The study is a provisional report. It is the fruit of the common reflection of the Working Group on New Religious Movements, composed of staff members of different dicasteries of the Holy See: These reflections are offered primarily to those engaged in pastoral work so that they might be able to explain how the New Age movement differs from the Christian faith. This study invites readers to take account of the way that New Age religiosity addresses the spiritual hunger of contemporary men and women.
In the earliest times, and certainly with the influence of China, ancestor worship was a strong and vibrant belief which made deceased real, active members of the family.
Noble families, and families of the warrior class, placed great value and importance on their ancestors. Ancestors continue to have significance today, a reflection of the importance of the family system itself. Buddhist belief holds that ancestors are able to exert influence over affairs in this world.
The spirits of ancestors return to this world at Obon, a summertime festival of the dead. The spirits are fed and treated well to ensure their aid in the future and so that they do not linger after the three-day period and cause damage to the living.
Obon is one of the two yearly festivals which bring distant relatives together, the other being New Year. An extended family consisted at least of grandparents, parents and children in addition to ancestors.
A main or stem family might have affiliated to it branch families. Each branch family at some time might itself, while maintaining its subordinate position to the main family, become the stem family to several branches.
Thus, a well-established, well-organized, and rich family could become extremely large. This kind of branch family was often in an economically subordinate position: The fictive familiar relationship added extra depth and strength to the economic relationship.
Theoretically, an entire village might be one large extended family in this manner. In fact, very few families were organized along the lines of the extended family. Simply put, few were rich enough to sustain or require such a complex system.
For the majority of Japanese, even the three-generation family grandparents, parents, and children was more of a dream than a reality. Life expectancy was so short until recently that few lived long enough to see grandchildren; certainly few families experienced the pleasures of more than one grandparent until well after World War II when life expectancy reached eighty years.
Another difficulty in achieving the ideal extended family was conflict between the eldest son inheriting the family headship and the need to have an able person as head of the family.
Many a family chose to give the family headship to a younger but more able son; this threw into disarray the strict hierarchy of the ideal. Furthermore, many younger sons strove to prove their ability; in the case of samurai families in tumultuous times, this might mean that a younger son killed his less able elder brother in order to become family head.
Yet another difficulty was that some families did not produce a son or an able son. In such cases, it was common for a son to be adopted.
In some cases, a daughter might be adopted and then her eventual husband would be adopted as son and heir. A full chart of almost any family would reveal adoptions which have maintained the family name, but not necessarily the blood line. Family is particularly important in many trades or craft industries where skills are passed down from generation to generation.
The familial relationship helps maintain the continuity of a business entity. In the modern period many factors have worked against continuity of this family system, although attitudes toward marriage still follow an essentially traditional pattern.With time, Shinto and Buddhism became the basis of the Japanese way of life, both carrying different spiritual symbols.
For Shinto is generally associated with the celebration of life, birth marriage, whereby Buddhism is mostly practised during funerals, concerned with .
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