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Konko Missions in Hawaii




Q:  Is Konkokyo Shintoism or Buddhism?


A:  Categorizing whether Konkokyo is Shintoism or Buddhism can be an initial response of the people who encounter the less familiar of the religious traditions from Japan.  Many in Hawaii are familiar with Buddhism and Shintoism. 

“Shintoism is a loosely organized native religion of the Japanese people, embraces a wide variety of beliefs and practices.  In deed this variety is so wide that it is as difficult to define Shinto as Hinduism,” a definition found in Religions of the World authored by Lewis M. Hopfe.  It is recognized that any religion born in the land of Japan can be identified as Shintoism.  But the main thought is that Shintoism is for the Japanese people.

While Buddhism originated from India, migrated to China and settled down in Japan.  Buddhism is not the native religion of Japan and thus, not only for the Japanese.  This aspect of Buddhism is a great difference between Shintoism and Buddhism. 

If we apply this simplistic definition of Shintoism and Buddhism, Konkokyo holds characteristics of both Shintoism and Buddhism because the Konko religion is a native religion of Japan, but not limited only to the Japanese people.  The Konko religion is not a Japanese religion, but a universal religion that can be practiced by all people in the world regardless of ethnicity, race, language, gender and so forth. 

When Buddhist people come into the worship hall of our church, they instantly recognize the church is not affiliated with Buddhism.  There are no Buddha’s and any other Buddhist oriented statues or ornamentation and the burning smell of incense. 

When Shinto believers come into the worship hall, they may instantly recognize the church as being Shinto oriented because of the altar features, such as the “Hassoku” or offertory tables, “sanbo” or offertory trays and the altar curtains that feature distinctive Shinto oriented design of butterflies and swallows.  The absence of images or statues can also be distinctive Shinto presentation. 

The Founder Konko Daijin used to recite both the “Rokkon Shojo” that is a Shinto-oriented purification prayer as well as “Hannyashingyo.”  He recitated these Buddhism-oriented prayers as he emerged to become the Founder of the Konko religion.  He also recited “Ooharai no Kotoba” or Grand Purification Prayer.  But later on he ceased to recite all of these prayers and dedicated in the sacred work of Toritsugi-Mediation through which he communicated Kami’s messages to the people who came to seek help.

We still vividly remember that we have adhered to the Shinto-oriented prayers of “Ooharai no Kotoba” or Grand Purification Prayer and “Amatsu Norito” just a decade ago.  We memorized the entire prayer and devoted in the recitation of the prayers believing that messages in the prayers are in compliance with the Konkokyo teachings.  Upon the introduction of the current original Konkokyo prayers that reflect true Konkokyo religious philosophies and theological features, we stopped reciting the Shinto-oriented prayers.  Now, 10 years later, when we try to recite the Shinto prayers, we find it so awkward in following the messages in these prayers.  We find we can no longer live in that spiritual world depicted in the Shinto-oriented prayers like the “Ooharai no Kotoba” and “Amatsu Norito.”  But we have to admit that we have practiced reciting these prayers belonging to Buddhism and Shintoism conveniently for over a century and enjoyed the manifestation of Kami’s blessings.     

Konkokyo gained governmental approval as an official religion through the adoption of the Shintoism.  But the teachings and religious philosophies may go well beyond Shintoism.  In my understanding, Buddhism and Shintoism can be under the domain of Konkokyo if we try to apply the messages of the Founder.  But they may get frustrated about such an interpretation.  In other words, Konkokyo is an independent and universal religion.  We have not yet grown to become such a universal religion in the international community.  But we believe the Konko religion can emerge as one of the global religious entities sometime in the future.      

The Founder related, “You needn’t make any distinctions between Shinto and Buddhism. By pointing out Buddhist and Shinto altar fixtures, people are making distinctions.  Kami-Sama says that kamis as well as buddhas all belong to the Universe” (I Ichimura Mitsugoro 3-7).  He also stated, “Shintoism and Buddhism are both within Tenchi.  Don’t be so narrow by discriminating against other religions or by following one religion obsessively.  Open your heart, have a broad mind, and be a person of the world” (II Ichimura Mitsugoro 17-2).  He even stated as follows:  “There are followers who come and only speak ill in front of me.  They slander the Kurozumi and Buddhist religions.  Imagine having children of which one became a Christian reverend, another a Shinto priest, another a Buddhist monk, another a government official, another a craftsman, and another a merchant.  If someone slandered one of your children, would you, as a parent, feel happy?  When you come before me, do not speak ill of others.  When slandering others, you do not reflect Kami’s heart.  Buddha, Christ, and Kurozumi are all children of Kami” (II Sato Norio 4-3, 4, 5).  (Quoted from Konko Mission Bulletin issued in December 2005)


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