Rebirth Through Nature
"The natural world is a sacred force"
He wears a white robe essential for its comfort and utility. A conch shell hangs at his side, and he leans forward on a cedar walking stick. His name is Master Hoshino, and he is a protector of the ancient ways of Shugendo, an ascetic mountain religion on the decline since the 1800s.
Shugendo beliefs come from a number of religions, including esoteric and Tendai Buddhism, Taoism, as well as Shintoism. Master Hoshino is one of the remaining Yamabushi, a practicing monk who lives by time-honored traditions and trains others in the art of mountain worship. He is a thirteenth-generation Yamabushi priest assisting others in leaving the bustle of daily life and returning to nature in an attempt to rediscover themselves.
“When facing the future, you can’t think it out; you have to feel it,” says Hoshino. It is believed that embracing the elemental forces of nature, the same that echo inside the human body, shows the path forward. By immersing themselves in nature, human beings can get in touch with their bodies, their senses, and their hearts, thus approaching enlightenment.
Master Hoshino himself lives in Daishobo, a pilgrim lodging in the shadows of Mount Haguro, one of the three mountains of Dewa. This is where Hoshino introduces the concepts of Shugendo to his willing pupils, starting with traditional vegetarian monks’ meals, before delving into physical and spiritual training within the mountains. It is a celebration of a religion and lifestyle stretching over fourteen hundred years.
Master Hoshino is no stranger to the Dewa Mountains; impressively, he has walked them again and again, taking himself and initiates over the three peaks that represent birth, death, and rebirth, just as they have for the past millennium. It is the walking, the atavistic Yamabushi way of life, that aids many modern souls in their journey of rebirth.
Read more about Tsuruoka, Yamagata here.