Buddhist temples

Doctrines Buddhist temples, though frequently built on the site of existing shrines in Japan, have a different ostensible purpose from a Shinto shrine. Temples are generally dedicated to transcendent and universal named Buddhas or bodhisattvas who are not restricted to the area of the temple itself. Buddhist divine beings are represented iconically and worship is conducted according to the rites of a particular denomination or sect of Buddhism, whose teachings are preserved in extensive scriptures. The purpose of Buddhist ritual, meditation etc. is to produce merit, to purify the senses and to advance oneself or another (e.g. an ancestor or spirit) on the path towards liberation or enlightenment. Doctrines associated with a particular Buddhist temple in Japan usually derive from Buddhist teachings from India or China, as well as having features peculiar to the local situation. In practice however, a Buddhist temple may be regarded by devotees very much in the same ay as a Shinto shrine, as a seat of sacred power or energy whose resident deity is able to bestow benefits on the supplicant or worshipper who visits the temple. The main function of a Buddhist temple in Japan is to conduct memorial rites for the dead. Such rites are performed over a period of many years in order to secure the passing of the ancestral spirit from this world to the realm of Buddha.

History The syncretic approach of the Japanese to Buddhist and Shinto divinities was reflected throughout Japanese history in a close institutional association, to the point of merger, of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. They hosted common festivals and rituals, displayed common iconography and were often administered by Buddhist monks who served also as Shinto priests until the 'separation' of Buddhas and kami (shinbutsu bunri) in 1868. Since then people have continued to visit both shrines and temples but on separate occasions; Buddhist temples typically to carry out funeral and memorial rites, and Shinto shrines rituals of purification and renewal.

Symbols Depending on its size and function, a Buddhist temple may contain a worship hall with altar and statue of the Buddha/bodhisattva, a meditation hall, a pagoda, and various other smaller shrines and buildings including shrines to 'Shinto' kami. The Buddhist tradition, particularly in its esoteric forms (Tendai and Shingon in Japan) is rich in representational and symbolic art and sculpture. The symbol used on maps for a Buddhist temple is the swastika.

Adherents About 80% of Japanese identify themselves as Buddhist (as well as following Shinto customs).

Main Centre
 Buddhism is divided among several major and numerous minor denominations in Japan, each with its head temple. Significant headquarters temples include the Shingon headquarters on Mt Koya, the Jodo Shinshu head temples in the centre of Kyoto and Enryakuji, the headquarters of the Tendai sect situated on Mt. Hiei, outside Kyoto.