Shinto and Buddhism

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Introduction

Buddhism is an international religion practiced by numerous people, many of which practice pacifism to attaining the ultimate form of Zen, or inner peace, which is met through contemplation, meditation and relaxation exercises. It is almost unilaterally synonymous with the symbol of Buddha. Buddha is the representative and namesake of Buddhism, which is practiced in China, Japan, India and the United States to name a few distinct locations.

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Shinto on the other hand is native to Japan, and as such almost exclusively practiced in Japan, and whereas Buddhism contains an individual as its namesake, Shinto practitioners hold the belief that nearly every living thing holds a spirit. All told there are well over 800 different spirits in Japan according to Shintoists. Based upon the description above, we will now delve into the differences between Shinto and Buddhist temples, and how worship is carried out in each of them. One fact that may interest you is that most weddings are carried out in Shinto tradition, while most funerals are conducted via Buddhist tradition. There are similarities and differences in both practices, but the two theories maintain a fundamental difference which we will describe in the paragraphs following. The question is not so much why but how in this discussion. Shinto Shrines People visit Shinto shrines to pay respect to spirits known as Kami, which each respective town or village has a local one, and is the primary purpose for a shrine, or to pray for good fortune.

Over the years numerous elements of Buddhism and Shinto have melded together, but there are several characteristics that make a Shinto shrine unique, to name a few, they are; Torii-the gate of the shrine, which are often red or orange in color, Komainu-a pair of dogs or lions at the gate of a shrine except in the case of Inari shrines they are foxes rather than dogs, Purification trough-used to clean the hands and mouth prior to entering the main worship hall, Ema-booths where people may leave prayers in the hopes that the gods may answer them, Omikuji-are slips of paper with “daikyi” (good luck), or “daikichi” (misfortune) visitors take one in the hopes that good luck may be attained or that misfortune may be averted. Along with the features of shrines, there are also numerous types of shrines ranging from Imperial-state sponsored shrines, Inari-recognizable by foxes at the gate and dedicated to kami of rice, Hachiman, -dedicated to the kami of war, Sengen-dedicated to Princess Konohanasakuya, the deity of Mount Fuji, and Tenijin-popular among students preparing for entrance exams. Shrines are referred to as such, but they are temples just like the Buddhist version. People visit them on holidays and special occasions rather than on days of the week.

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