- = Bodhisattva (Sanskrit). The Buddhist bosatsu is an embodiment, visible or invisible, of the highest ideal of Mahayana Buddhism and is for all practical purposes indistinguishable in character from the various Mahayana ('great vehicle') Buddhas (butsu, nyorai). She or he—the most popular in Japan is the female bosatsu Kannon (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara)—is possessed of the highest wisdom, compassion and other perfections of selflessness and therefore appears in this world not as a result of craving or desire like other beings but only to engage in 'skilful means' to bring living beings to enlightenment. To perform their liberating work bosatsu appear in various convenient forms including those of local kami. Before the Meiji period shrines or shrine-temple complexes (jisha, jinguji) routinely worshipped kami as bosatsu or Buddhas. Named bosatsu and kami were correlated more or less systematically with each other according to the history, legends and affiliations of the shrine-temple in question. Until 1868 for example Hachiman was Hachiman dai-(great) bosatsu, Susa-no-o was Gozu Tenno. Statues and paintings (shinzo, kaiga) of Buddhas and bosatsu were employed from the Nara period onwards as shintai of the kami but with a few chance exceptions were burnt or disposed of as part of shinbutsu bunri.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.