Earliest Origins Of Shinto Are Unknown; Just Term Paper

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¶ … earliest origins of Shinto are unknown; just as the earliest origins of the Japanese people are fairly unknown. Both are, however, suspected to be rather ancient, with the groundwork of Shinto having been laid well before that of Christianity, in the late Jomon period in Japan. These early belief systems were quite fragmented from region to region and through the centuries until writing was introduced into Japan in the fifth century and Buddhism in the sixth century A.D. As a result of the former, the Kojiki -- the record of ancient things -- and the Nihonshoki -- the chronicles of Japan -- were put to paper shortly after writing took hold in Japan. Fundamentally, these two works were the first formal compilations of ancient belief systems and mythologies. The immediate result of the Kojiki and the Nihonshoki were that they officially legitimized the position of the Imperial Family. Additionally, the integration of Taoist, Buddhist, and Confusion ideals was intended to portray a level of complexity with reference to the spiritual beliefs of the Japanese that would impress outsiders.

Nevertheless, Shinto was and remains a religion that tends to defy characterization largely because of its varied background. "It is said that Bodhidharma, the 'Barbarian that came from the West,' traveled from India to China on the back of a tiger. He brought with him the kernel of Zen, the doctrine of silent illumination, 'This mind is the Buddha.'" (Daily Zen 2004). Although this clearly attributes the core of Shinto to foreign notions, eventually it became important for the Japanese to draw definite lines between Chinese Buddhist beliefs and the beliefs that existed in Japan. However, "Following the Meiji Restoration, Shinto was made the official religion of Japan, and its combination with Buddhism was outlawed." (Wikipedia 2005). Even following this, the basis of Shinto beliefs could not be fully separated from Buddhism or Chinese myth. Overall, this integration was possible through the state-sanctioned form that Shinto took; it elevated the emperor to the status of "living god" upon the shoulders of native mythology and foreign philosophies.

Works Cited:

1. Daily Zen. "Zen Legends." Dailyzen.com, 2004. Available: http://www.dailyzen.com/bodhi01.asp.

2. Wikipedia. "Shinto." Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, 2005. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto.

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