Hello, my name is Solara Key and I am studying Japanese at Middle Tennessee State University. I am on a faculty-led study abroad trip with eight other students in Japan. We have a very interesting month-long semester before us! Today was the first day of class, and we covered the origins of Japan. This included such topics as the language, Bushidō, religion, philosophy, temples/shrines, and Zen meditation.
I really love studying philosophy and gaining a better understanding of worldwide perspectives on existentialism. I had always fancied myself a pantheist, or one who believes that any sort of deity or divinity flows through all in existence. Chemically, all that exists is structured from a table of elements. Therefore, everything is connected. In this way, I truly enjoyed learning about Shinto and how it relates to Buddhism in Japan. Shinto matched my appreciation for nature and being a part of a collective, conscious, whole. It teaches to appreciate the present and all that is in this current moment. When I think about this concept, it pervades me with feelings of no past and no future. Only presence exists in a cyclical manner. Focus on this presence expands the oneness to an oscillating vibration of purity and happiness. In this way, Buddhism collides in a joyous balance with Shinto because of its philosophy of ridding desire and ego. Where Shinto may not be concerned with the afterlife, Buddhism allows the entity to undergo a transformation from Earth as a result of the oneness with all things pure and divine in nature. What I learned today is that the Japanese mindset is highly resilient and peaceful as a result of these beliefs. In a way, it is almost even too materialistic to call them beliefs; perhaps “manners of existence” is more appropriate. To relate what I learned today in Japan to what I have obtained at home, my mother always told me that an ascended master once said, “I am that is.”