19 Sep 2011

Mountain Worship

I have been in the mountains recently.  I'd forgotten how much I love being in the mountains.  I body boarded at least once a week for 6 months of the year for the past 11 years.  This year the sea is too far and wave forcasts aren't matching my work schedule.  So I decided to have local adventure.

出羽三山

Dewa Sanzan is the old name for Yamagata. 
I have fallen in love with this place again. It was love at first sight, from my first morning opening my curtains and seeing white peaks in the near distance. There is so much to discover. This area also has the longest history of mountain worship.


Dewa, is home to three of the holiest mountains in the Shugendo Sect.  Shugendo is a mystical, spiritual tradition, it is a combination of native japanese shintoism, buddhism and tao. Shintoism is basically a form of nature worship, to put it simply.  It's recognising the spirit in everything. Natural beauty was revered.  The Shugendo thought enlightenment is attaining oneness with the kami (spirit).   They strive for awakening through experience.  Through understanding the relationshop between man and nature.

The Dewa Sanzan
羽黒     Haguro  Black Feather
月山   Gassan     Moon Mountain
湯殿山 Yudonosan 

Today I visited Yudonosan.  The shrine dates back 1400 years.  It was raining, which for me made it all that  more pleasurable.  Mist drifting through the forested mountains, the sound and feel of rain, and not to mention less people due to the weather. A tranquil spot. a beautiful few hours spent.  Sadly photography is strictly forbidden, and there is code of not speaking or even listening about this place. So I shant break this rule.

But it is set deep in the mountains, receive purification and walk around barefoot in the rain.  The shugendo, mountain ascetics. Right here, training, practicing.  I've know this all along, but my interest in this discipline is growing deeper and deeper.  A friend well versed in Buddhism said this tradition was in essence similar to  yoga.  Interest perked, and this week I shall be spending my time mainly in the mountains and on the mat with a small spattering of work. The week after gets crazy busy.

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