Shinto is a spiritual tradition that emphasizes each person’s sacred nature. Mankind is a descendant of the kami, the spiritual beings who have existed since the universe congealed. As descendants of the kami, we have innate brightness within us. From time to time, this luster may be dulled through impurities and incorrect action. However, through the rituals of Shinto we may purify ourselves, restoring the original luster and luminosity and finding great joy in our lives.
Shinto is based on spontaneous awareness of the Divine in all of creation–including mankind, other sentient beings, living nature such as trees, and natural matter such as mountains, rivers, oceans, and other formations.
Since human beings are descendants of the kami, the kami are our ancestral spiritual deities. Thus, we as humans have inherited the same divinity within ourselves; we are innately as pure and bright as our ancestral kami. However, we develop, acquire, and commit various impurities (tsumi or kegare) through our own actions, through actions that happen to or upon us, or through being in a situation or place with negative energy.
Shinto practice centers on sweeping away the impurities by purification of our selves and of our surroundings to correct our path and to return to our natural purity and radiance. This can be done through prayer to the kami, the practice of misogi, and through immersion in Great Nature.
Shinto’s scripture is Nature. There is no written, sacred doctrine (such as the Bible in Christianity). The original Shinto shrines were sacred groves of trees. An area was purified, and through ritual changing the kami were entreated to descend to the sacred site, alighting on the tops of the trees and creating a connection between Heaven and Earth, between sacred and temporal. For us, as modern mankind, the experience of being in an old growth forest or by a pristine waterfall, we invoke awareness of the sacred.