honji suijaku  本地垂迹
KEY WORD : art history / general terms
Shinto/Buddhist syncretism. In its early phase this is called shinbutsu shuugou 神仏習合. The term honji suijaku refers to Shinto/Buddhist syncretism, and also philosophical basis for the syncretism according to which the *kami 神 were understood to be Buddhist deities *honjibutsu 本地仏 who, in order to save sentient beings, made themselves manifest *suijaku 垂迹 in Japan. There are two approaches to honjj suijaku thought. One makes a sharp distinction between shinbutsu shuugou as a simple assimilation of Buddhist practices into native religious beliefs and honji suijaku as a much more philosophical attempt to justify the syncretism. This school of thought places the beginning of honji suijaku thinking in the early 10c and its full development in the 12c when lists of corresponding kami and honjibutsu appear and when the idea of the power of the kami to offer Buddhist salvation becomes widespread.
According this biew, the kami personally declared their interest in Buddhist teachings, as a result of which temples and monks were assigned to shrines to pray and read sutras for the enlightenment of the kami. Kami protected Buddhism, and when they had received or announced their bodhisattva names they were called by the quasi-Buddhist titles gongen 権現 and myoujin 明神.
Early sculptures of Buddhist deities known to have been worshipped in the form of kami illustrate the belief that the kami succeeded in becoming enlightened and thus in becoming buddhas and bodhisattvas. Kami dressed an monks (see *sougyou hachiman 僧形八幡) show their having taken up Buddhist practice.
The other approach to honji suijaku thought does not distinguish it sharply from shinbutsu shuugou. In this view the process of seeing the kami as manifestations of the Buddhist deities is implicit in recognizing incarnations and manifestations. For example, Shoutoku Taishi 聖徳太子 (see *Shoutouku Taishizou 聖徳太子像) could be considered an incarnation of *Kannon 観音 can be considered a manifestation of *Amida 阿弥陀. Early sculptures of Buddhist deities known to have been worshipped as the forms of kami are honjibutsu.

*Shintou bijutsu 神道美術 

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