I am just separating the last part of the post, Mini Kyoto is here, too. Komyo-zenji Temple @Dazaifu. This post was too lengthy. The last part about shrines vs. temples is enough for another post. So, voila.
So, when I visited Dazaifu shrine with my father, we visited Komyo-zenji temple as well in the same trip. The temple is only about 100 meters away from the entrance to Dazaifu shrine. It’s so close to the shrine that it seems as if they were under the same ownership and management. Are they? Brochures and books say Kyomyo-zenji temple is associated with Dazaifu shrine. OK. I see…What does it mean by “associated”? How can a Buddhist temple be associated with a Shinto shrine? Aren’t Shinto and Buddhism two different religions?
What’s pathetic is that I dont’ know even though I was born and raised (by Japanese parents) in Japan.
This is the main shrine. People throw money (mostly coins) into the box which is behind the red wooden fence, clap their hands, and pray.
Inside the main shrine. Very open to public. Shrines do not have any statues to pray to.
Torii – the small thing in the center of the photo above – this is another characteristic of a shrine – torii are gates commonly found at the entrance of Shinto shrines in Japan.
The road in the photo above will take you to the entrance of Dazaifu shrine. When you go under the torii, you are entering the sacred world. Torii (literally means bird perch) is supposed to separate the sacred world from the secular world. Therefore, in the photo above, beyond the torii is sacred. This side of torii is secular.
Temples do not have torii.
Komyo-zenji Temple, which we visited right after the visit to Dazaifu shrine
Another temple near Dazaifu shrine – Kanzeonji
Temples generally have at least one Buddha statue inside. People go inside, kneel down and pray to the Buddha statue.
So, my father and I prayed to God at Dazaifu shrine and then right after that, we prayed at Komyo-zenji temple.
This is a super famous gigantic one in Nara (ancient capital of Japan). The statues in most temples are not spectacular like this one.
So, an easy way to distinguish Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples is – Shinto shrines have torii but no statues; Buddhist temples have no torii but have Buddha statues.
It’s not only Dazaifu that a shrine and a temple are built very close to each other. You can see it in many places all over Japan.
It is strange, but most people, including me and my father, are so used to the idea that nobody even thinks about it. It seems so natural and we take it for granted. When we go visit a shrine and spot a temple nearby, we think, “Oh yes, there is a temple over there. Let’s visit the temple, too. If we pray both at the shrine and at the temple, we may be blessed with doubled fortune…”
Shinto is Japan’s indigenous faith. Buddhism, originated in India, was introduced to Japan in the 6th century via China and Korea. Buddhism did not replace Shinto. Both Shinto and Buddhism were accepted for centuries. It seems strange that two religions are accepted. But then, is Shinto a religion? Shinto does not have anything equivalent to Bible (Buddhism does). I don’t even know if we can call Shinto a religion. OK, this is getting a too heavy and too scholarly topic. At least I am glad I read somewhere that Japan was not the only place where Buddhism and the indigenous faith were both accepted – Japan is not as strange as some people criticize (^o^).
I think at least we can say that Shinto is very deep ingrained in the Japanese daily life. It is said Shinto is similar to Greek mythology. I agree. Shinto believes there are many gods in sacred nature, just like Greek mythology with all kinds of gods like Appollo.
Buddhism is also deep into Japanese life. There was nothing like Sunday schools churches offer, as far as I know, when we grew up. Nobody really taught us what Buddhism teaching is. We were not taken to temples except for certain holidays and for funerals. But - its teaching is everywhere, in what my parents taught me and said to me, in what school teachers taught me, in what I read, in what I heard, in what I saw, etc.
For example, when I was a kid, I was always told not to waste food – my mother used to say to me, “Eat up every grain of rice in your bowl, because there is Buddha in every grain of rice. If you waste any one of them, you will be disrespecting Buddha (and the farmers who grew the rice and the Mother Nature)”. I know other kids were being told the same thing by their parents.
If you Google search this topic, a lot of Q&As and sometimes heated discussion will come up (mostly in Japanese by Japanese people). Many people are realizing in their daily life and wondering just like me, “why are we like this? Why are we doing it?”