Reframe Japan, Wabi-Sabi

Shiva Lingam ( シバリンガム )

Seven Gods of Fortune 七福神

In Japanese mythology, the Seven Gods of Fortune or Seven Lucky Gods (七福神, Shichifukujin in Japanese) are believed to grant good luck and often have their place in engravings, paintings, or in other representations. It is also not uncommon to see the Seven Gods of Fortune as good luck charms displayed in each household.

It is known that these deities have their origins in ancient gods of fortune: from the Hinduism practiced in Nepal and India (Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten); and from the Chinese Taoism and Buddhism (Fukurokuju, Hotei, Jurojin), except for one (Ebisu) who has a Japanese ancestry.

Takarabune (treasure ship) is the sailing ship on which the Seven Gods of Fortune and treasures are loaded, or the picture that depicts the scene. Therefore, Takarabune is considered to be an auspicious ship, and figures that depict the Seven Gods of Fortune on board of this ship are popular as lucky charms.

Seven Gods of Fortune 七福神

It is assumed that the first the Seven Gods of Fortune faith started in Kyoto during the Muromachi Period running from approximately 1336 to 1573, and then it had gradually spread all over Japan.

Daikokuten 大黒天

Daikokuten 大黒天 is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune.

The Japanese name Daikokuten is a direct translation of the Sanskrit name Mahakala which means "Great Blackness" because "Maha" means great and "kala" means blackness.

Strictly speaking, in Japan there are three kinds of Daikoku which differ in form and implication: Daikokuten of Mahayana Buddhism, Daikokuten of Esoteric Buddhism and Daikoku-sama created through syncretization of Okuninushi no Mikoto (a Shinto deity) with Daikokuten of Buddhism.

Through that background, Daikoku is variously considered to be the god of wealth and prosperity or of the household, particularly the kitchen. As mentioned before, it is not uncommon to see the Seven Gods of Fortune as good luck charms displayed in each household. Although both Daikoku and Ebisu are independent deities of Seven Gods of Fortune, they are usually worshipped as the deity of commerce bringing success in business as a pair in the same way as the pair of Jurojin (deity of longevity) and Fukurokuju (tall headed deity of happiness, wealth and long life).

If focusing on Daikokuten of Mahayana Buddhism, Mahakala is a manifestation of Shiva. In Shaivism tradition, Shiva is one of the supreme beings who creates, protects and transforms the universe. Shiva is also known as “The Destroyer" within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma and Vishnu.

Shiva シヴァ

Later the destructive aspect dropped away to leave only the abundant harvest aspect, which is how Daikokuten, known as "Daikokusama", became the god presiding over food and wealth, and was counted one of the seven Seven Gods of Fortune.

Daikokuten 大黒天

Shiva Lingam

Apart from anthropomorphic images of Shiva, he is also represented in aniconic form of a linga, lingam or Shiva Linga. These are depicted in various designs. It is a votary symbol revered in temples, smaller shrines, or as self-manifested natural objects.

One common form is the shape of a vertical rounded column in the centre of a lipped, disk-shaped object, the yoni, symbolism for the goddess Shakti.

Lingam リンガム

In Shiva temples, lingam is typically present in its sanctum sanctorum and is the focus of votary offerings such as milk, water, flower petals, fruit, fresh leaves, and rice. Although there are many views, linga literally means "mark, sign or emblem", and also refers to a "mark or sign from which the existence of something else can be reliably inferred".

It implies the regenerative divine energy innate in nature, symbolized by Shiva.

The term also appears in early Indian texts on logic, where an inference is based on a sign (linga), such as "if there is smoke, there is fire" where the linga is the smoke. Some scholars view linga merely as an erotic phallic symbol, although this interpretation is criticized by others. Others view linga in the Shiva tradition is "only a symbol of the productive and creative principle of nature as embodied in Shiva", and it has no historical trace in any obscene phallic cult.

Lingam was made of stone, metal, gem, wood, clay or disposable material.

Although lingam like stone was found in Mohenjo Daro, One of the oldest example of a lingam is found in the Parashurameshwara temple, midst a hilly forest about 20 kilometres east of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. It has been dated to the 3rd-century BCE, or to the 2nd century BCE, and generally accepted to be from the 3rd- to 1st-century BCE.

In Japan, specific stone from Mandhata, Narmada river is recognized as Shiva Lingam. Mandhata, also called Shivapuri or Omkareshwar, is a riverine island in the Narmada river in Khandwa district, Madhya Pradesh, India. Although I am not sure exactly reason why term of Shiva Lingam is popular to describe the specific stone in Japan, it seems to be business sales reason. Taking advantage of the Japanese gemstones boom, called as Power Stone boom from around 2000, the stones were introduced and sold as Shiva Lingam in Japan.

Shiva Lingam シバリンガム

The stone is introduced as cryptocrystalline quartz. However, the feeling of surface likes sandstone and it might be jasper. It is not sure advertising or true, the stone seems to be mined from Narmada River once per year as an event. However, from some information, it seems that there is place that stones are collected in Narmada river in dry season and temples around the river use the stone to worship. Narmada River is huge and a large quantity of water whirling around makes many 2 meter size holes in the bottom of river. In the holes, stones are made columnar forms naturally.

Shiva Lingam シバリンガム

Although commercial aspect is strong in Japan, lingam is primarily used as religious reason in India. Lingayats, a sect of the Shaivite religious tradition in India, wear a miniaturized lingam called istalinga or Ishtalinga. Everyday, the devotee removes this personal lingam from its box, places it in left palm, offers puja and then meditates about becoming one with the lingam, in his or her journey towards the atma-linga.

By the way, Hindu scripture rates crystal as the highest form of Siva lingam.