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Wisdom from The Nihongi, Part 1 of 2

2024-06-12
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Shinto, literally meaning “the way of the Gods,” originated in ancient Japan and focuses on Kami, or the Divine spirit, which is found everywhere. Kami is in everything in nature, be it trees, mountains, waterfalls, the sea, the seasons, or even people. Kami is also the spark for ideas such as growth, creation, and judgment. Shinto has also been open to the teachings of Buddhism and Confucianism.

The Nihongi, compiled in 720 CE, is the second oldest chronicle in Japan, documenting the origin of creation, traditional Shinto teachings, and Japanese ancient history, which were previously transmitted orally.

Today, we are pleased to present excerpts from “The Nihongi,” starting with Book 1, “The Age of Gods,” where the story of creation is told. Next, we follow with Book 25, “The Emperor Ame-yorodzu toyo-hi,” which details the importance of leaders looking after their people and being virtuous and just.

“Of old, Heaven and Earth were not yet separated, and the In and Yo not yet divided. They formed a chaotic mass like an egg which was of obscurely defined limits and contained germs. The purer and clearer part was thinly drawn out, and formed Heaven, while the heavier and grosser element settled down and became Earth. The finer element easily became a united body, but the consolidation of the heavy and gross element was accomplished with difficulty. Heaven was therefore formed first, and Earth was established subsequently. Thereafter Divine beings were produced between them. […]”

“The Emperor Ame-yorodzu toyo-hi […] was of a gentle disposition, and loved men of learning. He made no distinction of noble and mean, and continually dispensed beneficent edicts. 19th day. The Emperor, the Empress Dowager, and the Prince Imperial summoned together the Ministers under the great tsuki tree, and made an oath appealing to the gods of Heaven and Earth, and saying: ‘Heaven covers us: Earth upbears us: the Imperial way is but one. […] Now, from this time forward, […] the Lord will eschew double methods of government, and the Vassal will avoid duplicity in his service of the sovereign! […] This is as manifest as the Sun and Moon.’ […]

(645 A.D.) Daikwa, 1st year, Autumn, 8th month, 5th day. Governors of the Eastern provinces were appointed. Then the Governors were addressed as follows: ‘In accordance with the charge entrusted to us by the gods of Heaven, we propose at this present for the first time to regulate the myriad provinces. When you proceed to your posts, prepare registers of all the free subjects of the State and of the people under the control of others, whether great or small. Take account also of the acreage of cultivated land. As to the profits arising from the gardens and ponds, the water and land, deal with them in common with the people. Moreover, it is not competent for the provincial Governors, while in their provinces, to decide criminal cases, nor are they permitted by accepting bribes to bring the people to poverty and misery. […]’”
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2024-06-12
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2024-06-13
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