- Avatar, incarnation, manifestation. Commonly dai-gongen 'great gongen'. An incarnation or temporary manifestation of a 'Buddha' or bosatsu. Formal designations of kami as gongen seem to have occurred mainly towards the end of the Heian period, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Gongen were a focus of worship and devotion associated particularly with pre-Meiji yamabushi (mountain ascetics) but the yamabushi system was virtually destroyed and gongen given 'Shinto' names as part of the shinbutsu bunri campaign. Examples of kami as gongen include Kompira dai-gongen and Akiba-gongen. Hachiman was regarded as a gongen of Amida Buddha and Tokugawa, Ieyasu as Tosho-dai-gongen (at Nikko). Other notable shrines designated as gongen were Atsuta, Yoshino and Kumano.See also Gongen-zukuri.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.