In the courtyard, the guardian deities of the Earth and the Sky, and related images, are designed to wake us up. Those of Earth in the north, just beyond the main gate, are the first to give thanks to. They are enshrined in a tall windowless tower, with steps leading up to ornate glass double-doors at the front, in which at certain times, a priest sat facing inside making offerings to the gods of the Earth. Slippers are left outside the shrine, as shoes are prohibited inside. We each have constituents of Earth and Heaven in our characters, as we do make and female, so the Earth is important to pay homage to.
The Earth and the forces in and above it are our cardinal foundation, which we so easily forget as we pander to our egos. But in Japan, and other ‘earthquake’ countries, the threat of earthquakes leads people to be more aware of the preciousness of the stability of the Earth, on a daily basis. The magnetic and radioactive qualities of the Earth are essential to life and to growth, and we people are made of exactly the same materials. We return to the Earth when our physical bodies disintegrate.
The mantras for the Earth are recited twice in every day by most Japanese Buddhists, and its produce used in ceremonies as offerings to the Buddhas and deities of the Universe. Indeed, we could not make fire without the Earth and her products, and fire is staple to survive in the freezing winters of Kyoto. People in a constant stream place their hands in gassho and bow deeply from the waist to the Earth standing before the gods.
Nohmen’s turn came to stand before them, and he added his awe and gratitude at being able to worship the Earth on the archipelago of Japan to his devotions, and a prayer of gratitude to indigenous peoples, their closeness to the Universe, and the wisdom they have cleaned and imparted to those who are beginning to listen willingly.
In the east is the shrine of the gods of the Heavens and Sky. Man inhabits the space between the two, and without the sky and the air, sentient creatures would not be able to borrow breath in order to survive. The heavenly gods are traditionally enshrined in another windowless tower, which is constructed over a shallow pond full of large golden carp swimming so close to the surface that their lips appear from time to time as they gulp in the air. A small bridge has been constructed to the doorway to the shrine, where similarly, a priest can offer the heavenly rites.
Air and sunshine are the basic medium of life and growth, and without them we probably could not exist as humans with higher consciousness. The gods of the Sky also represent the mind and vision, the clarity of mind like a jewel. Attaining a mind like a clear blue sky without clouds is a reflection of the Universe, and the main goal of meditation. In Japan, the birds of the Sky are so important, and in Buddhism-and before that Brahminism and Hinduism-their flight confirming the divination of the future.
Around the time of important ceremonies or events, people look at the Sky for signs that mark them. Nohmen has seen blinding halos around the Sun on occasions when his master comes to teach at the temple. People also watch for special shapes of clouds. It is not uncommon to see clouds in the perfect shape of a phoenix, the great mythical bird that in indestructible even by fire, rising from the flames. It is said that the founders of the teaching are ever-present after their physcial deaths like these fantastical birds.