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

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe general concept of Shinbutsu Shugo is similar to the more specific concept of Ryobu Shinto-Honji Suijaku.
Shinbutsu Shugo. postulates that Buddhist divinities manifest in various forms so that a devotee can better understand them. For example, some in the West say that Avalokitesvara/Kanzeon, the Bodhisattva of Healing Compassion, manifests as Tara, mother of all Buddhas; who then manifests, to some, as Mary/Maria, mother of g-d. Or Jesus is seen as a manifestation of Samantabhadra/ Fugen, the Bodhisattva of Virtue, who is associated with redemption through Confession & Repentance {Sange/Zange}. Those are examples of Shinbutsu Shugo.
The important thing to realize is that this is a form of upaya known as Zuiho Bini. Buddhism does not so much refute other religions as clarify their true meaning. The local divinities are borrowed to teach Buddhism, and eventually subsumed into the Pantheon.
However, due to ethnocentrism, it is possible for a role reversal of sorts to occur. Buddhism can potentially be assimilated by a hybrid religion; one that is created by grafting elements of Buddhist teachings into the host religion. And, eventually, Buddhism can be totally subsumed or absorbed by that host; whether it is Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, Religious Taoism, Bon, or Shinto. And any Buddhism that re-emerges can potentially be infected by the host.
I have imagined that Xianity could adopt Jesus and Mary 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.
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Adibuddha: {Skt., Self-originated Buddha} The self-originated, aboriginal or “Primordeal Buddha” on the dharmakaya level of being. In the oldest … [Tibetan] Texts, … Samantabhadra … is regarded as the dharmakaya-level Adi-buddha. In other schools [such as Japanese Shingon], … Vairocana is seen as such. Source
Avalokitesvara/Kanzeon: The Bodhisattva of compasssion, aka Kannon, Kuan Shih Yin, Kuan Yin, Guan The Am, Guan’am, Chenrezig. One of the Four Main or Great Bodhisattvas.
Honjishin: True or original identity
Padma Sambhava:Guru Rinpoche, Padma Sambhava, was an Indian tantric sage who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet in the 8th Century AD. Invited from India by Tibetan King Trisong Deutsen, Padma Sambhava (“The Lotus Born” Guru) converted the entire country.
Ryobu Shinto-Honji Suijaku: The specific doctrine that Buddhist Divinities assume the form of the Shinto gods/jin known as kami. Specific Shinto gods were exactly equated with specific Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Heavenly beings, etc.
Samantabhadra/Fugen: The Bodhisattva of Virtue, aka Puxian. One of the two leaders of the provisional Bodhisattvas.
Shinbutsu Shugo: The general concept that Buddhist divinities assume various forms, including the transient identity of the gods and saints or sages, etc. of other religions.
Suijakushin: Transient or provisional identity.
Tara: A female manifestation or consort of Avalokitesvara/Chenrezig. Female Bodhisattva of Active Comapassionate Wisdom.
Trikaya Jp: sanjin The 3 “bodies” of Buddha:
*Dharma-kaya (Jp: hōsshin} Dharma body, the impersonal ultimate truth, principle, or Law.
*Sambhoga-kaya {Jp: hōshin}: The Ascended or Wisdom body, Bliss Body; Reward Body, the Celestial Shaka Raigo or Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha.
*Nirmana-kaya {Jp: ōjin}: Manifested Body. The Historical Shakyamuni Buddha.