It is ironic that this religion which in its origins

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Unformatted text preview: ffering is universal, and man is the helpless victim of his fate. People in many ages have held these or similar propositions to be true, and we should not be surprised to find the Japanese of this period accepting them in the persuasive language of Buddhism. Possibly the strongest feeling the Japanese of the seventh and eighth centuries came to have about Buddhism was that it was an essential quality of higher civilization. It is ironic that this religion, which in its origins viewed the world with extreme pessimism and gave no thought to social or political reform, should enter Japan from China as the carrier of such multifarious aspects of civilization, including the ideal of state centralization. It is impossible to explain in a few words, or perhaps even in many, how primitive Shinto managed to survive the influx of Buddhism. Part of the answer lies in the unusual tolerance of Eastern religious thought in general for “partial” or “alternative” truths and its capacity to synthesize seemingly disparate beliefs and manifestations of the divine. In Japan, for example, the principal kami of Shinto came to be regarded as Buddhist deities in different forms, and Shinto shrines were even amalgamated with Buddhist temples. Another reason why the Japanese throughout the ages have with little or no difficulty considered themselves to be both Shintoists and Buddhists is that the doctrines of the two religions complement each other so neatly. Shinto expresses a simple and direct love of nature and its vital reproductive forces, and regards death simply as one of many kinds of defilement. Buddhism, on the other hand, is concerned with life’s interminable suffering and seeks to guide living beings on the path to enlightenment. It is fitting that even today in Japan the ceremonies employed to celebrate such events as birth and marriage are Shinto, whereas funerals and communion with the dead are within the purview of Buddhism. The dispute in Japan in the mid-sixth century over whether or not to accept Buddhism, and at the same time to undertake national reforms, divided the Japanese court into two...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.

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