On July 7th, 2016 I had the great fortune to experience the name of my blog, ‘Fire up, Water down’ in real life. It came as a pleasant surprise. The location was at Kinpusen-ji Temple in Yoshino, Japan (near Nara). The occasion, a Shugendo festival that included a remarkable fire ceremony where flames and purifying smoke reached for the sky. Fire up. Down a flight of several hundred steps from the main Temple hall there is a small shrine called Noten-o-kami, where one can drink from a small spring said to promote health. Water down. I have written about fire and water being complementary and opposite. Here, they are part of a long and shared history of respect of and engagement with the elements to gain spiritual power. I will let the pictures tell the story.
The elements at your fingertips
I will never see my hands and fingers in the same light again. Many cultures and religions consider that everything in the universe, including humans, are made up of the elements of fire, air, earth, water and (often) space/ether/spirit. Even so, I had not made the connection between the elements and our fingers, and in particular with mudras – those elegant and powerful gestures commonly associated with Buddhism, Yoga (e.g. Raja and Hatha) and Indian dance and drama.