There is a diversity of beliefs in Japan. Shinto and Buddhism have together shaped many of the religious beliefs and practices of the Japanese. Religions are generally not mutually exclusive in Japan and most people do not adhere to one particular religion, but adopt a combination of beliefs and traditions.
Unlike Shinto, which is indigenous to Japan, Buddhism was introduced to Japan from China and Korea in the 6-7th century. The code of ethics associated with Confucianism has also influenced Japanese culture.
Buddhism, originated in India around the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E., was eventually spread far beyond his homeland and came to Japan throught the continent. Today elements of Buddhism are incorporated into some Japanese people's beliefs and practices. For westerners, combination of beliefs may be a strange concep existing together, but there are beliefs together with Buddhism such as Shintoism, Shamanism, Chrischanity, and diverse sects of other Budddhisms.
Buddhism must be envisaged in its relation to the ideas and spiritual needs born on Japanese environment. There are many sects of Buddhism are separated from the origin. Each sect of Buddhism has been developed by the needs of people and change in the environment. This page intorduces a general explanation of the Buddhism sects which have their own philosophical perspectives. The most prestigious sects on Japanese Buddhism are Shingon Sect, Nichiren Sect and Tendai Sect. Even today, however, there are still many new sects spread throughtout Japan.
The doctrine of this sect is founded on the text designated by the name of Kegonkyo (Sanskrit: Avatamasaka-Sutra). It was imported into Japan in 736 by the Chinese teacher Dosen, who transmitted it to Ryoben, priest of the Todaiji temple of Nara, who became its propagandist. In 740, Shomu, Emperor of Japan, entrusted the Korean priest Shuisho with the task of giving a detailed explanation of the Kegonkyo according to the Chinese commentaries.
Shingon Sect (The Word "Shingon" means True Word)
Shingon sect was founded in Japan in 806 by the Japanese bonze Kukai, better known under his posthumous title of Kobo-Daishi. In 804 Kukai went to China, where he received the Shingon esoteric doctrine from the Chinese priest Houei-Kouo, whose disciple he became. Kukai brought back its belifs to Japan and started Shingon Sect at Koya-San, Wakayama.
This sect was introduced into Japan in 804 by the bonze Saicho.Having gone to China, he had been instructed in the Law by the spiritual successors of Tche-Tcho, and in particular by Tao-Suei. Saicho taught the new doctrine in the temple of Enryakuji, on Mount Hiei, which was soon to be covered with Buddhist temples and become one of the most celebrated sanctuaries of Japanese Buddhism.
Founded by Nichiren ( 1222-1282), who was a great saint as well as a great Japanese patriot, this sect claims only one text: The Lotus of the Good Law (Japanese: Myôhorenge-Kyo; Sanskrit: Sadharmapundarika-sutra). The Nichiren sect counts 3650 temples or monasteries, the most celebrated of which are those of Ikegami and Minobu, more than 9000 priests, 1,400,000 perpetual members and 38,000 occasional or Shinto members.
Jodo Sect ( The word Jodo means Pure Land)
The Jodo sect was founded in Japan in 1175 by Honen. The doctrine is based on the sutras of Amithaba (literally, Infinite Light). The sect possesses 7118 temples or monasteries, of which the Chionin (Kyoto) is the most important and the most popular. The sect also counts more than 5500 abbots and priests, 2,200,000 perpetual subscribers, and 300,000 occasional and Shinto subscribers.
1. Ryoben ( http://www.koryubooks.com/library/dlowry10.html)
2. Kukai (http://www.asunam.com/kukai_page.htm)
3. Nichiren (http://www.nichiren.info/nichiren/)
3. Honen (http://www.jodo.org/about_hs/ho_life.html)
Shinto ("the way of the gods") is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people and deeply rooted in the environment and traditions. Starting about 500 BCE (or earlier) it was originally "an amorphous mix of nature worship". Its name was derived from the Chinese words "shin tao" ("The Way of the Gods") in the 8th Century CE. "Shinto gods" are called kami in Japanese. They are sacred spirits which can be any form of things important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility. All of humanity is regarded as "Kami's child." Thus all human life and human nature is sacred. Humans become kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral kami. The Sun Goddess Amaterasu, whose shrine Her shrine is at Ise, is considered Shinto's most important kami.
Zen is not easy to understand its meaning and experience in words. A Osho (Monk) talks about Zen that is, "all a question of old habitual patterns for proceeding in, and relating to the world that these patterns dissolve, and what you have left is your natural way of perceiving". It may be hard to define what the world of Zen would be like.
D.T. Suzuki (1870-1966), well known professor who introduced the world of Zen to the West, experienced 'Mu' to know his own true nature that is the simultaneous awakening to the secret of Zen. His experience was to be conscious of "MU". But to be conscious of Mu is to be separate from it. Towards the end of that sesshin (Zen retreat), he ceased to be conscious of Mu, saying that "I was one with Mu, identified with Mu, so that there was no longer the separateness implied by being conscious of Mu." There are many others influenced by Zen, such as, Nishida Ikutaro, philosopher, who grew out of his early Zen experience and his philosophical interest in the question of religious experience.
Nishida Kitaro (1870-1945), a life-long friend of D. Suzuki, is known for research on Zen and western philosophy. An inquiry into good, his most famous book, is to explore the world of nothingness ("Mu")--interrelational confilict between individual and others. Strongly influenced by the Zen, he continuously seeked to differentiate place of logics between the Eastern and the Western, and explored the place of nothingness as well as the view of the religious world.
1. Dr. Suzuki's experience (http://www.buddhistforbundet.no/zen/practice.html)
2. A lecture by Koudela Osho (http://www.netowne.com/eastern/buddhism/)
3. Nishida's philosophy) (http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew27032.htm)