Shinto and the Religions of Japan

Overview


In Japan, two religions predominate--Buddhism and Shintoism--and the Japanese people see no contradiction in practicing both: worshipping Buddha even as they revere the kami, the divine beings that populate the country and define the indigenous faith of Shintoism.
In Shintoism and the Religions of Japan, C. Scott Littleton illuminates this unusual spiritual pluralism and shows how it has fertilized a vast and varied religious landscape. Littleton describes the origins and ...
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Overview


In Japan, two religions predominate--Buddhism and Shintoism--and the Japanese people see no contradiction in practicing both: worshipping Buddha even as they revere the kami, the divine beings that populate the country and define the indigenous faith of Shintoism.
In Shintoism and the Religions of Japan, C. Scott Littleton illuminates this unusual spiritual pluralism and shows how it has fertilized a vast and varied religious landscape. Littleton describes the origins and development of Shinto (or Kami no Michi, "Way of the Gods"), the introduction of Buddhism a millennium and a half ago, the rise of various sects of Buddhism (some indigenous to Japan), and the role of the imperial court and the shogunate in the nation's religious life. Here too is a clear and succinct summary of Shintoism's teeming pantheon of spiritual figures, the holy writings of Shintoism, and the islands' landscape of holy sanctuaries. Littleton explains how Buddhism has been reinterpreted in light of Japan's indigenous traditions (some monumental statues of the Buddha are worshipped as manifestations of kami), and describes the "new religions" that flourished during the Meiji period of the late nineteenth century, after Japan once again opened up to the outside world. Writing with grace and clarity, he captures the essential features of Japanese religious life, including the countless local festivals and rituals, the importance of harmony and enlightenment, and concepts of death and salvation.
Lavishly illustrated with some thirty color photographs, sprinkled with boxed features that focus on fascinating issues, this volume offers a marvelous tour of Japan's distinctive spiritual experience.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is an outstanding introduction to the Japanese religion Shinto ('spirit way'), exploring its syncretistic affinities with Buddhim, its modern status at the state religion and its emphasis on harmony with nature. Readers will come away with a deeper appreciation of both Shinto and Japanese culture."--Publishers Weekly

"In this well-rounded and well-organized review of Shinto, Littleton touches upon its history, belief system, and practices.... The many color photographs in this beautifully designed book add luster to our appreciation of this tradition."--Spirituality & Health

Publishers Weekly
This is an outstanding introduction to the Japanese religion Shinto ("spirit way"), exploring its syncretistic affinities with Buddhism, its modern status as the state religion and its emphasis on harmony with nature. Littleton first offers a quick but comprehensive history of Shinto over the past 2,000 years, stressing its evolution into an imperial cult in the late 19th century. Short chapters follow on kami (deities), sacred texts and persons, ethical principles, concepts of the afterlife and other topics. Throughout, full-color photographs of shrines, rituals, talismans and artwork complement the text, which is replete with interesting facts (e.g., that sumo wrestling derives from an ancient Shinto ritual). Readers will come away with a deeper appreciation of both Shinto and of Japanese culture. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
These two introductory texts are similar both in format they are short, visually appealing, and have a small trim size and in arrangement, with chapters including "Origins and Historical Development," "Sacred Persons," "Ethical Principles," "Sacred Time," "Death and After Life," and "Society and Religion." Chapters conclude with a one-page excerpt and commentary from a sacred or historical book. Littleton (Eastern Wisdom) and Gordon (The Breaking of a Thousand Swords) provide clear and informative explanations about Shinto and Islam, respectively, as they develop and balance themes of religion, history, society, and modernity within their discussions. In discussing Shinto, a significant religion in Japan, Littleton focuses on deities and spirits, shrines, and the ways Buddhism and Christianity have influenced Shintoism. He frequently cites Ryusaku Tsunoda's Sources of Japanese Traditions (1958), along with more recent sources. The several themes Gordon develops in his introduction to Islam include Hadith, or stories regarding the life, teachings, and actions of Muhammad; and Sharia, or ways divine will is portrayed in Islamic sacred law, Hadith, and the Quran. Libraries may already be well stocked with introductions to Islam by such authors as Karen Armstrong and John Esposito, but these useful works are unique in providing an introduction to their respective religions without trying to explain too much. These books can either stand alone or supplement a larger collection. Appropriate for academic and public libraries, especially where there is interest and existing religion collections. Naomi Hafter, Baltimore Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195218862
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/1/1902
  • Pages: 116
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

C. Scott Littleton is Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Occidental College, Los Angeles. His books include The Sacred East.

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