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Shinto: The Way Home

Copyright Date: 2004
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    Book Description:

    Nine out of ten Japanese claim some affiliation with Shinto, but in the West the religion remains the least studied of the major Asian spiritual traditions. It is so interlaced with Japanese cultural values and practices that scholarly studies usually focus on only one of its dimensions: Shinto as a "nature religion," an "imperial state religion," a "primal religion," or a "folk amalgam of practices and beliefs." Thomas Kasulis’ fresh approach to Shinto explains with clarity and economy how these different aspects interrelate. As a philosopher of religion, he first analyzes the experiential aspect of Shinto spirituality underlying its various ideas and practices. Second, as a historian of Japanese thought, he sketches several major developments in Shinto doctrines and institutions from prehistory to the present, showing how its interactions with Buddhism, Confucianism, and nationalism influenced its expression in different times and contexts. In Shinto’s idiosyncratic history, Kasulis finds the explicit interplay between two forms of spirituality: the "existential" and the "essentialist." Although the dynamic between the two is particularly striking and accessible in the study of Shinto, he concludes that a similar dynamic may be found in the history of other religions as well. Two decades ago, Kasulis’ Zen Action/Zen Person brought an innovative understanding to the ideas and practices of Zen Buddhism, an understanding influential in the ensuing decades of philosophical Zen studies. Shinto: The Way Home promises to do the same for future Shinto studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6430-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. Preface
    (pp. XV-XVIII)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XIX-XX)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Shinto is particularly difficult to explain, even for most Japanese. Because its basic values and patterns of behavior have filtered into Japanese culture as part of tradition, most Japanese seldom reflect on Shinto as a “religion” in which they consciously participate. For them, being Shinto is neither a set of beliefs formalized into a creed nor an identifiable act of faith. Its festivals and annual celebrations are things Japanese do because it is traditional, just as some Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras with parades and parties. One does not have to be an Irish Catholic to drink...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Entering Through the Torii
    (pp. 9-37)

    This chapter takes us into an experience at the heart of Shinto spirituality, whether existential or essentialist. As mentioned in the introduction, one does not necessarily have to be Shinto to feel Shinto. In my visits to Japan and to Shinto environs over the decades, I have had experiences I consider spiritual. When discussing them with others—both native Japanese and longtime foreign residents alike—my accounts of these Shinto-inspired events resemble theirs. Therefore, to add detail to the analysis and also to make the experience of “feeling Shinto” seem less exotic to the Western reader, this chapter includes a...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Everyday Connectedness
    (pp. 38-70)

    In the preceding chapter we analyzed Shinto spirituality in its generalized experiential form—thereby establishing a terminology and conceptual framework for the rest of the book. Chapter 1 sometimes used the first person in its phenomenological descriptions for two reasons.The first purpose was to demonstrate there is nothing in the ordinary experience of Shinto spirituality so alien from the experience of most people that they cannot understand it. The type of spirituality discussed in the previous chapter need not be exotic, alien, or simplistic. Second, the first-person anecdotes illustrate how even a non-Japanese might engage the tradition on some level....

  9. CHAPTER 3 Ancient Shinto (Prehistory–794): The Trailblazers
    (pp. 71-91)

    The first chapter began with the experience of Shinto spirituality in its most general, not even necessarily Japanese, form. Chapter 2 described contemporary Japanese cultural behavior laden with the underlying values and ideas associated with this experience and the Shinto heritage as it has come to be part of the daily lives of many Japanese today. The next three chapters focus on the historical development of Shinto from prehistoric times up to the present—giving special attention to Shinto institutional, doctrinal, and political structures. Surveying this extensive period, we will find throughout elements of both existential and essentialist Shinto. But...

  10. CHAPTER 4 From Nara to Norinaga (794–1801): The Pathfinders
    (pp. 92-118)

    In the previous chapter we surveyed the first phase in the evolution of Shinto, identifying various cultural, religious, philosophical, and political dimensions of its development. Much of the indigenous Shintorelated spirituality was obviously consistent with aspects of the contemporary Shinto spirituality analyzed in chapters 1 and 2. It affirmed resonance with, for example, natural forces, spirits, deities, ghosts, and other mysterious phenomena. It placed emphasis on regionalkami, sacred sites, and rituals of purification. Early Shinto participated fully in a world filled withkamiandtama. As we have seen, however, when Japan became increasingly unified as a country, it...

  11. CHAPTER 5 All Roads Lead to Tokyo (1801–2002): The Highway Engineers
    (pp. 119-147)

    After the death of Motoori Norinaga, the Native Studies movement continued to develop and gain in influence. The Native Studies thinkers were by no means monolithic, however, in their interests, viewpoints, and agendas. For our purposes, we can focus on the strand of the post-Norinaga movement that has probably had the most impact on Shinto—namely, the line of thought associated with Hirata Atsutane (1776–1843). The year 1801 marked not only the death of Norinaga but also the year Atsutane declared himself Norinaga’s disciple, even though the two had apparently never met. The interpretation of Shinto developed by Atsutane...

  12. CHAPTER 6 The Way Home
    (pp. 148-170)

    This final chapter speculates about Shinto’s future and the implications of our study for philosophy, religious studies, and our understanding of spirituality. The chapter has three sections. First we will summarize our findings about Shinto spirituality and outline options for Shinto’s further development in light of such problematic phenomena as the Yasukuni shrine controversy. The second section reflects briefly on what our analysis implies for the comparative study of religion, especially what we have learned from our focus on the existential/essentialist dynamic in Shinto spirituality. The third and final section of the chapter explores what our study of Shinto suggests...

  13. Appendix: Pronouncing Japanese Names and Terms
    (pp. 171-172)
  14. Further Reading
    (pp. 173-174)
  15. Index
    (pp. 175-184)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 185-188)