Purification rituals exist in religions all around the world, but in few cultures is it taken as seriously and as much a part of daily life as in Japan. Cleanliness is deeply ingrained into the Japanese people and is the result of the influence of the Shinto religion, in which the concept of purity is central. The cleanliness of the Japanese people symbolizes the inner struggle to become pure, so Divine Presence can manifest itself. Water is known to be a symbol to cleanse people of evil and bad luck. Water basins in temples and shrines are used by worshippers to cleanse their mouths and hands before prayer begins, in the same way, as Muslims clean their hands and feet before they start their daily prayer five times a day.
The Shinto god Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the deity of the stars, was given authority over the water of the oceans. Similar to the stars, water is a symbol for reminders to awaken the God within.
Externally, water gets rid of dirt and dust. Internally, pouring out water from one`s heart means pouring out reminders to be present with a sincere desire, to get rid of the ten thousand I`s, the dirt and dust. The first watch of the night (the night symbolizes the state of sleep) represents the first reminder to remember oneself. There are five watches during the night, five reminders to be present. After this, the day breaks and prolonged presence arrives.
All rituals of cleaning oneself with water, symbolize cleaning oneself spiritually of the many I`s that are concerned with worldly affairs, so that the Higher Self can be present.
Without water there can be no life, and without the water of life, without a reminder to remember one`s Self, there can be no conscious life. In these images, people do the outer meaning of cleaning oneself with water.
Before constructing a new building, it is a custom to do a land purification ceremony in Japan. This ceremony called Jichinsai, literally means to appease God. The ceremony takes place prior to the construction day and one prays that there will be no accidents during the construction.
A small Shinto shrine called Himorogi is set up. This is a small, square or cubed, 3-dimensional sacred space demarcated by four bamboo poles set upright in the center of a proposed building site connected at the tops by lengths of rope called Shimenawa, which are adorned with strips of paper. This is the space to which the god is called down to for the Jichinsai ceremony, in order to ask permission to manipulate the land. The square or cubed sacred space of the Himorogi symbolizes a prolonged state of presence when the God within is present.
A city is another symbol for the same state.
When one is immersed in one`s daily activities and realizes one is asleep, one tells oneself to Be. If one then makes the effort to Be aware of oneself in one`s surrounding and sustain this effort of dividing one`s attention, on wakes up the God within oneself. The meaning of Shimenawa, is a rope to connect one`s attention, and is a symbol for the effort to sustain one`s attention on the present, not allowing one`s attention to be pulled away by the thoughts and emotions going round in one`s head. When this state deepens, one no longer experiences one`s thoughts and emotions as 'I'. There is a separation between them and oneself, and one has become purified of them; one has become the God within.
This state is symbolized by all esoteric traditions as a square or cube. In ancient Japan, rites were performed outdoor. In those days, a piece of unpolluted land was chosen and roped off in square and a tree stand was erected as an object on which Kami was to be invited. This place including the tree was called Himorogi. The origin of hi is「神霊」, which means Divine Spirit. Moro means coming down from heaven, while gi (ki) 「木」means tree. Himorogi can be translated as the Divine Spirit coming down from Heaven into a tree. The Tree of Life is a symbol for the heart that has the desire to be present and has engaged presence.
A Himorogi symbolizes the same as a Noh stage which is also square and has the tree of life painted on a wooden wall at the back of the stage.
Purification of the mind or the heart also means purifying oneself of the many attitudes that blame the outside world (or ourselves) for our difficulties. These attitudes, which we mostly acquired during our childhood, are part of our being, part of our lower self, and determine how we view ourselves and the world around us. The lower self doesn`t want to give up these attitudes, because it means giving up part of oneself. When one feels mistreated or not respected, one usually becomes upset. This is the result of the need to have our self-esteem confirmed by the outside world. When this doesn`t happen we become upset with the outside world so that we can keep believing our imaginary picture of ourselves. The event itself may have only taken five or ten minutes but for the next several hours or even days one will play back the event in one`s head, thereby preventing one from being present. These thoughts and emotions keep us in the state of sleep. Being present means not listening to these I`s and instead focusing one`s attention on the present. Our lives can never be free from difficulties. At some point we will have problems with somebody, because people are different, and most of the time don`t really understand each other. We also do not know ourselves, and are too concerned with keeping our imaginary picture intact.
Friction is part of one`s life as a human being, living in the state of sleep. Wars and natural disasters that kill ten thousands of people will also be always part of life on earth.
Whether it is on a personal scale or on a larger scale, friction is unavoidable and actually necessary, from the point of view of awakening. One reaches Divine Presence thanks to accepting difficulties, not by avoiding them. The effort of accepting difficulties is the payment for experiencing higher state of consciousness. Many things can seem unjust from an every day life point of view. However, if one accepts them, and instead of listening to the thoughts and emotions screaming inside, tries to be present, one can reach a state where suddenly all these I`s are disappearing like snow melting under the sun. Then one understands that it was actually these I`s, that were the problem, not the events that stimulated them and one becomes grateful for having experienced these difficulties.
This is the only true justice there is; through making the payment of transforming friction, through purifying oneself of the many I`s, one can experience true happiness, love and inner peace, which are part of the state of Divine presence, in which the God within is awake. In this state one understands that the outer meaning of peace on earth is an illusion. There can never be peace on earth unless everybody awakens, but that will never happen, because there are always only few people who wish to awaken. And from these few people there are even fewer who are willing to make the payment it takes to reach presence, and give up their imaginary picture of themselves. All the friction in one`s life is the mud from which the lotus flower grows; it contains the food that the lotus needs to grow. When on reaches the state of presence, one understands that despite all the friction, life on earth is as it should be, because thanks to it, one can reach the state of Divine presence.