Buddhism Has Changed Japanese Society Essay

1215 words - 5 pages

Shinto, the aboriginal religion of Japan, means the "Way of The Gods". In Shinto, deities are called Kami which means "supreme" or "sacred". While some Kami are thought to be in heaven, so others are thought to have the form of an animal, to be in a human, or other various places such as in the sky, in rocks, or even in fountains. Kami were not really personified and the separation of genders has never been important. Their roles and characteristics are interchangeable (Anesaki 19-21). The worst kind of misdeeds is to be in contact with any impurity such as blood, diseases, and coarpses. To make up for those offenses, one would have to take a bath in a stream while abstaining from eating food. Involuntary were then cleansed whereas a fine had to be paid "to the community in presence of a holy spirit" (Anesaki 33-36). The fact that Shinto was mainly practiced by cultivators is reflected by the fact that the Sun-goddess, also known as the Heaven illuminating Lady, was worshipped as the superior deity, the protector of agriculture, and the ancestor of the imperial family (Anesaki 22-23).

The first Kami to come to be were the Heavenly-Central-Lord, sometimes called the Eternal-Land-Ruler. Scholars are arguing whether or not those the Heavenly-Central-Lord and the Eternal-Land-Ruler was really only one Kami or two. The Heavenly-Central-Lord emerged out of the chaos with the High-Producing and the Mysterious-Producing, two lower Kami often associated with the Divine-Father and the Divine-Mother. The triad vanished without any trace as well as many other Kami that came out of the chaos after them. Those Kami who have not worked on Earth are called celestial deities. The last Kami to have come out of the chaos were the Male-who-Invites and the Female-who-Invites who are likely to have been created by the High-Producing and the Mysterious-Producing. The Male-who-Invites and the Female-who-Invites were sent on Earth by the celestial deities to create the physical world. "All thing produced were called Kami, deities or spirits, though only a few of them were actually worshipped" (Anesaki 24-25).

Death in Shinto is explained by the myth of the Male-who-Invites and the Female-who-Invites. As the Female-who-Invites dies as she was giving birth to fire, she went to the underworld. The Male-who-Invites came to see her and lit a torch which made visible her rotten body. That infuriated her and she caused evil spirits to chase the Male-who-Invites. He reached the border between the two worlds and block the path to the underworld with a gigantic rock. The two Kami could talk through the rock and the Female-who-Invites said that she would kill a thousand people everyday whereas the Male-who-Invites said that he would therefore give birth to a thousand and five hundred people everyday. This myth is thought to explain the reason behind the ratio of death and birth (Anesaki 26). The idea of a human soul was imprecise. However, souls were likely to be thought to go...

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