Thursday, November 11, 2010

真言宗 Shingon Buddhism – A Rare Look Inside Goma

Not so long ago, I was granted a very rare opportunity to photograph the famed Goma Fire Ritual practiced by Shingon Buddhists of Japan. A visiting Sensei from Mount Koya had asked for my assistance to photograph the event to which I was fortunate enough to have my own means of digitally capturing this most mystical and important rites of Shingon Buddhism. Due to the sensitive nature of these rites, I can not say when this took place or show all of the photographs but can show you glimpses of Esoteric Buddhism at its core.

For those not familiar with Buddhism or Shingon Esoteric Buddhism in particular, I will try to explain in brief. The practice of Goma predates Buddhism in India and involves many deities and offerings. As with Shinto, Buddhism is not a monotheistic religion that worships a single all powerful God nor does it revere the historical Buddha has a sole savior as with Christianity. It is far more complex and oddly agreeable. As far as I know there have been no great religious wars over disagreements in the way Buddhism is practiced as opposed the other monotheistic religions of the West.

Taiko drumming adds a unique element of intensity that builds as the rite progresses. Through the practice of Goma spiritual obstacles can be overcome and wishes can be attained. It is through this monthly practice I have gained both understanding and a sense of peace as my hardships and impurities are consumed by flame. This ceremony is performed monthly throughout the Shingon Buddhist World. If you can attend one such Goma, you are in for a uniquely powerful spiritual experience. Enjoy!

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