Torii are portals from one zone into another which can also represent shifts in awareness or mandala. Traditionally the ends on top are angled upwards, as with most roof structures in Asia, to summon the kami of sacred presence which are sensed as blessings descending from above. Japan’s imperial founding kami is Amaterasu-omi-kami, a female deity seen in primordial dawn in a cosmic mirror represented on many shinto shrines as a small round mirror standing vertically on a shrine. This entire world is like a reflection meaning there are two sides to every manifestion each as valid as the other, the same yet different. Shamans can see the future by peering into such mirrors for the future is a reflection of the present – the same yet different – because of course mirrors are portals too…
The shape of the Torii resembles Hexagram #20 Contemplation/View. The old visual symbols for this hexagram involve an eye. The two solid lines sitting above four broken lines indicate a high tower from which a king can survey his domain; but whilst he is above surveying those below, those below can also view him above, so there is both seeing and being seen. Contemplation into the nature of reality always cuts both ways: looking into one’s own self-nature reveals other-nature at the same time since ultimately there is no self or other for we are all part of the same Nature.
The Torii in this picture is clearly symbolic in form and function. Practically speaking it does not serve as a gate into or out of anything. Except it does: it creates a perceptual shift indicating that the mandala on one side of the gate is different from the mandala on the other side. Although it is all one reality, it is also two. The lower gates face the side directions making four. Then also Heaven and Earth above and below naturally in place – with Earth here lake water as well as hills and mountains.
This is a portal from nowhere into nowhere or if you prefer: from somewhere into somewhere else. It demonstrates the admirable marriage of imagination, discipline and sacred perception that characterizes this great people some of whom were inspired to build this lovely Torii in the middle of a lake.
The angle of shadow shows us this Torii is facing East. Each moment of awareness is a fresh new dawn so dawning awareness always faces East. Finally, note the panel between the two upper beams with writing: the seed syllable principle in action.
forever facing East
mirroring golden sun from heaven
into rippling flames in lake
More Torii from https://www.ronrosenstock.com/the-galleries#/japan-1 :
the journey is the goal
one portal into another
Lastly, a Torii functioning as a bona fide entryway into a particular mandala, in this case that of a Temple.
Hexagram quibble: some might argue that the superstructure shows a top solid line, a broken line and then a lower solid line beneath which are no solid lines just two vertical legs making all broken lines. That would be Fire above, Earth below which depicts the Sun (Fire) rising above the Earth below (Hexagram #35). So this is called Great Progress though it could also be called Sunrise or Great Eastern Sun.
Editor’s Quibble: this piece was supposed to be a Haibun but ended up being an Article about Torii and related matters. Oh well. An actual Haibun follows in the next post.
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