Shintoism

 
History. Shinto is Japan's indigenous religion. It grew out of ancient worship of spirits in nature. Early emperors in Japan were viewed as being descendants of the kami, the nature spirits. Shinto has a long history of evolution from the interaction of Japan with mainland Asia. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism blended with Shinto, and various invasions and wars in Japan caused a variety of sects to develop over the centuries.

Beliefs and Practices. Shintoism perceives the presence of the sacred in animals, in plants, and even in things such as stones and waterfalls. Shinto is a sharp contrast to most other religions, not only because there is not one main god, but also for several other reasons. The first there is not a particular founder such as Jesus in the Christian religion, Muhammad in the Islamic religion, and Buddha in Buddhist religion. The second reason is that Shinto is not spread by missionaries as in Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. The third contrasting quality of Shinto is that it is a religion kept within the same culture and nation as opposed to other religions that are widely spread across the globe. The fourth dissimilarity between Shinto and most other religions is that there are no sacred scriptures such as the Bible or the Koran. You can learn more at http://shinto.org/isri/eng/top-e.html

Shinto means the "way of the gods", and was given this name in the sixth century to distinguish it from Buddhism. Divine beings are at the center of Shintoism and they are called kami. Kami are sacred spirits or powers ranging from mountains and rivers, to birds and animals, to individuals. Kami are worshiped in the home and at public shrines. Persons may visit Shinto shrines for worship or for communication with kami. Specific rituals of communication are important.

Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the Shinto religion is the torii. The torii is the gateway to each Shinto shrine. Each person must walk through the torii to enter the shrine or the spiritual world of the kami leaving the secular world behind. They are composed of two vertical posts which support two horizontal poles. In the past, the torii has been simple and basic in construction being made up of unfinished wooden pillars, but have evolved into painted stone and metal structures.

Marked by torii, Shinto shrines are located throughout the rural and urban areas of Japan. A basin of water is located inside the shrine where the worshipers cleanse themselves of evil thoughts and spirits. Their hands and mouths must be uncontaminated before approaching the shrine to pray. Once approaching the shrine, they clap twice and bow before praying. Flowers or coins may also be given as offerings. Priests, who are primarily ritualists serve a shrine. The priest must know how to perform the appropriate rites, ceremonies, and festivals.

Other web sites concerning Shintoism include:
http://www.shinto.org
http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~qm9t-kndu/shintoism.htm
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