by Gussie Fauntleroy
Anyone, regardless of language, culture, or religious background, can stand in front of an exquisite work of art and appreciate its beauty. Anyone can plant, harvest and eat food. Anyone can quietly and wordlessly receive the gift of Jyorei, in which the practitioner’s focused openness to the flow of divine, healing light enhances the receiver’s own ability to become a clear channel for that light. These three elements—art and beauty, Natural Agriculture, and Jyorei—comprise the essential triad at the spiritual foundation of the international Japan-based organization, Shinji Shumeikai. Through the practice of these three, a fourth and equally important quality is made possible: recognition of our deeply shared humanity. As expressed in the mission statement of Shumei’s Crestone-based center, officially called Shumei International Institute (SII), “We are all world citizens, able to act for the common good.” The organization and spiritual fellowship now known as Shumei grew out of the teachings and philosophy of Mokichi Okada (1882-1955), a Tokyo-born businessman who believed that divine light moves through all of us. In the 1930s Okada—respectfully called Meishusama—began exploring a method of farming that employs only the natural and spiritual elements of the land: soil, rain, sun, and wind. Equally important, he stressed, is the relationship between these elements and the grower’s labor and love, as well as the respectful attitude of those who consume the food. Beyond organic, Natural Agriculture avoids even animal fertilizers, relying instead on the guidance of nature’s wisdom and the belief that in good clean soil, water, sunlight, and air, God has provided all that plants need. As Okada stated many times, “Nature can teach us everything.” In the 1920s and ’30s, Okada also developed Jyorei, a subtle form of non-touch spiritual healing work, which SII operations manager Matthew Crowley calls “the heart and soul of Shumei.” The channeling or movement of divine light through the Jyorei practitioner is aimed at enhancing the receiver’s own openness to this greater source of health and life. Shumei members are trained as Jyorei practitioners, a practice always offered free of charge. In 1970, Okada’s original organization was formalized as Shinji Shumeikai, currently headed by Hiroko Koyama (known as Kaicho Sensei), daughter of the organization’s first president, Mihoko Koyama. With some 350,000 members worldwide, Shinji Shumeikai maintains hundreds of centers throughout Japan and elsewhere around the world. Three of these are considered sacred centers, used for retreats and other special activities. The organization’s headquarters in Misono, Japan, is associated with the element of fire. A second center, on Kishima Island located in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, represents the water element. And SII, established near Crestone in 2002, serves as the sacred center for the element of earth. The Crestone-based center came about after Shumei President Mihoko Koyama was introduced to Maurice and Hanne Strong in 1998 at the Interfaith Center of New York. Hanne invited Shumei officials to visit Crestone and offered the organization land to establish a center. “When we came here, we saw the beauty of the nature and the energy coming from the earth. It transcends religious or spiritual traditions. People can feel the energy,” observes Sensei Alan Imai, SII’s executive director and Shumei’s international project coordinator for Natural Agriculture. With a sacred center focused on the earth element, the organization now benefits from the balance and completion of all three facets of the source of life, which helps the entire organization share light with the world, Alan Sensei says. Through numerous activities and public events at the Crestone center, Shumei continually manifests the three fundamentals of Meishusama’s spiritual philosophy. The transcendent experience and appreciation of beauty and art finds expression through monthly art symposiums—coordinated by longtime area resident and photographer Bill Ellzey—as well regular musical performances and Taiko drumming training and performances. At the same time, the transforming power of beauty is reflected in every detail of the center’s buildings and grounds, in particular its elegantly simple, exquisitely lovely sanctuary. Natural Agriculture is practiced and promoted at SII, where during the growing season the public is welcome to participate in hands-on learning in the greenhouse and gardens. In the summer the center provides much of the food for public events and for visiting groups on work-study retreat or pilgrimage from Japan. On a larger scale, Shinji Shumeikai (which has a presence as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations) is helping promote Natural Agriculture practices in several developing nations. At the Crestone center, a special public sampai, or prayer service, is held once a month in the sanctuary and includes a talk by Alan Sensei. The monthly sampai is followed by a meal (donations accepted), which almost always features produce grown on site. Shorter, twice-daily sampai services also are open to the public year-round. Daily services begin precisely at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., so visitors are advised to arrive early. All sampai services include chanting and Jyorei. Jyorei practitioners are also available for one-on-one sessions and can go to a homebound or dying person’s residence to offer the gift of enhanced flow of divine light. Alan Sensei emphasizes that everyone is welcome at Shumei, whose founder taught that art and beauty, Natural Agriculture, and Jyorei are all forms of spiritual practice available to all people. “Meishusama spoke extensively about all those things,” Matthew notes. “They all flow from that single source.” For more information, visit www.shumeicrestone.org or call 719-256-5284.