The Aspects Of Shinto That Made It Receptive To Buddhism Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Japan, Religion, Buddhism, Human, Nature, Belief, Books, World

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2021/03/18

Religion is a core part of human culture. Precisely, it significantly affects and defines human values, interaction, norms, and behavior. Throughout human history, some cultures and religions have more easily admitted new faiths and ideas (i.e. China accepting Buddhism), and some less so (i.e., China and Japan less favorable to Christianity). The focus of this paper is to identify the factors contributing to the unrestrained acceptance of Buddhism in Japan. Precisely, it considers the qualities of Shinto that allowed Buddhism to enter Japan without much trouble. As well, it examines the factors that facilitated the ability of the two religions to co-exist in Japan.
Shinto is the native religion of the Japanese traditionally transmitted orally. Indeed according to Aurora, Shinto consists of beliefs that honor nature. Shinto it comprises of purification rituals in the kami and the continuity between the profane and the deific space within the world. However, its rituals tend to change with time throughout Japan (Aurora par. 2). In principle, kami was the spirit in an object of creation. As such, it could freely move. Thus, the veneration of the kami through ritual and sacrifice was of paramount concern to the early Japanese people (KIC DOCUMENT 3, 166). Precisely, Shinto means the way of the gods (KIC DOCUMENT 3, 165)
Buddhism came to Japan in the sixth century. Since then, it became a dominant ideology in Japan’s belief system. Various aspects can explain the compatibility and co-existence of the two religions. Firstly, the Buddhist figures of deity took complementary Shinto identities. According to Aurora, Buddhism considered Shinto kami to strive toward the Buddhist enlightenment. As such, Buddhism adopted the rituals and made statues and paintings to represent the Shinto pantheon. Practically, this shift started in the eighth century (Aurora par. 3). The mandala in Buddhism is a symbol of the stages of human spiritual experiences. In principle, it borrows a lot from Shintoism (Aurora par.6).
Another factor contributing to the acceptance of Buddhism was the compatibility of their beliefs. One of the fundamental doctrines of Shinto is that man must respect all living things (Aurora par. 2). In fact, Shintoism believes in the inherent purity of the natural objects such as trees and mountains. Interestingly, they believe that these objects are reasonably subject to corruption and defilement (Aurora par. 14). Like Shintoism, Buddhism emphasized the respect for humanity and other life forms. Precisely, this is evident in some of its canons. For instance, the Five Dedications of the Theravada Rules spell out the rules that govern human life. Precisely the five laws were against lying, killing, unlawful sex, alcohol, and stealing (KIC document 1, 64).
Buddhism uniquely facilitated the natural expressions of Shintoism. Shinto was devoid of sacred writings or literature (Aurora par. 2). Ancestral Japanese Shinto did not confine their understanding of God to the celestial gods or the goddesses having the superhuman abilities. Interestingly, even the natural happenings such as earthquakes and thunderstorms were considered divine. In addition, they also found the physical features such as rivers, trees, and mountains as divine (KIC DOCUMENT 3, 165). As such, Shinto was mysterious. Buddhism helped Shintoism to communicate its beliefs, through the physical representations of their pantheon. For example, the Theravada Buddhism spelled out fundamental ideas in Shintoism through its sacred writings. Theravada means the writings (teachings) of the elders” (KIC Document 1, 63).
Buddhism, like Shintoism, drew some of its teachings from the natural world. For instance, at some point Buddha claimed that everyone compared to a particular stage of the growth of a lotus plant. Some people were still in darkness as the seedling while others had budded and were experiencing the sunlight. Precisely, Buddha considered himself as an emissary of the light who came to enlighten the people (KIC DOCUMENT 2, 19).
In sum, Buddhism played a critical role in enhancing the formal expression of Shintoism. Key to note is that the two religions share some common elements and beliefs. In principle, these commonalities enabled them to merge easily. While Shintoism venerated creation and the natural world, enlightenment was a critical factor for Buddhism.

Works Cited

Aurora, Par van Zoelen, “Hayao Miyazaki: Recovery of Japanese Cultural Values.” Pedagogical Notebook. 13 Dec. 2012. Introduction to Visual Culture. Web 22 Apr. 2015
KIC DOCUMENT (1). Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism
KIC DOCUMENT (2): Shakyamuni Buddha
KIC DOCUMENT (3): Shinto

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