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Buddhism and Shinto

Summary and Keywords

Buddhism in Japan has long coexisted with native cults and beliefs, commonly known as Shinto. According to received understanding, Shinto (literally, in modern Japanese interpretation, “the way of the [Japanese] gods”) is the autochthonous religious tradition of Japan, whose origins date back to the beginning of the Japanese civilization. Its main features are an animistic belief in the sanctity of nature, shamanic practices, ancestor cults, respect for authority and communal value, and a strong capacity to integrate and homogenize foreign elements. This received understanding sees the history of Japanese Buddhism as a gradual process of “Japanization,” that is, of integration within Shinto beliefs and attitudes. This understanding, however, still broadly circulating in Japan and abroad in textbooks and popular media, has been questioned radically by scholarship in the past few decades.

In fact, until approximately 150 years ago, Shinto (and local cults in general) was deeply connected to Japanese Buddhism: Buddhist authors were the first to write doctrines and tales about the Japanese local gods or Kami, and most shrines dedicated to the Kami used to belong to Buddhist temples or were in fact Buddhist temples themselves dedicated to the kami. Kami were normally understood as avatars (Japanese, gongen) of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other Buddhist divinities; some very popular kami even today, include Hachiman, who was evoked or discovered (if not created) by Buddhist monks, and Daikokuten and Benzaiten, two Buddhist deities from India (their Sanskrit names are, respectively, Mahākāla, the male counterpart of the goddess Kālī, and Sarasvatī, a water goddess). This situation of symbiosis, in which the Buddhist component was always at the top of the religious institutions’ hierarchy, also generated a number of conflicts that erupted in 1868, when the government decided to “separate” Shinto from Buddhism (shinbutsu bunri), an operation that resulted in the destruction of thousands of Buddhist temples and countless texts, images, and other artifacts, and, ultimately, in the creation of two separate religions. Any historical study of Shinto must therefore attempt to reconstruct this premodern situation of symbiosis and conflict.

Keywords: Esoteric Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, local cults, Kamikami, nats cults, Buddho-Shinto relations, Bon


Since its arrival in Japan, Buddhism has interacted in several ways with native cults and beliefs, commonly known today as Shinto. According to received understanding, Shinto (literally, “the way of the [Japanese] gods”) is the autochthonous religious tradition of Japan, whose origins date back to the beginning of the Japanese civilization, possibly around the 2nd–4th centuries ce if not even earlier. Its main features are an animistic belief in the sanctity of nature, shamanic practices, ancestor cults, respect for authority and communal value, and a strong capacity to integrate and homogenize foreign elements. Within this received understanding, the history of Japanese Buddhism is as a gradual process of “Japanization,” that is, of integration within Shinto beliefs and attitudes. This understanding, however, still broadly circulating in Japan and abroad in textbooks and popular media, has been questioned radically by scholarship in the past few decades, especially in the seminal work by Kuroda Toshio (1926–1991), which has resulted in a very different characterization of Shinto and its relations with Buddhism.

The term shintō itself only appears sporadically in ancient texts, and its meaning is still not entirely clear; most likely, it designated not the indigenous religion of Japan but simply local deities in general (as opposed to Buddhism); the pronunciation of the two Chinese characters forming the term (in present-day, shin and ) may have been different. In fact, some scholars prefer not to use the term “Shinto” to refer to religious phenomena prior to the 16th century.

Until approximately 150 years ago, Shinto was deeply connected to Japanese Buddhism: Buddhist authors were the first to write doctrines about the Japanese local gods or Kami, and most shrines dedicated to the Kami used to belong to Buddhist temples or were in fact Buddhist temples themselves dedicated to the Kami. This situation of symbiosis was dramatically interrupted in 1868 when the government decided to “separate” Shinto from Buddhism (shinbutsu bunri), an operation that resulted in the creation of two separate religions.

Shinto worships spirit-gods called Kami (also addressed with honorific forms such as mikoto, shinmei, myōjin, gongen, etc.), a wide category of sacred entities that includes natural objects (mountains, waterfalls, stones, the sea, stars), anthropomorphic deities whose deeds are described in myths recorded in the earliest books ever written in Japan, such as Kojiki (712), Nihon shoki (720),1 Fudoki and Man’yōshū (both mid-8th century) (several of these gods are related to the imperial family, especially the highest deity of the entire pantheon, sun goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami), cultural heroes (warriors, emperors, model citizens, etc.), clan divinities (more or less related to imperial deities through myths and legends), local spirits (often without a name and a clearly defined shape), and even imported deities (from India, Korea, and China).

Today, Shinto is a multiple and diverse tradition, which includes four categories: imperial cults, cults taking place at shrines (jinja), folk beliefs, and teachings of several sect organizations. However, it is not clear how these four types of Shinto relate to each other. Imperial cults were codified in laws dating to the 8th century, and further defined in the 10th century. Cults at specific sites, at least in some cases, may originate in an even earlier time, but the earliest permanent buildings dedicated to the Kami date from the 8th century. Folk traditions are obviously difficult to date, but many beliefs and festivals existing today in Japan began between the 16th and 18th centuries. In contrast, sectarian Shinto is a relatively recent development from around the mid-19th century, with the formation of new religious organizations that were more or less loosely connected with preexisting teachings about the Kami.

Even though today Shinto is considered an independent religious tradition, separate and distinct from Buddhism, this was by no means the situation in premodern times.

Historical Background

The word we read today as shintō was, for much of its history, a generic term referring to local deities, either in a Chinese religious context (in which case it was pronounced shindō) or in a Buddhist perspective (most likely read jindō). In terms of discourses (including histories) about teachings, beliefs, and practices related to the Kami, it is important to distinguish between these two usages. The reading shintō seems to have emerged around the 15th century to distinguish discourses about the classical Japanese Kami based on the Nihon shoki and other texts from other teachings about deities (either Chinese or Indian).2 Furthermore, classical and medieval sources tend to distinguish between jingi (the Kami worshiped at court) and jindō/shindō/shintō (Kami cults based on specific shrine-temples); some sources even add a third category, that of “evil” or heterodox spirits/gods (variously called jashin, jisshashin, akuryō, shiryō, etc.), which seem to be related to folk practices and are somehow distinct from the previous two categories.3

In any case, Shinto did not designate an established system of religious institutions and their beliefs and rituals until relatively recently. Shinto as an autonomous discourse about the Kami begins with courtier and priest Yoshida Kanetomo (1435–1511). He divided the teachings about the Kami into three groups: one centered on Ise and based on Shingon Esoteric Buddhism; one shared by all other shrines and temples in the realm, which was essentially a Buddhist construct that saw the Kami as local and temporal manifestations of buddhas and bodhisattvas; and the Yoshida family’s own teachings, which Kanetomo advertised as original and pristine.4 At the time in which it was formulated, this idea was little more than a marketing strategy to promote the ritual services of the Yoshida House; most shrine-temples in the land had no sense that they were sharing the same discourse about the Kami, and imagery related to the Ise shrines (itself deeply steeped in Buddhism and Chinese thought) was also employed by other institutions (including Hie and Miwa). Undoubtedly, Kanetomo’s intervention had crucial consequences: it opened up the possibility to think about the Kami as “originally Japanese,” an idea that became very important in the Edo period (1600–1868) and ended up affecting the ways we understand the Kami even today.

Shinto as an independent and institutionalized religious tradition began only in 1868 with the so-called separation of Kami and buddhas (shinbutsu bunri). This forceful separation, carried out upon orders directly emanating from the government, was one of the first acts in the Japanese process of modernization, and amounted to the artificial creation of two separate religious traditions, namely, Shinto and Japanese Buddhism.5 Subsequently, Shinto developed as directly related to the new Japanese state’s policy and ruling imperial ideology, in what is known as “State Shinto” (kokka shintō), which was disbanded after the end of World War II.6

It is therefore problematic to use anachronistically Shinto as a general term to refer in a unified way to discourses that were perceived as separate at the time. Among the four types of Shinto mentioned, shrine cults and folk beliefs in particular used to be closely related to Buddhism, most recently until the religious policies implemented between 1868 and 1872 forced a separation between them.

Modalities of Interactions between Buddhism and Local Cults in Japan

The history of the interactions between Buddhism and local cults in Japan begins at the very moment of the official arrival of Buddhism to the archipelago in the mid-6th century, when the Korean kingdom of Baekje (Paekche) sent to Japan as a formal gift a statue of the buddha, a set of scriptures, and ritual implements. Emperor Kinmei (509–571) of Japan asked the council of clan chiefs to deliberate on whether the new divinity should be worshiped or not. A conflict ensued, opposing the pro-Buddhist faction led by the Soga clan (with ties to the Asian continent) to the anti-Buddhists led by the Mononobe (court ritualists). The former eventually prevailed, and Buddhism was adopted in Japan. Interestingly, the early sources reporting this episode call the statue of the buddha from Korea the “kami from the foreign lands” (adashi no kuni no kami) and the “kami called Buddha” (butsujin). The court’s decision to adopt Buddhism followed the outburst of epidemics and natural disasters, which the sources attribute to a conflict opposing the local gods to the newcomer Kami Buddha, ending with the triumph of the latter. In other words, the buddha was understood at the beginning from within the framework of local cults as a new and powerful deity, capable of protecting its worshipers while at the same time cursing its enemies. This understanding of buddhas and bodhisattvas never disappeared, and continued to form one of the bases of premodern Japanese religiosity. It is also interesting to note that Buddhist interactions with local deities proceeded in parallel with the diffusion of Buddhism across Japan. In the mid-8th century, Emperor Shōmu (701–756) ordered the construction of state-supported temples and nunneries in all provinces across the realm (called, respectively, kokubunji and kokubunniji); at around the same time, aristocratic clans and regional gentry also began to build temples dedicated to local and tutelary Kami called jingūji or miyadera (literally, “Buddhist temple that is a shrine for a kami”). These Buddhist temples for the Kami became one of the main aspects of premodern Japanese Buddhism and religiosity in general.

It is possible to identify a number of modalities in the interactions between Buddhism and local deities in Japan, following patterns that seem to be common to most Buddhist cultures. Japanese Kami were subjugated and converted to Buddhism, transformed into Dharma protectors, and redefined as local manifestations of buddhas and bodhisattvas; in some cases, local Kami were ignored (for instance, by not mentioning them in written sources), kept strictly separate from Buddhism (as in some imperial gods and at the Grand Shrines of Ise), and even eliminated and forgotten; in other developments, new Kami could be imported from abroad (mostly from the Indian pantheon, but also from Chinese religions and, to a lesser extent, Korean traditions) or created from scratch in Japan.7 These modalities of interaction are not necessarily stages in a process of historical development in which one stage replaces the previous one, as scholars often maintain, but rather different ways to deal with the sacred that were largely contemporaneous with each other. For example, in the Edo period we encounter all the modes: Kami kept separate and distinct from Buddhist divinities, Kami treated as suffering beings in need of salvation (thus, Buddhist priests chanted sutras and performed ceremonies at shrines affiliated with Buddhist temples specifically for this purpose), Kami envisioned as protectors of Buddhism, Kami as manifest traces of Buddhist entities, and new Kami generated under Buddhist influence. (We cannot discuss the Kami that were ignored and forgotten, but it may be possible to find clues in local accounts about ancient beliefs and rituals that have been lost for centuries, replaced by subsequent strata of religiosities.)

In the first modality, Buddhists envisioned local Kami as dangerous and violent entities, their violence being caused by their deluded condition, from which they could be freed through their conversion to Buddhism. This process tended to happen when itinerant Buddhists monks traveled to remote areas and began to proselytize there. Two stories exemplify this modality well: both describe local Kami as violent entities, a source of calamities to the people, while presenting Buddhism as a pacifying and ordering force.

One day in 763 the Kami of Tado in central Japan manifested itself through an oracle and expressed its desire to convert to Buddhism in order to be freed from its Kami-condition of suffering. A Buddhist temple (jingūji) was built in the area where the Kami resided, and special services began to be held for its salvation. This is one of the earliest records of a jingūji being built (an earlier, less documented case dates to 716). In this story, the Kami themselves acknowledged the superiority of Buddhism and asked to be saved.

The second story is about a giant tree, believed to be the abode of a Kami, which was felled to the ground because its vast shade area obstructed the development of agriculture. The cut tree rolled down into a river and floated away, carried by the current. Every time it got stranded an epidemic burst out in the area. Eventually, a Buddhist itinerant monk cut it into pieces and with them built three icons of the Bodhisattva Kannon (one of these images is said to be the Kannon at Ishiyamadera temple near Kyoto). In this case, the intervention of Buddhism not only put a stop to epidemics and produced miraculous icons, it also resulted in the material improvement of local people’s living conditions through agricultural development.

Both stories describe the Kami as violent but suffering beings that could be saved through their conversion to Buddhism. In the first story, as in many subsequent ones, the Buddhist temple was built not upon order by the central government (as was normally the case at the time), but as a consequence of an autonomous request of a local god—and, one would assume, the local gentry; in this way, Kami were manifestations of local autonomy, and could be used as instruments in attempts by local groups to wrest control of Buddhism away from central government institutions. The second story tells of the autonomous agency of Buddhist individuals and groups who, probably independent from both the central government and the local gentry, spread Buddhism in the provinces through control and incorporation of local gods.

A second modality of interaction envisions newly converted Kami as protectors of the Buddhist dharma and guarantors of the peace and prosperity in their respective locales. These tutelary deities were gradually organized in a hierarchical structure, and by the 12th century we find the deities of twenty-two imperial sponsored shrines at the top,8 regional shrines at the middle, and village shrines at the bottom.

A third modality involved more subtle hermeneutical moves. Around the 11th–12th centuries, Kami began to be understood as Japanese manifestations (Japanese, gongen; Sanskrit, avatāra) of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other deities of the Indian pantheon brought to Japan by Buddhism. The ability to manifest themselves in many forms is a feature of classical Indian gods that was later attributed also to buddhas and bodhisattvas; in Japan, this feature was used to explain the ontological status of the Kami. The theory behind this idea of manifestation was commonly defined as honji suijaku or wakō dōjin (or their combination, wakō suijaku). The term honji suijaku (literally, “the original ground and its traces”) appears for the first time in an exegesis of the Lotus Sutra by the Chinese Tiantai patriarch Zhiyi (538–597). According to Zhiyi, the first fourteen chapters of the scripture contain the provisional “trace-teaching” of the historical buddha, whereas the final fourteen chapters are the ultimate “original teaching” of the eternal principle of buddhahood. In medieval Japan, honji suijaku was employed to mean that “Indian” and “Buddhist” divinities constitute the “original ground” (honji) of their manifestations in Japan as Kami (their “traces” or suijaku).9 The expression wakō dōjin (literally, “to soften one’s radiance and become the same as dust”) comes instead from the Daoist classic Daodejing, where it refers to the way in which the Dao, the supreme principle of the universe, manifests itself in the world by limiting its power so that it can be understandable to human beings. In this context, the Japanese Kami were the limited (“softened”) forms of buddhas and bodhisattvas. The underlying rationale for Buddhist divinities to limit their powers and appear as traces, as explained by several medieval texts, was that the Japanese people were too difficult to convert and too ignorant to understand buddhas and bodhisattvas in their full-fledged forms, and required instead violent and coarse manifestations to guide them to salvation. Other authors, however, took a more cultural relativistic position, and argued that the sacred can take different forms according to cultural and historical context; thus, there was no ontological difference between buddhas and Kami, only superficial distinctions in terms of external appearance and spatio-temporal circumstances.

Another modality of interaction consists in the production of new Kami, either by importing them from abroad or by creating them. Some of the most popular Shinto deities today include Hachiman, Inari, Tenjin, Sannō, Ebisu, Gozu Tennō, Konpira, Benzaiten, Daikokuten—all gods that emerged out of Buddhist temples between the 8th and 14th centuries; until the reforms and persecutions of 1868, worship of these gods was centered at institutions that were either Buddhist temples (Usa Hachimangū in Kyushu, Iwashimizu Hachimangū between Kyoto and Osaka, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū in Kamakura near Kyoto; Tenmangū temples in Kyoto and in Dazaifu in Kyushu; Konpiragū in Shikoku, Ebisu shrine in Sannomiya) or Kami-shrines controlled and supervised by Buddhist temples (Fushimi Inari, Hie shrine for Sannō, Enoshima Benzaiten, the Suwa shrines). Some of these deities are of foreign origin: Konpira, Benzaiten, and Daikokuten originate from India (their Sanskrit names are, respectively, Kubhera, Sarasvatī, and Mahākāla—the male counterpart of goddess Kālī); in Japan, they developed out of the interactions of Tantric Buddhism and local cults. Other gods, such as Sannō and Shinra myōjin probably derive from mountain deities in China, brought to Japan by Tendai monks. Other deities, such as Hachiman, Inari, and Tenjin (and many more) are hybrids, created within shrine-temple complexes in processes that are not yet fully clear.

A final modality of interaction involves separation, namely, the belief that not all Kami can be assimilated into Buddhism. Thus, we find instances of active isolation of Kami cults from Buddhism (so-called shinbutsu kakuri), most notably at some ceremonies that took place at the imperial court and at, more generally, the Ise Shrines, in which Buddhism was considered taboo;10 the idea that there existed local deities that were not avatars of some Buddhist divinity, as in the case of so-called real Kami (jisshashin, jissha, or jitsurui kijin); but also the existence of critical attitudes toward the cults of the Kami that often culminated in refusals to worship them (so-called jingi fuhai).

At the imperial court, the emperor and ritual specialists from selected aristocratic families engaged in archaic ceremonies that were first codified in legal codes (Jingiryō) in the early to mid-8th century and that include the yearly niiname sai (a fall harvest festival), the daijōsai (the enthronement ceremony), and periodic purification rituals such as the ōharae. These ceremonies, along with the gods involved in them, collectively known as jingi (deities of heaven and earth), were kept strictly separate and distinct from Buddhism. In fact, by the 13th century at least three different sets of ritual were held at court: archaic jingi rituals, Buddhist rituals for the protection of the emperor and the state, and Chinese imperial ceremonies (such as the Tensō chifusai ancestors’ ceremony).

The idea that some Kami existed that could not be assimilated to Buddhism is based on complex theological arguments. Already by the late 12th and early 13th centuries, the Kami were divided into three categories based on Buddhist original enlightenment (hongaku) thought:11 (i) Kami of original enlightenment, such as Amaterasu of Ise; (ii) Kami of no-enlightenment (fukaku), such as the violent Kami of Izumo shrine; (iii) Kami of acquired enlightenment (shikaku), such as Hachiman. Even though this classification was probably devised to enhance the status of the Ise shrines and their deities, the Kami were thought to embody modalities of Buddhist soteriology, and some of them represented a realm of ignorance and violence untouched by Buddhism.12 This latter point was further developed when authors began to distinguish between “provisional deities” (gonsha) and “true deities” (jissha). The former refers to the deities of the honji suijaku pantheon (and the appellation “provisional” refer to their nature as “traces” of buddhas and bodhisattvas), normally considered benevolent, whereas the latter indicates mostly local divinities that had not yet been integrated within that system and were described as essentially violent and dangerous entities threatening the peace and security of local people. This distinction indicates that in medieval Japan gods still existed that had not been integrated within the Buddhist system; they were described as chaotic forces, much as local deities at the time of the arrival of Buddhism. The Buddhist attitude toward “true deities” was complex. Some authors warned people not to worship them, as they were outside of Buddhism and therefore irrelevant to salvation; others suggested that these deities should be propitiated; still others argued that human beings could not easily tell the difference between one category of deities and the other, and it was thus best to worship them all.

In a sense, the forceful and state-sanctioned persecution of Buddhism and its ensuing separation from Shinto (shinbutsu bunri) that occurred at the dawn of modernity in Japan (1868–1871) can also be seen as a special instance of interaction involving distance. At that time, “Buddhist” elements (such as Buddhist style Kami icons, shrines’ architectural elements, Buddhist scriptures offered to the Kami, and so forth) were removed from the shrine-temples and, in many cases, destroyed. “Shinto” elements, on the other hand, were simplified and “normalized.” Many local shrines were destroyed; ancestral Kami were substituted with Kami listed in the Kojiki, an ancient text that had become the bible of the nativists. Priestly houses that had been in charge of Kami rituals for generations were replaced by state-appointed officers, often followers of the brand of nativism of Hirata Atsutane (1776–1843). Local rituals were replaced by centrally authorized ceremonies that were directly related to a newly created cult of the emperor. People were forced to celebrate new holidays, related to state-sanctioned events. In this way, a new religion, supposedly autochthonous and with roots in a remote past before the arrival of Buddhism, was created and propagated among the people. “Buddhism,” on its side, after a few years of prohibition, reorganized itself as unrelated to Shinto and local cults.

A few words regarding the Buddhist temples in charge of Kami worship that characterized the religious field of premodern Japan is in order here, as it is an aspect still not fully understood in its modalities. As previously mentioned, almost all large shrines dedicated to the Kami prior to 1868 were either Buddhist temples or supervised by one. (A significant exception were the two shrines of Ise—which were nonetheless surrounded by more than a hundred Buddhist temples, all removed after 1868; a few other shrines, such as Izumo, became more or less independent of their Buddhist overlords during the Tokugawa period.) These temples functioned in part as full-fledged Buddhist institutions: they were staffed by monks or priests of various ranks with different sectarian and liturgical specializations, carried out Buddhist rituals, and stored canonical scriptures and other commentaries. In addition—and this is what distinguished them from other Buddhist temples without an important Kami component—part of their activities concerned the Kami that was at the center of their worship, a Kami that was understood as a regional avatar of a buddha or a bodhisattva. A relatively extensive literature exists in Japanese about the history and structure of some of these temple-shrine complexes (much less in English), but we a vivid and detailed description of their functioning in real life is lacking. (For an example of a present-day Buddhist temple that has preserved an important Kami component, turn to the Zen temple Myōgonji, commonly known as Toyokawa Inari, in Toyokawa near Nagoya in central Japan, which still worships the fox-like Kami Inari as a variant of Indian Tantric goddess dākiṇī and a manifestation of the Bodhisattva Kannon.)13

Esoteric/Tantric Buddhism and Kami Cults

Various Buddhist traditions in Japan developed their own ways to interact with local gods. For most of them, the kami were either sentient beings in need of salvation or protectors of Buddhism in Japan (the first two modes of interaction outlined). This is particularly evident in the Zen tradition, in which monks traveled throughout Japan to convert and save unruly local gods.14 The Lotus sects based on the teaching of reformer Nichiren (1222–1282) created a set of thirty gods (sanjūbanjin), one for each day of the month, overseeing everyday activities.15 These sects also promoted devotion to the sun goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami and martial god Hachiman. The Jōdo Shinshū tradition is the exception, as it explicitly disavowed any cult to the kami. However, it is Esoteric Buddhism, both in its Tendai and Shingon variants, that played a fundamental role in the Buddhist transformation of the Kami and the development of doctrines and rituals about them. Several schools of Esoteric Buddhist “Shinto” teachings developed at major shrines, such as the Ise Outer Shrine, Hie shrine (controlled by the Tendai temple Enryakuji), and the Shingon temple Ōmiwadera (or Daigorinji). Esoteric Buddhist mandala became conceptual models to represent the sacred space of Kami shrines. In these images (miya mandara, literally, “shrine mandalas”), the Kami are represented as both “traces” (suijaku), that is, with their earthly forms (as animals or human beings) and “original grounds” (honji), that is, buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Tantric discourses about the Kami are generally known as Ryobu Shinto (Shinto of the twofold mandala of Shingon Buddhism) or Shingon Shinto. This was not a sectarian movement, but rather a widespread and polyphonic discourse carried out by various people (mostly Buddhist monks and Kami specialists) at temple-shrine complexes from the 12th until the mid-19th centuries. Recent studies have suggested that Tantric (Esoteric) Buddhist ideas and representations of deities, originating in India and accumulating elements from East Asian locales, may have contributed in a fundamental way to shape the premodern (and especially, medieval) Japanese understanding of Kami and the modes to interact with them.16

Shinto-Buddhist Esoteric teachings were transmitted through numerous initiation rituals, collectively known as jingi kanjō or shintō (or, perhaps, jindō) kanjō (literally, “abhiṣeka about the kami”), modeled on esoteric initiation rituals (denbō kanjō), but modified to better represent Kami myths from the Nihon shoki and the spatial structure of Kami cult places.17 The most important among them were Ama no iwato kanjō (on the legend of the Heavenly Cavern in which Amaterasu secluded herself plunging the world into darkness), sanshu jingi kanjō (on the three imperial regalia), waka kanjō (on waka classical poetry), and Reiki kanjō (on the teachings of the Reikiki, an important but elusive Esoteric Buddhist-Shinto text dating to the early 14th century). Variants of these initiations formed the basis for rituals for specific professions (carpenters, merchants, farmers) involving deities of the Buddho-Shinto combinatory universe.18 Similar initiations were also performed at Tendai temples.

Buddhist priests took pains to study non-Buddhist texts and went through initiation rituals that were often very complicated, time-consuming, and presumably quite expensive. Through those rituals, the initiated became identical with a “Shinto” deity, thus creating a new soteriology that replaced the usual idea of “becoming buddha” (jōbutsu) with a form of “becoming kami”; all this was related to an awareness of the specificity of Japan as a sacred place. The development of a Tantric discourse on Shinto during the Middle Ages also generated an enormous commentarial activity concerning early Japanese literary texts, such as Ise monogatari, waka poetry collections, and the Nihon shoki.

Ryobu Shinto envisioned that the main deities of the Great Shrines of Ise, Amaterasu and Toyouke, embodied the very essence of dharma-nature (Japanese, hosshō; Sanskrit, Dharmatā) and of the cosmic Buddha Mahāvairocana (Japanese, Dainichi Nyorai); this feature gave them an ontological primacy that provoked cosmogonical speculations on the original state of the universe and the primordial godhead. Indeed, to argue that the essence of dharma and the very nature of Dainichi is a Kami at Ise (in fact, two different Kami) opened up a number of problems in Buddhist ontology, cosmology, and soteriology.19

Buddhist Shinto texts indicated more or less explicitly that, whereas Buddhism offered a soteriology progressing from ignorance to awakening and as such was still prisoner of a fundamental dualism (one opposing ignorance to enlightenment), doctrines and cults related to the Kami were concerned with the original condition of beings and the universe before the appearance of the first Buddha ever—a condition that, they argued, transcended all dualism. For example, the Tendai monk and Kami scholar Jihen (active 1333–1340) claimed that Buddhism was forbidden at the Ise Shrines because it preaches the difference between ignorance and enlightenment and thus defiles the perfect unity of primordial chaos that forms the basis of “Shinto.” Another Tendai priest, Sonshun (1451–1514), explicitly advocated the primacy of kami over the buddhas, claiming that the Kami belong to a primeval condition of ontological wholeness he identifies with primordial ignorance as original enlightenment (hongaku).

This constituted an important twist in the logic of avatars and its impact on the understanding of the Kami, with Buddhist authors arguing that the Kami were in fact the primary, original forms of divine beings, while buddhas and bodhisattvas were local manifestations in India of these originally Japanese beings. This reversal of dominant Buddhist ideas was at the basis of a new Shinto movement, nativist in character, that stressed the superiority of all things Japanese against imported cultural elements. The center of this nativist reversal of the honji suijaku paradigm was the Yoshida shrine in Kyoto. Its priest Yoshida Kanetomo (1435–1511) had collected a number of doctrines and rituals about the Kami, mostly related to the then dominant Esoteric Buddhism but that also included aspects from Chinese thought, and tried to establish his own tradition by emphasizing, in a paradoxical move, native and non-Buddhist features.20 Gradually, the Yoshida tradition became the point of reference for nativist thinkers, anti-Buddhists, and Kami priests disgruntled with the Buddhist establishment still dominating their shrines. These were the people and the groups that contributed to constitute a Shinto discourse as distinct from Buddhism during the Edo period in a process whose final stage was the early Meiji separation of Shinto from Buddhism.

Philosophical Problems with Buddho-Shinto Relations

Interactions between Buddhism and Kami (shinbutsu shūgō) are commonly understood as discourses related to deities. However, larger cultural issues were influenced by the ways in which Buddhism interacted with local cults; these include subjectivity, cosmology, political ideology, economics, temporal structures, and semiotics. For instance, Allan Grapard has shown that combinatory cults involving Kami and buddhas are not the result of random associations but involve complex semiotic operations: “the associations between divinities of a given cult obeyed linguistically grounded modes of combination such as association, metaphor, palindrome, anagram, and anagogy.”21 This is an extremely productive suggestion that requires further inquiry.

Furthermore, premodern Kami were usually not singular subjectivities, but plural entities that combined historical human beings, deities from various places in Asia, and Buddhist divinities. Hachiman, for example, is both a Kami and a bodhisattva, a king and a holy being: he is the deified aspect of Emperor Ōjin (who reigned in the late 4th to early 5th centuries) and at the same time a Japanese manifestation of the Buddha Amida (Sanskrit, Amithāba). Analogously, the Kami Inari began as an agricultural spirit bringing prosperity, later became the tutelary deity of the Fushimi area near Kyoto, and finally was envisioned as the Japanese manifestation of the Indian ogresses known as dākiī (Japanese, dakini). It is represented as an old man, as a white fox, or as a beautiful woman. Thus, in a culture in which buddhas manifest themselves as Kami, and Kami appear in this world as human beings, animals, or natural objects such as trees or mountains; in which there is no center of the self, but a complex set of mental functions and bodily energies; in which reality is not how it is perceived by us but encompasses a number of realms that are beyond our senses and intelligence—where are the boundaries of the “subject”? What are the principles and the forms of legitimization of power? What kind of cycle of exchange between human beings and deities establishes itself that results in the production of value? How can the sacred be represented? These are the philosophical questions posed by the developments of the interactions between Buddhism and Kami in Japan.

Buddhism and Local Deities: Indian Precedents

The Buddhist appropriation of local Kami is not a typically Japanese phenomenon: guardian gods and fertility gods are worshiped at Buddhist temples throughout Asia. Monastery gods are perhaps the original forms of adoption of local divinities in a Buddhist context. A central aspect of Buddhism, and one of the key factors in its successful diffusion, is its willingness and ability to interact with preexisting religious traditions. Buddhist canonical sources offer a picture of early Buddhist interest and attention to local cults in India. Archaeological evidence indicates that early Buddhist temples were built on the sites of prehistoric megalithic formations or in nearby areas, suggesting interest in interacting with local cults, including those dedicated to the dead. In general, Buddhism did not attempt to supplant preexisting cults, only to carve for itself a specific cultural space by interacting with these cults in several ways. This resulted in the development of forms of religious syncretism (cults, doctrines, festivals, calendrical rites), but also and especially of specific and original intellectual systems and ritual procedures that would characterize Buddhism and differentiate it from other traditions.

Interactions of Buddhism with local deities have often been described as a concession to the superstitious beliefs of the masses. Buddhist monks would have incorporated some forms of popular beliefs and rituals concerning local deities not because they also accepted them but simply as a skilful means aimed at bringing the unenlightened folks within the Buddhist fold. This view presents at least two obvious problems. On the one hand, the Buddhists involved in establishing relations with local cults appear as opportunists if not outright deceivers, since they were pandering forms of beliefs they did not personally share. On the other hand, commoners involved in local cults appear indiscriminately as superstitious, ignorant folks incapable of understanding the true teachings of the buddha.

However, recent scholarship has presented a very different picture. For example, Robert DeCaroli writes that “Far from being marginal concessions to the public, spirit-deities played a central role in the development and growth of Buddhism in all of its contexts and in all of its forms.” In particular, “Buddhism even in its earliest forms was not simply an otherworldly ideology of transcendence. Parallel to this soteriological concern was a deep investment in mortuary practices and a persistent concern with strategies for coping with spirits and the dead.”22 Thus, the attention dedicated by Buddhist institutions to spirit-deities was not a degeneration from purer, more pristine teachings, but a sign of the Samgha’s power toward the supernatural realm and its capacity to generate merit. It is likely that Buddhist interactions with local spirit-deities began with the attempts to come to terms with yakshas and nāgas, the usual forms of local deities in, respectively, north and south India. It is thus not by chance that references to yaksha and nāga cults can be found in all cultures in which Buddhism spread.

In addition to their role in the ordering of society (social and cosmic hierarchies, definitions of righteous behavior) and the control over the territory (kingship), local cults are also related to other ideas of cultural identity and definition of subjectivity (souls, spirits, various forms of existence); as such, they enabled Buddhism, originally a translocal religion, to set its roots in foreign localities.

The definition of “local deities” (and local cults in general) in a Buddhist context is not an easy task. In fact, “local deities” is an umbrella-term covering a number of phenomena and entities. Buddhism and Indian religions in general have developed a detailed vocabulary to designate “supernatural” beings, and this terminology cannot always be adequately rendered by English words such as “deity,” “god,” “spirit,” “ghost,” “fairy,” and “ogre.” (Not to mention that these beings cannot even properly be considered “supernatural,” given that they exist and operate within the same realm of human beings.) The Sino-Japanese term hachibushū (or tenryū hachibushū) is an attempt to give a unified classification to various forms of such beings. Systematized and popularized by Esoteric Buddhism, this multifarious category includes devas (Japanese, ten), nāgas (ryū), yakṣas (yasha), gandharvas (kendatsuba), asuras (ashura), garudas (karura), kinnaras (kinnara), and mahoragas (magoraga); in addition, we find rakshasas, pisacas, and various kinds of ghosts and demonic entities. However, not all local deities were, strictly speaking, “local.” Some controlled a very limited territory (the area covered by the shade of the tree, or the lake in which the deity resided); some, such as the Vedic and Brahmanic gods, extended their influence over many world systems and were the objects of widespread cults; others yet were originally regional gods that spread in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. At times, certain local spirit-deities, thanks to their interactions with Buddhism, came to acquire a “translocal” (transnational) character, as in the case of Indian deities worshiped from Southeast Asia to Japan. It may be helpful, thus, to define “local deities” (with “deities” to be understood in the broadest possible sense) as three kinds of nonhuman entities—spirit/deities that were (i) not originally Buddhist (or, outside of India, not originally Indian), (ii) brought elsewhere by Buddhism as part of a larger process of acculturation and that became the objects of local cults, and (iii) produced by the interactions between Buddhism and local traditions.

Buddhism and Local Deities: Two Comparative Cases

As two examples of possible areas for comparative study, the nats cults in Myanmar and the Tibetan Bon religion will be discussed, as a way to shed new light on received understanding of the interactions between Buddhism and Shinto, while at the same time contributing to the clarification of broader issues pertaining to the interactions of local and translocal religious traditions.

Nats Cults in Myanmar

Nats cults are ancient and multilayered religious formations dedicated to a diverse class of spirit-deities. Scholars debate whether these cults predate the arrival of Buddhism in what is present-day Myanmar around the 5th century ce, or whether they developed under the influence of Buddhism. In any case, the term nat itself derives from the Sanskrit natha, “lord,” and implies that these entities have powers over humans. Based on native typologies, there are several orders of nats: the higher nats, the lower nats, the Thirthy-seven Nats, and miscellaneous nats that do not clearly belong to any of these groups. The higher nats are Indian deities (deva or devatā, Burmese thewada) such as Brahma, Indra, and Māra. Buddhist temples usually have a small shrine dedicated to them, but they are not the objects of any particular cult, as they are considered detached from the human world. The lower nats are indigenous (at least, non-Indian) entities, normally nature spirits inhabiting specific natural objects and locales, that operate on a territorial basis and in direct relation to individuals and social groups; some protect the house, others are like personal guardian spirits. These lower nats are generally considered potentially malevolent and dangerous.

As a separate category situated between higher and lower nats, the Thirty-seven nats (thounze khunna min nat, literally “the thirty-seven chiefs nats”) refer to a changing group of spirit-deities, rather than a precise numerical indication. Many of these nats are in fact angry ghost-like beings, such as people wrongfully sentenced by kings or people who died a tragic death. Through their transformation into nats, they escaped the normal Buddhist ritual cycle of merit-transfer and postmortem memorialization and were placed instead in a limbo-like condition as semi-gods capable of influencing people’s everyday lives. The beginning of this cult is attributed to King Anawratha (fl. 1017–1059), as part of his religious policies. By introducing Theravada Buddhism, unrelated to local cults, and by persecuting the religious institutions that had carried out combinatory strategies (the Ari monks), he aimed at simplifying and controlling the religious field, while at the same time securing religious support for his own authority and rule. He did it by emphasizing the traditional Buddhist ideology envisioning the king as an emissary of both Indra and the Buddha, but also by establishing a new state cult dedicated to the Thirty-seven Nats, whom he enshrined in the Shwezigon Pagoda in Pagan. This cult was later developed by King Kyanzitta (a former general of Anawratha’s) in the second half of the 11th century and King Dhammacetī (r. 1472–1492). It should be noted, however, that while the chief nats worshiped by Dhammacedī were defined as “stream-winning gods” (dewatau sotāpan), that is, full-fledged Buddhist entities, the Thirty-seven nats of Pagan were essentially non-Buddhist deities, and they were believed to take no part in any soteriological project.

Even though the nats cults is, structurally at least, similar to aspects of Japanese Shinto, it has never become an autonomous religious tradition but continues to exist in parallel to and in relation with Buddhism. The nats have their iconography, cult sites, ceremonies, specialized ritualists, devotees, a body of legends and doctrines (albeit in an unsystematic form). Even though their existence and their activities are generally explained in Buddhist terms, these deities are definitely and consciously non-Buddhist, situated as they are on the margin, if not on the outside, of the Burmese Buddhist cultural system. Thus, we could say that Anawratha and his successors created the Thirty-seven nats and sponsored their cult as a way to control the outside of Burmese Buddhism; but in so doing they relativized the center of the system and created two parallel religiosities. In terms of premodern Shinto, nats are similar to “real Kami” but also to new deities such as Tenjin, Gozu Tennō, and leaders of peasant revolts worshiped as village Kami.23

Tibetan Bon

As is commonly understood, Bon is the Tibetan autochthonous religion, whose existence predates the arrival of Buddhism; more vaguely, it is usually characterized as a form of shamanism and animism. What we know about Bon today is based on texts written after the Buddhist systematic symbiosis with preexisting traditions, and it is not easy to distinguish what is Buddhist and what predates it—a situation similar to our understanding of medieval Shinto. After an initial phase of stern opposition against the adoption of Buddhism (culminating in the anti-Buddhist persecution by King Glan-dar-ma in 838–842), after which Buddhism disappeared from central Tibet until the 11th century, Buddhism came back and became the dominant religious force of the country; as a consequence, Bon was restructured, and since the late 14th century Bon institutions have been affiliated with the Rñin-ma-pa order of Tantric Buddhism.

The oldest extant history of Bon was written around the late 12th century after the consolidation of the Buddhist supremacy. Bon doctrines, rituals, and monastic organization are clearly indebted to Tibetan Buddhism; deities, however, are different. Bon also developed various cosmogonic myths and genealogies of the gods, which argue that the cosmos began earlier than described in Buddhist texts; the Bon teachings themselves claimed to predate the appearance of the buddha. In this situation, it is difficult to envision Bon as an unchanged autochthonous tradition from the ancient past. Rather, it is the result of sustained processes of negotiation and symbiosis with Buddhism. In this sense, Ryobu Shinto, but perhaps also Yoshida Shinto seem to show strong structural similarities with Bon: they were parts of the Buddhist establishment but developed themes and rituals in a centrifugal fashion by reworking (re-imagining) ancient religiosity.

Tibetan Buddhism, on its part, was very much involved in efforts to incorporate local elements. For instance, tradition reports that most local deities were defeated by Padmasambhava in the 8th century and subsequently by other Buddhist monks; they were forced to pledge to protect Buddhism from its enemies; in this way, they became protectors of the Dharma (Sanskrit, dharmapāla; Tibetan, chos skyon, srun ma, bstan srun). These protecting deities are divided into two groups: sacred protectors, considered equivalent to buddhas and bodhisattvas; and profane protectors, considered still part of the cycle of samsara. Furthermore, the Anuttara Yoga Tantra tradition considers all deities to be manifestations in this world of the primordial buddha (the Ādibuddha), and therefore as sharing with the ultimate essence of reality. We see in this treatment a close parallel to the Japanese medieval situation, in which Kami were variously considered manifestations of buddhas and bodhisattvas, sentient beings in need of salvation, and embodiments of original enlightenment.24

Buddhism and Local Cults beyond Shinto: An Interpretive Framework

Buddhism has been traditionally understood as a primarily monastic tradition concerned with ultimate salvation. However, a complex cultural system such as Buddhism cannot be simply reduced to a monastic organization, its doctrinal apparatus, and its soteriology, because this would exclude most aspects of Buddhist religiosity throughout history. A very useful way to understand Buddhism as a cultural system has been proposed by Melford Spiro with his positing of three dimensions in Myanmar Buddhism: namely, nibbanic, kammatic, and apotropaic. The nibbanic level refers to the quest for ultimate salvation; historically, this has been the concern of a rather small group of Buddhist practitioners. Kammatic Buddhism refers to the various processes of merit-making and is primarily concerned with improving the material existence in this world (including the next reincarnations) as a means also for spiritual betterment. Finally, apotropaic or magical forms of Buddhism are concerned with securing protection from evil forces and natural disasters—aspects that are commonly, but incorrectly, referred to today as “superstitions.”25

Spiro’s framework can, with opportune modifications, be extended and generalized to Buddhism as a whole. Thus, we have a sphere concerning ultimate salvation (be it extinction into nirvana, deliverance into a pure land, or becoming a buddha in the present body), a sphere related to material and spiritual existence in this world envisioned as processes of merit-making, and a sphere of magical operations. It is important to stress that these three spheres are mutually interrelated. Magical protection allows one to lead a more secure life, which can thus be dedicated more easily to merit-making. Merit-making, in turn, is an activity related, more or less directly, to ultimate salvation, which is often envisioned as the final result of the accumulation of good karma. Salvation may also be, at least in part, due to the intervention of “deities” (buddhas, bodhisattvas, and their retinues and manifestations) as a consequence of the performance of magical rituals (this is especially true in Tantric Buddhism).

Envisioning Buddhism as a complex mechanism to control interactions among these three spheres allows for a better understanding of the places and roles of local deities. It is clear that interaction with local deities occurs not only in the apotropaic sphere: for instance, merit could be used to deliver local deities from their painful condition of beings prisoners of the cycle of rebirth; as a reward, spirit-deities would protect Buddhist practitioners and facilitate their accumulation of merit and, ultimately, attainment of salvation. Moreover, as we have seen, in premodern Japan soteriological rituals developed involving the Kami in a Buddhist context: practitioners would “become a Kami” as an intermediate, and easier, step before they could “become buddhas in their body.”

To conclude, local cults were not a marginal aspect of Buddhism (especially if compared with meditation and monastic institutions) but a central element in the life of Buddhists since early times. In addition, local cults are not just part of folk religion; they are essential for the ordering of society and the control over the territory and thus have political significance (kingship and power) and are also related to other aspects of culture, including cultural identity; they enabled Buddhism, originally a translocal religion, to set its roots in foreign localities. Moreover, local cults are not just ways to cope with popular superstition and ignorance, given that several of them were based on elite cosmological and ideological constructs (cosmology, ontology, subjectivity, politics, etc.), more or less explicitly developed. They were also ways to define subjectivities (souls, spirits, various forms of existence) and righteous behavior.

Review of the Literature

A critical study of the history of interactions between Buddhism and Shinto begins in the early 20th century, a few decades after their forced separation that marked the beginning of modernity in Japan. However, it is only with Kuroda Toshio that a fuller and deeper picture began to emerge, in a series of seminal works written from around the mid-1970s.26 Kuroda denied that something called Shinto had always existed in Japan, even predating the introduction of Buddhism, and reconfigured the various forms of medieval Shinto as something deeply intertwined with the dominant Buddhist system (what he called kenmitsu taisei, “exo-esoteric system”). Kuroda was deeply influential in Japan and abroad, and many scholars are still working along the path he traced (whether to expand his interpretations or to criticize them). Among the scholars most influenced by him there are Taira Masayuki and Satō Hiroo; Sueki Fumihiko has a more critical stance. More recently, Abe Yasurō and Itō Satoshi, among others, have engaged in a systematic search for medieval texts and in their interpretation, and their work provides a rich and variegated description of medieval Japanese religious mentalities and practices.27

Outside Japan, the new historiography of Shinto promoted by Kuroda Toshio is increasingly influential among scholars of religious and intellectual history.28 Allan Grapard has pioneered new approaches to the study of Shinto cultural history, along lines traced by Kuroda and also Murayama Shūichi (1914–2010), with his work on the relations between Kasuga shrine and Kōfukuji temple in Nara, the origin of the cult to the god Hachiman, and various aspects of medieval Buddhist-Shinto amalgamation phenomena.29 Another leading expert in the field is Helen Hardacre, with her important work on modern Shinto, on new religions, and, recently, a monumental history of Shinto.30

Over the past several years, John Breen and Mark Teeuwen have produced innovative studies of the Shinto tradition, which combine findings by Japanese authors and new critical insights.31 In addition, a number of new scholars working on the Shinto tradition (and especially, its interactions with Buddhism) has emerged, making the subject one of the most creative and innovative in the field of Japanese religions and Japanese Buddhist studies.

Overall, the attention of scholars oscillates between the exegesis of premodern texts about the interactions of Buddhism with local cults (Shinto), especially about doctrines about the status of the Kami (in their relations to Buddhist divinities), and broader investigations of cultural and intellectual history (themes such as the economy and ideology of Shinto-Buddhist texts and institutions, material culture, rituals, and the diffusion of elite doctrines among the population at large).

Further Reading

Aston, W. G. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697. Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle, 1972.Find this resource:

    Baumer, Christoph. Bön: Tibet’s Ancient Religion. Turnbull, CT: Weatherhill, 2002.Find this resource:

      Bock, Felicia. Engi-Shiki: Procedures of the Engi Era. 2 vols. Tokyo: Sophia University, 1970–1972.Find this resource:

        Brac de la Perrière, Bénédicte. Les rituels de possession en Birmanie: Du culte d’état aux cérémonies privées. Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, ADPF, 1989.Find this resource:

          Brac de la Perrière, Bénédicte. “The Burmese Nats.” Diogenes 44.174 (Summer 1996): 45–60.Find this resource:

            Breen, John, and Mark Teeuwen. A New History of Shinto. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.Find this resource:

              DeCaroli, Robert. Haunting the Buddha: Indian Popular Religions and the Formation of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

                Grapard, Allan G. “Institution, Ritual, and Ideology: The Twenty-two Shrine-Temple Multiplexes in Heian Japan.” History of Religions 27.2 (1988): 246–269.Find this resource:

                  Grapard, Allan G. The Protocol of the Gods: A Study of the Kasuga Cult in Japanese History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.Find this resource:

                    Hardacre, Helen. Shinto: A History. London: Oxford University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

                      Inoue Nobutaka, ed. Shinto: A Short History. Translated and adapted by Mark Teeuwen and John Breen. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.Find this resource:

                        Itō Satoshi. Shintō to wa nani ka. Tokyo: Chūō kōronsha, 2012.Find this resource:

                          Itō Satoshi, Matsuo Kōichi, Endō Jun, and Mori Mizue, eds. Shintō (Nihonshi shōhyakka). Tokyo: Tōkyōdō shuppan, 2002.Find this resource:

                            Iyanaga Nobumi. Daikokuten hensō. Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 2002.Find this resource:

                              Ketelaar, James. Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

                                Kuroda Toshio. Nihon chūsei no kokka to shūkyō. Tokyo: Iwanami, 1975.Find this resource:

                                  Kuroda Toshio. Jisha seiryoku. Tokyo: Iwanami, 1980.Find this resource:

                                    Kvaerne, Per. The Bön Religion of Tibet: The Iconography of a Living Tradition. Boston: Shambhala, 1995.Find this resource:

                                      Matsunaga, Alicia. The Buddhist Philosophy of Assimilation: The Historical Development of the Honji-Suijaku Theory. Rutland, VT: Sophia University Press, 1969.Find this resource:

                                        Murayama Shūichi. Honji suijaku. Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 1974.Find this resource:

                                          Murayama Shūichi. Shūgō shisōshi ronkō. Tokyo: Hanawa shobō, 1987.Find this resource:

                                            Philippi, Donald L. Kojiki. Translated with an Introduction and Notes. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1968.Find this resource:

                                              Rambelli, Fabio. “Before the First Buddha: Medieval Japanese Cosmogony and the Quest for the Primeval Kami.” Monumenta Nipponica 64.2 (2009): 235–271.Find this resource:

                                                Scheid, Bernhard. Der ein und enzige Weg der Götter: Yoshida Kanetomo und die Erfindung des Shinto. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischer Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2001.Find this resource:

                                                  Spiro, Melford E. Burmese Supernaturalism. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1967.Find this resource:

                                                    Spiro, Melford E. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.Find this resource:

                                                      Tambiah, Stanley J. Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-east Thailand. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1970.Find this resource:

                                                        Tambiah, Stanley J. World Conqueror and World Renouncer. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1976.Find this resource:

                                                          Teuuwen, Mark. Watarai Shinto: An Intellectual History of the Outer Shrine in Ise. Leiden, The Netherlands: Research School CNWS, 1996.Find this resource:

                                                            Teeuwen, Mark, and Fabio Rambelli, eds. Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm. London: Routledge, 2003.Find this resource:


                                                              (1.) For an English translation of Nihon shoki see W. G. Aston, Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697 (Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle, 1972); for Kojiki, see Donald L. Philippi, Kojiki. Translated with an Introduction and Notes (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1968).

                                                              (2.) See Mark Teeuwen, “From Jindō to Shintō: A Concept Takes Shape,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 29.3–4 (2002): 233–263.

                                                              (3.) Fabio Rambelli, “Re-positioning the Gods: ‘Medieval Shinto’ and the Origins of Non-Buddhist Discourses on the Kami,” Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 16 (2006–2007): 305–325.

                                                              (4.) See Allan G. Grapard, “The Shinto of Yoshida Kanetomo,” Monumenta Nipponica 47.1 (1992): 27–58; Bernhard Scheid, Der ein und enzige Weg der Götter: Yoshida Kanetomo und die Erfindung des Shinto (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischer Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2001); and Scheid, “Reading the Yuiitsu Shintō myōbō yōshū: A Modern Exegesis of an Esoteric Shinto Text,” in Shinto: Ways of the Kami, eds. John Breen and Mark Teeuwen (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2000), 117–143.

                                                              (5.) See Allan G. Grapard, “Japan’s Ignored Cultural Revolution: The Separation of Shinto and Buddhist Divinities in Meiji (shinbutsu bunri) and a Case Study: Tōnomine,” History of Religions 23 (February 1984): 240–265; and James Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990).

                                                              (6.) Helen Hardacre, Shinto and the State, 1868–1988 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989).

                                                              (7.) For details, see Mark Teeuwen and Fabio Rambelli, “Introduction: Combinatory Religion and the Honji Suijaku Paradigm in Pre-Modern Japan,” in Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm, ed. Teeuwen and Rambelli (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 1–53.

                                                              (8.) See Allan G. Grapard, “Institution, Ritual, and Ideology: The Twenty-Two Shrine-Temple Multiplexes in Heian Japan,” History of Religions 27.2 (1988): 246–269

                                                              (9.) Alicia Matsunaga, The Buddhist Philosophy of Assimilation: The Historical Development of the Honji-Suijaku Theory (Rutland, VT: Sophia University Press, 1969).

                                                              (10.) On this instance of premodern separation (shinbutsu kakuri), see Satō Masato, “Shinbutsu kakuri no yōin wo meguru kōsatsu,” Shūkyō kenkyū 82.2 (2007): 359–383.

                                                              (11.) On the idea of original enlightenment (hongaku) in Japanese Buddhism, see Jacqueline Stone, Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1991).

                                                              (12.) On medieval Kami typologies, see Fabio Rambelli, “Before the First Buddha: Medieval Japanese Cosmogony and the Quest for the Primeval Kami,” Monumenta Nipponica 64.2 (2009): 235–271; and Rambelli, “Re-positioning the Gods.”

                                                              (13.) In English, see Allan G. Grapard, The Protocol of the Gods: A Study of the Kasuga Cult in Japanese History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); see Steven Heine, “Sōtō Zen and the Inari Cult: Symbiotic and Exorcistic Trends in Buddhist and Folk Religious Amalgamations,” Pacific World new series, 10 (1994): 75–101.

                                                              (14.) See William Bodiford, “The Enlightenment of Kami and Ghosts: Spirit Ordinations in Japanese Sōtō Zen,” Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 7 (1993): 267–282.

                                                              (15.) See Lucia Dolce, “Hokke Shinto: Kami in the Nichiren Tradition,” in Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm, eds. Teeuwen and Rambelli (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 222–254.

                                                              (16.) See Bernard Faure, The Fluid Pantheon, 2 vols. (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016).

                                                              (17.) On medieval Shinto, see Itō Satoshi, Chūsei Tenshō Daijin shinkō no kenkyū (Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 2011); and Itō, Shintō no keisei to chūsei shinwa (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2016).

                                                              (18.) On shintō kanjō initiations, see Fabio Rambelli, “The Ritual World of Buddhist ‘Shinto’: The Reikiki and Initiations to Kami-Related Matters (jingi kanjō) in Late Medieval and Early-Modern Japan,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 29.3–4 (2002): 353–385; and Rambelli, “Honji suijaku at Work: Religion, Economics, and Ideology in Pre-Modern Japan,” in Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm, eds. Teeuwen and Rambelli (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 255–286.

                                                              (19.) See Itō, Chūsei Tenshō Daijin shinkō no kenkyū.

                                                              (20.) See Scheid, Der ein und enzige Weg der Götter and “Reading the Yuiitsu Shintō myōbō yōshū.”

                                                              (21.) Grapard, The Protocol of the Gods, 82.

                                                              (22.) Robert DeCaroli, Haunting the Buddha: Indian Popular Religions and the Formation of Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 187.

                                                              (23.) For a more extended treatment, see Melford E. Spiro, Burmese Supernaturalism (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1967); Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière, Les rituels de possession en Birmanie: Du culte d’état aux cérémonies privées (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, ADPF, 1989); and Brac de la Perrière, “The Burmese Nats.” Diogenes 44.174 (Summer 1996): 45–60.

                                                              (24.) For more details, see Per Kvaerne, The Bön Religion of Tibet: The Iconography of a Living Tradition (Boston: Shambhala, 1995); and Christoph Baumer, Bön: Tibet’s Ancient Religion (Turnbull, CT: Weatherhill, 2002).

                                                              (25.) Melford E. Spiro, Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).

                                                              (26.) Kuroda Toshio, Nihon chūsei no kokka to shūkyō (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1975); Jisha seiryoku: Mō hitotsu no chūsei shakai (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1980); and Nihon chūsei no shakai to shūkyō (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1990). In English, see “Shinto in the History of Japanese Religions,” tran. James Dobbins and Suzanne Gay, Journal of Japanese Studies 7.1 (1981): 1–21; and “The Discourse on the ‘Land of the Kami’ (Shinkoku) in Medieval Japan,” tran. Fabio Rambelli, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 23.3–4 (1996): 353–385.

                                                              (27.) Taira Masayuki, Nihon chūsei no shakai to bukkyō (Tokyo: Hanawa shobō, 1992); Satō Hiroo, Nihon chūsei no kokka to bukkyō (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2010) (or 1987); Kami, hotoke, ōken no chūsei (Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 1998); Amaterasu no henbō (Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 2000); and How Like a God: Deification in Japanese Religion (Tokyo: International House of Japan, 2016); by Itō Satoshi, see especially Chūsei Tenshō Daijin shinkō no kenkyū (Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 2011); and Shintō no keisei to chūsei shinwa (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2016). By Abe Yasurō, see Chūsei Nihon no shūkyō tekisuto taikei (Nagoya: Nagoya Daigaku Shuppankai, 2013).

                                                              (28.) An interesting book by Alicia Matsunaga, The Buddhist Philosophy of Assimilation: The Historical Development of the Honji-Suijaku Theory (Rutland, VT: Sophia University Press, 1969), was not very influential in the field.

                                                              (29.) Murayama Shūichi, Honji suijaku (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 1974); and Shūgō shisōshi ronkō (Tokyo: Hanawa shobō, 1987); By Allan Grapard see, among others, “Japan’s Ignored Cultural Revolution” (1984); “Institution, Ritual, and Ideology” (1988); The Protocol of the Gods: A Study of the Kasuga Cult in Japanese History (1992); “The Shinto of Yoshida Kanetomo” (1992); and Mountain Mandalas (London: Bloomsbury, 2016).

                                                              (30.) Helen Hardacre, Shinto and the State; Kurozumikyō and the New Religions of Japan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986); Religion and Society in Nineteenth-Century Japan (Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2002); and Shinto: A History (London: Oxford University Press, 2017).

                                                              (31.) See, among others, Mark Teeuwen, Watarai Shinto: An Intellectual History of the Outer Shrine in Ise (Leiden, The Netherlands: Research School CNWS, 1996); John Breen and Mark Teeuwen, eds., Shinto: Ways of the Kami (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2000); John Breen and Mark Teeuwen, A New History of Shinto (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); Mark Teeuwen and Bernhard Scheid, guest editors, “Tracing Shinto in the History of Kami Worship,” special issue of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 29.3–4 (Fall 2002); and Mark Teeuwen and Fabio Rambelli, eds., Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003).