A. N. Mescheryakov's monograph, Buddhism and Shintoism in Ancient Japan (a Problem of Sincretism), draws on historical and literary sources, including Nihon Shoki, Shoku Nihongi, Nihon Ryoiki, Fudoki, Man'yoshu, etc. The author analyses the process of Buddhism's extension to Japan and its relationships with the local Shinto cult in 6th-8th centuries.
The Introduction outlines the basic issues of the integrated analysis of a combination of social and idealogical relations typical of the 6th to 8th century Japan.
Chapter 1 reviews the related sources and gives a historiographic account of the problem. A coherent examination of major sources important to the analysed subject helps the author identify their value for both history and religion studies and define them as stages of the general literary development. The historiographic section looks at concepts which interpret the requisites for the dissemination of Buddhism in Japan and critically reviews theories of interaction between Buddhism and Shintoism as treated in the Soviet, Western and Japanese historiography.
Chapter 2 analyses major structural changes which took place in Japanese society in the 6th-8th cc. and their reflection in the concepts of Shinto deities. Drawing on the chronologies Kojiki and Nihon Shoki and the Sinsen Shojiroku genealogy, the author argues that the Shinto ideological system is not an amorphous entity as it is generally believed, but quite a mature system at the official level of beliefs.
Chapter 3 deals with the requisites for, and the process of, Buddhism's dissemination in Japan. Shinto-Buddhist syncretism is examined at the level of the official ideology and in the sphere of folk ideas as well. The author has, for the first time in Japanese studies, formulated the concept of functional complementarity of the two religions: Shinto regulates intra-community relations and "has power" over nature, while Buddhism integrates man into intra-state ideological relations thus forming man as an individual. The chapter also deals with the amalgamation between Shintoism and Buddhism through the ancestors' cult, penetration of Buddhist ideas into the Shinto folklore, transformation of Shinto deities under the effect of Buddhism, syncretism of both religions due to the adaptation of Karma in Japan, contamination of the Shinto and Buddhist rituals.
Chapter 4 is devoted to the depiction of man in the early Japanese literature. The author substantiates the idea that the problem of man as a bearer of ethic norms has a prominent place in the Buddhist literature. He also analyses the typological features of the Buddhist, Shintoist and aristocratic literature each of which depicts man in its own way.
In the Conclusion the author says that from the viewpoint of historical development the major contribution of Buddhism is not to be found in the formation of state ideology as it is usually believed in respect to the reviewed period. Although, at a definite stage, the role of Buddhism used to be very active, Shinto forced it back with the lapse of time. But the intransient significance of Buddhism traced throughout the entire Japanese history is that it promoted immensely the formation of the individual consciousness and took a permanent part in its socialization. Finally, the author formulates the major trends in the evolution of Japanese Buddhism in the 9th century taking as an example the personality of Kukai, an outstanding reformer of Buddhism in Japan: its links with the state become weaker, Buddhism ceases to be a homogeneous phenomenon; there emerge well organized and opposing religio-philosophical schools.
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