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Home » 1. General Introduction » Religious and Intellectual Influences on Shinto
Shinto and Buddhism
The Introduction of Buddhism —       
According to Nihon shoki, the official introduction of Buddhism to the Japanese imperial court from Paekche (a kingdom in what is now Korea) occurred in 552 (the 13th year of the reign of Emperor Kinmei). However, according to the Jōgū shōtoku hōō teisetsu (an anonymous biography of Prince Shōtoku) and the Gangōji garanengi narabini ruki shizaichō (the records of the temple Gangōji), the introduction occurred in 538. As a result, while numerous theories exist regarding the precise date, it is assumed by and large that the official transmission took place around the time of the reign of emperor Kinmei (r. 539-571). It is believed that Buddhism was practiced among immigrant clans for a long period before this, but the actual period when such Buddhism was introduced and the nature of the practices involved then are unclear.
       According to Nihon shoki, when Buddhism was officially introduced the buddhas were called banshin, or foreign kami, in contrast to the indigenous kami (kunitsukami) also known as jingi. Thus, buddhas were perceived as a type of kami that came from overseas. It is clear from the Nihon shoki that when Buddhism was first introduced a conflict occurred among the emperor°«s retainers over whether the emperor should adopt Buddhism. However, Buddhism penetrated steadily at the clan level, and clan temples (ujidera) were founded one after another. Around the time of the Taika Reforms (645), Buddhist ritual also came to be performed at the imperial palace in a system concomitant with that for the performance of rites for kami.

Development of Shinbutsu Shūgō (Combinatory Religion of Kami and Buddhas)
The beginning of the development of theories of shinbutsu shūgō (correspondence of kami and buddhas) can be seen in the Nihon ryōiki (full title: Nihonkoku genpō zen°«aku ryōiki, Miraculous Stories of Karmic Retribution of Good and Evil in Japan) by the monk Kyōkai, in which it is said that around the seventh century the ancestor of the governor of Mitani county in Bingo Province (the eastern part of modern-day Hiroshima Prefecture) built the temple Mitaniji for all kami. In the Nara period (710-794), the Kehi Jingūji of the Reiki era (715-6), the Wakasahiko Shinganji of the Yōrō period (717-24) and other jingūji (Buddhist temples attached to shrines) were built in shrines throughout the country, and sutras were read before the kami. Behind the establishment of jingūji at that time was the theory that kami were lost and suffering sentient beings who were in need of liberation through the power of the Buddhist teachings. From around the end of the Nara period, documents such as the senmyō (imperial edicts) of empress Shōtoku (r. 764-70) promoted the view that kami were tutelary deities (see gohō) of the Buddhist teachings. This theory followed the example of India where indigenous deities or deva were adopted by Buddhism as tutelaries. While the theory that kami were in need of salvation spread in the provinces, the theory of kami as guardian deities can be considered the combinatory theory promoted at the imperial court.
       Because the Usa Hachiman Shrine in northern Kyushu was located in an area where the adoption of Chinese culture was most advanced, shinbutsu shūgō developed there from an early date. The combinatory Hōjō-e (Releasing of Life) ritual was first performed at this shrine, and the Buddhist title of bodhisattva was bestowed on the kami Hachiman during the early Heian period. During the construction of the great Buddha image at Tōdaiji, kami were summoned to the capital to solicit their aid. Negini, female Shinto renunciates, held services and played a leading role in the combinatory religion of the Nara period. While images of kami had never previously been made for use in worship, such images, called shinzō also appeared from the Nara period, and it is likely that their appearance influenced by the use of images in Buddhist practices. The earliest reference to such images is found in the Tadojingūji garan engi narabini ruki shizaichō of 763. Alongside images depicting kami in lay appearances, images of kami as Buddhist clerics, such as the one of Hachiman in the form of a Buddhist renunciate, also came into fashion.
       Beginning in the Heian period, new developments appeared in kami-buddha combinatory religion. First, in 863 a ritual Goryō-e to pacify vengeful spirits was held at the garden Shinsen°«en in the capital. Records show that Goryō-e included observances such as prostration before the buddhas, exposition of Buddhist teachings, and performances of singing and dancing. The Goryō-e was originally a buddha-kami combinatory rite for suppressing onryō (vengeful spirits) and ekijin (demons responsible for epidemic disease), but it soon became a regular feature at shrines, as witnessed in the Gion Goryō-e, Imamiya Goryō-e, and the Kitano Goryō-e.
       Second, beginning with the temple Iwashimizu Hachimangūji built in 860, Gionsha Kanjin°«in, Kitanogūji, and others, shrines began appearing as part of a system called miyadera (shrine-temple complex) in which the administration of a shrine and temple would be unified, and shrines were placed under the management of shasō (Buddhist monks attendant at kami shrines; also see kengyō, bettō). Third can be mentioned the development of the religion of Shugendō. Shugendō appeared as a combination of Buddhism with ancient forms of religious practice focused on mountains. It is said to have originated in the Nara period with the mountain ascetic En no Ozunu of Mount Katsuragi. In the beginning it is thought to have been a magic-focused religion with a strong coloring of Daoism, while it was later carried on by Nara and Heian monks of esoteric Buddhism. In the Heian period, Shugendō sacred sites were created nationwide, beginning with Katsuragi, Yoshino, and Kumano. During the Insei Period of cloistered emperors (ca. 1086-1156), the temple Onjōji controlled the position of kengyō (superintendent) of the three peaks of Kumano. Later, Shugendō gradually came under the control of the Tendai and Shingon schools of Buddhism, while in the medieval period, Shōgoin of the Jimon branch of the Tendai school formed the Honzan branch of Shugendō, and Sanbōin at Daigoji of the Shingon school formed the Tōzan branch of Shugendō. These organizations expanded throughout the country.

Honjisuijaku Theory
The theory known as honji suijaku developed in the Heian period and later became the keystone of combinatory kami-buddha religion. Honji suijaku refers to a theory regarding the relationship of kami and buddhas that builds on the Tendai school°«s theory of hon-jaku-nimon (honmon or "original gate" and shakumon or "provisional gate"), according to which the Nyorai juryōbon (The [Eternal] Life of the Thus-Come One, Chapter Sixteen) chapter of the Lotus Sutra teaches the contrast a meta-historical eternal Shakyamuni with the historical Shakyamuni of the first half of the Lotus Sutra. According to this theory, the Japanese kami are understood as provisional manifestations of buddhas, appearing in temporal forms in order to save sentient beings in Japan. In short, kami were considered the suijaku (provisional manifestation or "manifest trace") of buddhas, while buddhas were the honji ("original ground") of the kami. Unlike the kami-buddha combinatory theories of the Nara period, the honji suijaku theory went so far as to identify kami and buddhas with each other, rendering them indivisible.
       The term "jaku" ("trace manifestation") was first used in this way to refer to kami in the 859 application of Eryō, a monk of the temple Enryakuji, for Tendai nenbundosha (annual ordinands) to be appointed to the Kamo and Kasuga shrines. In his application Eryō wrote, "the manifestation (suijaku) of a mahasattva may be that of a king or kami." The honjisuijaku theory became even more prominent in the tenth century, as expressed in an official notice issued by the regional administration at Dazaifu dated 937 that stated, "that shrine and this shrine are at different locations, but they are the same as far as being the suijaku (provisional manifestation) of a bodhisattva." At the end of Heian period, the central deities at shrines (saijin) all were given specific bodhisattvas as their honji (original ground). For example, the honji of the Grand Shrines of Ise (Ise Jingū) was Mahavairocana Tathagata (Dainichi Nyorai), and the honji of Hakusan was the eleven-headed Avalokitesvara (Kannon). Adopted into Tendai teachings from Laozi, the expression wakō dōjin (taken to mean a buddha "dims his light and becomes one with the dust of the world") was also very popular for expressing the idea of honji suijaku. The title gongen (avatar) found in such deities as Kumano Gongen and Hakusan Gongen likewise refers to the notion that a "buddha manifests himself temporarily as kami," and began to appear in the first half of the tenth century as a title for divinities based on honji suijaku theory.
       While combinatory shinbutsu shūgō trends existed on the one hand, other notions suggested that Buddhist teachings should be avoided in kami-related observances. Ise Daijingūji, the Buddhist temple associated with the Grand Shrines of Ise, first became an official government temple during the period of the court of Empress Shōtoku around the time the Buddhist monk Dōkyō (?-772) controlled the reigns of power, but it was later moved to location more distant from the Grand Shrines during the courts of Emperors Kōnin (r. 770-81) and Kanmu (r. 781-806), and was later abandoned. The Kōtaijingū gishikichō of 804 likewise refers to the avoidance of Buddhist terminology at the Grand Shrines, and even records the use of "taboo words" (imikotoba) for Buddhist concepts—such as nakago ("middle child") for a buddha, kawarabuki ("tile-roofed building"—with "tile" being a synonym for something that is worthless) for "temple," and somegami ("stained paper") for sutra. According to the regulations in the Jōgan-shiki and Gishiki, government officials in the central and five surrounding areas of the capital were forbidden from performing Buddhist rites during the maimi and araimi (two categories of ritual abstinence and purification) periods of the observance of the Daijōsai. Likewise, all monks and nuns were banned from entering the palace, and Buddhist rites within the palace ceased during the public rites (kōsai) and rites of offering (hōbei) of medium-scale observances (chūshi) and for small-scale obervances (shōshi) in which purification rites (saikai) were held within the palace. In the case of ritual observances in which purification was performed by the emperor himself—such as Niinamesai, Tsukinamisai, and the Kannamesai—Buddhist rites within the palace were canceled and officials in service were enjoined to avoid Buddhist matters during the Nyūgetsusai portion of the rites (that part of the purification that began from the first day of the month). This system of the separation of kami and buddhas was adhered to within the imperial palace through the early modern period. It also spread to rites performed at shrines in the provinces. Needless to say, the avoidance of Buddhism concerned only the rites of the Emperor, and carried with it the assumption that, outside of the period of rites for the kami, ordinary Buddhist rites and combinatory shinbutsu shūgō rites would be performed normally. As a result, this notion of separation is of a different nature than the haibutsu ("expel the buddhas") thought seen in the early modern period.
       In the Kamakura period, various Shinto currents came into being, such as Ryōbu Shintō of the Buddhist Shingon school, Sannō Shintō of the Buddhist Tendai school, and the Ise Shintō advocated by the priesthood of the Outer Shrine at Ise. The establishment of Ryōbu Shintō dates from the end of the Heian period, and initially developed at the Grand Shrines of Ise. A variety of kami, including those of the Inner and Outer Shrines of Ise, their deputy and branch shrines (sessha/massha), as well as the two deities Izanagi and Izanami found in the Nihon shoki, the seven generations of heavenly kami and five generations of earthly kami, were all identified with Ryōbu Dainichi (a syncretic depiction of Mahavairocana, the Sun Buddha) and other figures found in the "dual mandalas" of Shingon Buddhism, namely the Kongōkai (Diamond World) Mandala and Taizōkai (Womb World) Mandala. Other Shinto theories also arose, such as Miwaryū Shintō, Goryū Shintō, and the theories regarding Shisho Myōjin (the two deities Itsukushima and Kehi worshipped on Mount Kōya). Sannō Shintō, for example, represented a development of theories regarding the relationship between the shrine dedicated to the deity "mountain king" Sannō (of Mount Hiei), and its various sub-shrines on the one hand, and the Tendai school of Buddhism on the other. According to these theories, Tendai considered the main deity (saijin), Hiyoshi Sannō, the guardian deity of the Tendai head temple Enryakuji on Mount Hiei, as the manifestation of Shakyamuni, the Dharma king of the Lotus Sutra, Tendai°«s guiding scripture.
       Ise Shintō was created by priests of the Outer Shrine at Ise in close relation to Ryōbu Shintō. It claimed that the deity of the Outer Shrine, Toyuke no ōkami, originally considered the kami in charge of foodstuffs (miketsukami) for the Inner Shrine, was in fact Daigenshin ("divine origin of the universe") or else one of the creator deities Amenominakanushi/Kunitokotachi depicted in Nihon shoki. Adopting the nikū ikkō ("two shrines, one light") concept of Ryōbu Shintō, Ise Shintō theory proclaimed that the Inner Shrine and Outer Shrine were equal in stature. Because Ise Shintō lent a doctrinal underpinning to Ise°«s traditional practice of separating the Buddhas and kami, it had a strong influence on the formation of the shinpon butsujaku theory, according to which the kami were viewed as the original ground or source, and the buddhas as the provisional manifestation. Through that, it also had an influence on the early modern movement to "expel the buddhas" (haibutsu).
       These medieval Shinto theories lacked a theoretical nature and systematic organization. Their main purpose was not for use in proselytization, but rather to serve as secret teachings and oral transmissions to be passed down inside the respective schools. However, by the end of the Kamakura period, interchange between advocates of different theories was recognized and such theories also gradually came to influence other fields such as poetic theory, performing arts, and story telling (setsuwa).
       Jihen, a Tendai priest from the Urabe clan, lived from the end of the Kamakura into the period of North-South Courts (mid to late fourteenth century). Using the metaphor of a tree, he developed a theory called konponshiyōkajitsu, according to which the relationship between Shinto, Confucianism, and Buddhism is one of "root" (Shinto) to "branches, leaves and fruit" (Confucianism and Buddhism); similarly, he proposed a theory called shinpon butsujaku, namely that kami were the ground (honji) and buddhas the provisional manifestation (suijaku), a reversal of the original honji suijaku theory.
       His theory was carried on within the Yoshida Shintō tradition established by Yoshida Kanetomo in the Muromachi period. Ritually, Yoshida Shintō had strong features of kami-buddha combinatory religion. Its Shinto goma (fire ceremony), for example, was influenced by esoteric Shingon Buddhism. On the doctrinal side, however, it incorporated Daoism and Japanese Yin-Yang divination (Onmyōdō) based on the standpoint of kami as primary and buddhas as secondary (shinpon butsujū). It also advocated a new Shinto theory against earlier Buddhist-Shinto schools (see Bukka Shintō), such as Ryōbu Shintō and Sannō Shintō. Yoshida Shintō was also active at issuing Shinto "licenses (saikyojyō)" to Shinto priests around the country. In the early modern period it independently organized shrines and priests that were not under the control of bettōji (Buddhist temple superintendent to a shrine).

Early Modern and Later Developments
In the Edo period, medieval combinatory beliefs continued to be maintained at the popular level. As Confucianism and kokugaku (National Learning) began to flourish and the religious authority of Buddhism weakened, however, discrimination against Buddhism grew in strength. As part of this trend, Shinto priests at strongly combinatory shrines began expressing opposition to control by their Buddhist superintendent temples (bettōji). The movement to observe Shinto funerals (shinsōsai) also arose in opposition to Buddhist funerary rites, which were linked to the government°«s temple registration system (terauke seido). The domains of Mito and Okayama instituted policies to reduce the number of Buddhist temples, as part of which shrines where combinatory practices existed were abolished as being inshi ("immoral shrines"). Confucianism was also added to conventional kami-buddha combinatory thought to produce the theory of the "unity of the three teachings of kami, Confucianism, and Buddhism (shinjubutsu-sankyō-itchiron)," a current of religious thought explicated in texts such as the Sendai kuji hongi taiseikyō and Ryōbu shintō kuketsushō. The period also saw the propagation of Unden Shintō, which was a variety of Ryōbu Shintō re-interpreted in light of the sankyō itchiron theory.
       Following the discriminatory trend against Buddhism that arose during the Edo period, the Restoration government implemented a policy of "separation of Shinto and Buddhism" (shinbutsu bunri), promulgating the Ordinance Distinguishing Shinto and Buddhism (shinbutsu hanzenrei) in the fourth month of 1868. Among other elements, the Ordinance included the abolition of Buddhist-style names for kami; the prohibition of using Buddhist images to represent kami; and the removal of Buddhist ritual implements from Shinto ritual spaces. Shugendō was then abolished in 1873. In some places, radically anti-Buddhist (haibutsu kishaku) incidents occurred in which Buddhist images, ritual implements, and the shrine bettōji (superintendent temple) were destroyed. In this way all remnants of the earlier combinatory cult was eliminated from Shinto shrines.
       With the separation of shrines from governmental control in the postwar period, some shrines have reinstituted combinatory kami-Buddha rituals to meet strong popular demand. Even now, many examples of combinatory ritual elements can be found within the various Buddhist sects.

— Satō Makoto
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
4-10-28 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8440, Japan
URL http://21coe.kokugakuin.ac.jp/
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