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Shintō and Esoteric Buddhism

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Chapter Summary

A central aspect of Buddhism and a key factor in its successful diffusion is its facility to interact with preexisting religious traditions. In general, Buddhism attempts to create a specific cultural space for itself by interacting with native cults in several ways. This resulted not only in the development of forms of religious but also and especially of specific and original intellectual systems and ritual procedures that would characterize Buddhism and differentiate it from other traditions. Compared with other forms of Buddhism, tantric Buddhism tended to give local deities a more active and important role, elevating several of them to the highest ranks in its pantheon. The tantric discourses about the kami are generally known as Ryōbu Shintō or Shingon Shintō. The systematic and sustained attempts to integrate "local deities" into the Buddhist system produced an independent, and gradually non-Buddhist, discourse on local cults that became increasingly nativistic in character.

Keywords: kami; local deities; Ryōbu Shintō; Shingon Shintō; tantric Buddhism



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