Uncovering the religious significance and practices of Japanese Shinto
As an ancient religion of Japan, Shinto was originally a combination of nature worship, divination techniques, and shamanism. Meaning “the way of the Gods”, the origins of Shinto are not apparent in comparison to other religions, especially other Asian religions and beliefs. With no obvious founder, as well as original written scriptures and authentic laws, a number of theories exist about the origination of Shinto as a religion and its development across the Japanese lands. However, the significance of the religion has shifted the importance of discovering its origins to the religious influences that Shinto has embarked upon Japanese society. Underneath the surface, several of the beliefs and ways of thinking, created by the Shinto religion, is deeply embedded in the fabric of modern Japanese society and beyond into today’s contemporary world. Although its strength as a religion is not as apparent in today’s society, the collection of rituals and methods envisioned and created by Shinto have implicitly remained a part of Japanese religion and culture, which have even been adopted by other religions. Strayed from other religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism, Shinto developed its own traditions and customs during its establishment as a form of worship. While Shinto has slowly disintegrated through the popular growth of other religions in Asia, the religion itself has several sacred elements – although some are now hidden within their traditions and monuments. As the religious aspect of Shinto has transformed throughout the centuries, this paper will examine that the initial importance of Shinto remains the same and many of the original components of the faith are still labeled as “religious”. The Shinto religion and its beliefs differ from other religious views. For the Shinto’s, the “divine, natural, and human elements” are closely related to one another. The Gods and the spirits co-exist with one another; the Gods exist with humans and nature, while the humans exist with the Gods and nature. Nature, human beings, and deities act “harmoniously” with one another. Nature, in turn, is a vital part of both the spiritual world and the human world; “Japanese love and reverence for nature lies at the root of Shinto”. For many other religions, this is not the case. For Western religions, the “Creator and the created, and the human and natural realms” do not relate with one another immediately. The Shinto religion can again be seen acting in a more spiritual way than any other religion. The spirituality of Shinto and its people can be expressed further: Shinto was the religion of a pristine people who, above all, were sensitive to the spiritual forces that pervaded the world of nature in which they lived.
Nature, spirits, and life’s existence are important to the Shinto religion. The way in which spirits existed towards humans can be seen as follows: “In their world myriad spirits shone like fireflies and every tree and bush could speak”. Religion had manifested itself into the Shinto religion. Nature was the main religious symbol of the religion. The kami, or religious Gods and spirits could be found everywhere in the Shinto life and religion.
The Gods in the Shinto religion are represented differently than other Gods in other religions. In Shinto, there is not one God that is worshipped by all, like Buddhism and Buddha or Christianity and God. Shinto’s kami can be divided into many spiritual beings, encompassing every aspect of Shinto faith. A kami can be “anything that is extraordinary and that inspires awe or reverence”. Similar to any other religions God, however, dispersed all over. A “variety of kami exist in Shinto”: in nature, in human beings and the godly. The kami can be categorized into two groups: those of “natural phenomena, the object kami, and those of “mythical or historical people, the active...