Relationship Between Shinto And Buddhism Essay

Amalgamation of Shinto and Buddhism Japan, just east of Korea and China, is an island rich in religion and culture. During ancient Japan, the indigenous people of Japan believed in the Shinto religion, and worshipped kami, or spirits that inhabited many parts of nature. However, in the midsixth century, Buddhism started to appear in Japan. As Buddhism started to become more popular in Japan, it started to intermingle with Shinto and created a relationship between the two religions.

I believe the integration and combination of Buddhism with Shinto created a unique and distinct culture and customs in classical and medieval Japan. The Shinto religion has existed and spanned since ancient Japan. Shinto followers believed in kami, which were seen as invisible forces, or spirits that are able to control nature, and often were represented by nature, such as mountains or trees (Andreeva, 680). The kami were an important part of early Japan culture, and were often asked for advice about problems the Japanese people may had (Andreeva, 680).

Shinto was the main religion that existed in Japan until Buddhism was brought into Japan from a foreign land. During the mid-sixth century, Buddhism, a foreign religion was brought into Japan. While at first it was not initially received, Buddhism gradually became more popular and established itself in the Imperial court early seventh century (Teeuwen, 7). These Buddhist divinities would be worshipped as foreign kami, sharing the same traits and characteristics as the indigenous kami, though the foreign kami were worshipped in a Buddhist way (Teeuwen, 7).

This meant that the Buddhist divinities and kami are the same, in that they should be worshipped and revered, but are different in that they part of two different, distinct religions. This shows us that although Buddhism has yet to amalgamate with Shinto, the people of Japan, Buddhism was able to coexist with Shinto. Eventually through the seventh century, Buddhism started to pressure Shinto and Kami worship (Teeuwen, 7). One of the signs of a relationship between the two started when Buddhist temples started to be built beside Shinto shrines known as jingu-ji (Satoshi, 70; Teeuwen, 9).

The proximity between the two would encourage the worshipping of both the kami who resided in the shrine and the Buddha deity that lived in the temple. They were built close to each other to encourage offering the kami Buddhist rituals (Teeuwen, 9). The building of Jingu-ji created a unique way to worship both Shinto and Buddhist deities without feeling immoral or contradictory due to the two different religions, and helped change the worshipping customs in Japan. Throughout the seventh century, these temples were built around major shrines, such as the Kehi shrine, Wakasahiko shrine, and the Tado shrine (Satoshi, 70; Teeuwen, 9).

These shrines held foundation documents that explained the situations of the kami, that they were reincarnated as kami and wish to obtain salvation to reach nirvana, thus leading them to ask the people to build a temple beside the shrine (Satoshi, 70). The situation the kami were in would show that the rules of reincarnation in Buddhism applied to kami as well, and that they are also susceptible to the suffering that humans can feel as well (Satoshi, 70). In Buddhism, the ultimate goal was to reach enlightenment through reincarnation and good karma, the cessation of suffering.

This shows a relationship of Buddhism penetrating into Shinto religion, showing that the kami is willing to escape being a kami through Buddhism. Eventually, by the end of the Heian period, worshipping of kami have been held together with Buddhist ideologies (Andreeva, 681). A way to would help alleviate the suffering and needs of these kami were to perform rituals, or sutras in front of the jingu-ji (Andreeva, 681). These sutras were Buddhist scriptures, and shows us a connection between the two religions were beginning.

As the need for performing these rituals increased, so did the demand of sutras so sutras were copied and donated to kami shrines (Satoshi, 70). This meant that the demand for Buddhism to save these kami increased, and shows a growth of Buddhism growing along side Shinto in lapan. This in turn strengthen the amalgamation of Shinto and Buddhism, further advancing Japanese religion and culture. Not all kami however wished to seek salvation through Buddhism. During the founding of the Todai-ji Buddhist temple by Emperor Shomu who endorsed Buddhism, the structure started to run into difficulties and problems (Satoshi, 72).

The kami Hachiman was consulted and Hachiman told an oracle that the creation of the Todai-ji will not fail, and so Hachiman was placed in a sanctuary near by the Todai-ji in hopes that his power would help (Satoshi, 72). This showed a faith in the kami to help produce a Buddhist temple. Instead of seeking salvation through Buddhism, Hachiman was viewed as a protector of Buddhism (Teeuwen, 14). Instead of Buddhism being used to help the kami to reach salvation, the kami was used to help create and become a protector of Buddhism.

The appearance of Hachiman, who was of Shinto religion, helping out Emperor Shomu and his Buddhist approach shows an example of a relationship between the two religions working together help shaping Japanese culture. As time went on, some kami were seen as personifications of Buddhist deities. An example would be Hachiman, the kami who helped create the Todai-ji. Hachiman was granted the title great bodhisattva, and was seen as the personification of Amida, a Buddha associated with Mahayana Buddhism (Andreeva, 681; Satoshi, 74).

This means that the concept of honji suijaku became very prevalent in Japan, with Japan becoming more accepting of Buddhism and now has reached the amalgamation of the two religions. With the concept of honji suijaku becoming much popular with japan, so changed the way of worship between kami and Buddhist deities. honji suijaku can be defined by splitting the two words apart, with honji meaning “original ground”, and suijaku meaning “traces” (Teeuwen, 15). This meant that the kami were traces of the original Buddha or bodhisattva, that the Buddhist deities were the first to exist.

Buddha deities and bodhisattvas were to manifest themselves as kami, in order to communicate with their people (Satoshi, 69). With the creation of the Tendai school and Esoteric Buddhism in ninth century Japan, honji suijaku became started to become prominent and kami started to become integrated into Esoteric Buddhism (Teeuwen, 16; Andreeva, 681). For example, in documents regarding the Hakozaki Hachimangu shrine, one that worships the kami Hachiman, a pagoda was to be built to hold a set of sutras, but these sutras were originally for the Usa shrine (Teeuwen, 17).

It was then argued that even though the Hakozaki and Usa shrine, both dedicated to Hachiman, were located in diffe different places, both of them were the same in which their spirit, bodhisattvas, and suijaku were identical (Teeuwen, 17). This tells us that Hachiman was seen as a bodhisattva, a trace of an original Buddha. With honji suijaku becoming more accepted as a concept, it shifted lapanese culture from the worship of two different religions and blended them together almost as if they were one. The amalgamation of Shinto and Buddhism also affected and created a unique culture in art and literature (Andreeva, 684).

When the concept of honji suijaku became prevalent, kami were often represented as images of their Buddhist original (Teeuwen, 18). In the past, the kami were seen as invisible forces and spirits that really had no physical identity except in nature as a tree or other natural objects. However, with the amalgamation of Shinto with Buddhism, kami had a model in which art and imagery can be created, thus creating a unique art form in Japan. Such example of this art would be the creation of kami sculptures, shrine mandalas and by carving Buddhist images behind mirrors that represented the kami (Satoshi, 74; Teeuwen, 18).

Due to the influence Buddhism had in Japan, kami had started to take on human features, often times being represented as an aristocrat, an earlier Japanese ancestor or as Buddhist monks (Satoshi, 74). These shrine mandalas, influenced by Esoteric Buddhism, were often illustrations of famous shrines, often times having images of the shrine’s kami hovering over the shrine (Satoshi, 74). Because of the amalgamation of Buddhism and Shinto, Japan was able to produce more artwork that defined the culture during its generation. Also, these mirrors that represented kami, had honji (original ground) carved behind the mirror (Satoshi, 74, Teeuwen, 18).

Due to the prevalence of honji suijaku, much of these iconographies were able to be made, and many were unique to Japan which progressed the art in Japanese culture. Of course, amalgamation also led to the development of new Japanese literature. Poems were created that combined both Shinto and Buddhist mythology (Andreeva, 684). This meant the fusion of the two religions would help create poems and myths unique to Japanese culture. Japanese poems, known as waka, were made similar to dhara? i, Sanskrit term for a ritual prayer, and would be incanted to kami to help alleviate their suffering and help them reach salvation (Andreeva, 684).

Because of the amalgamation, new poems were created and some would be used in kami worshipping and its customs. Overall, the amalgamation of Buddhism with Shinto created a unique culture in classical and medieval Japan. At first, Buddhism and Shinto worshipping were done as two different entities, allowed to co-exist with each other. The creation of jingu-ji created a unique structure that combined a Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine that promoted worshipping of both. The kami would want to obtain salvation and reach nirvana, and a unique custom was made through using Buddhist rituals and sutras on the kami.

The example of the kami Hachiman helping Buddhism shows and strengthens the amalgamation of the two religions that would lead to a distinct culture. Because of the process of amalgamation, the concept of honji suijaku spread and many kami would be seen as manifestations of Buddha deities and bodhisattvas. Amalgamation of the two also created a new movement in art and literature that combined both Shinto and Buddhism. The integration and merging of Buddhism with Shinto created unique customs and culture in Japan, that still even exists today.