Life

Goethe said that the history of humankind was no more than a manifestation of the great flow of life that had continued since the beginning of the universe and that we should not be bound by the modern egoism of individual independence.

Kukai said that mountains and rivers have a long life of eons, while humans have a short life of less than a hundred years.

Dogen said that nature does not conceal the truth flowing in the world at all.

I believe that the universe, the solar system, Earth, nature, and humankind can all be seen in the current of time and space, and I recognize that the source of the truth is life. Life continues through seeds, and the flow of life is time. Life is cultivated in space.

On May 10 I watched the Onbashira Festival at the Lower Shrine of Suwa Taisha, and I realized that the flow of this festival is a symbol of what I have just described. The form and proceedings of this festival have not changed at all for some 1,400 years. The reason lies in the fact that the root of the Onbashira Festival is life. The festival continues eternally because its essence is life.

The Onbashira Festival is held once every seven years, in the years of the tiger and the monkey according to Chinese zodiacal symbols. Why every seven years? And why the years of the tiger and monkey? The meaning here lies in the relationship between the sun and the Earth. The sun is the source of all life on Earth, and this is decided by the sacred number of seven. Why seven? This can be understood when we think of seven in terms of one week. The sacred number is the positive pole, and it means the continuation of life.

The tiger and the monkey represent years in the Chinese zodiac cycle, but in the past they also denoted hours of the day. This is quite easy to understand. The hours of the ox, which came before the tiger, were hours of quite in the middle of the night. Hence the expression, 的n the wee hours of the morning, when even plants are asleep. This tranquility is broken by the hours of the tiger, which herald preparations for the morning. It is indeed the stirring of new life. For this purpose, it is the tiger that brings about major change. In terms of a full year, it is the period of spring and growth.

The hours of the monkey, meanwhile, are located in the southwest, so they mean the end of the day and preparation for the night. In terms of a full year, it is the period of autumn, harvest, and fulfillment.

Since both the tiger at the positive end and the monkey at the negative end are enterprising in their own way, they form the two poles of morning and evening, spring and autumn, and they are the roots of the continuation of life.

Seven, tiger, monkey. Yang (positive force), yin (negative force). Spring, autumn. Looking at the assembly of the Onbashira Festival in my own way, the process of accepting 16 large trees that have grown up in nature from the mountain gods and manually hauling them, four each, to the two compounds of the Upper Shrine of Suwa Taisha (Hon Miya and Mae Miya) and the two compounds of the Lower Shrine (Haru Miya and Aki Miya) gives me a feeling of the continuation of life every seven years and into the future.

The two parts of the festival, the Yamadashi (pulling the trunks out of the mountains) and the Satobiki (hauling the trunks to the shrine precincts), take place over a two-month period. The processes of carrying the trunks along mountain paths, sliding them down steep slopes measuring 60-100 meters, taking them across a river, and then hauling them through the town are both exchanges with the gods and enormous tests. The relationship between the people and the trunks is indeed a reflection of life itself. The sight of people working together to haul the giant trunks, which measure more than 1 meter in diameter and 20 meters in length and weigh more than 10 tons, along roads for about 20 kilometers shows what work really should be like and at the same time gives a feeling of the peace and tranquility that awaits. And then there is the energy from the magnificent chanting, which gives a strong impression of the life force that is the eternal essence of the festival.

Indeed, there has been life since the beginning of the universe, and that life is eternal, and nature does not conceal this truth at all.