Shugendō is a practice shrouded in mystery and magic: it is narrated by masters enlightened by supernatural powers, wise men capable of resisting naked on the snow or under the waterfalls, able to move on the ground almost flying. The ability to cover great distances in dematerialized bodies or to be able to establish telepathic contact to provide teachings are characteristics that the great masters of Shugendō have in common with the Tibetan Lamas or the Shamans of the Americas.
The mastery of the 5 Elements (Earth, Water, Wind, Fire and the Great Void) and of the Vital Energy (Prana, Chi, Qi or KI) allow practitioners to achieve health and longevity.
The awareness of being able to do anything or nothing, represents the personal power that this art is capable of conferring on all its practitioners.
Today as then, Shugendō is practiced and loved by all those who feel a particular connection with Mother Nature, who feel the need to direct all their efforts in one direction: to protect the Earth and all Biodiversities. This is the way of modern “Eco Warriors”.
Shugendō (修 験 道 literally “the way of spiritual power through asceticism”) originated during the Heian period, that is, in the period of maximum development of art in Japan.
Shugendō is believed to be the result of the encounter between the ancient Shinto Shamanic rites and the doctrines and rituals of Tantric Esoteric Buddhism. Shugendō practitioners, known as Yamabushi (山 伏), made pilgrimages to sacred places of power, usually lost in the mountains or the woods, they were known for their supernatural powers and their invincibility techniques in combat.
Shugendō has an ascetic tradition that originates from the ancient Japanese cult of Nature, considered sacred. It was in fact believed to acquire supernatural power, through rigorous meditation practices conducted in wild and remote places.
Lo Shugendō ha una tradizione ascetica che trae origine dall’antico culto giapponese della Natura, considerata sacra. Era infatti credenza acquisire un potere sovrannaturale, attraverso rigorose pratiche di meditazione condotte in luoghi selvaggi e remoti.
Shugendō finds its founder in the semi-mythical figure of the ascetic En-no-gyōja (役 行者), active in the Nara area between the seventh and eighth centuries, an ascetic with miraculous powers, great master of esoteric techniques , considered by many to be the first Tengu or Shinobi warrior.
One of the peculiar characteristics of Shugendō is the relationship established between Man, Divinity and Nature, the latter represented by the sacred space of wild places.
Shugendō can be defined as an ascetic tradition that has made Nature the fulcrum of its vision. As he sets off, the ascetic leaves the world of men behind him, judged corrupt and confused, and takes a mystical journey of physical ascent into Nature, which symbolizes a spiritual progression towards ultimate knowledge.
It is the task of the ascetic to reveal the sacredness of Nature and to derive its spiritual power.
In Shugendō, Nature, understood as the mountain, the river or the sea, is considered as the concrete and earthly projection of a mandala, a sacred space symbolically representing the universe. Secret initiatory teachings were transmitted to the yamabushi which allowed him to interpret the mandala in order to reach ultimate knowledge.
The consolidation of the Shugendō doctrine and its encounter with the Buddhist one led the Yamabushi not to seek their own individual salvation only through solitary pilgrimages, but to turn their knowledge and ritual practices to the service of the people, especially for the salvation of poor peasants. The ascetic practices of the Yamabushi thus spread among the Japanese villages, and their spiritual powers became particularly requested for the removal of evil influences, for the prediction of the future and for the treatment of diseases. Sacred places were made accessible, and the popularity of Shugendō became ever greater. The first Ryu of Ninjutsu is thought to derive from the teachings handed down by the Yamabushi.