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East and Southeast AsiaJapan

The long history of Japanese religion held to the anchor of Shinto as a primitive system based upon kami (spirits) that inhabited every thing, person, or place. Somewhere between 538 and 552 C.E., Buddhism came into Japan. Prince Shotoku Taishi (574–622) solidified Japan's hold on Buddhism by commissioning scholars to return from China with Mahayana texts including the Lotus Sutra. Shotoku combined Confucian court ranking with the Three Jewels of Buddhism (the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha) and belief in kami. Although Japan mediated political relations with various forms of Buddhism, monastic-level Buddhism also flourished at various times. In the Nara period (710–784), Emperor Shomu ordered the construction of a bronze Buddha at Todaiji Temple in Nara to embellish the imperial capital. With a growing number of Buddhist sects developing in Japan, Buddhist monks came under close government control. Relaxing these laws, Emperor Kammu shifted the capital to Heian. Monks were encouraged to bring new Buddhisms from China in order to bless the new capital. During the Heian period (794–1185), Saicho (767–822) brought Tendai (Celestial Platform) Buddhism from China. As a Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) School, it focused on the Lotis Sutra as a source for obtaining buddhahood for all of humanity. Likewise, Kukai (774–835) brought Shingon (True Word) Buddhism from China. Appealing to the aristocracy, it emphasized magic and incantations while including mandalas (sacred diagrams) and mantras (sacred syllables). In the Kamakura period (1192–1333) and beyond, Zen Buddhism appealed to the samurai because of its discipline and meditative search for satori (awakening), while Pure Land became the religion of the peasants.

During the Kokugaku (national learning) movement in the Tokugawa Shogunate, scholars such as Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801) saw three distinct periods of Japanese religion: a primordial period of purity, a period tainted by foreigners, and a period of the resurrection of the ancient world. After Chushingura (the treasury of loyal retainers) in 1703, the stage was set for the reemergence of Shinto as a state religion and the future restoration of the Meiji emperor. The Ako ronin avenged their fallen Lord Asano by killing Lord Kira. In doing so, they upheld the duty of samurai honor that appeared secondary in their minds to Tokugawa's law. Although punished by death, the forty-seven ronin motivated townsfolk and onlookers to evaluate seriously the balance of Confucian virtues: property, righteousness, and benevolence. During imperial Japan of World War II, both Shinto and Buddhism were revived as a component of Bushido (the way of the warrior), the most notorious wartime manifestation being the kamikaze (divine wind) suicide bombers.

After 1945, Buddhism returned somewhat to a more classical stance, largely through the efforts of thinkers such as Daisetz Suzuki (1870–1966). Alongside this, Nichiren Shoshu (followers of Nichiren) reemerged (from the thirteenth-century tradition) with the supreme goal of happiness. Stemming from this, the Soka Gakkai (value-creation society) emphasized world peace achieved through chanting and devotion to the Lotus Sutra.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Reason to RetrovirusReligion - East and Southeast Asia - The Daoist Yin-yang, Three Teachings Are One, Modern China, Korea, Japan