The Subtle Role of Shinto in Uniquely Japanese Buddhism
Origins of Nichiren as True Buddha


I have imagined that Buddhism could adopt Jesus and Mary of Xianity as emanations of Fugen and Kan’non. The danger is that some might come to view a Buddhist Sage such as Padma Sambhava or even Nichiren as the second coming of Jesus. Or decide that Jesus is the True {Honjishin} Buddha and Shakyamuni the Suijakushin or Provisional Buddha. The rationale could even be found in some forms of Tibetan Vajra that regard Samantabhadra as the Dharma Kaya or Adi Buddha.


This is a topic I have made allusions to several times. I think it is impossible to understand Japanese Buddhism, including Nichiren’s form, without a basic grasp of this. The role of Shinto, in Japanese Buddhism, might be akin to that of Bon, in the Tibetan rraditions. It is my view that, by the Kamakura Era, ‘Establishment’ Buddhism, in Japan, was essentially “Ryobu Shintoism”.
Ryobu Shinto means ‘Dual Shinto’ and is a fusion of Shinto and Shingon or Mikkyo. Ryobu Shinto identifies specific Buddhist or Vedic divinities with specific Shinto Kami. What one winds up with is a hybrid or syncretic deity that has attributes of both the Local Kami and the Original Buddhist Divinity. This is known as Ryobu Shinto-Honji Suijaku. An example is that Sarasvati of Buddhism was fused with Ugajin of Shinto as Uga Benten.
Someone at alt. religion. buddhism.nichiren explained:
…the Buddhist term “suijakushin” means “provisional form.” It refers to a Buddha or Bodhisattva taking the temporary form of a saint or god, for the purpose of saving mankind. The term “honjishin” means “true form/identity.” … “suijakushin” means “transient or provisional identity.” The phrase “honji suijaku” refers specifically to the true form or identity of a Buddha or Bodhisattva who has taken a provisional form (such as that of a Shinto god) for the purpose of saving mankind.
In recent years, NIchiren Shoshu has taught that Nichiren is the “honjishin” or True Buddha; while Shakyamuni is merely the “suijakushin” or a provsional Buddha. This is likely based, in part, on the concept of Honji Suijaku.