Book: Exploring Shinto
Chapter: 4. Tendai Buddhist Views of Kami
This study examines the medieval Tendai Buddhist views on kami, worked out by scholar monks seeking to accommodate the indigenous religious culture of Japan, to incorporate its divinities into Buddhist pantheon, and thereby to reinforce the authority and dominance of their own Tendai tradition. Particular attention is given to Tendai’s elaborate discussions in the voluminous Hiei-Tendai compilation work, Keiran shūyōshū (ca. 1318-48), specifically about the ability of kami to benefit all sentient beings by guiding them to enlightenment. The rationale for the discussions of the role and ability of the kami is explored in relation to the honji suijaku structure and the mechanism of the Tendai concept of original enlightenment. These discussions in Keiran help us to envision what Tendai thinkers discovered and/or invented as ethical ideals in kami worship, which ultimately served medieval Tendai’s own esoteric soteriological view.