Misogi: Purification of Mind, Body & Spirit

Most spiritual traditions of the world have rituals specifically to purify the practitioner of the faith. In Christianity there is baptism; in Judaism there is the Mikveh; in Hinduism there is the practice of bathing in the Ganges. Water plays an important part in these various purification rites. It is the same in the spiritual traditions of Japan. Misogi Shuho is the practice of entering a body of natural water-a river, sea, or waterfall-for the purpose of purifying mind, body and spirit, and realigning ourselves to the universal flow coming from Kami-sama. It is a sort of rededication of ourselves to sacred principles, removing the dust of misdeeds (tsumi) and any uncleanness (kegare). In its advanced expression (something only taught to personal students), it is a deeply transformative challenge to enter the darkness of the "Womb Realm", and learn more about yourself. For our purposes here, I'm limiting the discussion to the basics of the purification rite. Understandably, not everyone has easy access to such bodies of water, but this need not be an impediment to Misogi. In such extraordinary circumstances it is permissible to perform Misogi Shuho in your shower. The following is a simple guide in how to do so. Before Misogi you need to chant the Misogi no Ooharae (Harae-tamae-Kiyome-tamae-rok-kon-sho-jo!) facing your Kamidana or Ofuda, if you have no Kamidana, or at the very least facing the morning sun in the east. Then observe each of the following steps in order.

Misogi Jumbi Taiso (preparatory exercises) 

Exercise I: Furitama-no-gyo (Soul Shaking) 

1. Stand with your legs apart about shoulder width.

2. Place your hands together with the right hand over the left. Leave space between them big enough for an imaginary ping pong ball. 

3. Place your hands in that position in front of your stomach and shake them vigorously up and down. 

4. While shaking them concentrate and repeat the words: Harae-dou-no-Okami ( はらえどうのおおか み- ) an invocation to the Kami of the place of Harae, the place of the ritual. 

The purpose of shaking the soul is to generate awareness of it within yourself. Kon, (the soul), is one of the four important metaphysical elements along with Mei (life), Rei (spirit) and Ki (which means Spirit in its causal aspect-Ki is a kind of energy source). Kon is the most important of the four since human beings can also be described as Waketama (separated individual souls), which is another way of saying "children of the Kami". 

Ame-no-Torifune-no-gyo (Bird Rowing) 

1. Stand straight and put your left leg forward. 

2. Clench both fists with your thumbs inside.

3. Lean forward and move your arms as though rowing a boat starting from your left knee and ending near your *armpits. As you "row," shout "E-i".( えい ) Pronounced "eh ee".

4. Perform this 20 times and then repeat the Furitama no gyo exercise. 

5. Changing to a right leg stance, repeat the Torifune shouting "Ei" and "Ho" alternately. Do this 20 times and then repeat Furitama no gyo again.

6. Return to the left foot forward stance and remake the clenched fists as before and bring the hands up to the chest to a shout of "Ei" and thrust them down and forward with hands opened and fingers extended to a shout of "Sei" (せい) After this, once again repeat the Furitama no gyo.

The basic purpose of this exercise is to introduce a dimension of physicality to what has been a spiritual intention thus far. We're aligning our inner intention with our external actions. This concept is vastly important as you progress in spiritual life, as it is also the process by which you can transcend limitations.

Otakebi (おたけび)Shouting 

1. Stand up straight leaving a space between your feet. 

2. Place your hands on your hips. 

3. Shout the following three invocations: Iku-tama! Taru-tama! Tama-tamaru-tama! (いくたま !たるたま!たまたまるたま! ) 

IKU TAMA (shouted out horizontally) comes from the verb Ikeru (to live- exist). Tama is from tamashii (soul). 

IKIRU TAMASHII means Life-soul. 

TARU TAMA (shouted towards the Earth) Taru can be read ashi (leg) implying to stand on the Earth in the current moment. Taru also comes from tairu (enough/sufficient) implying fulfillment/support and relating to the shape of a circle: life. 

TAMA TAMARU TAMA (shouted in ascending manner) comes from Tama (jewel), Taru (pool), and Tama (soul), implying deep nourishment, setting-sealing and relating to the square shape which implies continuous echoing 

4. Then shout 3 times: Okami! Okami! Kunitsu-Okami! Sarutahiko Okami To-toshi-ya! 

Shouting Iku-tama activates the soul which is now coming to self-awareness again. Taru-tama affirms the awareness that you can realize the infinite in your soul. Tama-tamaru-tama confirms both and keeps the soul activated at its quantum level. The closing invocation addresses Kami-sama as Sarutahiko Okami, head of the Kami of Earth and acknowledges him to be of great power. 

Okorobi (Yielding) 

1. Stand as in Exercise III.

2. Place the left hand on your hip and make a sword with your right hand by extending your index and middle finger. (like boy scout salute). 

3. Three Kami are invoked here and with each invocation, you cut the air in a sweeping gesture with the right hand as follows: Kunitoko-tachi-no-Mikoto! "Yie!" " Sarutahiko-no-Okami! "Yie!" Kokuryuon-no-Okami! "Yie!" At each time of cutting the air, you should take a step forward with your left foot and then back again. 

By specifying these three important manifestations of Kami-sama, Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto (the Earthly Kami), Sarutahiko Okami (Kami of guidance and head of the Earthly Kami) and Kokuryuon-no-Okami (Kami of water, life and ki), you are aligning yourself with them, seeking to bridge the all too present gap between desire and action, and remove your impurities, receiving their power as your own. This again is an integral part of understanding what it is to be a spiritual warrior, to truly approach action meditation, which is beyond mere contemplative practices. The deeper practices are considered the Okuden, or inner, secret teachings shared only with personal students.

Ibuki (Breathing) 

1. Stand with your feet apart. 

2. Lower your hands and arms towards your knees. 

3. Lift your arms above your head by extending them fully outwards. 

4. Inhale while raising them. 

5. Exhale slowly and deliberately while lowering your hands again. 

6. Place hands and arms down by knees and exhale completely. 

7. Repeat five times. 

8. Turn to face the waterfall, bow twice, clap twice and open your arms palms upwards. 

9. You are now ready to enter the showers cold stream. 

The purpose here is to conclude the preparation by taking deep breaths which have the effect of clearing the heart and mind. Having laid the groundwork, the metaphysical desire is now going to manifest as action.

Nyusui (Entering the Water) 

1. Pray Misogi-no-O-Harae-no-Kotoba again. 

2. Then face the shower and scatter sea salt three times into the shower area and then on yourself 

3. Bow twice, clap twice and once again. 

4. Cut the air from right to left with your right hand with your sword hand, and shout "Yei! as you cut and as your return your sword to you in front of your forehead. 

5. Enter the shower stream. Put your hands together with fingers interlocked and folded down, except the middle fingers, which are up and extended. 

6. Shout the following: Harae-tamae-Kiyome-tamae-rok-kon-sho-jo! 

7. Cut strongly from right to left shouting "Yei!" Then exit the stream, turn and face the stream and bow twice, clap twice and make one final bow. 

The Meaning of the Final Chant: The expressions Harae and Kiyome ask for the purifying of the individual by the washing away of all tsumi from the ro-kon-sho-jo, from the six elements of human beings that we mentioned previously, the five senses and the mind. 

 You are now ready to do kensen at your kamidana or to pray Ooharae no Kotoba or to enter the world with your mind, body and spirit aligned, awakened and functioning at highest level. 

The connections of Kami to you, and you to other people becomes more important, transformative, and you can act more effectively in the world around you if you properly understand the concepts behind Misogi. The purpose isn't simply to make you feel better (which it can do), but to help you function in a more mindful and more powerful way.

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