Janice Clark

Rev. Koichi Barrish performing part of the Shinto purification ritual at Seattle's Shambhala Meditation Center in January.

A Shinto Blessing for the Shambhala Meditation Center of Seattle

On a Saturday afternoon this January, a Shinto Priest came and blessed the Shambhala Meditation Center of Seattle. I would like to explain to you how this wonderful and rare event came about.

In Granite Falls, Washington, about an hour outside of Seattle, is the Tsubaki Grand Shrine—the only Shinto Shrine located in North America. It is directed by the first non-Japanese Shinto priest in the world, the Reverend Koichi Barrish. Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America is a branch of Tsubaki kami Yashiro, founded over 2000 years ago—one of the oldest and most illustrious shrines in Japan.

Rev. Barrish is no stranger to the Shambhala Sangha. He is the Priest of Daitozan Jinja, the Kami Shrine at Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, and makes a trip there each year for the annual ceremony of Kami Shrine renewal. This ceremony will happen again on July 19, 2008.

Sister Mon

Tossing salt and pouring sake were part of the outdoor portion of the ceremony, meant to appease the local river gods. A stream that once flowed through the neighborhood "returned" as a major flood in the big storm of December, 2006.

We invited Rev. Barrish to come to our Center and bless it because of some uncertainty surrounding our current building permit situation. With his unfailing good cheer and delightful mix of serious Japanese and colloquial English, he led us through a series of blessings in our shrine room.

Then we circumambulated our building and watched him bless the four corners and main entrance in the darkness of late evening. A dramatic pouring of sake and tossing of handfuls of salt completed this outdoor ceremony.

We retuned indoors to complete the ritual and then enjoyed a question and answer session where we learned a little bit more about the Shinto approach to life. Everyone seemed to feel that our building is blessed and protected, allowing us to relax and do what needs to be done. ⊕

New Beginnings

Rev. Koichi Barrish receiving a gift from Seattle Shambhala Co-Director, Marcia Oberg.

For more information on Rev. Barrish and Tsubaki Grand Shrine, go to www.tsubakishrine.org
Shambhala Meditation of Seattle's website is www.Seattle.Shambhala.org

Contributor: Alan Ness

Photos: Randal Jeter