Shinto-Buddhism Syncretism - A historical peculiarity or a renewed spiritual paradigm?
Abstract: The long process of syncretization between Shinto and Buddhism has defined much of Japan's philosophical and theological history. This process was only interrupted with the Meiji Restoration, following which the Meiji government enforced an ideology of the two religions being completely separate as part of its State Shinto system. Countless temples and Buddhist treasures were lost in the process, and the Japanese people were told for the first time in their history up-down how to conduct their religious practices. Though the State Shinto system has since been abolished, the Meiji ideology has seemingly remained influential, Shinto and Buddhism commonly viewed as two separate religions and syncretism as a thing of the past. However there are actors seeking a revival of syncretism, the best example being the 2008-formed Shinto and Buddhism Holy Places Organization. That syncretism and the separation are not unproblematic matters is clear, and yet very little research is being conducted concerning them. This thesis aims to contribute to filling the research gap by analysing the Japanese mainstream newspaper discourse surrounding Shinto-Buddhism syncretism. This is done through a critical discourse analysis of Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper articles reporting anything syncretism-related between the period 2008 and 2012. It is found that while syncretism is not exclusively understood as a past phenomenon, it is not often found in a contemporary context either. Portrayals of syncretism as exceptional and as most important to the study of history abound, and it is concluded that the Meiji government's ideology of separation remain successful and influential to this day.
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