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God Worship (拝上帝, Haijōtei) is the state religion of Taihei Tengoku, founded by Koujinkon in 1818. With over 800 million adherents, it is the most-practiced religion in the world and by far the most successful new religious movement. The term God Worship describes a doctrine of beliefs and actions to attain enlightenment and to improve the world. Its essential beliefs are codified in several religious texts, of which the most important are the Select Quotations of the Enlightened Kou-Jin-Kon, better known abroad as the Little Red Book.
It is a restorationist development of Songian-Yamato religion, and God Worshippers claim that their religion is the perfection and completion of Sekairen and High Dharmat or Kaihō thought, as well as all other religions in the world. Scholars debate the degree of syncretism between God Worship and other religions, such as Providentialism and Oswinism.
The life of Koujinkon
Okada San'aemon (岡田 早苗門) was born to a noble family of junior rank in 1777, and took vows to the Tendai monastic order at the age of 14, receiving the clerical name Koujinkon (光仁坤), or "Mercy-Lights-Earth". By all accounts an exceptionally intelligent and hardworking monk, quickly gained renown in the year 1800 when he completed the 1000-day ordeal of the Kaihogyo. The youngest monk to ever complete such a ritual (and the first to do so in over a century), he gained great fame and was feted as a holy man. Quickly rising through the ranks of his native Hakkō-ji temple, Koujinkon became the honorary grand-master of the temple at the age of 30 and had many audiences with the imperial court of the Ri Dynasty and foreign dignitaries wishing to meet the "marathon monk" in person. Articulate and a gifted polyglot, he became an ardent defender of Yamato religion and a powerful apologist for the Kaiho faith.
At this time, Yamatai was undergoing a period of turmoil and decline. The Ri Dynasty, which gained power some five centuries before, had faced a succession of weak emperors and natural disasters, and possessed only a fraction of their previous power, prosperity, and legitimacy. It faced a string of defeats against Wallasean expeditions and peripheral "barbarians," and as Koujinkon was undertaking his ordeal the Ri Dynasty fought a losing war against stateless Providentialist adventurers in the (MEGAOPIUM HYPERWAR). During his period of celebrity Koujinkon saw the widespread poverty in the empire, the decadence of its rulers and clerisy, and the foreigners, whom he regarded as uncultured and predatory. Dissatisfied by his experience with high society, Koujinkon announced that he would undergo the Kaihogyo for a second time in 1814. He successfully completed the ordeal three years later, but at the brink of death; after ascending the 2,401 steps to the outer shrine for the final time Koujinkon vomited blood and collapsed. When he regained consciousness over a week later, he claimed to have attained enlightenment and conversed with buddhas during his coma. To the temple's horror, as Koujinkon related his experience he professed new opinions that were heterodox at best and heresy or blasphemy at worst. In January 1818 the actual grand master of Hakkō-ji stripped him of his honors and expelled him from the monastery.
Koujinkon had no trouble finding sympathetic hosts to house him afterwards, and began an itinerant ministry. He criticized the Yamato cult of animistic ancestor-worship and the scholasticism of the monastery from which he had been expelled; both these traditions were distracted by the details from the core truth and obligation of the universe. Koujinkon denied the divinity of Yamato deities, claiming that there was only one supreme entity in the universe, Heaven, and that Heaven governed the universe by fundamentally rational principles. All suffering in the world was the result of disorder, which pulled souls away from Heaven, and all sentient beings had the obligation to become closer to Heaven by renouncing disorder and entropy. His ministry attracted support from all corners of society; temples falling on hard times reversed their fortunes by espousing his new doctrine of "God Worship," reformists and nationalists found in Koujinkon's teachings an ideology capable of confronting a hostile modernity, and tradesmen and peasants found his egalitarian message a language to resist the depredations of the foreigner and the corruption of their rulers, and ethnic minorities of Yamatai flocked to God Worship as the faith made them equals with the dominant Yamato race in the quest for enlightenment.
God Worship cosmology asserts that the universe that is:
- Indivisible: the supernatural and the natural coexist in a single universe.
- Rational: that universe is governed by a set of principles that can be understood.
- Moral: those principles reward good and punish evil, and the universe itself is organized by right and wrong.
There are no personifiable "gods" although the supernatural exists above and below the material plane of existence. The chief object of worship is the concept of "order" itself, opposed by entropy and decay. Order, or Heaven, is the center of the universe around which all natural and supernatural planes of existence orbit. Disorder is a natural byproduct of a universe in motion, much like centrifugal force pulls objects away from the center of rotation. States of existence closer to the center of the universe are considered "heavens" (not to be confused with Heaven Itself) or "paradises" while those further away are "hells." This designation is relative, therefore the Earth is a heaven to the more distant hells and a hell compared to the various closer heavens.
God Worship does not preclude any belief in the supernatural, and claims to not contradict any belief in science as well. Most believe to some degree in the rich corpus of traditional Yamato folk spirits, kami, yokai, and other numina. Supernatural entities, like ghosts, nature spirits, or guardian angels, are creatures of higher and lower planes of existence which do their work in the material world. Some are agents of Heaven, which help humanity out of their duty to Heaven; others are products of entropy which unthinkingly seek to draw people away from harmony. God Worship encourages the invocation of benevolent spirits and tolerates offerings made in gratitude of the numina's service, but considers spirit worship or animism idolatry and a degeneration of the true religion.
God Worshippers also believe that humans can ascend or degenerate into supernatural entities by reincarnation, and that humans can be reincarnated from other supernatural entities based on their conduct. God Worshippers believe in bodhisattvas, mortals that achieved enlightenment but remain in the world to help it, and various demons that were formerly humans who moved further away from Heaven due to their sins. The "penitent" or "good" demon (usually oni) is also a common trope that contrasts the pitiful and discordant state of the fallen soul with the self-awareness and genuine desire for self-improvement, demonstrating the ultimate benevolence of God Worship.
The vast majority of God Worshippers believe in reincarnation; as perfect orbits have no end or beginning and everything is conserved within the universe, it follows that life-essences or souls are conserved as well. Death is considered to be the moment where the soul is released from its physical form. The harmonious or discordant tendencies of the deceased is allowed to carry the soul to its next appropriate form in a closer or further orbit of existence.
The God Worshipper belief in reincarnation has social implications. God Worshippers nominally profess the equality of races and sexes, as the particular race and sex that a soul-essence occupies are ephemeral and will change at the next reincarnation regardless. However, as the goal is to achieve enlightenment, the equal dignity of races and sexes does not implicate an individualist outlook found in Providentialism or Oswinism, as individualism itself is a discordant behavior.
Koujinkon describes Heaven as "一天二正四真八徳十六業" (I'ten Nisei Shishin Hatoku Tōmugyō, usually contracted to I'ten Nisei), or "one heaven, two rights, four truths, eight virtues, and sixteen actions." Exponentially increasing attributes describe and are equivalent to Heaven: the Sixteen Actions are the Eight Virtues which are the Four Truths and so on. The aspects of Heaven are a description of perfection, the requirements for enlightenment, and the method by which it is achieved.
Fulfilling the I'ten Nisei requires "非理法権天" (Hirihoukenten). Roughly translated, Hirihoukenten is the submission of foolishness (非, hi) to sensibility (理, ri), of that to law (法, hou), of law to authority (権, ken), and of authority to Heaven (天, Ten). Koujinkon asserts that Hirihoukenten is the correct and only heuristic to follow when judging one's actions, and that obeying Hirihoukenten will always bring the adherent closer to enlightenment.
Together these are called the Prime Directive, or Saishirei (最指令) of God Worship.
The core of God Worship is an indivisible and unchanging Heaven, referred to as 天 (Ten or Ama) when emphasizing its perfection or 帝 (Tei or Mikado) when emphasizing its obligation. Heaven is the transcendental concept of the Good, the laws of the universe, as well as the tangible good that comes from harmony with itself. Since humans always desire to be good rather than evil, the natural behavior of Man ought to follow the Prime Directive. However, as the universe exists in motion the forces of entropy pull all things away from Heaven at the center. Without conscious effort to move closer to Heaven entropy reduces the state of nature to a base or even evil state. God Worship provides the means to move closer to Heaven through the Prime Directive.
Koujinkon's tenet of One Heaven opens the Quotations. In all printings it occupies the first page of scripture and is a complete explanation of of the beliefs of God Worship. Koujinkon immediately adds that such an explanation, while complete, is useless to humans because of their limitation and thus the work of God Worship is making One Heaven universally understood.
The God Worshipper concept of Heaven is opposed to the Pantheonist concept of universal noumena, as it divides the One Heaven into lower idols; to the Oswininst Vohzd, which is a personified, discrete deity separate from the universe; and to Providence, which by inverting the proper causality of Heaven confuses moral reason with moral rationalization.
To achieve unity with Heaven, human actions need to perfectly align with heaven in the real and the conceptual. Total enlightenment by the one Heaven is achieved through ensuring that both realms are "right" with the individual:
- Right religion: the recognition of Heaven and its Prime Directive. Right religion corresponds to Heaven as Ten or perfection.
- Right action: the harmony of outward, real action in accordance with the Prime Directive. Right action corresponds to Heaven under the concept of Mikado or as an imperative.
The Two Rights are the simplest characterization of the One Heaven understandable to humans, but conversely the hardest to embody. Violation or dereliction of one or both of these rights leads to one of three degenerations:
- Superstition: action without religion. Correct actions are done simply out of habit and the superstitious only act in a righteous manner by sheer luck. Commonly associated with pagans or adherents to "primitive religions," God Worshippers consider superstition to be less than ideal but excusable. The superstitious are viewed as "latent believers" that only need to be enlightened before malign influences trick them.
- Hypocrisy: religion without action. The hypocrite has a more-or-less correct understanding of the universe but mistakenly believe that is adequate. Hypocrisy is often associated as a degeneration of God Worshippers who falter in Hirihoukenten and adherents of "sophisticated religions" which have developed ideas close enough to the Prime Directive that better behavior is expected.
- Abject Evil: neither action or religion are correct. Those in abject evil are either completely duped by false religion to act discordantly, or are fully aware of Heaven and make the conscious, continuous choice to be evil (e.g. apostasy or willful hatred of God Worship). The former is a totally pitiful state for the degenerate; the latter is the worst anathema and must be destroyed.
With the exception of those who have achieved enlightenment, the entire human race is degenerated in one form or another because they fall short of harmony with Heaven in one or both spheres. To remedy this, the attributes of God Worship expand exponentially to clarify the meaning of the two rights and the specific actions that produce harmony. Those who attain the more myriad lower attributes fulfill the higher attributes in turn, and at the moment of enlightenment become fully righteous and unite with Heaven.
The Two Rights mainfest in Four Truths which are the component truths of the universe:
- True Word, or Shingon (真言): associated with the Southern Cross, the True Word is the correct description of the correct religion, God Worship.
- True Vision, or Shinkaku (真覚): associated with the North Star, the True Vision is the understanding of the universe and its Prime Directive.
- True Motion, or Shindō (真動): associated with the rising sun, the True Motion is all the forces which create order and disorder in the universe.
- True Intention, or Shin-I (真意): associated with the lands to the west, the True Intention is the sincere and total desire to be in harmony with Heaven.
The Four Truths are the component parts of the Two Rights, which combined result in the One Heaven.
The Four Truths are only fully comprehensible to those who possess the Eight Virtues, and are capable of overcoming their natural entropy to see the harmonious course to Heaven.
- Justice, or Gi (義), is the developed sense of right and wrong.
- Sincerity, or Sei (誠), is the rejection of cynicism, fatalism, and nihilism. Sincerity is seeking Heaven for its own sake rather than for ulterior motives.
- Humility, or Shin (慎), is the recognition of one's own fallibility and the ability to honestly self-criticize. Humility is also the avoidance of self-pity.
- Wisdom, or Chi (智), is the understanding of the laws of Heaven and its application towards a correct life.
- Fidelity, or Chū (忠), is the conscientious commitment to one's social relations (family, workplace, friends, etc.) and to just society.
- Effort, or Bai (勱), is the discipline required to overcome one's natural inclinations towards entropy.
- Courage, or Yū (勇), is the moral fortitude to live by the Prime Directive despite hardship or temptation.
- Compassion, or Ren (憐), is the empathy towards those in a less fortunate material or spiritual state and the rejection of arrogance.
The Sixteen Actions are behaviors that the enlightened will exhibit as well as the tasks required for enlightenment. Performing these actions gives the adherent inherent knowledge of the truth within God Worship.
- Awareness is the search for Heaven and one's position in the universe.
- Meditation is the cultivation of harmonious thought.
- Separation is the detachment from superfluous stimuli and distraction.
- Introspection is the study of the self with regard to enlightenment.
- Study is the analysis and memorization of worthy mantras and texts.
- Practice is the integration of the Prime Directive into everyday life.
- Charity is the donation of time and resources to those less materially or spiritually fortunate.
- Honesty is the telling of the truth.
- Speech is the utilization of tact and wit to promote harmony and worship of Heaven.
- Decision is the full commitment to a course of action with impregnable self-belief.
- Salutation is the courteous deference to magistrates and priests.
- Obedience is the willing and instant compliance to one's superiors.
- Moderation is the restriction of worldly pleasures and the practice of thrift.
- Discernment is the act of separating what is harmonious from what is discordant, and the development of the senses to do so.
- Sacrifice is the abandonment of material goods and personal comfort in service to, and defense of, God Worship.
- Protection is the defense of God Worship from aggression and blasphemy.
The chief text of God Worship is the Quotations of Koujinkon, or the Little Red Book. Compiled by Kinhisei (金日成) during and immediately after his master's lifetime, the Little Red Book is the most important text in God Worship and in certain schools the only teachings strictly necessary to attain enlightenment.
Status of previous religious texts
God Worshipper schools
God Worship has three major schools of thought, each emphasizing a different aspect of the faith. The boundaries between schools are generally porous and practitioners of one school often borrow the techniques of others. Some temples and masters (generally of the Kongoha or Tenraiha branches) avoid reference to any "school" whatsoever in an effort to downplay factionalism.
The Indestructible Diamond Path (金剛派, Kongōha) of God Worship is the largest sect within God Worship and the "orthodox" God Worshipper tradition within Taihei Tengoku. Kongoha practicioners emphasize the importance of virtuous life according to the Prime Directive. As harmony is the universal good, Kongoha adherents strive to move the whole world closer to harmony through public ritual, good deeds, and proselytization. Kongoha monks head the largest God Worshipper orders, such as the Shinsui order of Tenma or the Tendai order at Kunimi. These temple networks are a key part of God Worshipper public life, and the means by which Kongoha orders maintain benevolent societies of significant endowment and international reach.
Principal Body God Worship, or Shutaiha (主体派), is the second-largest school of God Worship. Shutaiha practicioners place paramount importance on the written teachings of Koujinkon and previous sages. A key tenet of Shutaiha teaching is that of "self-reliance," holding that man is master of his own destiny and that enlightenment within one lifetime is possible and desirable. Much of God Worshipper religious law was formulated by Shutaiha monks. Unlike Kongoha orders, Shutaiha temples are smaller, secluded, and do not have satellites. Most monks instead head independent practices alone or in small groups proselytizing to local communities and educating youth.
God Worshippers of the Heavenly Lighting Strike Way (天雷派, Tenraiha) emphasize mysticism, esoteric ritual, and syncretism to achieve a vicarious union with Heaven. Tenraiha God Worshippers believe that all previous Yamato religions (and certain foreign ones, mostly of the Dharman group) contain mysteries that were incomprehensible prior to God Worship, and that with God Worship these ancient practices become a vehicle to enlightenment and a total harmony with Heaven. The Tenraiha school is the most secluded and monastic; the rigors of the ritual schedule drive away laymen but retain a core of fanatically devoted practitioners. Many so-called "Shinto" holy sites in Taihei Tengoku are in fact maintained by Tenraiha God Worshippers.