|Swastikas on lanterns at a Buddhist Shrine|
in the Dontonburi district, Osaka, Japan
“The soul speaks in an image,” Aristotle said. The voiceless language of symbols speak to our psyches and awaken powers, like good luck, good health and well being.
That’s the meaning of the swastika, which for thousands of years before Nazis and Eurocentric World War II history stole the symbol from Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Native American tribes, like the Navajo, used the swastika in healing rituals. In European history, the symbol was associated with Norse gods like Thor and Odin. The swastika is also the pattern made from the revolution of the stars of Ursa Major around Polaris.
In Japan the swastika is called the manji (卍) and it was on maps in Japan to denote Shinto and Buddhist shrines and temples. I remember seeing it on Google maps the first time I visited Japan in November, 2016, and marveled at the impression this symbol made on my psyche. And it had nothing to do with Nazis, but the power of activating the powerful seeds of healing and auspiciousness within me.
|Swastika at a Shinto shrine near Nishikujo Station, |
Around Japan I have seen dozens of temples and shrines with the swastika. Nazi versions face right and usually sit in a diamond shape at a slant, while the manji version is a square. Japanese Buddhism has both a right-facing and left-facing manji. So think left swastika L for luck and love and R for Reich on its side for Nazi differentiation.
But the Nazi symbolism of the West has usurped the power of the symbol in the East in the last 70 plus years, especially in the United States, making this symbol inaccessible to many. It’s time to take it back and educate people about this symbol’s origins and true meaning, because humanity depends on it. As human beings, our psyches need something beyond just shopping and working. It needs ritual, myth and participation in the cosmos, otherwise, as Mythologist Joseph Campbell says, society disintegrates. And it is! Just read the headlines!
|Swastika on a chozubachi, water-filled basin,|
used for purification at a Shinto Shrine near Nishikujo Station,
“Mircea Eliade was motivated at all times by a deep concern for the future of Western civilization, which he saw as threatened by possible extinction,” writes Robert Temple.
“He believed it essential that we recognize and acknowledge the archaic and the Eastern contributions to man's spiritual history while there is still time to do so with good grace. Otherwise, by maintaining an attitude of contempt or superiority towards the rest of the world — past and present — we would bring disaster on ourselves and the world as a whole.”
So contemplate the swastika. Notice the tension of opposites from the Nazi symbolism that has embedded itself today and with the rise of hatred and chaos in the United States and Charlottesville, Virginia as the West declines and the East rises with its ancient connotations of health, well-being and peace in the East. See where those two meet. One thing passes away, the other arises. What has been suppressed, comes into consciousness once again.
Experience the symbol in your body, your art, your meditation, your dreams and see what happens.
And may peace, luck and good health be with you!
More pictures of Swastikas in Japan on my blog, Sydney in Osaka! Subscribe!