SHINTO or HONJI SUIJAKU
Copyright © 2002 James Deacon
Historically, the indigenous religion of Shinto, also known as
Kami No Michi (The Way of the Kami or Numinous Beings),
was of central importance in Japanese culture since the earliest
times, its pervasiveness being due in part to its ability to coexist
happily with other faiths, Buddhism in particular.
fact, from the 8th century onwards, the Japanese people had reconciled
Shinto and Buddhism to such a degree that Buddhist temples were
built within Shinto shrine precincts and Buddhist priests were
entrusted with the running of Shinto shrines.
conciliation had been made possible thanks to the emergence of
a syncretic doctrine known as: Ryobu Shinto [or:Honji
Suijaku], which - essentially by initially equating the Kami
Spirit-Beings of Shinto with Buddhist Deities (i.e. Buddhas &
Bodhisatvas, etc) - enabled the followers of one faith to legitimately
venerate the other faith's Divine Beings as alternative manifestations
of their own.
popular synthesis - which was typified by wandering Yamabushi
(mountain priests), itinerant practitioners of Shugendo,
who ministered to the people with a mixture of Buddhist and Shinto
rites - prospered right up until the early years of the Meiji
Era (1868 -1912), when the doctrine of Ryobu Shinto/Honji Suijaku
was annulled, and the Shugendo tradition of the Yamabushi
was proscribed by the new regime as being an unacceptable hybrid.