Shinto vs. Buddhism
Shinto or kami-no-michi (the original traditional term) is the natural spiritual cult of Japan extensively followed by the Japanese people. Shinto or literally meaning the way of the Gods was originally adopted from the ancient Chinese inscriptions. The very word Shinto is the combination of the two terms, “shin” or ‘shen’ meaning gods or spirits and “tÅ” or “do” denoting an idealistic path of study or path of existence. On the other hand, Buddhism is a tradition envisaged as the ultimate path of salvation which is to be achieved through an imminent approach into the absolute nature of reality and existence.
Shinto essentially integrates the various religious practices consequent of the diverse regional and local prehistoric traditions that were practiced in ancient Japan. On the other hand Buddhism takes within its purview many diverse traditions, religious practices and spiritual beliefs which are majorly based on the teachings of the Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.
Shinto is a unique religion where the ritual practices, actions and rites are a lot more significant than the words or preaching. On the other hand, Buddhism is a religion that does not recognize many religious rites or practices. It primarily focuses on the relation and study of the words and philosophies of the Buddha and the paths of existence as showed by him.
Shinto exemplifies the worship of the abstract forces of nature, the ancestors, nature, polytheism, and animism. The central focus remains on ritual purity which revolves around the honoring and celebration of the existence of Kami which is the ultimate spirit of essence. In a differing way, the foundation of Buddhism lies on the performing of altruism and following the paths of ethical conduct. Some of the common practices of Buddhism are cultivation of wisdom through meditation and renunciation, invocating the bodhisattvas and studying the scriptures.
Buddhism has two main branches termed as Mahayana and Theravada. Mahayana includes the traditions of Pure Land, Nichiren Buddhism, Zen, Shingon, Tibetan Buddhism, Shinnyo-en and Tendai whereas Theravada centers on the thoughts from the earliest surviving School of Elders. But Shinto has no branches and exists as one single institution of ancient Japanese religion.
1. Shinto is an ancient religion from Japan whereas Buddhism is a tradition envisaged in India by Siddhartha Gautama.
2. Shinto originated from ancient Chinese inscriptions, whereas Buddhism has its inception in the thoughts and teachings of Gautama Buddha.
3. Shinto lays importance to religious actions and rites rather than words and preaching whereas the foundation of Buddhism is the words and preaching of Buddha. Buddhism focuses on an altruistic life that leads to salvation.
4. Buddhism has religious branches in the form of Theravada and Mahayana whereas Shinto has no such religious sects.
5. Shinto worships the forces of nature, polytheism and animism whereas Buddhism is all about following an ethical code of conduct in one’s life and practice meditation and renunciation.
Alan Watts’ seminal text first published in 1966, here read/narrated by author Ralph Blum (who in 1982 wrote the Book of Runes and kick-started interest in runic magic). Of all his brilliant texts, this one just… nails it, over and over again. Ouch.
1. Inside Information
2. The Game Of Black-and-White
3. How To Be A Genuine Fake
4. The World Is Your Body
5. So What?
Yo ca vassasataṃ jīve
ekāhaṃ jīvitaṃ seyyo
Better it is to live
one day virtuous and meditative
than to live a hundred years
immoral and uncontrolled.
The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom,
translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita
One day Buddha came into his assembly of the monks. It must have been just a morning like this. His sannyasins were sitting and waiting for him. They were puzzled because this was for the first time that Buddha had come with something in his hand – a handkerchief. They all looked at the handkerchief What was the matter? There must be something special in it. And Buddha sat on the platform and rather than starting speaking to the assembly he looked at the handkerchief, started tying a few knots in it, five knots in all. The whole assembly watched – what is going on?
And then he asked the assembly, “Can anybody tell me: is this handkerchief the same as it was before the knots were tied?”
Sariputta said, “This is a tricky question. In a way the handkerchief is the same because nothing has changed, in a way it is not the same because these five knots have appeared which were not there before. But as far as the inner nature of the handkerchief is concerned – its nature is concerned – it is the same; but as far as its form is concerned it is no more the same. The form has changed: the substance is the same.”
Buddha said, “Right. Now I want to open these knots.” And he started stretching both ends of the handkerchief farther away from each other. He asked Sariputta. “What do you think? By stretching farther will I be able to open the knots?”
He said, “You will be making knots even more difficult to open because they will become smaller, more tighter.”
Buddha said, “Right. Then I want to ask the last question: what should I do so that I can open the knots, the tied knots? How I can untie them again?”
Sariputta said, “Bhagwan, I would like first to come close and see how in the first place the knots have been tied. Unless I know how they have been tied it is difficult for me to suggest any solution.”
Buddha said, “Right, Sariputta. You are blessed, because that is the most fundamental question to ask. If you are in a certain fix, the first thing is how you got into it rather than trying to get out of it. Without asking the most fundamental and the primary question, you will make things worse.”
Buddha’s whole approach is, first see how you get into trouble. If you can see the entrance, the same door is the exit; no other door is needed. But without knowing the entrance if you try to find out the exit you are not going to find; you will get more and more desperate. And that’s what people go on doing.
We’re always thinking about something else these days, and missing what is here right now. Our obsession with the expectations of a global society continually pulls us away from our true selves, and to find that, we have to stop the chatter in our heads. The guru Alan Watts explains this, in simply the best and most concise interpretation of, and justification for, meditation out there.