Shugendo, the Japanese path to the Physical-Spiritual Rejuvenation


Spiritual Warriors of Japan

My lovely readers as promised previously this post is about the Yamabushi mountain people who practise Shugendo.

It all started with a video I came across on youtube (the link is down below). An athlete travels to Japan in order to reconnect with himself through the practise of Shugendo. I got extremely touched and inspired by this short documentary and decided to research about this practice and of course share  it with you.  

This is what I found.

What is Shugendo?

Shugendo is an ancient religious tradition that is still practised today in Japan. Shugendo can be translated as the way/path of cultivating spiritual powers. It blends pre-Buddhist mountain worship, shamanistic beliefs, animism, ascetic practices, chinese yin-yang mysticism, taoistic magic, rituals and spells of the esoteric-tantric Buddhism in order to achieve spiritual, healing powers and long life. The core of their belief is the cultivation of supernatural powers during various practises, mainly in the mountains.

Shugendo recognizes at least two realms of existence; the daily lives of human beings and a separate, supernatural realm behind, which controls the daily lives of human beings. The mountains are seen as a sacred space which is part of the two worlds.

The Supernatural Spirit World of the Shugenja contains various kamis, deities, Buddhas, Spirits. A human being is a product of the universe and is himself a small universe. All things, including humans possess a part of the divine, the original form of all things, therefore any human being can become a divine being.

In Edo period Shugenja communities were responsible for offering "this-worldly benefits" during religious practises. It is almost impossible to find written evidence about these practises due to oral and secret transmissions, therefore they are hard to access for researching.Yet, using the valuable information I found, this was (is) the structure of their main practise.

Entering the mountains, is entering the realm of the spirits, which separates us from the world of our daily lives. The mountain practises involve spiritual identification with the central deity Fudo Myoo and the reception of a secret transmission. These rituals signify the rebirth and reach enlightenment in order to control the power of Fudo. Once the identification is complete it involves the demonstration of spiritual powers. After this comes a ritual for kami (deities/spirits), the sun, moon and the stars. Rites would involve of bringing them down as heavenly bodies to achieve identification with Fudo for "extinguishing the seven adversities" and "arousing the seven kinds of blessings". After that an exorcism is performed to remove evil spirits causing misfortune and other evil influences.

Practitioners are called Shugenja, Keza (those who accumulated the power) and Yamabushi (those who bow to the mountains) but in English we would call them...mountain priests. 

Physical endurance is a general requirement for any of these practitioners to obtain the path of enlightenment. One of the roles of the Yamabushi is to guide people to their true nature, also to teach warrior discipline. They live hidden from the public and their numbers are few.

Master Hoshino, a famous local Yamabushi priest, and the 13th, generation of his family to follow this vocation. who  lives in and runs Daishōbō, a pilgrim lodge located at the foot of Mt. Haguro. He has dedicated his life to living as a Yamabushi, introducing many people from all over the world to its mystical power. His approach to the Yamabushi tradition is grounded in deep tradition, but also made deeply relevant to the way we live our lives today.  

So after reading all this you are probably wondering, so what is the Yamabushi training? What does it mean to be a Yamabushi? Let me use the wise words of Master Hoshino to answer these questions.

A long long time ago, in the Jomon era, when matters of life and death were daily concern, people survived by using their senses. They gained their powers by training in the mountains, in the rivers, in the Oceans, in the Winds. For them, the natural world was a sacred force. They prayed for its powers and survival, and for their own power and survival and the two were inseparable. I maintain this tradition. I am a 13th generation Yamabushi priest. I have walked the mountains of Gassan, of Yudonosan, of Hagurosan, of Kinbo and upheld the Yamabushi secrets. I live by the Yamabushi tradition and I train others to do the same. We are water, we are earth, we are fire, we are air. When life feels stuck, the elemental forces of nature and the elemental forces of your body will show you the path forward. In Yamabushi culture, we leave ourselves in nature. We make space in our minds. We walk, we walk, we feel with the body, we come into our senses. In walking we are reborn again. The present of this world, the past of another world, the future of the life beyond you will be reborn. With the Yamabushi mindset, we restore ourselves. We rejuvenate our life.

By clicking on the link below you get more information about the Yamabushi training.

the link to website of yamabushido :  

Remember beautiful peeps stay curious about the world, we do not need to drop everything and change our lives and become a samurai warrior overnight :) but we can take these words of old wisdom and read between the lines and through them learn to get more connected to each other and the world around us a little more and find that inner peace we seek.