Friday, February 20, 2009

Shintoism Defined

Shintoism Defined Cover There are two main divisions. One is the thirteen ancient sects, all very similar. The second is known as State Shinto, and is a later synthesis finding its highest Expression in the worship of the Emperor and loyalty to the State and family. Shinto (from the Chinese characters Shen and Tao, signifying the "Way of the Spirits") is called Kami-no-michi in vernacular Japanese. Kami are the innumerable Gods or nature spirits. Shinto shrines are many, over 100,000 in Japan. In the shrines no images are worshiped, rather it is considered that the Kami themselves are there. Fresh foods, water, incense, etc., are offered daily upon the altar. There is an inward belief in the Sacredness of the whole of the universe, that man can be in tune with this sacredness. Stress is placed on truthfulness and purification through which man may remove the "dust" which conceals his inherently divine nature and thus receive the guidance and blessings of Kami. The Shintoist's ardent love of the motherland has found unique expression in the loyalty and devotion of the Japanese people to their state institutions.

FOUNDED: Shintoism began around 2,500 -- 3,000 years ago in Japan.
FOUNDER: Each of the thirteen ancient sects has its own founder.
MAJOR SCRIPTURES: Kojiki (Record of Ancient Things), Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan), a later work, Yengishiki (Institutes of the period of Yengi), and the Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves are the primary works, but they are not regarded as revealed scripture.
ADHERENTS: Estimated at 30 million, mostly in Japan. Most are also Buddhists.

Salvation is achieved in Shinto through observance of all taboos and the avoidance of persons and objects which might cause impurity or pollution. Prayers are made and offerings brought to the temples of the Gods and Goddesses, of which there are said to be 800 myriad in the universe. Man has no Supreme God to obey, but needs only know how to adjust to Kami in its various manifestations. A person's Kami nature survives death, and a man naturally desires to be worthy of being remembered with approbation by his descendants. Therefore, fulfillment of duty is a most important aspect of Shinto.

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