Encyclopedia of Shinto
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|1. General Introduction
Introduction: Schools, Groups, and Personalities
This chapter covers Shinto-related "branches," "schools," and sects, as well as important personalities related to Shinto. While Shinto is a naturally occurring ethnic religion, it came to be related to national institutions, and also developed deep connections to folk religion; from the Kamakura period (ca. 1192-1333), it saw the gradual formation of Shinto schools and branches. It should be noted that concepts of Shinto "schools," "branches," and "doctrinal lineages" are not strictly defined; in general, the terms are used to refer to traditions of thought promoted and transmitted by exponents of Shinto, "Shrine lineages" (shake), nativist scholars (see Kokugaku), and on occasion Buddhist priests as well. In addition, the modern period saw the appearance of Shinto in organized groups, as is intimated by the terms "sectarian Shinto" (kyōha Shintō) and "Shinto-related new religions." Such Shinto-related groups are ordinarily characterized by having a clear-cut founder or originator.
It is believed that the appearance of Shinto factions and schools was strongly stimulated by Buddhism. Buddhists proposed a wide variety of theories to explain the relationship between their own doctrines and the indigenous kami cults, and that fact was crucial in stimulating the formulation of doctrines in Shinto. Ise Shintō is normally listed as the earliest Shinto school, but its appearance was predicated on the earlier Buddhist theory of Ryōbu Shintō. The formation of schools and factions was a prominent phenomenon from the medieval to the modern periods, and viewed overall, it is noteworthy that the groups tend to become more and more independent from Buddhism. A characteristic of the early modern period is that groups received strong influence from Confucianism. Further, the degree to which these groups spread, some were recognized by only a small group of people, such as Ōgimachi Shintō and Jūhachi Shinto, while on the other hand, late early modern movements like Restoration Shinto (Fukko Shintō) achieved broad acceptance and expanded from mere intellectual movements to practice-oriented movements. In general, various Shinto factions and schools tended to spread more during the modern period than during the medieval, and while this is in part a reflection of the contents of the respective teachings and theories, it is also largely a result to changes in the mechanisms whereby information about religion spread throughout society as a whole.
There are many aspects of the appearance of sectarian Shinto that should also be understood in relationship to larger social changes. The early modern nativist movement and Yoshida Shintō can be thought of as transitional forms on the way to sectarian Shinto, but the appearance of the modern nation state and modern society promoted the diversification of Shinto. A noteworthy feature of this period is the appearance of Shinto groups undertaking organized proselytization. Most of these were begun by founders or other organizing individuals called kyōso [lit., teaching-ancestor] or other similar titles, and some of them achieved high degrees of social influence in a short period of time. The period from the late-Edo to the Meiji Restoration (1868) was noteworthy for the formation of sectarian Shinto groups, and in concert with the religious policies of the Meiji government, a systematic institutional structure came into being called the "thirteen sects of Shinto" (Shintō jūsanpa). From the early twentieth century, a large number of Shinto-related new religions came into existence, and the "shrine Shinto" (Jinja Shintō) of the postwar period is also sometimes considered a form of denominational Shinto.
This section also includes articles about 186 individual persons related to Shinto. Most are founders or successors to Shinto schools and factions; founders and successors to Shinto-related sects; and notable Shinto priests (shinshoku) and Shinto scholars. Others include Buddhists, Confucianists and Yin-Yang practitioners who exerted notable influence on Shinto theory; emperors, members of the imperial family, and nobles with particularly deep relations to Shinto; and persons related to Shinto government policies. Brief biographies of these individuals are given here, but no attempt is made to include a thorough accounting of all the important events in their lives; rather, the descriptions focus on only those incidents considered to be particularly related to Shinto. Many of the individuals related to Shinto factions and schools were prolific authors, but since many of these works are treated individually in the separate Chapter 9, only the broadest outlines are given here, and as a general rule descriptions are limited to those collections that have been published. Also, in the case of founders and leaders of Shinto-related new religions, since information is given in the articles dealing with the groups themselves, many descriptions have been abbreviated here. We have also attempted to provide as many illustrations and photographs of the personalities as possible.
- Inoue Nobutaka