Japan – Sato, Rinzai, Satori

This article is a brief introduction to Awareness from the perspective of The East, and the symbolism and doctrines of Japan. Sadly access to knowledge prior to the last 3,000 years is again buried and hard to come by but we can look at some of the main principles which have survived to this day.

The Japanese Flag

Geographically located East of the Asian mainland, Japan is known as the Land of the Rising Sun. The Japanese Flag may seem to simply reflect the image of the Sun, but there is actually more to it. The Sun, along with the circle, and the crimson and white colours, are strong spiritual symbols in Japanese culture. The Sun relates to spiritual enlightenment, the circle is related to our consciousness and the infinite universe, that all can be found within, not externally, and the colours represent the transience of life and purity of spirit.

The Rising Sun Flag and The Sun Source Flag

The Japanese Flag of The Rising Sun, with the 16 Crimson Rays on a White background was in use prior to the 1600’s. The circle was also still in the middle of the Flag and formed a specific math ratio. Over the next two hundred years it was carried by Warlords, and also later adopted in use by the Japanese Government to represent the Imperial Army. However, the circle had been moved from its centre to an A-symmetrical position and with a different mathematical sum total of angles. This changed its energetic structure and corresponding spiritual qualities.

The Japanese Flag that we now see in the form of a crimson circle on a white background is called Hinomaru, which can be translated to ‘The Sun Disc’ or ‘Sun Source’.

Japanese Kami – Emperors, Sons of The Sun

In the Japanese Doctrine of Shinto, the core belief is that everything is Kami – meaning ‘Divine’, or ‘of Spirits’, and that Kami exists in all things from a planet to a pebble. Japanese legend says that Amaterasan was a Shinto Kami, a Spiritual Goddess of the Sun. That all True Emperors have descended from her, that they are the Sons of The Sun.


This symbol is called Enso and is written using two Japanese characters or kanjis, which translate to something close to ‘circle aspect’ or ‘mutual circle’.

Also, the Enso symbol has two different designs with corresponding different meanings. Both are drawn with a flourish of one brush stroke, but where one remains open, the other is closed. It seems that the spiritual aspect of the Enso is not the symbol itself so much as the spiritual energetic quality in drawing it. Once it has been drawn, it should not be altered, as the result and its appearance seemingly reflective of the energetic quality and likely stage of enlightenment of the individual who drew it.

Japanese Zen – Soto and Rinzai

Monks are instilled with spiritual practises from a very early age. Two of the oldest Japanese Zen Spirituality Illumination methods taught are Soto and Rinzai. These two different teaching methods of Japanese Zen came from the East around Yokohama with Soto, and the West around Kamakura with Rinzai. There are a number of differences in the teaching approaches to Soto and Rinzai including how a student must sit and remained focused and why.

Rinzai teaches as you sit facing the room, Soto teaches as you sit facing the wall.

Japanese Koans – Intuitive Knowledge

In Japan, a Koan is a written Poem or Statement portraying a Spiritual based lesson. They either illustrate the existence of Intuitive Knowledge, or its absence. Whilst they can be understood on an intellectual level, their true meanings can only be known through the experience and emotions that enable the knowing and which precedes the subsequent explanation of it.

Mumon’s Poem

Because it is so very clear,
It takes longer to come to the realization.
If you know at once candlelight is fire,
The meal has long been cooked.
— The Gateless Gate

A Cup Of Substance

Nan-In, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-In served tea. He filled his visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the spillage until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-In said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Japanese Buddhism – Kensho

Along with Sato and Rinzai, Japanese Buddhism also became a common spiritual practice in Japan and is known as Kensho. Kensho was a redefined concept of spiritual practise which essentially advocated that any and all people could practice and achieve Spiritual Awakening as opposed to those of a particular lineage. Kensho, also known as Satori, is represented by Three Spiritual Circles.

Three Spiritual Circles – Satori

Although there are Three Circles, the concept of Kensho or Satori is of one journey with an ultimate outcome but represented in three stages as represented by the Three Circles. These three stages are Asleep,  Awakening, and Awake.


Staring with the first stage is our existence, represented by the large circle as the Universe and the small dot as Us, an individual.


The Circle with the dot erased represents a state of unknowing, no resistance, no expectation of a particular outcome. As we go through a spiritual purge and cleansing, so too is the concept of a single identity of personality consciousness purged.


The last stage is of full enlightenment. The dot is no longer solid showing that the way is clear for the universe to channel though and express itself. There is no sense of separation between the self and the eternal universe, that all is a part of it and not separate to it.

Japanese culture is entrenched in Spirituality and the concept of both the Mortal and Immortal worlds. feature heavily in daily life and culture. The beliefs of the after world or other world are still prevalent today. So much so that many elderly and displaced people without a family are even pulling up roots and moving to the cities to live near people they haven’t physically met before in order to be buried near to other souls when their time comes.

Japanese Symbolism


In Japanese Symbolism, Salt represents purification. It is used in Sumo wrestling ceremonies to cleanse the arena, and also in restaurants as protection from evil spirits.

This has foundations in chemistry as Salt is a mineral with a particular set of positive cations and negative anions which essentially makes it a mineral with an extremely low or neutral electric charge. Salt neutralizes the charge polarity of any energy.


Called Okome, Rice was traditionally grown annually at the command of the emperor and is a deeply spiritual practice relating to intent, creation, growth, and harvest. This practice continues today all over the rice fields of Japan.


Majestic Torii structures can be found at the gateway to all Shinto Shrines and places of meditation. This Japanese symbolism marks the boundaries of where a Kami resides. Passing through a Torii represents a form of spiritual cleansing and is taken very seriously in Shinto practices.

Folding Fan

In Japan, the fan itself is said to represent the Sun and birth or life cycles. The blades represent the Sun’s rays which are also potential life paths. The folding fan is also used to set a border for people seated in Japanese Tea Ceremonies. Samurai are often depicted a picture of the Sun on their fans or clothing.


Taking pride of place on the cover of Japanese passports and characterized by 16 petals is the Chrysanthemum. This is a symbol of endurance and rejuvenation. It is also the insignia of the Royal Emperors and said to represent their true bloodline and descendants.


The Butterfly is heavily associated with transformation and the great effort in metamorphosis. Used often in Japanese symbolism in family crests, the butterfly its also linked with transcendence.


The Dragon represents the Guardians of water, great strength and power. It also relates to energetic consciousness lineages. A Japanese Dragon is depicted with three toes and a Chinese Dragon, five and four relating to a corresponding spiritual level of hierarchy.


Known as ‘Kaeru’ in Japan, frogs symbolise a return state, after a physical journey or a metaphysical state of being.

Pair of Dog Statues

Known as ‘Komainu’ in Japanese, pairs of dogs symbolise loyal protection and are found guarding Japanese shrines. Additionally, an open mouth represents beginning and a closed mouth represents ending.


Deer are respected as the messengers of the Gods and the hunting of them is prohibited in Japan and many other countries because of this association.


Representing persistence and specifically forward movement, dragonflies are also dependent on the sun’s light to generate that movement – enlightenment for progression. Many Samurai would use the dragonfly Image on their helmets to reflect their achievement of this.


Used in Shrines, and by Sumo wrestlers, and in other Japanese ceremonies, the zig-zag paper represents the Lightning Wand – Lightning.

When You Know, You Just Know

The belief in the mortal world and the immortal world is endemic in Japanese culture. It is a given, a known. Their spiritual practices reflect this deep innate knowing and their commitment to this maintaining knowledge which has been prevalent on our planet since humanity began and is present in all of us.

It is a knowing in the absence of physical evidence because it is a knowing that comes from another source. For those who think they have not had any experience of innate knowledge it is a difficult concept to accept or expand on, yet every soul has had experience of it. It’s an instinctual based knowledge. We can all think of a time where we did, or did not, follow our instinct, and the subsequent consequences. Recognising it and believing it and knowing it, is the only adjustment. Those who won’t or can’t, will have to do the work to figure out why that is. There are no exceptions to our obligations to understand, discover, and harness it, although how long it takes each individual is up to them and part of the journey to get there in itself.

Nichiren Buddhism

Tachibana – Mandarin Orange Flower
The official logo of Nichiren Shu,

Nichiren Buddhism is named after the Japanese Buddhist Priest Nichiren. It is a branch of the Mahayan Tree of Buddhism and was founded in the 13th Century by Nichiren. Whilst all Buddhist teachings refer to the Lotus Sutra Sacred Text, Nichiren’s beliefs were founded on the expressions Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

It’s to do with the sounds and tones of this combination of letters and words. That they in themselves convey every aspect of Dharma. The Nam Myoho Renge Kyo mantra when recited along with certain prayers is referred to as Daimoku.

The main difference between Zen Buddhism and Nichiren Buddhism is that Zen focuses on the transience of life and on detachment from significance. These are featured in the main points of the primary sutras that many Zen sects use which are the Diamond Sutra, and the Heart Sutra. Nichiren Buddhism focuses on the totality of life and how to optimize it by integrating its self named five-word description of life.

The spiritual symbolism and practises illustrated through Japanese culture over thousands of years is evidence of how far behind the western world is in this art. Most are playing catch-up and are being put on a steep learning curve in relation to spiritual awareness and an understanding of the soul bodies and associated levels of multi-dimensional consciousness. At such a time and this returned to unified consciousness state, earth and humanity will be undeniably incredible for all.

See Also:


religionfacts.com/Buddhism/sects/nicheren.com; Thoughts.com; AshidaKim.com; onmarkproductions.com; mai-ko.com; modernzen.org; learnreligions.com; mai-ko.com/travel; AshidaKim.com; Thoughts.com; Organism.earth.com; taosurfers.com; biographyonline.net/spiritual/Buddhism/theravada-mahayana.htm; dragonplanet.com; mountaincloud.org; sanpai-japan.com; theconversation.com; wikipedia.com; adishakti.org; faculty.washington.edu; 2.kenyon.ed; quora.com; nichirenlibrary.org