The main religions of Japan – a quick guide

There are, in my opinion, four main groups of religions in Japan. I will go through each below.

Shintoism
Shintoism is what can be considered the indigenous religion of Japan. It is at least 1,300 years old but possibly much older. It describes the power struggles in its early history in the disguise of creation myths of the country. This points to migration from Korea as the possible source of its history but also indication of much an earlier culture. It is generally a religion of animism, where mountains, trees, the sun, machinery, virtually anything has a spirit. It is also a religion which promotes purity and fertility, both for agriculture and sex. Shintoism is seen as one religion but can be thought of as having facets of folk, state and culture. From the 6th century until 19th century Shintoism was synchronised with Buddhism (see below).

Buddhism
Buddhism was introduced into Japan from China in the 6th century. It is a religion which originated in north-eastern India in the 6th century BCE. Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha. Buddha taught it is possible to find happiness by thinking and living correctly. There are different “denominations” with Jodo-based sects being the most predominant and the Zen sects being second most predominant in terms of temple count.

Christianity
Christianity was introduced into Japan in the 16th century when Francis Xavier arrived with Christian converts. Although it makes up a small percentage of followers (around 1% of the population) it is nonetheless prominent within Japanese culture. Most weddings are “Christian” weddings with rites performed by a “priest” (read: ‘foreigner’). Christianity functions thus as marriage officiate, while Shinto functions as life celebrating, and Buddhism for Funerary. All major Christian denominations are represented in Japan.

New religions
Most ‘new religions’ are based upon one of the “traditional” religions – Shintoism, Buddhism and/or Christianity. Some were established after 1868 – when Japan began its modernisation period – but many sprang up after 1945. While some do have real ideological differences to their foundation religion most new religions were created for tax-break purposes.


Below are some “keywords” in each of the religious groupings.

Shintoism – inari, hachiman, susa, Izumo, Ise, fertility, creation myth, purity.

Buddhism – Jodo, Jodo Shin, Shingon, Tendai, Nichiren, Zen, death.

Christianity – Francis Xavier, Jesuit, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, marriage.

New religions – politics, tax-haven, Neo-Shintoism, Neo-Buddhism, Neo-Christianity.

Please … show me something that is permanent 

It isn’t that something permanent does exist (though that is highly unlikely because if it does exist it has been hiding pretty well) but that it hasn’t shown itself whatsoever. 
Some say the proof is God but nobody has made visual identification of him. There have been no “last seen at …” but just talk. It is all talk. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word is God,” someone named John wrote. But isn’t this just a clever (read: wilful) metaphor?
No, there will never be any way for us to prove that God doesn’t exist. But neither do they have a way to prove that he does (and a capital ‘H’ for He isn’t proof, but only again a choice on the part of the writer. 

What is karma?

Karma is volitional action caused by intention (cetana). The result of karma is its fruit (karmaphala). Karma are of two types – wholesome (kusala) and unwholesome (akusala). Both of these lead to rebirth (samsara). Wholesome karma leads to a superior rebirth while unwholesome karma leads to an inferior rebirth. 

Rebirth does not necessarily pertain to the rebirth of a lifespan. Every moment is a rebirth so long as it is conditioned by an action from an intention. Rebirth is akin to sustainment or continuity. Actions not stemming from an intention are without karma and therefore without fruit. Karma without fruit is therefore desirable in Buddhism.  

All, concepts

The only conclusion in life that I can draw is that all things are concepts. Real objects can only be concepts within my mind, so abstract objects can only be concepts within my mind as well. Nothing can escape this conclusion. Concepts do not “float” out there in the world independent of the mind. They must be constructs of the mind.

Before the first person came into being and after the last person passes away all concepts did not exist. The concepts of self, man and society exist as long as at least one person exists to remember them. Perhaps consciousness is like this, and nothing more. 

miss conception

everything
without exception
are concepts
and no more

anything to lie
beyond
conception is a
misconception

What does it mean to be a philosopher?

According to one dictionary, philosophy is the study of the nature and meaning of existence, truth, good and evil etc. And a philosopher is someone who studies and develops ideas about the nature and meaning of existence, truth, good and evil etc.

Personally, I prefer to boil down this definition to just philosophy is the study of the nature of existence and truth. It follows thus a philosopher is someone who studies and develops ideas about the nature of existence and truth.

The inclusion of meaning assumes that existence has meaning to begins with. Here, I beg to differ (or perhaps go along with existentialists like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre) and point out that nowhere does it say life has implicit meaning, that only we have assumed it to have meaning, and a universal one at that. It is for this reason I believe that Western philosophy tends to think Eastern Philosophy, particularly Buddhism is nihilistic in outlook.

Thus, Western philosophy has a tendency to belittle relativism and relativistic meaning. They are happy to say things like the only constant is change and not blink an eyelid at the relativity and even the contradiction in the statement or proposition. One must also see the nature of language (move towards a philosophy of language) in order to understand the nature of knowledge (epistemology), the nature of existence (ontology) and the nature of reality (metaphysics).

And so I must therefore question the nature of religion as well. I have never known a religion to be personal, for one person and that person alone. If it were then its god must be non-universal. In short, religion is a social act. If it were a non-social act then we need not talk of church and religion in the first place. But the fact that we do have church and the concept of a religion we must assume religion to be above all else a relativistic social construct. And if so then the talk of good and evil must also be relativistic as well. Philosophy, therefore, must reject religion, or at least study religion as part of the nature of human existence, not to assume it is part of or above philosophy as such. There is what I will suggest here as not so much a philosophy of religion but a religion of philosophy, and that it has infiltrated Western philosophical tradition so thoroughly that it had almost escaped notice.

Chains and the Imagined Freedom

Man, everywhere, is in chains (limited and transient as a condition of existence) yet he believes that he is free