Chapter 24: Eastern Family Part II: Buddhism, Shintoism, Japanese New Religions
Eastern Family Part II: Buddhism, Shintoism, Japanese New Religions
Consult the "Contents" pages to locate the entries in Part III, the Directory Listings Sections, that comprise this family.
BUDDHISM. Buddhism can be traced to the experiences of Siddhartha Gautama, born a prince around 560 B.C.E. at Lumbini near the capital of the Kingdom of Shakya, India. Gautama is often called Shakyamuni or Sakyamuni, after his birthplace. According to early accounts of his life, Gautama grew up in the court and was shielded from contact with the real mundane world of the people he would someday rule. He married at 17 and fathered a child. However, his life changed dramatically in 529 B.C.E. when he departed from the palace, abandoned his worldly existence, and began a career as a wandering seeker for the meaning of life. Gautama spent the next six years visiting various Indian religious groups, sitting with several teachers of renown, and experimenting with many religious practices, such as asceticism and meditation. His search ended in 523 B.C.E., while he was in meditation and contemplation at the foot of a tree, a "Bodhi tree," located at Sarnath, a site still considered a hallowed Buddhist shrine. As this period of meditation began, Gautama is said to have made the following vow:
"Let my body be dried up on this seat, Let my skin and bones and flesh be destroyed So long as Bodhi is not attained… My body and thought will not be removed from this seat." He attained the "Bodhi," or enlightenment, in 523 B.C.E., and as a result became known as Gautama the Buddha or the Enlightened One. After this enlightenment, Buddha began to preach and teach, and a group of disciples gathered around him. A movement began to grow, particularly in northwest India. Buddha died of dysentery about 480 B.C.E.
Much of the essence of Buddhism is found in the teachings of the Buddha, which outline the Dharma, the true way of life. The Dharma is remarkably simple, for all its profundity, and lends itself easily to a brief summary. All Buddhists share a belief in the Buddha's Dharma, which centers upon the four basic truths and the "noble eightfold path." The four basic truths are: 1) all existence entails suffering; 2) the cause of suffering is desire, i.e., the thirst for pleasure, prosperity, and continued life (it is this thirst for continued life that begets rebirth); 3) the way to escape suffering, existence, and rebirth is to rid one's self of desire; and 4) to be emancipated from desire, one must follow the eightfold path.
The noble eightfold path is pictured in the eight-spoked wheel, a symbol second only to the seated Buddha as a sign of Buddhist faith. The path consists of: 1) right understanding, 2) right resolve,3) right speech, 4) right conduct, 5) right livelihood, 6) right effort,7) right attention, and 8) right concentration. Various Buddhist groups would accept the eightfold path but disagree on their interpretation of it and the emphasis on, and priority of, certain aspects of it. This difference will often be manifest in the words that English Buddhist groups use to translate the language of the eightfold path in their literature.
For example, some groups, leaning toward a more intellectualized Buddhism, will translate the first step of the path as right belief or knowledge. Zen Buddhists, pointing to the mystic and indescribable nature of Buddhist experience, will often translate it as right vision. Interpretations of right concentration, or the goal of nirvana, range from the present-mindedness of mystic Buddhism, which finds nirvana in the mystical experience, to the otherworldliness of various groups of Buddhists. Some of the variations will become evident below.
The basic scriptures of Buddhism, the Tripitaka or Three Baskets, are divided into the Vinaya, the Sutras, and the Abhidhamma. The Vinaya consists basically of rules for the monks and information on Buddha's life. The Sutras are a collection of material attributed to the Buddha and his close disciples. How much is actually Buddha's words is a matter of debate. The Abhidhamma is composed of discourses of Gautama. Other scriptures have been added to the Tripitaka by various national Buddhist bodies, and each particular group has its own interpretive material.
SPREAD OF BUDDHISM. Buddhism arose as a reformist sect of Hinduism and included many elements of Hindu thought within it, although it modified greatly certain ideas, such as the transmigration of the soul. After the crisis of Buddha's death, a council, which has become known in Buddhist history as the First Council, was held under the leadership of Kashyapa, a disciple of Buddha. Some basic decisions about doctrine and discipline were made that enabled the Buddhist movement to be organized and to spread. The Second Council was held in 377 B.C.E. after a group of monks revolted against the strict rules of the order and decided to reinterpret them. The Vaishali Council decided in favor of the strict interpretation and the lax monks seceded from the order. They represent the first major schismatic school.
The next significant date in Buddhist history is 270 B.C.E. This year saw the emergence of the Indian Empire with its ruler Asoka, the man who did more for the spread of Buddhism than anyone since its founder. In remorse and regret produced by his wars of conquest, Asoka was led to become a Buddhist monk while still the emperor. Until Asoka, Buddhism was a local Indian sect, but with Asoka's help it was spread throughout his kingdom, to all of India, and into Ceylon, Nepal, and central Asia. Asoka had inherited an intensely missionary understanding of his faith from Buddhist scripture and implanted it within the movement. This missionary zeal has distinguished Buddhism from almost all other indigenous faiths of Southern Asia.
By the time of Asoka, Buddhism had begun to develop an extensive literature. First steps toward the development of a canon were probably made during Asoka's time at the so-called Third Council. This council was called to deal with the problems created by the large increase in nominal members, a result of the extensive growth following Asoka's missionary endeavors.
After Asoka's death, the center of Buddhism shifted to the Northwest (Kashmir, Kabul, Bactria, etc.), where a Greek friendly to Buddhism had established himself in power. The role of the Greek king, Menander, was doubly important. He provided a haven for Buddhists from Asoka's successors who were less than devoted admirers of the growing faith. He also provided the influence that led to Buddhist art, particularly statues of Gautama. No representations of the Buddha survive prior to this period.
In the centuries before and after Asoka, the two main schools of Buddhism began to take a more pronounced form. The first of the schools to emerge was called Hinayana, or the Lesser Vehicle. Hinayana looked to the writings of Sariputra, an early disciple of Buddha whose method of interpreting Buddha's teachings was very conservative and emphasized the role of the monk and the monastic life as the way to nirvana. In reaction to the monk-oriented faith of Hinayana, there arose Mahayana Buddhism, the Greater Vehicle, which dates itself to Ananda and other early disciples of Buddha who did not accept the interpretations of Sariputra. Mahayana was much more open to the role of nonmonks in the faith and held as a goal the ultimate salvation of all living beings. This universalist tendency made it a more efficient vehicle in which to carry the faith across Southeast Asia to Japan. As Buddhism spread, it not only took upon itself the national characteristics of each country but also generally related itself to one of the two major schools.
A term often used interchangeably with Hinayana is Theravada. The term applies to the Tripitaka or Pali Canon of Buddha's writing. The Tripitaka was finally put into writing during the first century B.C.E. The Hinayanists accepted it but the Mahayanists accepted only part of it and developed their own canon, which included various sutras that have become the basis of the widely differing Mahayana groups. Included would be such writings as the Lotus Sutra (used by Nichiren), the Diamond Sutra (used by some Zen groups) and the Sukhavati-Vyuha (used by the Pure Land groups).
Southeast Asian (Theravada) Buddhism . Asoka's son, Prince Mahinda, took Buddhism to Ceylon. Although the exact details of the conversion process are buried in legendary material, there is no doubt that Mahinda's activity established Buddhism in Anuradhapura, the capital, and among the royal family. Asoka sent to the new converts a scion of the sacred Bohdi tree, which is still preserved and venerated to the new converts, and the monastery Mahinda established became a center from which the stricter Hinayana could be spread.
Burma, like Ceylon, probably first heard of Buddhism as a result of Asoka's missionaries. For a period, a small Buddhist community established by Mahayanists vied for the allegiance of the people, but Hinayana became firmly established as the dominant faith in the sixth century C.E. following the spread of a Hinayanist revival emanating from Madras in India.
Thailand, formerly Siam, represents the other main center of the Hinayanist school. The origin of Buddhism in Thailand has been lost, but early in the Christian era Mahayana forms of Buddhism were co-existing with Brahmanism (Hinduism). Mahayana could possibly have entered from Cambodia during the era that the Cambodians ruled most of Indochina. (The Cambodians had received Buddhism from Indian merchants and settlers just as they had received Brahmanism.) The Siamese began their rise to power in the eleventh century C.E. and controlled the country by the end of the thirteenth century. In the complexity of war and its resulting chaos, Hinayana entered the country and in a relatively short time had supplanted both Mahayana and Brahmanism. As Hinayana grew in Thailand, it spread also to neighboring Cambodia. Hinduism was already yielding to Mahayana there, and both then gave way to Hinayana.
By the modern era, Hinayana Buddhism had a firm control from Ceylon along the southern coast of Asia, to Indochina. This growth, while impressive, was eclipsed by that accomplished by Mahayana with its more universal appeal. Several cases have been noted in which Hinayana came into a country only after Mahayana had been present for some time.
Chinese Buddhism . China received Buddhist missionaries possibly as early as 200 B.C.E. and quickly became the great center of Mahayana Buddhism. The importance of China was heightened as Hinduism reasserted itself in India in the face of a growing Buddhism and all but drove Buddhism from its Indian homeland. As Buddhism interacted with the religions of China, numerous variations of it (including what was to become Zen) sprang up. But over the centuries, the various Buddhist groups have evolved into what is usually the eclectic mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism that had been popularized throughout mainland China. The faith is a form of Buddhism centered on bodhisattvas, who function somewhat like saints in Roman Catholicism. Religious structures, temples, are dedicated to a particular bodhisattva; Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy, is a popular one. Other bodhisattvas have lesser positions, and a temple thus gives the appearance of having a pantheon represented in the statuary. The most popular form of Buddhism in China (as in Japan) centers on Amida Buddha with his promise of a Pure Land, or the Lotus Heaven, to which men are brought by faith in the Buddha. In China, Amida is known as Omito Fu.
Confucius, the Latinized name given Master K'ung, born in China in 551 B.C.E., was the great teacher of morals, practical religion, and philosophy. During his early twenties, he entered a time of seclusion to mourn his mother's death and found it a time of deep thought. By the age of thirty he was a teacher and later became chief judge of his own district of Lu. After a life of success and failures, he died in 479 B.C.E. His teachings–emphasizing family (including ancestor worship), morality, and respect for authority–became part of the Chinese way of life.
Lao-Tzu, the reputed founder of Taoism, was an early contemporary of Confucius. His name, which means "little old child," derives from a legend that he was born an old man. We know little about him beyond his retirement from public life and his composition of the Tao Te Ching, the chief religious book of the Taoists.
A disciple, Chuang-tse, wrote a commentary on his master's work, which is also a part of the sacred writing. The teachings center on the nature of the Tao or Way. The Way is mystical, natural, and highly ethical, but vague and open to wide interpretation. The influence of Taoism has largely survived through the sacred writings, which are widely read, and a folk religion that merged the mystical faith of Taoism with the ancient polytheistic, magical religion of pre-Taoist China.
The common form of presenting Chinese religion as a separate topic in itself is legitimate. Yet, in its American manifestations, Chinese religion should be considered within a Chinese Buddhism context. John F. Mulholland, in his survey of Hawaii's Religions, reflects upon the Buddhist affiliation of many members of America's Asian community:
"When the Chinese immigrants prospered, the children went to private schools. If the school was Catholic or Episcopal and required or expected all students to be baptized, the children were baptized. The second and third generations found that in Hawaii they were expected to have a religion, and since the lack of religious designation in China was confusing, many Chinese simply said they were Buddhist. There were no organized Buddhist groups and no membership requirements as Christian churches had. The temples were privately owned or existed in connection with Chinese societies. As the Japanese Buddhists built temples which related them to Japan, so the Chinese began to emphasize the Buddhist part of their multiple religion."
Korean Buddhism . From China, Buddhism spread to Korea. Buddhism in Korea differs markedly from Buddhism in other Asian societies in that, during the modern era, the various schools of Buddhist thought began to emphasize their commonality over their differences. As a result, the several organizations were able not only to reverse the process of splintering but finally, in 1935, to unite into a single organization, the Chogye sect, from which most contemporary groups derive.
Buddhism entered what is today called Korea in 372 C.E., when it was brought from China to the Kingdom of Koguryo, a state covering the northern portion of the peninsula. From there it spread southward to the kingdoms of Paekche and Silla. It flourished in the United Kingdom created by Silla in 668 C.E. during which time Zen was introduced along with the original Mahayana (called Chiao in Korea) forms. Nine schools of Zen developed around nine outstanding masters and six schools of Chiao emerged.
Through the next centuries, Buddhism waxed and waned, always remaining in competition with Confucius' thought and popular folk religion. Zen experienced a revival in the twelfth century when Master Pojo (1158–1210) advocated a union of thought that found favor with the varying Zen schools. A century and a half later, in 1356, under Master T'aego (1301–1382), a merger of all the Zen schools into the Chogyejong was accomplished. Master T'aego was one of several priests who had risen to prominence in the land and had been given the title "national teacher" by the king.
The Yi Dynasty (1392–1910) became a time of great suffering for Korean Buddhism, as the ruling powers generally assumed a hostile posture toward it. Buddhism was suppressed and Zen almost died out, though in the face of opposition Buddhism became more united. In 1424 two of the Chiao sects united with the Chogyejong to form the Sonjong while the remaining Chiao sects united into the Kyojong. Only in the late eighteenth century did government policies toward Buddhism relax. King Chongyo began to lift negative government regulations, and in the nineteenth century Buddhism began a revival, further spurred in the 1890s by the arrival of many Japanese Buddhist priests. In 1904, for the first time, the government ended its control of Buddhist temples. The revival of Buddhism, the cooperation with the Japanese priests, and the new freedom, however, came to an abrupt halt in the second decade of the twentieth century after Japan occupied Korea in 1910. The occupation government reclaimed control of the temples. Nationalistic feelings led to a new sense of unity by Korean Buddhists over against the Japanese. The growth of those sentiments led in 1935 to the merger of the Sonjong and Kyojong into the single Chogye sect, which dominates Korean Buddhism to this day.
Japanese Buddhism . From China, Buddhism spread to Korea and then to Japan. Japanese Buddhism is critical to an understanding of North American Buddhism as the overwhelming majority of North American Buddhists were, at least prior to the 1970s, followers of one of the Japanese Buddhist traditions. When it first entered Japan, Buddhism was not attractive enough to win many converts from Shinto, the national religion of Japan, but Buddhism was granted toleration from the emperor. The building of the new capital at Nara in 710 C.E. marked the turning point in Japanese Buddhist history. During the Nara period, the emperor accepted Buddhism and made it the state religion. A number of the Chinese Buddhist sects, including Jojitsu, Sanron, Hosso, Kusha, Ritsu, and Kegon, were introduced (most of these are now represented in North America). In 807, the Tendai sect was brought to Japan. It was more open to the laity than the Nara sects, which tended to be rather exclusive. Esoteric (tantric) Buddhism was introduced in the following century.
In the twelfth century, Honen and his disciple Shinran brought the Pure Land Sect from China to Japan. Long before Honen (1133–1212) organized the Jodo, or Pure Land Sect, there had been a belief in the Amitabha (Amida), a benevolent deity who dwells in a Western paradise to which men may gain access by calling upon his name. But it was Honen who gave the idea an independent form, thereby establishing a new school of thought. Various groups whose beliefs derive from Honen and Shinran are called the Shin groups.
Honen's basic disagreement with most Buddhists of his day was over whether one gained salvation by jiriki, one's own strength, or by tariki, another's strength. He believed firmly in tariki, in this case the power of the bodhisattva Amida acquired by calling upon his name. The practice of calling upon Amida is named nembutsu. Those who repeat the nembutsu are promised rebirth into the Western paradise. In the Pure Land, all enjoy powers and bliss. It is a step toward nirvana. The nembutsu, according to Honen, should be repeated often and with sincerity, deep belief, and longing.
The most important of Honen's students was Shinran (1173–1262), a monk and friend of Honen. The innovative Shinran abolished monasticism, permitted priests to marry, and promoted the worship of Amida and, to a lesser extent, Shakya (Shakyamuni–Gautama Buddha). Only the relics and images of Amida are allowed. Salvation is attained through faith alone, as a gift of Amida. Honen believed that man is saved by faith, but that ritual and working for others help.
The central act of all Shin groups is the repetition of the nembutsu. "Namu Amida Butsu" (to bow or submit to the one who is enlightened) is repeated often and is said before the statue of Amida Buddha. To repeat the nembutsu is to be one with Amida.
After Shinran's death, the Shin group gradually split into the Jodo (or Jodo-shu) and Shinshu groups. The Jodo look more to Honen and the Shinshu more to Shinran. The Shinshu grew slowly and in the medieval period fell victim to the various political upheavals and wars. Shinran's daughter supervised construction of the Hongwanji, or Temple of the Original View, in Kyoto, which became the headquarters of the True Pure Land Sect. In 1496, a temple, which became the new Shinshu center, was founded at Yamashina. Yamashina was destroyed in 1532 and the headquarters were moved to Ishiyama. In 1570, Oda Nobunaga (1532–1582), a feudal lord who was spreading Christianity to counteract Buddhism's power, attacked Ishiyama and eventually (after 10 years) destroyed it. Oda Nobunaga defended Christianity in conjunction with the missionary work of Francis Xavier, but Nobunaga's aim was less to spread Christianity than to destroy Buddhism. He considered the Buddhists a threat to his power. As a result of the evacuation by the chief abbot from Ishiyama, a disagreement arose among his sons as to how long the Shinshu should have fought Nobunaga, and a split developed. Ieyasu, the shogun of Japan, fearing the growth of the Shinshu among the people, took advantage of the split to divide the group. He sided with the elder son and gave him a tract of land upon which to build an Hongwanji. The supporters of the younger son are now known as the Honpa Hongwanji, and the supporters of the elder as the Higashi Hongwanji. Their differences were largely administrative, but, as time has passed, the Honpa groups have been the more progressive and adaptive to change.
The thirteenth century saw the appearance of Nichiren, another outstanding Buddhist teacher who began as a reformer and Buddhist ecumenist but became the founder of the Nichiren-shu. (Shu means religion.) Nichiren believed that in the teachings known as the Lotus Sutra he had found the primitive, true Buddhism that could unite the many sects. He attacked the other sects' beliefs and won many followers as he traveled around Japan.
One of the central ideas in Japanese Buddhism, usually associated with Nichiren, is mappo, or end of the law. Nichiren divided history into three millennia, the first of which began with Buddha's death. The last phase or mappo, began in 1050 C.E. In this last period, salvation is to be obtained through belief in the Lotus Sutra.
Zen Buddhism . Zen was also introduced into Japan about this time. Zen is the mystical school of Buddhism. It stands in relation to Buddhism much as Sufism does to Islam and contemplative Catholicism does to Christianity. It arose in the interaction of Buddhist philosophy with Taoist meditative techniques. The actual founder was Tao-sheng (360–434), who added to Buddhist meditative techniques the doctrine of instantaneous enlightenment– the attainment in one single act of illumination of the goal of mystical truth in both its objective and subjective aspects.
Recognized by many Zen students as the founder of Zen is Bodhidharma (d. 534 C.E.), who came from his native India to teach Zen in China during most of his mature life. He is termed the first patriarch and is credited with the addition of "wall-contemplation" to Zen practice. He was followed by five other patriarchs– Hui-k'o, Seng-ts'an, Tao-hsin, Hung-jen, and Huineng. Hui-neng is ranked next to Bodhidharma as the second (and actual) founder of Zen.
As Zen continued to develop in China, it went through the familiar process of schism and adoption of new ideas and practices. Among the new practices developed was the use of the koan. The koan is an anecdotal event or utterance of the masters given to disciples as problems. It is used as a means to enlightenment. The koan led to the development of the two major schools of Zen that still exist. One school, Lin-chi, accepted the koan and used it extensively. In reaction, a second school, Ts'ao-tung, emerged and was characterized by its doctrine of silent illumination. Ts'ao-tung saw the koan as "gazing on the word." Transported to Japan, the Lin-chi sect became Rinzai Zen, and Ts'ao-tung became Soto Zen. These two schools were both transferred to the United States. In pure Rinzai Zen, people use the koan; in pure Soto Zen, people do not. Most groups are neither pure Rinzai or Soto, but lie between those two extremes.
One popular koan often used as the first exercise for Rinzai students is the mu koan. Mu, meaning no or nothing in Sino-Japanese, is understood as the nothing that contains everything. Mu is to be experienced, not intellectualized.
Dogen (1200–1253), the founder of Japanese Soto, is the originator of the typical Zen method of meditation, zazen. As described by Dogan, zazen proceeds thus:
"If you wish to attain enlightenment, begin at once to practice zazen. For this meditation a quiet chamber is necessary, while food and drink must be taken in moderation. Free yourself from all attachments, and bring to rest the ten thousand things. Think of neither good nor evil and judge not right nor wrong. Maintain the flow of mind, of will, and of consciousness; bring to an end all desires, all concepts and judgments. Do not think about how to become a Buddha.
"In terms of procedure, first put down a thick pillow and on top of this a second (round) one. One may chose either a full or half cross-legged position. In the full position one places the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot is placed on the right thigh. In the half position only the left foot is placed upon the right thigh. Robe and belt should be worn loosely, but in order. The right hand rests on the left foot, while the back of the left hand rests in the palm of the right. The two thumbs are placed in juxtaposition.
"The body must be maintained upright, without inclining to the left or to the right, forward or backward. Ears and shoulders, nose and navel must be kept in alignment respectively. The tongue is to be kept against the palate, lips and teeth are kept firmly closed, while the eyes are to be kept always open.
"Now that the bodily position is in order, regulate your breathing. If a wish arises, take note of it and then dismiss it. In practicing thus persistently you will forget all attachments and concentration will come of itself. That is the art of zazen. Zazen is the Dharma gate of great rest and joy." (Heinrich Dumoulin, A History of ZenBuddhism [Boston: Beacon Press, 1969], 161).
The essence of zazen is to achieve the full and perfect equilibrium of the organism.
Next to Dogen, Hakuin (1685–1768) was the greatest Zen master and was the one who revived Rinzai Zen in Japan. Hakuin described the tension of the disciple when confronted with the koan. This tension is the "great doubt." Hakuin also described satori, the great enlightenment, which is a central concern of Zen. In the various reports of satori, one again finds the range of reflections on mystical experience, this time described in Buddhist categories.
The roshi is the prime official in Zen. The roshi is the master, the one who has attained the goals of Zen meditation and has the knowledge and maturity to aid others in attaining them. There is a tendency toward a Buddhist version of apostolic succession in Zen, the roshis tending to see themselves in a lineage of Zen masters and to be in a school formed by a succession of patriarchs. In America, most Zen is derived from Jito Gasan, a Japanese Zen master and head of Engaku Temple. He passed on the Rinzai tradition to Imakita Kosen (1816–1892), a Japanese master who was fascinated with Western culture and among whose students was Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to visit the United States.
Tibetan Buddhism . The last place that Buddhism invaded as a conquering missionary faith was Tibet. The date traditionally given is 747 C.E., when Padmasambhava brought Tantric Buddhism to Tibet. In the mountainous terrain, Buddhism mixed with Bon, the native religion, the aim of which was the magical control of evil spirits and the use of cosmic powers. Tibetan Buddhism thus emerged as a somewhat magical faith, distinct from either Chinese or Indian Buddhism.
The older sects still emphasize the magic tantra and make wide use of the mantra and the mandala. The mantra is a phonetic form (the most popular being "om" and "om mani padme hum"– meaning the jewel in the heart of the lotus, the center of truth). The very sound of the mantra has a psychological effect and is aimed at producing deep mystical experience. A mandala is a circular drawing representative of the universe, a cosmogram whose center is thought to be the metaphysical center of the universe. It is used as an aid in worship.
Tantric Buddhism is based on the belief that everything is permeated by a single power (Shakti) emanating from God. This force manifests itself in three ways: positive masculine, negative feminine, and most important, the union of the two. What is true on a cosmic level is considered true on a human, individual level. The union of opposites, a major goal in tantric practice, is accomplished by the disciplines of yoga, the most controversial aspect of which includes ritual sexual intercourse.
Tantric sexual ritual involves the male practitioner's partaking of the 5 M's (True Things)–madya (wine), mamsha (meat), matsya(fish), mudra (parched grain), and maithuna (coitus). Tantric rituals can be practiced in three modes. The Sattvio Sadhana, or symbolic school, has spiritualized tantra. The Rajasic Sadhana uses material substitutes for the 5 M's. The Kaula Sadhana practices a literal partaking of the 5 M's. The symbolic and substitutionary partaking of the 5 M's are usually termed "right-hand" tantra. Such practice is typical of the Japanese Shingon sect. The literal school, which performs ritual sexual intercourse, is generally said to practice "left-hand" tantra. The object of tantra is two fold: the union of the individual with the divine, and the gaining of magical power that can be used to do miraculous works.
After the initial establishment of Buddhism in Tibet, a period began in 838 C.E. in which rulers inimical to Buddhism halted its progress. Also, during the period toward the end of the tenth century, government instability created opportunities for the development of Buddhism. Atisha (982–1054), who arrived from India in western Tibet in 1042, was in the forefront of the religion's resurgence. His efforts were bolstered by a new generation of Buddhist leaders that included Marpa (1012–1096) and Naropa (1016–1100). Out of their work a new wave of Buddhist schools was created and over the next few centuries, Tibet became a Buddhist country.
Tibetan Buddhism is divided into several major schools that are split into subsects. The Nyingma or Old Ones are constituted by those who trace their lineage to the first transmission of Buddhism under Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), who the Nyingma see as the manifestation of the god Avalokiteshvara and even the equal of Buddha. They also claim Guru Rinpoche hid his teachings in texts to await times when people would be ready for them. These Nyingma texts are considered treasures and prominent lamas (priests) who possess such texts are honored.
The Kadam or Bound to Command School, traces its existence to Atisha and emphasizes the building of monasteries noteworthy for their disciplined life and guru devotion. This group has been absorbed into the Gelugpa as a subsect.
The Sakya School derives from the work of Konchog Gyalpo (1034–1102), a disciple of Drogmi (992–1072), a later contemporary of Atisha. Their integration of sutra (written text) and tantra is designed to produce liberation in a single lifetime.
The Kagyu or Transmitted Command School traces its lineage to Naropa, Marpa, and Marpa's chief disciple, Milarepa (1052–1135). It places great emphasis on practical mysticism and the speedy attainment of Enlightenment. The Kagyu has been among the least monastic of the schools and requires neither celibacy nor association with a monastery from its members.
A reform, led by Tsong-kha-pa at the turn of the fifteenth century, created an additional major Buddhist school in Tibet. It attempted to tighten the monastic discipline, insisted on celibacy, reduced the emphasis on magic, and effected strong organization. Tsong-kha-pa also founded a monastery, Ganden, east of Llasa, which grew into a large monastic university. In 1416 and 1419, two similar monasteries were created. These became the leading centers of learning for Buddhism and assisted the Gelugpa School in becoming the dominant Buddhist school in the land.
Tsong-kha-pa's reforms were accomplished at the time when the newer schools were teaching that the head of the chief monasteries were bodhisattvas. When a lama, or monastery ruler, died, a search was made for a new incarnation of him born at the time of his death. As the Gelugpa School became a dominant force, its leader became the chief lama of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is still the the nominal head of Tibet's Buddhists. Second only to the Dalai Lama is the Panchen Lama, head of the monastic complex of Tashihunpo.
Tibetan Buddhism was thoroughly disrupted by the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959. Many of the leading teachers, including the Dalai Lama, fled the country in order to preserve Tibetan traditions and practice in the face of what they feared would be hostile and destructive new rulers. Their fears were to a large extent realized. Most of the great monasteries were leveled, many monks killed and those who survived were forced into secular labor, and many texts (some irreplaceable) were torched. In the wake of the institution of Chinese control in Tibet, the center of Tibetan Buddhism moved to northern India in the kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, and the West. Here, an attempt to keep pre-1950s Tibetan culture and religion alive has been launched, including the preservation and translation of all text smuggled out of Tibet into Western languages. Integral to the survival of Tibetan Buddhism has been the contact with the western world. Many teachers have come to the West and established teaching centers attracting a new generation of believers among non-Tibetans. The growth of their Western community has been crowned by the recognition of several Westerners as the reincarnation of prominent lamas.
BUDDHISM IN NORTH AMERICA. Buddhism came to America in several waves beginning with the Chinese immigrants attracted by the discovery of gold in California. A second wave came with the Japanese entry into Hawaii and California in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Buddhist growth in the U.S. was blocked in the first half of the twentieth century by anti-Asian immigration laws. A third wave of immigration began in 1965 following the passing of a new immigration law favorable to Asians. This last wave revitalized Buddhism in America.
Buddhism in North America is best understood in the context of its international spread. In spite of valiant attempts to create an American Buddhism, most Buddhist bodies in the United States still represent transplanted forms of the many varied schools of thought and practice. The community is still structured by its immigration patterns. Overwhelmingly, Buddhists have come to the United States from Asia and entered the country through one of the West Coast ports, usually Los Angeles. As the twentieth century came to a close, forty percent of all Buddhists in America resided in Southern California. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Area has become unique in the Buddhist world as the single place where representative organizations of every major school of Buddhism can be found in a single urban center.
Southeastern Asian (Theravada) Buddhism in North America . Prior to 1965, the story of Buddhism in America was largely the story of the emigration of Japanese Buddhists to Hawaii and the West coast and the spread of Japanese forms of Buddhism in the Caucasian population. The presence of Theravada Buddhism was limited to a few intellectuals and the diplomatic mission personnel from the several Southeast Asian countries in New York City and Washington, D.C. The situation changed dramatically after the beginning of and the spread of the Vietnam War to surrounding countries and the replacing of the Asian Exclusion Act by the new immigration regulations of 1965. During the 1970s, a great wave of immigrants from Vietnam (increased by special legislation passed after the withdrawal of United States forces from the country), Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand moved to the West Coast and the northern American urban centers. Slowly, they have organized congregations, established temples, and developed national associations. The Theravada centers consist almost entirely of first generation, non-English-speaking, Asian Americans.
In 1980, language was the major barrier to the spread of Theravada Buddhism to the Caucasian population, though initial signs of its spreading began to emerge around the followers of the few English-speaking Theravada teachers. Over the next two decades, this barrier was erased as the immigrant community from southern Asia (especially Vietnam) grew in size and Americanized, as major works on vipassana mediation were translated into English (and other western languages), and as communication through the Internet made Theravada teachings readily available to all.
Chinese Buddhism in North America . The Chinese came to the United States before the Japanese, their major immigration occurring between 1854 and 1883, when a law stopping further Chinese migration was passed. By 1880, more than 100,000 Chinese had settled in America, primarily on the West Coast.
The 1850s saw the arrival of the first large groups of Chinese to labor in the United States. Although the majority were Christians, having been recruited from the mission stations in China, many were not. Those who remained loyal to traditional religious patterns set up family altars and shrines. They soon became the source of numerous complaints about "heathen Mongolians," and were targeted by a reinforced Christian missionary movement.
As early as 1878, a Chinese monk brought both a Kwan Yin and a Kwan Tai statue to Honolulu and built a temple, or joss house, to Kwan Yin. (Kwan Tai was a military hero of the third century B.C.E. who was later canonized.) In 1887, three joss houses were reported. During World War II, one observer reported seven temples on Oahu and another on Kauai. Chinese joss houses appeared on the West Coast before 1900. Much of the Chinese faith is centered on these joss houses, particularly the small family shrines still found throughout Chinese American communities in California and Hawaii.
A modern revival of Buddhism in a Chinese mode has resulted in the establishment of a number of centers across the country, many of which have been formed by expatriates from the Maoist revolution and immigrants from Taiwan. Some of these serve Chinese Americans; others were formed by American converts or by Americans who found themselves in China as missionaries or soldiers and were converted abroad. Independent Chinese Buddhist associations have formed to serve each of these groups.
Most Chinese Buddhist centers are located in the metropolitan areas of Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and New York City. The existence of these centers, often only blocks apart but administratively independent, manifest the variety within Chinese Buddhism, as well as the distinctions formed by migration at different times and from different sections of China.
Chinese began to arrive in Canada at the time of the gold rush on the Fraser River in 1868. Approximately 2,000 came during the first two years. Several thousand more seemed to have arrived during the 1870s. In 1881 there were an estimated 4,300 Chinese in Canada (almost all in British Columbia). Three years later the number had grown to 10,000, most recruited to build the Canadian Pacific Railroad. After the railroad was constructed, they found jobs in the fishing industry. Lesser numbers continued to enter Canada until immigration was blocked in 1923. At the same time, Chinese were encouraged and assisted in living in the country.
Only a minority of the Chinese in British Columbia were Buddhist, a large percentage being either Confucians or Christians. For Buddhists, joss houses were established similar to the pattern in California, and over the years temples have been erected to serve the Buddhist community.
While a small Buddhist community dating to the nineteenth and early twentieth century continues to exist, it has been totally eclipsed by the new Chinese Buddhist community that has developed since 1965. That community is built around the migration of Chinese from Taiwan, and to a lesser extent Hong Kong, who have attempted to reestablish contemporary Buddhist practice in the West. The single most visible sign of the new Chinese presence is His Lai Temple in Hacineda Heights, California, the largest Buddhist temple complex outside of China. His Lai serves as the American headquarters of the Fo Guang Shan order, one of the major Taiwanese Buddhist communities, and home to a thriving Buddhist university. The translation of Chinese Buddhist material into English has lagged behind other Buddhist communities but is being pursued by a variety of organizations, most notably the Corporate Body of the Buddha Education Foundation organized by the disciples of master Chin King, a Taiwanese leader.
Korean Buddhism in North America . Korean migration since 1965 has been proportional to that of other Asian countries, but most of the new Korean Americans are Christians. However, a few Korean Buddhist priests have come to the United States and at least one Zen priest, Master Seung Sahn Sunim, has been able to create a national organization with a primary appeal to Westerners.
The majority of Korean Americans who are Buddhists are members of the Chogye Order, the largest Buddhist community in Korea. Chogye is a relatively new Buddhist community that has emerged in the last half of the twentieth century by the merger of other Buddhist traditions in Korea as the nation attempted to throw off centuries of Japanese dominance and the effects of the Korean War.
Japanese Buddhism in North America . Japanese immigration began with the arrival of large numbers of laborers in Hawaii on June 19, 1868. Further Japanese immigration was encouraged until 1907, when limits were placed upon it. At present, approximately one-third of the Hawaiian population is Japanese. Because the early Japanese came to Hawaii as plantation laborers, the work of establishing Buddhism began in the countryside, usually on a plantation, and then moved to Honolulu as plantation life soured for the Japanese. Buddhist settlements in California came only a short time after those in Hawaii, as Japanese immigrants also settled on the West Coast. In many cases, the Buddhist missionary from Japan would stop in Hawaii on his way to California. The growth of the community, however, was stymied by the 1907 law.
The name of the first Buddhist in America is lost to history, but in 1889 Soryu Kagahi of the Honpa Hongwanji arrived in Honolulu to minister to Buddhists on the plantations. Under his leadership a temple, the first in America, was built in April 1889, in Hilo, where he had found many former Buddhists ready to reactivate their faith. In the fall, he returned to Japan and soon disappeared from history. For the next 10 years, things did not go well for Hawaiian Buddhists. They were frequently visited by renegade Buddhist priests who took their hard-earned wages and left town. Such practices left the adherents of Japanese Buddhism open to the active Christian mission.
Pleas for help were finally heard by the Buddhists in Japan, who sent their official representatives. To Hawaii came Jotei Matsuo, a Jodo-shu priest (1894), and Ejun Miyamoto of the Honpa Hongwanji (1897). Within a decade, four more of the Buddhist sects– the Higashi Hongwanji, the Shingon, the Nichiren, and the Soto Zen–arrived. In 1899, Yemyo Imamura, the bishop who was to dominate Buddhism in Hawaii until his death in 1932, took up residence in Honolulu.
As early as 1898, the Honpa Hongwanji sent two priests to survey possibilities for an American mission. A mission in San Francisco was established after the arrival of the Reverends Shuyei Sonoda and Kakuryo Nishijimi in September 1899. These two men organized the Young Men's Buddhist Association and, by 1905, had consecrated a church, which became the mainland headquarters of the Jodo Shin Buddhists.
Japanese migration to Canada began in 1877 and proceeded slowly until the mid-1890s. Between 1895 and the beginning of World War I, almost 30,000 Japanese came into Canada, though over half of these soon moved on to the United States. Migration dropped after the war and did not pick up again until the mid-1960s, though it has never reached the level of the first decade of the twentieth century.
The Honpa Honwanji, or Shin Buddhists, were the primary group to take responsibility for the Japanese-Canadians and, answering a request from the community, the Reverend Senju Sasaki arrived in Vancouver in 1904. The first church was constructed in 1911. During the initial phase of organization and growth, the Canadian work was placed under the American Buddhist Mission headquarters in San Francisco. It became independent in 1933, but both the American and Canadian work retained the same bishop. Like the Buddhist work in the United States, the work in Canada was totally disrupted by World War II. After the war, the work was reorganized and prospered with renewed immigration. In 1968, the Honpa Honwanji work in Canada was fully separated from that in the continental United States. Throughout the years since the renewal of immigration, other Japanese Buddhist groups have also colonized in Canada and a diverse religious community is emerging.
In the early twentieth century, the Japanese Buddhist community had arisen as the Chinese community declined. It established itself, especially in Hawaii and the America West Coast, in the years prior to World War I and after recovering from the effects of World War II developed an impressive presence as a successful minority community. In the decades since 1965, however, it has found itself overwhelmed by the influx of Buddhists and now finds itself no longer the largest Buddhist community, but one among many. It has remained somewhat aloof from the new Buddhist communities and has been notable for its absence in Buddhist ecumenical circles, including the American Buddhist Congress.
Zen Buddhism in North America. Zen came to America in 1893 when a Renzai monk, Soyen Shaku (1859–1919), addressed the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago. A graduate of the Western-oriented Keio University, he, despite strong opposition, traveled to the land of the "barbarians" to speak on "The Law of Cause and Effect, as Taught by the Buddha." After his brief visit, during which he did not make the impact of either the Hindu Swami Vivekananda or theosophist Annie Besant, he returned to Kamakura. In 1905, he again came to the United States as the guest of the Alexander Russells in San Francisco. After a year of hospitality, he ended his stay with a national and then a world tour. The remainder of his life was spent as a leader in Japanese Zen.
Soyen had been a student of Imakita Kosen, renowned in nineteenth century Buddhism as one who took Western thought and culture seriously. After Kosen's death, his students came to the West and became the real founders of American Zen. One of these students was Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, a lay scholar, who, through his books, has done more to enlighten American audiences about Zen than any other single person. Another of Kosen's students, Sokatsu Shaku (1869–1954), became a teacher in Tokyo. In 1906, he came to America with six disciples. The group settled in Berkeley but soon moved to a farm in Hayward, California. After discovering their inability to farm profitably, they moved to San Francisco. Gradually, each returned to Japan, leaving no visible organization behind. The last of the group to return was Shigetsu Sasaki, who completed his Zen training in Japan and came again to the United States as a roshi with the new name of Sokei-an. His settlement in New York in 1928 marked the beginning of a continuous Rinzai history in America.
Soto Zen came to the United States in 1903. It began in Hawaii when the Reverend Senyei Kawahara came to Honolulu and erected a temple on the West Loch side of Pearl Harbor. Within a few years Ryuki Hirai, another Soto priest, joined him and built a temple at Waialua to the north of Oahu. Other temples were added on Maui and Kauai as later priests arrived. Then, in 1913, Bishop Hosen Isobe was sent to Honolulu, where a temple was built under his direction the following year. The mission spread to Kona on the Big Island, Hawaii, in 1916. (Soto Buddhists look upon the arrival of Bishop Isobe as the real beginning of Soto Zen in America.)
After beginning the work in Hawaii, Bishop Isobe brought Soto to California. He organized Zenshuji Mission (now called the Soto Mission) in the home of Toyokichi Nagasaki in Los Angeles in 1922. The history of Soto Zen in America is continuous from that time.
The history of Zen in America, like the history of Buddhism, would be incomplete without mention of those non-Asian Americans who played a significant role in its spread and influence. Notable is Ruth Fuller Everett Sasaki, possibly the first American student of Zen in Japan. She came to New York in 1938 after work in a Japanese monastery and became a prime supporter of the First Zen Institute and editor of Cat's Yawn, its first magazine. In 1944 after four years of widowhood, she married Sokei-an Sasaki Roshi, a move that stabilized the institute during the final year of the war. Widowed a second time, she moved to Japan where she became the first non-Asian priest and abbess of a temple, the Ryosen-an, and spent her life translating her late husband's work.
Chester F. Carlson, who discovered the process of xerography, was typical of several wealthy benefactors of Zen Buddhism. He was the first founder of the Zen Mountain Center of Tassajara Springs, California, but kept his support of Buddhist causes quiet during his lifetime.
The Zen community, unlike the other Buddhist groups with their basis in Japan, has been largely composed of non-Japanese practitioners, and by the end of the twentieth century had freed itself from even the need of Japanese trained Zen masters. The community is now led by Westerners who emerged as the more competent students of the wave of Zen teachers who came into the United States beginning in the later 1960s. They have carried Zen to every part of the United States, though it remains a form of Buddhist life for the elite few.
Tibetan Buddhism in North America. Since the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, each of the major Tibetan Buddhist sects and subsects has arrived in the United States, and their several representatives have established a number of separate organizations. Unlike Southeast Asian Buddhism, language has not been as significant a factor in slowing the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in the Caucasian population, and by the mid-1980s, Caucasian disciples far outnumbered Tibetan American Buddhists.
Much support for Tibetan Buddhism was generated by American sympathy for their plight in the face of the Chinese. Organizations such as the Tibetan Friendship Group, headquartered in Ojai, California, have combined efforts with the Dalai Lama's Office of Tibet in New York City to focus attention upon the political and humanitarian side of the Tibetans' situation.
During the 1990s, Tibetan Buddhism has been one of the significant growing edges of the North American Buddhist community. Numerous new centers covering the spectrum of Tibetan Buddhist thought have been opened. Buddhists have also been among the most organized and ecumenical of religious communities and are noteworthy for their networking and as the century comes to a close, their presence on the Internet. In the United States, Tibetans Buddhists were prominent in the formation of the American Buddhist Congress, modeled somewhat on the National Council of Churches.
Western Buddhists. The growth of Buddhism in America as a result of Japanese emigration coupled with the increase of world religious studies in American universities set the stage for a number of Americans to become Buddhists. They were largely attracted by Buddhist philosophy and ethics, but followed their studies with full identification with the faith. Often gaining their understanding from books, instead of Buddhist religious teachers, they found like-minded believers and formed Buddhist study societies. Typical of the Western-led Buddhist societies, such as the English language groups founded by Ernest Hunt (1876–1967) after World War I in Hawaii, has been a desire to transcend the sectarian rivalries within Buddhism.
Among the first Westerners attracted to Buddhism, though never a professing Buddhist, was Paul Carus of the Open Court Publishing Company in LaSalle, Illinois. Attracted to Zen Master Soyen Shaku at the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893, he saw Buddhism as a worthy nontheistic alternative to the Christianity he had already rejected. In 1894 he published his compilation of Buddhist texts, The Gospel of the Buddha, and sent it to Soyen Shaku in Japan, who gave it to Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki to translate into Japanese. Carus later brought Suzuki to Illinois, and from their collaboration came one of the first major thrusts of American Buddhist history.
Central to the rise of Buddhism in America has been the work of a number of non-Asian who were attracted to the philosophy of Buddhism and became articulate spokespeople to an audience never reached by the Asian priests. Such a person was Dwight Goddard, who formed the Fellowship Following Buddha, which operated out of his home in Thetford, Vermont. Ernest Hunt, who became a Buddhist on the eve of taking his orders as an Anglican priest, settled in Hawaii in 1915 and became head of the English Department of the Honpa Hongwanji in 1927. He was the main interpreter to the English-speaking Hawaiians for the next 40 years. Mrs. Thomas Foster, a wealthy Honolulu heiress, was typical of several wealthy converted Buddhists who contributed financially to its promulgation. The Fosters had become interested in Buddhism through Dr. Wilhelm Hillebrand of Germany, and they became heavy investors in the Banaras excavations in India at the place where Buddha was enlightened. (The Soto Temple in Honolulu is built on an Indian model.) The botanical gardens in Honolulu are named for Mrs. Foster.
Like many non-Christian religions, Buddhism profited greatly from participation in the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in connection with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. In all, seven papers were given, two by Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka. They covered the basics of Buddha's life, the Hinayana (of Siam), the Mahayana (of Japan), and Buddha's teaching. Dharmapala particularly tried to show Buddhism's superiority, and the several Japanese speakers tried to counter what they believed to have been unjust criticism of Buddhism by non-Japanese. "There are very few countries in the world so misunderstood as Japan," began Kinza Riuge Hirai ("What Buddhism Teaches of Man's Relation to God, and Its Influence on Those Who Have Received It," in The World's Congress of Religions, ed. J. W. Hanson [Chicago: The Monarch Book Co., 1894], 395). The special program on Buddhism to the whole congress on the evening of September 26 featured addresses by Soyen Shaku, Jitsuzen Ashitzu, K. R. Hirai, and Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu who offered his own appreciation of Buddha. Of significance was the absence of any representative of Buddhism from China.
Buddhist groups in America are of three kinds. Most are transplanted Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian sects that keep more or less close contact with a parent body. This contact may be formal and organizational, or may be merely by the continuation of a teaching. The second kind are the schismatic groups of the first kind. Schisms have occurred over differences of practice and emphasis, beliefs, and race. A common pattern in Buddhist groups is for a basically Asian body to grow by additions of Caucasians, only to find itself splintering along racial/ethnic/linguistic lines as soon as the Caucasian members are a large enough group. The third type of body is the philosophical Buddhist center formed usually around one or more leaders who have settled in the United States after study in Japan.
SHINTO. Shinto, "The Way of the Gods," is the indigenous religion of Japan. Its polytheistic kami were, by and large, essentially the patronal deities of the uji, or clans, of ancient Japan. They were also associated with nature since their worship was often conducted in beautiful locations that engendered a great sense of natural awe, such as waterfalls.
Shinto holds to a strong sense of purity, as against ritual pollution. Hence, its shrines are often located outside the human community or on its fringes, away from the pollutions of blood, sickness, and death, and amid the natural purity of nature. Even those shrines now located in the midst of modern cities are situated, if possible, in a park-like setting amid a few stately trees. Shintoists ritually purify themselves before worship.
Most Shinto kami are of mythological background and are rooted in local communities. Some Shinto myths, especially those important to the imperial house, are contained in two of Japan's oldest books, the Kohiki (712 C.E.) and the Nihonshoki (720 ). They tell of the generation of the Japanese Islands and the kami by the primal parents Izanagi and Izanami, and of the goddess Amaterasu, associated with the Sun and the ancestress of the imperial family. Some figures in historical times have been enshrined as kami after their deaths, down to the Emperor Meiji (1852–1912), whose shrine is the most prominent in Tokyo.
Shinto jinja, or shrines, are typically modest buildings of simple but graceful lines, demarcated by the distinctive torii, or Shinto gate. A few, influenced by Chinese styles of architecture, are ornate and colorful. A shrine is essentially the symbolic home of its kami. The kami-presence is indicated by such signs as a mirror and gohei, or zigzag pieces of paper on a stick. Worshippers often approach shrines individually for brief moments of worship, clapping their hands twice before praying.
Shinto public worship centers around matsuri, or festivals. They are generally scheduled in accordance with the agricultural cycle, at seed time in the spring, midsummer, or harvest. On these occasions, and more often at larger shrines, priests present offerings, most often vegetables, fruit, rice, rice-wine, and seafood, in a solemn and decorous manner, placing them on a table before the shrine's main sanctuary. Then a norito, or solemn prayer, is read. After the offerings are removed, other activities involving the participation of the community may occur: kagura, or sacred dance, processions, carnival-like fairs, even sacred horse races or boat races. These will depend upon the traditions of the community; matsuri are often occasions of local distinctiveness and pride.
Shinto, as the way of the kami, was not thought of as a distinct religion until after the introduction of Buddhism in the sixth century C.E. made it necessary to distinguish it from the import faith. During the medieval and early modern periods Shinto shrines were frequently in close association with Buddhist temples, the kami being often thought of as guardians, students, or even alternative expressions of Japan's rich pantheon of Mahayana buddhas and bodisattvas. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868 commenced Japan's modernization, however, the government forced a draconic separation of shrines and temples, the situation that still generally greets the visitor today.
The increasingly nationalistic regime of 1868–1945 also put Shinto under direct state control and used it as a symbol and vehicle of its ideology, emphasizing its legitimation of the divine authority of the sovereign in whose name its wars were fought and sacrifices demanded. After 1945 Shinto was separated from the state and generally reverted to its local bases, though the Emperor still performs certain Shinto rituals in his personal capacity, and the Daijosiai, or Shinto accession rite, was celebrated by the Emperor Akihito in 1990. Most shrines are owned and administered by local organizations. There are also some "sectarian" Shinto groups, registered as such by the prewar government, promoting particular doctrines, practices, or places of pilgrimage. Some of the "new religions" such as Tenrikyo, Konkokyo, and Omoto, have some Shinto roots and employ some typically Shinto forms of worship, though they intend worship to be for a monotheistic rather than a polytheistic deity.
Most Japanese maintain a relationship to both Shinto and Buddhism, having traditional ties to both a shrine and a temple. Characteristically, funerals are conducted in temples and weddings in shrines, since the religion of kami is popularly felt to deal especially with the joyous family and community occasion of this life.
Shinto came to America with the Japanese immigration of the late nineteenth century. A shrine was constructed in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1898, and others followed on both the Big Island and Oahu. Shinto prospered there until the 1930s, when growing concern over Japanese imperialism led to criticism of Shinto priests as agents of a foreign power. After Pearl Harbor, the shrines were confiscated and their priests interned. However, most of the shrines were either recovered, or rebuilt, after the war. There have been few if any Shinto shrines in the mainland U.S. apart from tiny altars in homes or places of business. (This section on Shinto prepared with the cooperation of Robert S. Ellwood.)
JAPANESE NEW RELIGIONS. Recently there has been a significant amount of literature devoted to studying what have come to be called the Japanese new religions. These are religions that have been founded since 1800, but which have made their impact in the twentieth century, particularly since religious freedom was declared in Japan after World War II. These religions do share a number of characteristics, the most important being their inroads into the membership of the older Buddhist and Shinto faiths.
However, the new religions do not share a common heritage, thought-world, or lifestyle. Groups such as Nichiren Shoshu and Rissho Kosei Kai are clearly variations on a theme by Buddha. A second set of groups, such as Tenrikyo and Konko Kyo, is clearly Shinto in basic faith. Seicho-No-Ie is an example of a third grouping, members of which are psychic and metaphysical (New Thought). This third group has shown in America a movement toward psychic and New Thought advocates; therefore, Seicho-No-Ie is discussed in the chapter on New Thought. A fourth grouping is made up of the few miscellaneous bodies, of which only one, Perfect Liberty Kyodan, has found its way to America.
Characteristic of many of the new groups is the influence of Christianity, though different groups have picked up different elements. "Church," the idea of group worship, has adopted up by many Buddhists. As in India, with the ashram, "church" has shown itself to be a powerful concept. The Konkokyo seems to have been influenced by the Roman Catholic confession in its toritsugi, a form of group confession and meditation. In no case, at least in those that have come to America, has Christianity become the dominant element.
Since the end of World War II, there has been a steady growth of independent religious life signaled by the continuous appearance of several new religions annually. The most recent of these religions have drawn their converts primarily from people born and raised to adulthood after the war; observers of Japanese religion have dubbed them the "new new" religions. A few have had remarkable success in inserting themselves into Japanese life. One such group, the AUM Shinri Kyo, a separatist Buddhist group, became the object of intense news coverage following the accusation that its members released a poisonous gas in Tokyo's subway system in 1995.
Sources–The Eastern Family, Part II
Buddhist studies have proliferated in American universities in recent decades. The work of Buddhist scholars is given focus through the International Association of Buddhist Studies, c/o Section de langues et civilisations orientales, Université de Lausanne, B.F.S.H. 2, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Berkeley Buddhist Research Center, with may be reached ℅ Professor Lewis Lancaster, Department of East Asian Languages, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 (http://ishi.lib.berkeley.edu/buddhist/bbrc/).
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Japanese Mayahana Buddhism
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New Religions of Japan
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"Chapter 24: Eastern Family Part II: Buddhism, Shintoism, Japanese New Religions." Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Mar. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
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