central theories believe that it is worldly desires, illness, death,
and the loss of loved ones that causes suffering in the human life.
By eliminating all desires and attachments, we would be able to
achieve the state of enlightenment, which is Nirvana, escape suffering
and the circle of reincarnations.
It is believed that Buddhism had arrived in Japan around 552AD as
a present from the king of the Korean Paekche Kingdom. In the course
of several centuries, it was welcomed by the exclusive ruling aristocrats.
at the end of the 16th Century, many Buddhist activities in the
political arena were practically abolished. Furthermore, the Meiji
period in the 19th Century favored Shinto as the state religion
and therefore tried to separate it from Buddhism, as both these
religions had merged to become like one faith. After a few other
conflicts with Shinto, the two religions were able to co-exist in
harmony and began complementing one another.
is estimated that there are at least 56 main divisions and 170 subdivisions
in Japanese Buddhism.
Tendai and Shingon sect, both founded in 805 and 806 respectively,
were imported from China. They were gradually changed to become
more Japanese and even expanded to have subdivisions.
1175, The Jodo sect was founded. Its theories were very simple as
it was based on the principle that everyone can achieve salvation
by strongly believing in the Buddha Amida. Due to its simplicity,
the Jodo sect had followers from various social classes. Until today,
it remains as one of the most popular sects in Japan.
Zen sect, introduced from China, was founded in 1191. It was more
popular amongst the military class for its complicated theories.
1253, Nichiren founded the Lotus Hokke sect, which was outstanding
because it was intolerant toward other Buddhist sects. Today, Nichiren
Buddhism still has millions of followers.
Shinto shrines, temples can be found almost everywhere in Japan.
Many large and exceptionally beautiful temples can be found in Kyoto
and Nara, former religious centers. Usually, a big bell is located
within the temple area. On New Year's Eve, it is rung 108 times
- 8 times in the old year and 100 times in the new. The number,
108, resembles the number of worldly desires in Buddhism that are
driven away by the ringing bell.
temples also include a cemetery. It is often visited on many occasions,
such as the obon week, which is an August festival honoring and
remembering the ancestors, anniversaries of the departed, and equinoctial
90 million people consider themselves as Buddhists in today's modern
Japan. However, the belief does not really affect the everyday life
of the average Japanese person. But it is customary for funerals
to be carried out in a Buddhist manner, and many households do keep
a small altar in memory of their ancestors.