New Pilgrimage Books

Hello readers, A while back, I talked about something in Japanese culture called a goshuinchō (ご朱印帳), or pilgrimage book. This is a tradition that started in the late-medieval Edo period, when life in Japan finally stabilized and people could afford to travel the countryside on Buddhist pilgrimages, or just sight-seeing. People would get a “seal”Continue reading “New Pilgrimage Books”

Swastika Symbols in Buddhism

In places like Japan and China, Buddhist statues and buildings often use a symbol, like so on the Buddha’s chest: This has NO RELATION to the Nazi Germany symbol in any way. However, at first glance this can be very confusing. Why do Buddhist statues have swastika symbols on them? These symbols can be foundContinue reading “Swastika Symbols in Buddhism”

The Power of Prayer

With so many faiths having special holidays around this time of year, I thought this video by the BBC was really nice (sorry I can’t embed it, but please click on the link): Father Giles is a Benedictine monk for nearly 50 years and he reflects on how his life of devotion and religionContinue reading “The Power of Prayer”

Actions, Not Words

As I continue watching the Japanese historical drama The Thirteen Lords of Kamakura, I am struck by how much a scoundrel the lead character, Minamoto no Yoritomo (based on the real historical figure), is. By episode twelve, he’s tossed out his first wife, sleeping around behind the back of his pregnant second wife’s, and hasContinue reading “Actions, Not Words”

Tyche: Goddess of Fortune

Recently, I finished a fascinating book about the Parthian Empire called The Parthians: The Forgotten Empire, which covered almost every aspect of the Empire and its eclectic culture including religion. The Parthians, originally a nomadic people, inherited a logistical mess from the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, but somehow made it all work for 400 years untilContinue reading “Tyche: Goddess of Fortune”

The Seven Luck Gods

As 2021 draws to a close, this is a nice opportunity to review a fascinating aspect of Japanese spirituality: the Seven Luck Gods! The Seven Luck Gods or shichi-fukujin (七福神) exemplify the syncretic nature of Japanese religion, because the seven gods have different origins including some native Shinto kami to Hindu gods who have undergoneContinue reading “The Seven Luck Gods”

Polytheism in Dungeons and Dragons

Religion has always been a fascinating subject to me, and when I play Dungeons and Dragons (or build adventures for my kids), I spend a lot of time thinking about it. By default, religion in Dungeons and Dragons is polytheistic, and mostly just a vehicle for clerical players. As a teenager, I remember way backContinue reading “Polytheism in Dungeons and Dragons”

Learning, Not Parroting

This is why I look on people like this as a spiritless lot — the people who are forever acting as interpreters and never as creators, always lurking in someone else’s shadow….It is one thing, however, to remember, another to know. To remember is to safeguard something entrusted to your memory, whereas to know, byContinue reading “Learning, Not Parroting”