Shinto and Oral Religions - Essay Example

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(Varghese, p. 725) Basically, the term ‘Shinto’ was taken from the Chinese kanji known as: ‘shin’ which means the way of gods or spirits and ‘to’ or ‘do’ which means to study (Hines; Varghese, p. 725). In…
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Shinto and Oral Religions Introduction Shintoism started back between 2500 – 3000 years ago. (Varghese, p. 725) Basically, the term ‘Shinto’ was taken from the Chinese kanji known as: ‘shin’ which means the way of gods or spirits and ‘to’ or ‘do’ which means to study (Hines; Varghese, p. 725). In line with the practice of Shinto, ways in which Shinto can be considered as an oral religion will be tackled in details. Eventually, ways in which Shinto differs from oral traditions will be thoroughly discussed.
Ways in which Shinto can be Considered as an Oral Religion
Oral tradition in religion is a religious belief that has no philosophical literature or official scripture that could be considered as the official basis of religion. Kojiki is one of the Japanese literatures that had successfully compiled the Japanese mythology and traditional Ancient of Japan including the Shinto Rituals. (Chamberlain, p. i) On the other hand, Nihongi or Nihon Shoki is one of the oldest classical books that tackled the Japanese history (Aston, p. xv). Similar to Kojiki, Nihon Shoki has a series of compiled myths and oral tradition that occurred back in the 8th century (ibid).
Oral religion, based on the word ‘oral’, means that a religious practice of a particular religion has been passed on from one culture to another or from one generation to the next generation verbally. Aside from the Kojiki – the records of ancient matters and the Nihongi or Nihon Shoki – the chronicles of Japan which was written back in AD 712 and AD 720 respectively (Chamberlain, p. I; Sakamoto, p. 31), Shinto can be considered as an oral religion due to the fact that there are no other concrete scripture that can be used as a basis of such religion.
Ways in which Shinto Differs from Oral Traditions
Oral tradition is being transmitted from one generation to the next generation through the word-of-mouth such as songs, ballads, or the act of chanting. (Vansina, pp. 27 – 28)
Shinto is different from oral traditions because the practice of Shinto takes place in four different ways which including: (1) the Shine Shinto which means worship at a public or private shrine; (2) Folk Shinto which includes divination, shamanic healing, abstinence and other forms of purification customs; (3) Sect Shinto which includes the act of participating in one of the thirteen groups of the 19th century; and (4) the State Shinto which includes the act of participating in festivals as a way of honoring the Japanese emperors (Mosher, pp. 168 – 169).
Even though there is a strong similarity between Shinto and oral religion, it remains a fact that Shinto can never be considered as an oral tradition due to the fact that the practice of Shrine Shinto, Folk Shinto, Sect Shinto, and State Shinto is being passed on from one generation to another generation based on the actual performing of the rituals rather than totally depending on the word-of-mouth in the form of songs, ballads, or the act of chanting.
*** End ***
Aston, George. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, translated from the original Chinese and Japanese by William George Aston. Tuttle Publishing, 2005.
Chamberlain, Basil Hall. The Kojiki - Records of Ancient Matters. Translated by Basil Hall Chamberlain. Tuttle Publishing, 1981.
Hines, Richard. 6 June 1999. Ancient Japan: Shinto. 11 September 2009 .
Mosher, Lucinda. Belonging. Church Publishing Incorporated, 2005.
Sakamoto, Tarō. The six national histories of Japan. UBC Press, 1991.
Vansina, Jan. Oral Tradition as History. James Currey Publishers, 1985.
Varghese, Alexander P. India : History, Religion, Vision And Contribution To The World. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors Ltd., 2008. Read More
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