RELIGST 2QQ3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Chinese Architecture, Nature Religion, Mahayana

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Lecture 11- Shinto
Shinto – The way of the gods
Here “gods” refer to Japan’s spirits (kami)
Japan – land of rising sun, kojikic = record of ancient matters
No known person or group as its founder. Nihongi, Nihonshoki- Chronicles of
Its mysterious origins date back to the ancient people of Japan and their
stories of how the world came into being.
The people of the Japanese islands lived close to nature, and Shinto as a
religion reflects that reality in its worship of the spirits who are believed to
inhabit the natural world.
It is more than a nature religion; however, it also has ethnic and family
The spirits that are worshipped include the spirits of departed family
members, distant ancestors of one’s clans, great leaders and so on.
Kami are the spirits of the mountains, rivers, seas, islands, forests; deified
clan ancestors; deceased emperors, saints, heroes.
The Japanese descended from several immigrant groups that came from the
Northwest and the South (including the possibility of Siberia, Korea, and
Malay Peninsula). Their traditions mixed, blending a large number of gods
into a pantheon and yielding a single creation myth.
Similar to other creation myths, in the beginning there was primeval chaos,
which came to be populated by several generations of kami. Two of these
kami, Izanami and Izanagi, became the cosmic parents who created the first
islands of Japan.
They gave birth to additional kami, many of them nature deities.
From the eyes of Izanagi emerged the spirits of the sun and the moon; from
his nostrils came the spirit of the wind. It is the spirit of the sun, Amaterasu,
who sent her grandson to bring order to the islands of Japan, and later came
Jimmu, the first human emperor of Japan.
The imperial house mythically traces its origin back to the goddess of the
It was the transmission of Buddhism to Japan in the 6th century that forced
Shinto to define itself, a process complicated by the tendency of Mahayana
Buddhism to absorb native religious elements.
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