Tag Archives: Asia

On Shingon

Acalanatha, the wrathful manifestation of Mahavairocana, and the principal deity invoked during the goma ritual.

Shingon Buddhism

Shingon Buddhism (真言宗 Shingon-shū) is one of the mainstream major schools of Buddhism in Japan and one of the few surviving Vajrayana lineages in East Asia, originally spread from India to China through traveling monks such as Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra. Known in Chinese as the Tangmi, these Esoteric teachings would later flourish in Japan under the auspices of a Buddhist monk named Kūkai (空海), who traveled to Tang China to acquire and request transmission of the esoteric teachings. For that reason, it is often called Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, or Orthodox Esoteric Buddhism.

The word “Shingon” is the Japanese reading of Chinese: 真言 Zhēnyán “True Words”, which in turn is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit word “mantra” (मन्त्र). Continue reading

Japanese Torii

The famous torii at Itsukushima Shrine, a Ryōbu-style torii.

Torii

A torii (鳥居?, lit. bird abode) is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. The presence of a torii at the entrance is usually the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines, and a small torii icon represents them on Japanese road maps. They are a common sight at Japanese Buddhist temples too, where they stand at the entrance of the temple’s own shrine, called chinjusha (鎮守社?, tutelary god shrine) and are usually very small.

Their first appearance in Japan can be reliably pinpointed to at least the mid-Heian period, because they are mentioned in a text written in 922. The oldest existing stone torii was built in the 12th century and belongs to a Hachiman Shrine in Yamagata prefecture. The oldest wooden torii is a ryōbu torii at Kubō Continue reading

Way of the Kami

Japanese Religions
Chapter 3 The Way of the Kami: Shinto Then and Now

[Ise Shrine]

Let us begin at the heart of Shinto. The Ise shrine, which has been called the National Cathedral of Japan, is not located in the center of a capital ancient or modern, like St. Peter’s in Rome. Its plain wooden buildings, rustic and unpretentious by most standards, dominate a lonely site near the Pacific Ocean some 225 miles south of Tokyo, 50 from Nagoya, and not much farther from Kyoto and Nara.

Like ancient Japanese dwellings and granaries, Ise’s edifices are set off the ground on posts, the roofs are thatched, and the timber unpainted, save for gold tips on the roof beams. They are surrounded by four wooden palisades, which block easy viewing and access. Once again, the sacred in Japan, Continue reading

Shinto Deities

KURODA TOSHIO
Shinto in the History of Japanese Religion
Translated by JAMES C . DOBBINS and SUZANNE GAY

II. The Significance of Shinto Deities in the Ancient Period

In the previous section the word Shinto was analyzed to show how it was used and what it meant in ancient times. Now it is necessary to consider the institutional significance and place of kami in Japan during that period, especially as evidenced in the jingiryõ laws and in Shinto-Buddhist syncreticism.

The jingiryõ is a set of laws of ancient Japan which instituted ceremonies to the kami. Needless to say, these laws include only those rites which had state sponsorship, but they nonetheless represent a fair sampling of the ceremonies current at that time. In brief the jingiryõ laws cover the following topics: Continue reading

Sharing Shinto

KURODA TOSHIO
Shinto in the History of Japanese Religion
Translated by JAMES C . DOBBINS and SUZANNE GAY

I. Shinto in the Nihon shoki

The word Shinto is commonly taken to mean Japan’s indigenous religion and to have had that meaning from fairly early times. It is difficult, however, to find a clear-cut example of the word Shinto used in such a way in early writings. The intellectual historian Tsuda Sõkichi has studied the occurrences of the word Shinto in early Japanese literature and has divided its meaning into the following six categories:

1) “religious beliefs found in indigenous customs passed down in Japan, including superstitious beliefs”; 2) “the authority, power, activity, or deeds of a kami, the status of kami, being a kami, or the kami itself”; 3) concepts and teachings concerning kami; 4) Continue reading

Shinto

RELIGION; Native roots and foreign influence
Japan Fact Sheet

The history of religion in Japan is a long process of mutual influence between religious traditions. In contrast to Europe, where Christianity overwhelmed local pagan traditions, the indigenous religion Shinto has continued as a part of the lives of the people from the earliest days of an organized Japanese state up to modern times.

When Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century, Shinto and Buddhist beliefs began to interact. This is the defining characteristic of Japanese religion. The most striking example of this interaction is the theory of honji suijaku, in which Shinto kami were seen as the incarnations of Buddhist deities. Continue reading

Naga

The Nagas
From Khandro Website

The word Naga comes from the Sanskrit, and nag is still the word for snake, especially the cobra, in most of the languages of India.

When we come upon the word in Buddhist writings, it is not always clear whether the term refers to a cobra, an elephant (perhaps this usage relates to its snake-like trunk, or the pachyderm’s association with forest-dwelling peoples of north-eastern India called Nagas), or even a mysterious person of nobility.

It is a term used for unseen beings associated with water and fluid energy, and also with persons having powerful animal-like qualities or conversely, an impressive animal with human qualities. Continue reading

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