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The History of Shinto

The history of Shinto, Japan's native-grown religion that predates the arrival of both Buddhism and Confucianism there, is embedded with a sacral conception of the land. This explains the erection of community shrines that represented "the creator or early owner of the land itself," as well as at various scenic spots in regions all across Japan. Earhart notes in particular that Shinto borrowed from Buddhist tradition the mandala symbol of the universe but transformed it to give it "a typically 'this-worldly' Shinto coloring" by means of "a picture of the actual Japanese landscape." That transformation is consistent with what Earhart calls the "Shinto emphasis on the sacredness of nature."

The Shinto writer Norinaga cites as the "universal principle of the world . . . that heaven and earth . . . were brought into existence by the creative spirits of two deities." The universal principle of the world is therefore also the creative principle, i.e., not a destructive or exploitative principle. Norinaga adds that this principle is beyond human comprehension, which suggests that, from a perspective of the cosmos, human responses to the found environment, including but not limited to industrial and corporate exploitation of natural resources, are best asserted with humility. Indeed, Norinaga specifically states that human intelligence "has is limits and there are many things it cannot fathom."

The Shinto conception of the natural world verges on nature mysticism; Earhart describes it as pantheistic. In any case the creative principle is in the background of the characterization of the world's fauna as miracles: "Birds and insects fly in the sky, plants and trees bloom and bear fruit -- they are all wonderful." Rocks and trees may be devoid of feelings, but they remain a part of the creative principle; autumn leaves may exert a charm that may be enjoyed by all (except a Buddhist monk whose main aim is to transcend the influence of ...

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The History of Shinto. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:31, January 20, 2019, from