Understanding Religions in the World – Part 10: Shinto Main Beliefs

A very good day to you, my loyal readers. Let’s continue the “Understanding Religions” series here. Today we look at Shinto main beliefs, including a bit of history as well as how Shinto is being practiced today. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

By the way, here’s part 9 of the series if you missed it.

Shinto Core Beliefs

The word Shinto means the way of the gods in Japanese. Shinto or Shintoism is Japan’s indigenous (native) nature religion.

Shinto believers trust in gods called kami. These Gods take the form of nature – wind, mountains, trees, rivers, sun, etc. They believe that human beings become gods after death.

The Sun Goddess Amaterasu is Shinto’s supreme deity. Inari, the kami of foxes, fertility, rice, tea and sake, agriculture and industry, and general prosperity and worldly success, is also a very important kami.

Shinto practitioners believe that human beings are fundamentally good, and that evil is caused by evil spirits or demons (oni), which are mostly invisible. Some oni are pictured as giants with horns and three eyes. Shinto priests can perform rituals to keep oni away.

In Shinto, besides the reverence of nature, important focus include purity (physical, moral and spiritual), maintaining harmony, family respect and solidarity, subservience of the individual to the group, the belief that everything has the potential for both good and bad, the belief that nobody is perfect, and the belief that the soul of a dead person can influence the living before it unites with the collective kami.

A Bit of History…

Shinto does not have a recognized founder or text of its beliefs. The fact that it is the oldest religion in Japan might have something to do with this. It is said that Shinto began during the Yayoi culture period, around 300 B.C. to 300 A.D., when certain natural phenomena and features were believed to be divine.

In the 6th century, Buddhism was introduced in Japan. Initially, there were a few conflicts that arise. However, soon it was realized that the beliefs of these two religions are very compatible and even complement each other. Many Buddhists saw kami as manifestations of Buddha.

Shinto in This Time and Age

Shinto is Japan’s top religion along with Buddhism. Many Japanese believe in both. In any case, Shinto’s key focus on purity, harmony, family and so on have become part of the Japanese culture. For instance, death is considered an impurity and left for Buddhism to deal with. Hence, there are almost no Shinto cemeteries. However, a lot of wedding ceremonies are held Shinto-style.

Shinto practitioners worship kami, including their ancestors. Shinto practitioners may visit Shinto shrines or pray at their home altar. The purpose of most Shinto rituals, performed by Shinto priests by purification, prayers and offerings to the kami, is to keep oni at bay. Most Shinto shrines regularly celebrate festivals to show the gods the outside world.

The Meiji Shrine in Tokyo is dedicated to Emperor Meiji (Meiji the Great) who reigned from 1867 until his death in the year 1912. He presided over the dramatic transformation of Japan from a closed and outdated society into a developed world power.

Stay Tuned, My Loyal Readers!

That is it for part 10. Next I will write about Jainism, Confucianism, Baha’i and Atheism before taking a break on this series. Please share if you enjoyed this, and subscribe to my emails! Do come back often to my website. Just leave any questions or comments that you may have below, and I’ll get back to you ASAP. Thanks a lot!

Part 11: Jainism

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