- Shinbutsu bunri
- Also Shinbutsu Hanzen. Dissociation or 'separation' of kami and Buddhas which received government sanction with an order from the newly revived Dajokan (see Jingikan) of March 28, 1868. All shrines were instructed to submit a history of their shrine and its traditional Buddhist identity and to get rid of any Buddhist statues used as shintai and any Buddhist items such as images, gongs or bells. In April 1868 the instruction was repeated and the following month all Buddhist priests connected with shrines were instructed to return to lay life and then be ordained as Shinto priests. Many already had Shinto ordination as part of their Buddhist training. The following year the ex-priests were instructed to let their hair grow long to prove that they had renounced the Buddhist priesthood. At the same time, the nobility were prohibited from joining the Shinto priesthood and efforts were made to wrest the control of shrines from hereditary priestly families. In 1872 instructions were issued to Buddhist temples prohibiting the Buddhist teaching that the Buddhas were the hontai (basic essence) and the kami the hotoke or avatars. The idea of dissociating 'Shinto' and 'Buddhism' was not new to the Meiji period; similar events had happened before where Neo-Confucian and anti-Buddhist sentiments were directed against powerful shrine-temple complexes (jisha, jinguji) or the excessive influence of Buddhist priests in provincial affairs. Two centuries earlier in 1666 the feudal government of the Mito han, motivated largely by Confucian and kokugaku anti-Buddhist sentiments investigated and then closed half the 2,377 Buddhist temples in the domain, ordered all Buddhist objects to be removed from shrines and inaugurated a building programme to provide one shrine for each village. The Meiji government directive to remove from 'Shinto' shrines any 'Buddhist' elements such as bells, inscriptions or statues of bosatsu used as shintai mobilised some popular anti-Buddhist support, including mob violence and the wanton destruction of many Buddhist temples, particularly those in the close vicinity of shrines, as well as hosts of Buddhist scriptures, art and temple treasures, under the slogan haibutsu kishaku'; 'destroy Buddha, kill Shakyamuni'. The integrated tradition of Shugendo mountain-religion was almost completely destroyed by the process of shinbutsu bunri, which paved the way for the establishment of a non-Buddhist, state-supported Shinto, and set much of Buddhism itself onto a nationalist path in the quest for survival in rapidly modernising Japan. From this time until 1945 it was forbidden for kami to be referred to by their Buddhist names or for Buddhist scriptures to be used in shrines, although in certain cases (e.g. Hachiman, Gion) the claim that the kami were not Buddhist divinities was hardly credible. In the post-1945 period a certain amount of re-integration of kami and Buddhas has taken place, as much through the combinatory approaches of some (though not all) new religions as in mainstream Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The Shugendo tradition underwent a revival after 1945 at some of its ritual centres. Perhaps the most striking indication of the inseparability of Buddhas and kami is the continuing near-universal Japanese habit of participating in life-cycle rituals at Shinto shrines while at the same time reverencing ancestors and engaging in funeral customs according to Buddhist rites. In other words, the 'separated' traditions have remained integrated at the level of lived experience.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.