Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.


Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Japanese Religions

Many Japanese practice both Shinto and Buddhism. Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Japanese History and Culture which explored the origin, differences and co-existance of Shinto and Buddhism in Japan.

The full post may be read here.

 

God (Kami)
 

When the English word God is translated into Japanese, it is generally represented by the kanji (Chinese character) 神 and pronounced kami. However, to avoid misunderstanding, it would be better to think of God, 神, and kami as three separate concepts.
 

“God” is the supreme being of monotheism and is customarily capitalized to indicate the unique nature of the deity and draw a distinction with the multiple gods of polytheism.
 

The written Japanese form, 神, is influenced by the Chinese meaning of the character. Common words in both languages using this character, such as 精神 (pronounced seishin in Japanese), meaning “spirit” or “mind,” and 神経 (shinkei), meaning “nerves,” are related to human mental qualities. Pronounced shen in Chinese, the character 神 carries some divine attributes, but they are of a decidedly low rank and far below those of the highest power in Chinese theology, termed 天 (tian) or 上帝 (shangdi) in Chinese.
 

Japan’s kami were traditionally thought of as anthropomorphized natural phenomena. They included the kami that appear in the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and the Nihon shoki (Chronicle of Japan), Japan’s ancient records of myth and history, kami that were worshiped in shrines, and everything possessing extraordinary qualities, including the sun, the moon, the wind, the rain, the sea, large rocks and trees, and even some smaller plants, animals, and people. This is how they were defined by the eighteenth-century scholar of Japanese classics Motoori Norinaga. According to Motoori, anything that inspired awe and sensitivity to ephemeral beauty (aware) was a kami.
 

For Japanese people who believe this, their country is a rich natural landscape with kami to be found wherever they turn—in short a kami no kuni or “country of kami.” If this phrase is translated into English as “God’s country,” it can be misunderstood as a fanatically nationalistic expression, but this is not what the phrase actually means.

A Blended Faith
 

Japan’s traditional faith, based on worship of kami, is known as Shintō. There are no records to show what it was like in ancient times, and many details are unclear. We cannot even say if there was a set of beliefs and rituals sufficiently unified that we could call them Shintō. It is likely that the religion came into being as a blend of different elements, including the following:
 

*The nature worship of hunter-gatherers in the Jōmon period (ca. 15,000 BC–300 BC)
 

*The worship of clay figurines as symbols of crop fertility and the shamanism introduced from the Korean Peninsula in the Yayoi Period, when rice farming had taken hold (300 BC–250 AD)
 

*The bronze weapons and mirrors imported from China and used by chiefs in festivals and magic rituals
 

*The influence on rulers’ festival and funeral rituals from Chinese divination, astronomy, calendar studies, and thinking related to the legendary transcendental figures known as shinsen, or “divine immortals”
 

*The worship of family gods and the building of shrines by a range of local communities and groups
 

*The Japanese began to think of these elements together as Shintō after Buddhism spread to Japan and they compared the new religion with their traditional practices.

 

 

 


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