Shinto vs. Buddhism

Like the family and the economy, religion is a universal and pervasive phenomenon, a part of the cultural system, because it is assumed to meet some basic need of human being. Religion is an integrated part of human experience and shows remarkable continuity through time. Even in the modern secularized societies in the West, religion has persisted and still exerts a great influence in the lives of people. One of the examples of religion is Buddhism and Shinto.

Buddhism is a religion founded by Siddhartha Gautama (“Buddha,” or “The Enlightened One”) in India about 500 B.C. Buddhism is the chief religion of Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Kampuchea, Laos, and China. It has been estimated that about one-fifth of the world’s people are Buddhists. Because many Buddhists also practice Confucianism or Taoism, however, some authorities estimate world membership to be much smaller. In the United States, there are a number of organized Buddhist congregations.[1]

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Buddhism consists of numerous sects with varying practices and beliefs. Some of these sects are so different from the others that they appear to be separate religions. But all sects have in common the belief that they are following the principles laid down by Gautama. Early Buddhism, the religion as taught by Gautama, developed into two branches—Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism.

While Shinto, or Shintoism, is a major Japanese religion. It is based on tradition and social institutions, and has no formal doctrine. Worship takes the form of a purification rite at a shrine.

This paper intent to study the similarities and differences between Buddhism and Shinto and how its religion does perceives its God.

II. Discussion

A. Similarities and Differences and how they perceive their God

a.) Buddhism

Buddhism began in India as a revolt against Hinduism. The origin of the religion is described in the article of Buddha. Buddha himself did not leave any writings, and his teachings were not written down until several hundred years after his death.

Buddhism is a missionary religion that is why there are many countries practice Buddhism compared to Shinto. Within 300 years after Buddha’s death, it had spread throughout India and reached Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Monks and travelers carried it to other parts of Asia. Japan, practices Shinto, adopted it about seventh century A.D. Abut the same time, the religion reached Tibet.[2] Here it was combined with native religions and developed into Lamaism.

The two major divisions of Buddhism probably developed in Indian monasteries before 100 A.D. In India, the religion turned more and more to the ideas of Hinduism, until by 1000 Buddhism had virtually disappeared from the country of its origin.

Although Buddhism was originally a reform movement that rejected certain beliefs and practices of Hinduism; the two religions have several important beliefs in common. Among them are reincarnation, the ideas that a living thing can be reborn in a new body; the law of karma, which holds that events in life are effects whose cause lies in previous lives and acts; and liberation, or salvation, the state of being free of the law of karma and rebirth.

According to Buddhism, liberation is attained through understanding and practice of the Four Noble Truths:

There is suffering in life.
Suffering is caused by desire for pleasure, existence, and prosperity.
3.      Suffering and rebirth cease when one ceases such desires, leading to enlightenment, or Nirvana, a blessed state in which peace, harmony, and joy are attained.[3]

The way, or path, to Nirvana is the Eightfold Path, summarized as:

Right understanding
Right thoughts
Right speech
Right conduct
Right occupation
Right effort
Right mindfulness
Right meditation
The Eightfold Path is also called the Middle Way—because of its emphasis on avoiding such extremes as following sensuous pleasures on the one hand, and self-punishment on the other. The Buddhists must at all times observe in the high moral principles described in the Eightfold path, which emphasizes nonviolence and the brotherhood of all.

Perhaps the best-known Buddhist scriptures are the Tripitaka (“Three Baskets”), first written down in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the Pali language about 25 B.C. A new, authoritative edition was prepared by the Sixth Buddhist Council at Rangoon, Burma, in 1954-56. The three Pitakas are about four times as long as the Bible.[4]

`The early sacred writings of Buddhism contain no notion of an absolute God, an immortal soul, or a first cause. The idea of God or soul in Buddhism is better understood not in the Christian sense, but rather in terms of that which underlies the condition called Nirvana.

Ø  Theravada Buddhism

The name Theravada means “the way of the elders.” It is an austere religion that requires solitude, meditation, and self-mastery through which each member hopes to achieve Nirvana. Because of these requirements, the possibility of liberation is limited to a few. Many of its followers are monks and nuns who spend most of their time in meditation and teaching. Theravada Buddhism is sometimes called “Hinayana Buddhism,” Hinayana meaning “small vehicles,” but this term is not accepted by followers of the religion.[5]

Ø  Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana means “large vehicle.” It is a less austere system than Theravada Buddhism and emphasizes liberation for everyone. Many Mahayana Buddhists believe in liberation through good faith and good works. Their object is not only to obtain a personal Nirvana, but to help others to that goal.

The Mahayana branch has developed a system of ideal Buddhas, or enlightened ones. The most important Buddha is the Amitabha, or Amida, Budhha, to whom members can appeal for deliverance. Some Mahana Buddhists also believe in a goddess, a symbol of compassion, who is called Kwan Yin in China and Kwannon in Japan.[6]

Mahayana Buddhists have elaborate temples presided over by priests. They have colorful festivals and solemn rituals. Statues of the various Buddhas and Bodhisattras (Buddhas-to-be) play a part in their worship, but the statues themselves are not worshiped. Mahayana Buddhism is divided into many sects, including Zen, Jodo, Shin, Tendai, and Nichiren Shoshu (Soka Gakkai)

b.) Shinto

Shinto, which means “way of the Gods,” began as a simple form nature of worship. Foremost among its thousands of deities was Amaterasau, the sun goddess. Added later were the spirits of a few emperors and national heroes. After Japan came under strong Chinese influence in the sixth century A.D., ancestor worship, Confucian ethics, and magical elements of Taoism were incorporated into Shinto. The religion was also influenced by Buddhism. By the ninth century, Buddhism ideas permeated Shinto.[7]

In the 1600’s, a movement developed to make Shinto, with all Buddhist elements removed, a national faith. This movement made a little headway until 1868, when the emperor abolished the shogunate (military government), and an official cult called State Shinto was organized. It was based on the heroic traditions of the Japanese people, and its purpose was to promote loyalty to the state. The emperor was worshipped as a descendant of the sun goddess. With Japan’s defeat in World War II, Allied authorities forced the emperor to renounce his professed divinity and abolished the official status of Shinto.[8]

Following the war, most of the shrines organized themselves into the Association of Shinto Shrines. Shinto also experienced a great increase in the number of sects.

III. Conclusion

In conclusion,             Buddhism and Shinto are religions that teach its people that there is a God. Buddhism believes that there is life, reincarnation, after death and the second life depends on how you leave your previous life here on earth. On the other hand, Shinto does not really dig up on what will happen after death since it is not totally an organized belief just until it is permeated by Buddhism beliefs.