shinbutsu shūgō

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(Jap.). Term meaning ‘the unity of the [Shintō] gods and Buddhas’. This indicates a component in the Japanization of Buddhism that is documented from the late 7th century that used various schemes to relate the indigenous gods of Japan to the newly imported Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of Buddhism. Three basic relationships emerged. First, the gods were suffering sentient beings in as much need of Buddhist teaching and practice as any other being. Second, the gods assumed the role of guardians of the new religion. Third, the gods came to be seen as local, provisional manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in a theory called honji-suijaku (fundamental ground-provisional traces). For example, the sun goddess Amaterasu, patron of the imperial family, came to be identified with Vairocana.the Sun-Buddha. In practical terms, all of these theories led to the development of jingūji, or ‘shrine-temples’ that combined Buddhist and Shintō practice.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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