Significant historical development in religious thought

  • Created by: mckenj99
  • Created on: 08-01-18 19:45

Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism arrived in Japan around 538 or 552. The local religion at the time was Shinto and its main beliefs were in the belief of and worship of Kami. 

Kami was represented by symbols such as a mirror, sword or jewel. Homes had Kami shelfs where offerings were made to shrines and people clapped their hands to gain Kami's attention. 

Prince Shatoko became a Buddhist which greatly increased the popularity of Buddhism in Japan. By the 12th and 13th Century there was a great social change and new sects were discovered. 

Simple schools were favoured over scholastic schools. 

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Nirchiren Buddhism

Nichiren was a Japanese Buddhist reformer who believed that the Lotus Sutra contained the true essence of Buddhism and that all other forms of Buddhism were misguided. 

He believed that the only workable practice was chanting the name of the Lotus Sutra. He also claimed that only his teachings were true and that all other teachings from Japanese schools were false. By the 13th C. Nichiren thought that Japan and Buddhism were both going "going to the dogs" so he set out on a mission to save both. 

Nichiren replaced the Pure Land and Shingon Rituals and instead of changing Amida, he followers were to chant the name of the Lotus Sutra. His aim was to introduce a simple mode of practice to make enlightenment available for everyone. - "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" 

Modern day Nichiren schools are Rissho-Kosei-Kai, Nippozan Myohonji and Soka Gakkai. Soka Gakkai is an example of socially engaged Buddhism as they have strong links and influences in politics with the Clean Government Party. 

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Pure Land Buddhism

A form of devotional Mahayana Buddhism, in the manner of that held up by Nagarjuna. The Pure Land is a paradise said to have been 'ripened and abandoned' by the Buddha Amida, and all who call his name are reborn and attain instant enlightenment. The Pure Land is not mentioned within the Pali Canon and is only found within the Mahayana tradition. 

The main practice of Pure Land is nembutsu, this is where you recite "Nam Amida Butsu" (I take refuge in Amida Buddha). This is done spontaneously be Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, in desperation of attaining enlightenment through their own effords and relying on the grace of Amida to secure them rebirth in the Pure Land.

There are two main schools in Pure Land; 

Honen - Taught that if nembustsu was practiced well enough the grace of Amida is assured and the nebustu alone can be the sole means of salvation. He thought that the repetition of nembustu was important and that repetition was good for disciplinary reasons. 

Shinren - Thought that saying nembutsu once was enough to gain entry to the pure land. 

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Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism is perhaps the most well-known school of Buddhism is the west. Its concepts have been influential on western society since the latter half of the 20th C. 

Zen teaches that all human beings have the potential to attain enlightenment but this potential has been clouded by ignorance. To overcome this ignorance Zen rejects the study of scriptures and other religious practices in favour of meditation. Training in the Zen path is usually undertaken by a disciple under the guidance of a master. Zen has been an important force in Japan and it has had a considerable influence of Japanese Culture, for example, calligraphy, the tea ceremony and Zen gardens all stem from Zen Buddhism. 

There are several schools of Zen that were originally developed in China. The Rinzai sect of Zen was introduced to Japan by a Chinese priest in 1191, Rinzai Buddhism emphasises the use of Koans, paradoxical puzzles or questions that help the practitioner to overcome the normal boundaries of logic. Koans are often accompanied by shouts or slaps by the master, intended to provoke anxiet leading to an instant realisation of the truth. 

Soto Zen emphasises zazen or sitting mediation as the means to attain enlightenent. The Soto practitioner is encouraged to clear the mind of all thoughts and concepts without making an effort towards enlightenment, until enlightenment occurs. 

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Science and Buddhism

Buddhism is different from most other religions as it encourages its followers to consider how they view the world and sets them on a path towards happiness and away from suffering. The religion is not about telling people what to do, its not an organised religion in origin but about psychological understanding of the world and reality. 

One parallel that can be made between Buddhism and science is that Buddhism in essence, is like a scientist moving towards a conclusion. This can be seen in the Kalama Sutta where the Buddha tells the villagers to be doubtful and question all teachings. 

Buddhism can also be seen to be like the scientific method, the scientific method is where you make an observation, create a hypothesis and make predictions based on your hypothesis. You then conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis. 

Both Buddhism and science draw a sharp distinction between the way things appear and the way they really area. They both share certain conceptions about the nature of reality but science is essentially a project designed to provide us with an objective factual answer. 

Mind and Life Institute - Brings scientists and Buddhists together. Created a nwe type of scientific study called "Contemplative Neuroscience". The Dalai Lama has also been a big supporter. 

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Is science a challenge to Buddhism?


  • The idea of reincarnation states that the soul is eternal and unchanging and can be reborn into human or animal existence. 
  • The life story of the Buddhas has mythical elements, e.g. white elephant. 
  • The Buddha was confronted by a demon, Mara. 


  • The Buddha encourages his followers to test his teachings in the Kalama Sutra. 
  • Science and Buddhism are working together. 
  • Mythology helps us to understand reality - not literal
  • There are similarities between them.
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