Shinto

Shinto - Chapter 8 Shinto: The Way of the Kami Religion in...

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C hapter 8 Shinto: The Way of the Kami Religion in Japan has been influenced by traditions originating in China, such as Confucianism, Daoism and Chinese Buddhism. In order to distinguish the Japanese religion that pre-dated these others, the name Shinto was developed. This name derives from the Chinese words meaning “the Way of the gods,” or more appropriately for the Japanese “the Way of the kami.” Here will discuss four forms of Shinto, folk, sectarian, shrine, and national Shinto. As with many of the religions we are studying an apparent difficulty arises when we attempt to define Shinto in terms of regularized rituals, or orthodox beliefs decided upon through a top down process. Rather, what we will see is that the many forms of Shinto share in common basic beliefs that come to diverse expression in differing circumstances. The central term to understand in Shinto is kami . Sometimes translated “gods,” this translation can be misleading. It is more akin to the Latin numen or the Polynesian maya , and it denotes something that is above and beyond the natural realm and which is a course of awe and power. Things that are assigned kami-hood include the sun, wind, thunder, mountains, rivers, trees and rocks, wolves, snakes and foxes, mirrors, beds, swords, strange men, chief men and wise men, ancestral spirits, guardian spirits, and evil spirits (Anderson 195). Indeed, the Shinto term for the pantheon of kami implies an infinite number of them. Many of the kami have only local significance for folk Shinto, and are thus part of the diversity of Shinto. There is a kami essence that all of nature,
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including humans, partakes of and gives meaning to the search of living the kami way. That the term has remained vague and not clearly defined for almost 2000 years says something about both the nature of Shinto and the focus of this religion. It is certainly within the capabilities of the Shinto adherents to work out a clearly defined metaphysics of the kami. Instead, the focus is on this life, the rituals of the many
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Shinto - Chapter 8 Shinto: The Way of the Kami Religion in...

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