“In East Asian Buddhist Tantra, another meditative practice may be featured: the visualization and verbalization of Sanskrit “seed syllables” (bija) written in a special script called 'Siddham.' One instance of this is the Japanese Shingon school’s meditation of the letter 'A' (a-ji), which, as the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, was thought to be particularly potent, symbolically, of one’s original undifferentiated mind and state of enlightenment… The following visualization, from a work by Kūkai, the founder of the Japanese Shingon sect of Buddhism, shows how meditating on variations on the letter A can result in traversing the entire path to enlightenment.” (Strong, J. 2008. The Experience of Buddhism, 3rd edn. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 330).
The "Sun goddess", born of Izanami and Izanagi, is one of the main kami within Shinto. She is enshrined at Ise Grand Shrine and is believed to be the origin of the imperial line of Japan. (Earhart, H. 2004. Japanese Religion: Unity and Diversity. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 35)
Bosatsu 菩薩 (bodhisattva)
Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings in Buddhism who have vowed not to become full Buddhas until they can help all others to attain the Buddha state. (Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 247)
The "imperial enthronement ceremony", or enigmatic series of rituals in which an emperor-to-be becomes an emperor. (Breen, J. and M. Teeuwen. 2010. A New History of Shinto. Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 23. See also Chapter 5 in the same book for details)
Families that are registered with individual Buddhist temples; usually for funeral and memorial rites. Buddhist temples base membership numbers off of these. (Kisala, R. 2006. "Japanese Religions." In Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions, P. Swanson and C. Chilson, eds. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 11.)
" 'Dharma-body.' In Mainstream schools, Dharma-kaya denotes the entirety of the Buddha's teachings; in Mahayana teachings, Dharma-kaya denotes the cosmic principle of bodhi embodied by the Buddha and to the principle of Buddhahood, which in some schools of Mahayana thought is innate in all beings" (Robinson, R., W. Johnson, and T. Bhikkhu. 2005. Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction, 5th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 324).
A "somewhat eccentric" pilgrimage movement that included sporadic group dancing and chanting. The picture to the left depicts pilgrims to Ise Shrine, an example of the massive pilgrimages that took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. (Astley, T. 2006. "New Religions." In Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions, Swanson, P. and C. Clark, eds. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 99)
Small wooden votive tablets, a few centimeters across, are flat and colorful. The tablets are usually hand-painted with traditional Japanese folk art and have the name of the shrine or temple written on them. Visitors to the shrine and temple can purchase these religious objects and make write requests and wishes to the kamiand buddhas. (Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 179)
varying in size, these are amulets or talismans, obtained from a shrine or temple to be placed in a kamidana or butsudan. These religious objects are made of flat pieces of wood that have a point at the top and taper off toward the end, usually baring the inscription of the shrine/temple and buddha or kami. Similar to omamori, these amulets are considered to be manifestations of the kami or buddha. (Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 177)
Small, stone plaques with carved depictions of Jesus Christ. During much of the Tokugawa period (1603-1867), Japanese were required to step on these placques to show they were not Christians. Christianity was banned during this time.
Genze Riyaku 現世利益
Translated to mean, "this-worldly benefits," "practical benefits in this lifetime," or "practical benefits," this term refers to beneficial gains relevant to people's daily lives acquired through religious practice. This term can cover any good result from religious practices, but examples include: good health, healing, success, advancement on one's life path, personal well-being, and freedom from problems. (Reader, I & Tanabe, G. Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2)
"Vengeful, malevolent spirits" (Ueda, K. 1996. "Shinto." In Religion in Japanese Culture, Tamaru, N. and D. Reid, eds. Tokyo: Kodansha, 38)
Grave(s); often, several ancestors from one family are represented at one gravesite. The photo here depicts a row of haka at a small cemetery at Taiso-ji (a Buddhist temple in Tokyo)
Haka mairi 墓参り
Grave visits; typically includes physically cleaning the grave of weeds and dead flowers, adding fresh flowers or other offerings, and purifying the grave stone with water; common at the anniversary of a recently departed ancestor's death, during obon, and at higan (see below) (Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 98-99)
From about January 1st to the 5th, people from all over the country visit Shinto shrines to make wishes or prayers for the New Year (see Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 62, 71-72)
"the other shore"; "the period around the spring and autumnal equinoxes" (Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 98-99)
Hotoke can mean ancestors, "departed souls" more generally or one or more buddhas. (Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 41)
A memorial tablet inscribed with the deceased posthumous name and placed within the butsudan. This represents the ancestor and when the living make prayers and offering, they direct their attention to these tablets. (Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 91)
The bodhisattva (see bosatsu above) who protects travelers, children, and the dead. Statues of Jizo are often see wearing hats and red bibs, as well as other clothing. The Buddhist legends tell of Jizo journeying to hell to help the souls of dead children who have met an untimely fate. (Reader, I. 1991. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 37)