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Home » 8. Schools, Groups, and Personalities » Medieval and Early Modern Schools
Bukka Shintō
A general term referring to the various forms of Shintō developed by Buddhist thinkers. Also known as Bukke Shintō, the term refers generally to Shintō doctrines combining Buddhist and Shintō elements (known as Shinbutsu shūgō) that saw maximum diffusion during the medieval period. Roughly speaking, these doctrines can be divided into two categories, referring to their origins in Shingon and Tendai Buddhism. Shingon Shintō doctrines were developed in works such as the Reikiki, a text attributed to Kūkai, the Yamato Katsuragi hōzanki, attributed to Gyōki, and the Sankeiki by Tsūkai, a monk of the Hōrakuji in Ise. Its basic trend is to associate the principles of the two Shingon fundamental mandalas, the Vajra and the Womb, respectively to the inner (Naikū) and the outer (Gekū) shrines of the Grand Shrines of Ise; this association was explained in various ways, including by the use of myths concerning the kami. For example, Amaterasu was considered a "manifest trace" (suijaku) whose "original essence" (honji) was the Buddha Mahavairocana (Dainichi Nyorai); this idea was part of a more general doctrine known as honji suijaku concerning the relationship between "essences" and their visible "manifestations" in this world, according to which buddhas and kami were essentially identical. The term Ryōbu Shintō (dual Shinto, or Shinto of the two mandalas) also arose within this context. The most representative forms of Ryōbu Shintō were Goryū Shintō, which developed at the Kyoto temple Ninnaji, and Miwa Shintō which developed at Ōmiwadera (Ōgorinji), and saw a wide dissemination during the middle ages. Unden Shintō, another form of Buddhist Shintō, was promulgated in the Edo period by the monk Jiun Sonja of Kōkiji temple at Katsuragi, and even though it was not widely diffused, it is considered to be characterized by a high degree of purity. Hayashi Razan recounts in his Shintō denju the mode of transmission of Miwa Shintō at his time: "They compose mudras, meditate on Sanskrit letters, and chant dharani; all features that did not exist in ancient times but arose from the Ryōbu combinatory doctrines."
            Tendai-oriented Shinto is called Sannō Shintō because it centered on Mount Hiei; among its basic texts there is the Yōtenki attributed to Saichō. According to this tradition, the two characters for Sannō, san 山 and ō 王, were each the result of the combination of three parallel strokes and one perpendicular stroke; these were interpreted as signifying important Tendai teachings such as the unity of the three fundamental modalities of being (santai) and the principle of the single mind and three visualizations (isshin sangan). At the same time, the kami of the three main shrines of Hie Sannō were envisioned as traces (suijaku) whose original essences (honji) are Shakyamuni, Yakushi, and Amida. In the Edo period, the monk Tenkai formulated Sannō Ichijitsu Shintō, according to which Japanese kami are primary entities and the buddhas their manifestations. Thus, Amaterasu is envisioned as the primal deity out of which all buddhas and kami derive. The Tōshōgū at Nikkō was designed based on Tenkai's teachings, and is still extant today.
            Another form of Buddhistic Shinto is the Nichiren-oriented Hokke Shintō. It includes the cult of thirty deities known as sanjūbanshin understood as the tutelary deities of the Lotus Sutra, a cult that originally developed within the Tendai school. These doctrines have been attributed to Nichiren, but in fact developed during the Muromachi period.

-Ogasawara Haruo
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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