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Shinbutsu-shugō or Shinbutsu-konkō (Jap.). Syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism. The Tendai school formulated Sannō-ichijitsu Shinto and the Shingon school, Ryōbu Shintō, approximately at the end of the Heian period. The merger of Buddhism with Shinto, however, goes back to the Nara period. The earliest appearance of jinguji, a Buddhist temple associated with a Shinto shrine, was in the early part of the 8th cent. When the great image of the Buddha (Daibutsu) was made, the Buddhist priest Gyōki visited the Ise shrine, and the kami of the Usa Hachiman in Kyushu was enshrined in the compound of the Todaiji Temple. In 781 the Buddhist title of bosatsu (bodhisattva) was conferred on the kami of the Hachiman, and since then, this kami has been known as Hachiman Daibosatsu.

The union of Buddhism and Shinto was done on the basis of a Mahāyāna doctrine, honjisuijaku, which explains the relation of the Absolute Buddha to the Historical Buddha. Aided by this doctrine, the theory assumes that the Japanese kami are Buddhas/Bodhisattvas who reveal themselves for the sake of sentient beings.

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