In Japan, there was a concept called Honji-Suijaku.
This concept explains that “Many Japanese traditional Gods and Goddesses are incarnations of Buddha.
* Since Meiji era, Shinto and Buddhism are separated. But many people visit both shrines and temples.
In this case, Buddhism icons are called Gongen in Japanese.
Gongen is quite Japan origin Buddhism image. Gon means temporarily. Gen means appearance.
Gongen means “temporary manifestation by a Buddha (in order to save people) manifested form of Shinto deities” (incarnation of Japanese God).
That’s ancient Japanese sapience to avoid religious conflicts between Shinto and Buddhism.
In fact, Jikkai Mandala of Nichiren Buddhism is including Japanese deities such as Amaterasu-Omikami from Japanese myth.
About Gongen, Their figures have not regular style. Some styles exist depending on regions.
Therefore, Japanese people can believe in both religions.
Representative examples are;
Akiba Gongen, Iizuna Gongen, Zaou Gongen, Konpira Gongen, Kumano Gongen, Sannoh Gongen (Hie), Atago Gongen and Hachiman Shin.
(both are the same figure)
(In many cases, Hachiman is Buddhist monk looks.)
Shinto is Japan origin religion.
Shinto have no founder, no book like a sutra or a bible and no dogma.
It’s just simple polytheism of nature worship. It says any deities dwell to any things.
On the other hand, Buddhism have founder (Gautama Siddhartha), many sutras and dogma.
Honji-Suijaku thought is one of concept which unite both religions.
This idea itself is not Japan origin. It appeared in China and India also before Japan.
These Buddhism deities who brought from other religions are called “Goho-Zenjin (Dharmapala)”.
Their main roles are to guard Buddhism teachings from evils.
Here is a representative example of correspondence table between Buddhism and Shinto .
Gongen - Buddha table
(The main Goddess of Japanese myth)
|Dainichi Nyorai, Juhichimen Kannon|
|Hachiman Shin||Amida Nyorai|
|Kumano Gongen||Amida Nyorai|
|Sannoh Gongen (Hie)||Dainichi Nyorai|
|Atago Gongen||(Shogun) Jizou Bosatsu
War god-like Jizou
|Akiba Gongen||Kannon Bosatsu|
|Iizuna Gongen||Dainichi Nyorai|
|Konpira Gongen||Fudoh Myo-oh|
|Zaou Gongen||Buddhism icon who were mixed with Shaka Nyorai, Senju Kannon and Miroku Bosatsu|