Buddhism and Shinto are religions which are largely practiced in the South East Asia and other countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Japan, China, South and North Korea among other countries within and outside the region. The origin of these two religions dates back to about 2,500 years (Ellwood and Pilgrim 4). The Buddhist religion and its practices such as meditation way of the religion have continued to spread across many parts of the world.
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Shinto practices have existed for several centuries and are common among the Buddhists. Shinto is a term used to describe a set of indigenous spirituality practices of the Japanese. The earliest records of the Shinto practices were made in the 8th century.
These records are found in The Record of Ancient Things, 712 (Kojiki) as well as The Chronicles of Japan, 720 (Nihon Shoki). The practices are conducted to connect the Japanese people to their ancient past. Today, the term is generally used to refer to public shrines which are used for harvest festivals and war memorials among other religious practices.
The word Shinto which means way of the gods (Sokyo 2) is derived from Chinese words shén dáo. These two words are combined so that they produce “shin” and “tō”. “Shin” means kami; which refers to innate supernatural force which includes deities, spirits, as well as, essences which occur in many forms and may exist in human-like or animistic form or in abstract natural forces (Ellwood and Pilgrim 7; and Sokyo 2).
Kami can sometimes be associated with lightning, mountains, trees, wind among other natural forces. “tō” in Chinese means a philosophical path or could also mean a philosophical study (Sokyo 2). Thus, Shinto generally means ways, beliefs and practices adopted by the Japanese people to worship kami.
The origin of Shinto was influenced by the Japanese contacts with the Chinese religions. For example, the term itself is of Chinese origin. Besides, the codification of its mythology was done in such a way that it responds to the Chinese influence. Most mythology applied in Shinto practices were acquired from Chinese doctrines. As a result, both religions have had an influence on each other.
Most people who practice Shinto rituals especially in Japan also profess Buddhism. In both faiths, one does not have to identify with a particular faith to be a believer. This means that many people who practice Shinto rituals are also Buddhists and vise versa. This includes the Chinese people who live in Japan and even those who live in China. Because of this, it is difficult to distinguish between Buddhist and Shinto beliefs regarding the world as both have greatly influenced Japanese religious culture.
While Shinto beliefs emphasize what happens while one is still alive, which is finding happiness in life, Buddhism puts emphasis on life after death (Herbert 17). Thus, although the two religions have varied perspectives on the world, they have continued to co-exist. Accordingly, it is not unusual to find people who engage in Shinto practices in life being accorded Buddhist funeral.
Japanese have had an affiliation with both Shinto and Buddhism religions. Shinto religion has its origin in China and Chinese religions; however, the two religions have been blended together in practice even though have distinct differences. As such, those who identify with the two religions have continued to engage in practices of the Buddhist and Shinto faiths either knowingly or unknowingly.
Ellwood, Robert and Pilgrim, Richard. Japanese Religion, 1st edition. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc., 1985. Print.
Herbert, Jean. Shinto: At the fountainhead of Japan. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1967. Print.
Sokyo, Ono. Shinto: The Kami Way, 1st edition. Rutland, VT: Charles E Tuttle Co., 1962. Print.