SHUMEI - THE ART OF LIFE [2008-07-06]
While in Cebu, Philippines, my interfaith group ( members of United Religions Initiative, URI ) were guests of a small group of Japanese followers of Shumei - a spiritual organization in pursuit of health, happiness and harmony.
Shumei was founded by Mokichi Okada, affectionately called "Meishusama" (Master of Light) by his followers. He was born into abject poverty in the slums of Tokyo in 1882. Despite growing up in severe hardship, sickness, failures and tragedies, he appreciated life and had a deep love of beauty. He studied to be an artist but failing eyesight forced him to leave school.
Against all odds, he became a successful businessman, a poet, a connoisseur of art, a naturalist, a calligrapher, a philosopher, and a spiritual leader.
At age 50, he had a vision of the world's transformation from darkness to light. Later, as Imperial Japan was preparing for the Pacific War, he encouraged global fellowship and peace instead. He was a peace activist when everyone else cried for war. He worked tirelessly for peace, until his death in 1955 at age 73.
He taught that happiness is a primal hope of all humankind, but genuine happiness is elusive. Happiness is more than the relief of suffering, and most pursue it in such things as human relationships, entertainment, personal appearance, carnal pleasures, wealth, and status. While these can bring temporary happiness, if allowed to become life's core purpose, they leave the seeker with a feeling of emptiness and isolation. While searching for fulfillment in the superficial distracts us from our pain, this search does not make us happier.
He believed that to alleviate human misery in this world, a sense of the spirituality that underlies all creation must be realized - a spirituality that is the source of all lasting happiness and wellbeing.
This is achieved through a life of spirituality and purification; a spiritual healing exercise called Jyorei; an appreciation of art and beauty to enhance life and give meaning to it; and the care and reverence for our environment and all forms of life on earth.
PURIFICATION & SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Meishusama taught that the spiritual always precedes the physical. Events that occur in the physical world originate in the spiritual realm according to both the Will of GOD and the conditions people have created in the spiritual realm by their thoughts, words, and deeds. No action or event is independent from the whole of existence.
It is important to realize that everything in existence is interconnected and to act accordingly. All of humanity is one family. We also must realize that our actions and habits eventually have global consequences. This is in line with the spiritual teachings of many established religions.
All suffering is a process of purification. It is the consequence of a cleansing process that eliminates impurities in the spiritual and physical world. The causes of these impurities vary. Some are directly caused by an individual's thoughts and actions, some are inherited, and others have causes that are outside of the sufferers' circumstances. This is also in tune with the teachings of many religions.
There are many virtues, inner qualities and attitudes which must be cultivated for spiritual growth and happiness. Among the most important of these are gratitude, love for others, generosity, compassion, patience, tolerance, honesty, balance, flexibility, moderation, responsibility, and integrity. These are the foundations of the Shumei character.
Shumei members practise many rituals that are meant to reinforce the positive thoughts and behaviour. These rituals are potent means to focus the mind, encourage character development, and induce spiritual experiences. These include bowing, clapping, chanting, communion, offering ceremonies, and others.
Volunteerism is highly encouraged as the mission of Shumei is to serve GOD by serving people, and to dedicate our lives to the spiritual awakening of all mankind. Living a life of selfless giving is the highest expression of divine work. True happiness is achieved only when helping others become happy.
Indeed our Shumei hosts were extremely polite, friendly and hardworking. These young men and women had left the comforts of their homes in Japan to become volunteers to teach good human behaviour, the appreciation of GOD's gifts in the beauty of the universe, and the importance of caring and respect for nature.
Although all our respective religions teach us to imbibe these universal qualities, how many of us can honestly say that these are ingrained in our characters? And how many of us are committed to spreading these virtues for the sake of our mutual good and happiness?
JYOREI - SPIRITUAL ENERGY HEALING
Jyorei is a spiritual energy healing art developed by Meishusama as a treatment for physical infirmities during the 1930s. This healing technique involves focusing spiritual light or energy to gradually penetrate and dissolve the spiritual clouds that cause physical, emotional, and personal problems. Remember that all problems begin in the spiritual realm.
"Jyorei" means "Purification of the spirit." Jyorei is a shared act, usually involving two people, one who gives and one who receives. Besides profound healing, the person receiving Jyorei may experience a sensation of tranquility and wellbeing. The nature of Jyorei is such that its blessings are even greater for the giver. Not only does the giver benefit by Jyorei but he or she also gains a larger capacity for compassion and love for others and Jyorei's many blessings extend not only to the giver but to all whom he or she shares spiritual cords. It is not reserved for members only and can be given at any place and to anyone.
It is similar to another Japanese energy healing art - the more well-known "Reiki" ( "universal energy" ) developed by Dr Mikao Usui, except that Jyorei is regarded as a spiritual practice while Reiki is not.
Jyorei is one of three of the most important activities in which Shumei is involved. The other two are fostering an appreciation of art and beauty, and Natural Agriculture. Together, these three pursuits reflect Shumei's commitment to spiritual and physical healing, beauty, and a healthy environment.
APPRECIATING ART AND BEAUTY
Shumei teaches that art and beauty have the power to nourish and refine the soul. Not only do they bring pleasure but they profoundly move the heart and mind. Beauty fosters a deeper appreciation of life and all creation. Throughout history, art has touched the part of the human spirit that exists above the struggle for survival and beyond the sphere of reason. It can put humankind in touch with the best qualities of human nature. It is for this reason that Shumei encourages the integration of art and beauty into daily life. When touched by beauty we place a higher value on life and on all creation.
The arts foster harmony both within the individual and among communities. Through its many concerts, exhibitions, and seminars Shumei actively encourages an awareness and understanding of art's power and significance. Shumei has a cultural museum and its own ensemble in Japan. Members and friends are encouraged to make the arts an integral part of their lives. Creating and appreciating art and beauty uplifts our spirit and deepens our appreciation of life.
"Looking at a flower, I am awed by the skill of God." - Mokichi Okada.
The greatest expression of Shumei's deep concern for our environment is its practice of Natural Agriculture - a method that emphasizes the integrity of nature and the purity of soil, water, and air. Underlying Natural Agriculture is a profound reverence for Nature and its practice is guided entirely by the intrinsic wisdom of Nature. Shumei's founder, Mokichi Okada, who developed Natural Agriculture, envisioned it as not only a means of cultivating pure and wholesome food but as an art and spiritual practice. As an agricultural method it relies on understanding the subtle physical relationships and spiritual bonds that exist among all the elements involved in the cultivation of food: the earth, sun, rain, wind, the farmer, the people who eat the food, and the society in which they live. And its purpose is to foster the health and wellbeing of all these elements. It brings balance and harmony between the spiritual and the material.
Whether professional farmers or not, all who practice Natural Agriculture, even on a modest level, will benefit both physically and spiritually. Members are encouraged to grow some of the food that they eat, whether in a kitchen garden, working with others in a communal lot, or growing herbs in a clay pot on a window sill. The touch of the pure soil has healing and restorative properties, and growing plants fosters a respect and veneration for Nature's beauty and wisdom. The practice of Natural Agriculture also aids emotional wellbeing. An appreciation of Nature and the food that we eat engenders a love of life.
CHANGE THE WORLD
Shumei encourages a global change in which the world will become a better and more satisfying place for all humanity. This great change requires that all of us change and evolve in body, mind, and spirit. Shumei's practices and observances are used to support this deeply personal transformation. The faster we change, the earlier we can hope to have peace and happiness on earth.
Shumei members have established branches all over the world, spreading Meishusama's vision of this global transformation for peace among humanity, beauty in our lives, and harmony with nature. Although their philosophy is deeply spiritual in essence, they believe that no conflict exists between Shumei and religious or spiritual practices that seek universal peace and wellbeing. As such their members and friends come from a variety of backgrounds and religions, and many deepen their own respective religious beliefs and practices through the cultivation of the Shumei philosophy and practising some or all of Shumei culture.
I hope you have learned some valuable things from my sharing about Shumei. Meishusama's wisdom can be summed up in these words:
"To seek to know the mysteries of the world through the narrow tools of science is foolish." - Mokichi Okada.
[ Acknowledgement - most of the information above was obtained from Shumei brochures and website ].
Dr Amir Farid Isahak