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The Founder who Swallowed the Sun
Ancient religions often took heavenly bodies as objects of worship, but there are strikingly many that worship the sun in particular. Shinto also incorporates elements of sun-worship, such as the kami Amaterasu, the sun kami. There are a number of shrines that worship Amaterasu as the principle deity, but the significance attached to the sun in the sectarian Shinto (kyōha Shintō) institution of Kurozumikyō stands out. That significance relates to the unique religious experience of the tradition's founder, Kurozumi Munetada, an experience they call the "direct embodiment of heavenly life" (tenmei jikiju). On December 22, 1814, after Munetada recovered from a serious illness, he was praying to the sun. According to the story, as he prayed, the sun drew closer and closer until Munetada swallowed it into his breast, thereby attaining perfect union between himself and the sun-kami. In that moment, [he] composed the verse, "Amaterasu's spirit and man's spirit, if they become one, become eternally indistinguishable." That day was not only Munetada's birthday but also the winter solstice, a day celebrated in numerous religions throughout the world due to its symbolic resonance with "death and rebirth/resurrection."
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