The Japanese expression nakaima o ikiru originates from Shinto and means to live in the Now. Psychologically speaking man rarely lives in the Now; his thoughts continuously stray into the past or future. And even when he is focused on the task at hand, he is so immerged in it, that there still is no awareness of the present moment he is in. His life passes by without the light of self-awareness. To live in the Now means to realize, I am here, in this moment. It is an effort to observe yourself in the passing moment.
Amaterasu is the Sun-Goddess, the most important deity in Shinto. Her name means 'shining heaven' or 'she who shines in the heavens'. When her brother the storm-God Susano no Mikoto, who symbolizes the lower self, ravaged the earth, she retreated to a cave because he was so noisy. She closed the cave with a large boulder. Her disappearance deprived the world of light and life and as a result, demons ruled the earth. Amaterasu symbolizes the light of Presence. When this is lost, the demons — the thoughts and emotions going round in our head — are controlling our life in the state of sleep or darkness. The other gods used everything in their power to lure her out, but to no avail. Finally it was Uzume who succeeded. The laughter of the gods when they watched her comical and erotic dance, aroused Amaterasu's curiosity. When she emerged from her cave, she saw her own brilliant reflection in a mirror that Uzume had hung in a nearby tree. Uzume and the mirror both symbolize a pure heart that desires to be present. The mirror or the heart has no dust — the ten thousand 'I's — so it can reflect the image of God (Presence).
Places that are sacred for the Shinto religion are marked with a shimenawa (special plaited rope). The ropes are placed at the entrances of holy places to ward off evil spirits, (evil spirits symbolize thoughts or I`s that take away one`s awareness of the present moment) or around trees to indicate presence of a god. A tree is an ancient symbol for a heart that reached presence, and is called the tree of life.
The pieces of white paper that are cut into strips and hung from these ropes are called gohei; they symbolize purity in the Shinto faith, the purity of prolonged presence.
The rope symbolizes remembrance of God, which means the God inside oneself, one`s Higher Self, through the effort of being present.
Separation of one`s Higher Self is like being in the darkness at the bottom of a well. One can climb out of it by using a rope.
Shimenawa are also put at the entrance of peoples house at the beginning of the New Year.
The New Year is a symbol of renewal. Before the Meiji Restoration (1873), the Japanese New Year was celebrated according to the Chinese lunar calendar (February 3 for the year 2011). The Chinese New Year goes together with the end of winter and the beginning of spring, symbolizing the end of the state of sleep and the beginning of the state of Divine presence.
In this image six men are pulling the boat of Ra, the Sun-God, with a rope. They are pulling the boat through the Amduat — the underworld or the night, symbolizing the state of psychological sleep — to enable Ra to shine again, during the day (the state of presence).
In the section on The breath of Life it was explained that esoteric traditions represent the duration of one breath as an animal or man. In this image the six men symbolize six breaths taken with self-remembering.
In this wonderful statue of the Monk Kuya we see the same symbolism. Kuya is repeating the name of Amida Buddha six times, symbolized by the six figures coming from his mouth, connected with a wire. It represents a mantra to be reborn in the Western paradise of Amida Buddha, the state of Divine Presence.
One day symbolizes one breath; the night is the inhalation and the day represents the exhalation.
If one starts to pay attention to thoughts other than the name of Amida, one will forget to keep one`s awareness on the present moment and the links are broken. The reminder to be present Be is not acted upon, and one returns to the state of sleep.
The left character for Shimenawa means attention or concentrate on. The middle character means to connect while the right character means rope. One can translate Shimenawa as a rope to connect one`s attention. When saying six reminders to be present, one tries to not allow other thoughts to interrupt one`s attention on the present.
Sumo wrestlers wear the same rope with gohei attached, when they perform a ceremony before they start the bout.
Some Shinto shrines have a ritual using a shimenawa in the form of a loop. One passes through the ring three times to wish for prosperity and health in the second half of the year.
One walks through and around the ring to the left and then through and around again to trace a figure eight, with one`s path. The number eight is the infinity sign on it`s side, and stands for immortality, which means being beyond time.
The eighth picture of the ten ox herding pictures is an empty circle, symbolizing the absence of the lower self and the presence of the Higher Self, which is characterized by emptiness.
The number eight is a symbol for immortality and emptiness.
Through this ceremony one is said to erase the bad-luck and misfortune suffered in the first part of the year. The belief in the efficacy of these rings originates in the ancient Chronicles of Bingo Province (now Okayama Prefecture) in which the hero, Somin Shorai, was advised by the Moon-God Tsukuyomi no Mikoto, to protect himself from an epidemic that had been raging, by fashioning a hoop out of reeds and wearing it around his waist. One can see such rings around the waist of a sumo Grand Champion or in the sumo ring itself. Source: The Ancient Rite of Chinowa Kuguri at Tsukuba’s Hie Shrine
The inner meaning of protecting oneself from an epidemic is protecting oneself from the state of sleep, in which we spend our day. The state of sleep is likened unto an illness and the cure for this illness is being present.
What makes one unhappy when experiencing bad-luck and misfortunes are the arbitrary feelings, the many I`s, that one has about the bad-luck that has befallen one, rather than the bad luck itself.
If one could stop these thoughts and emotions, or separate one`s feeling of 'I' from these thoughts and emotions, one would continue with the next moment of one`s life, without being controlled by these 'I's. Instead, one would use the thoughts and emotions as fuel to launch into a state of presence, as a rocket uses fuel to launch into space, after which it sheds off the fuel container. One does this by quieting the mind , which means to only listen to 'I's that remind one to be present and not listen to any other thoughts. In the state of presence that is the result, one is not effected by the misfortune, because the lower self is passive and under control. This is true happiness, true richness, true health. If one had the ability to achieve this regularly, one wouldn`t want to exchange it for all the money in the world.
The inner meaning of the ceremony of walking three times through the straw hoop is, to be present by keeping one`s attention focused on the present, symbolized by the shimenawa, which means a rope to connect one`s attention. One does this through the use of a mantra, symbolized by the circle. One transforms friction into presence and in this way, one is purified of, or protected from the many I`s going around in one`s head.
The rocks are connected with a shimenawa, symbolizing a mantra. The two rocks also symbolize the beginning and the end of this mantra, like the two Kings of Light. There is a square Torii (a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred, the transition from sleep to Divine Presence) on top of the big rock, symbolizing that a state of prolonged presence has been reached.
In this Indian painting we see the same symbolism portrayed by a couple engaged in physical union. Physical union is a symbol for the spiritual union of the mind and the heart, creating a state of Divine presence, in which the Higher Self or God is awakened in a state of union, as opposed to the state of plurality of the lower self. Their bodies make a square showing that prolonged presence is occurring. Physical union is also used to symbolize union with the Divine.