
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