Kyoto Journal Issue 25
Sacred Space in Japanese Religion
The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei
The Source of the Personification of Shiva
The Huangshan Photographs of Wang Wu-Sheng
Sacred Man-Made Mountains
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SACRED MOUNTAINS OF ASIA
Is nothing sacred? In an age when traditional sacred grounds are mined, bombed, paved or ignored all over the planet, when technologies of destruction and creation are used to alter the very fabric of life, some say the sacred has well nigh disappeared. Perhaps it has only shifted its locus, from the communal to the personal, from the integral to the separate. What’s sacred now, in “advanced” societies, is my fun and my money. This is probably the root cause of the cancer epidemics, but not to worry, nature takes many forms and doesn’t need us to survive. The bottom line is, what you hold sacred sets the quality of your life and death.
To consecrate is human. Until the genetic hackers switch our being over to passive mode, we’re going to hold stuff sacred. In doing so, whether we know it or not, we’re going to control our destiny. That’s the thing about being able to be conscious. What’s it going to be?
Obvious and arduous, the mountain seizes our attention. It stands above, it stands for everything, it endures. If it’s in east or south Asia, in a place where people over fifty walk around, you might see a sign of awe or respect — shrine, cairn, monument, grave. And you might not. Like almost every mountain in other parts of the world, most mountains in Asia are mundane, or profaned. The sacred difference? More in the mind than in the mountain. Even in the grand Asian tradition, the publicly sacred mountain of myth and pilgrimage, temple and hermitage, is not so much magical ground as it is a spur to awareness. And so it is in the private encounter with a mountain anywhere, actual or symbolic, that inspires a sense of mysterious, crucial reverence. It makes you feel better, it helps you see, it keeps us together. — Stephen Suloway, Tanuki Valley, Kyoto, 1993
Cover Image by Takeda Yoshifumi
published December 24, 1993
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