Outline of Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions and practices based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama known as the Buddha, "the awakened one". The following outline is provided as an overview of, topical guide to, Buddhism. Gautama Buddha Tathāgata — meaning "Thus Come One" and "Thus Gone One" the epithet the Buddha uses most to refer to himself, it was founded in India. It is conservative, closer to early Buddhism, for many centuries has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka and most of continental Southeast Asia. Bangladesh: Sangharaj Nikaya Mahasthabir Nikaya Burma: Thudhamma Nikaya Vipassana tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw Shwekyin Nikaya Dvaya Nikaya or Dvara Nikaya Cambodia Laos Sri Lanka: Siam Nikaya Amarapura Nikaya Ramañña Nikaya Thailand: Maha Nikaya Dhammakaya Movement Thammayut Nikaya Thai Forest Tradition Tradition of Ajahn Chah Mahayana — the "Great Vehicle", it is the largest school of Buddhism, originated in India; the term is used for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice.
According to the teachings of Mahāyāna traditions, "Mahāyāna" refers to the path of seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings called "Bodhisattvayāna", or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle." Madhyamaka Prāsangika Svatantrika Sanlun Sanron Maha-Madhyamaka Yogācāra Cittamatra in Tibet Wei-Shi or Faxiang Beopsang Hossō Tathagatagarbha Daśabhūmikā Huayan Hwaeom Kegon Chán / Zen / Seon / Thien Caodong Sōtō Keizan line Jakuen line Giin line Linji Rinzai Ōbaku Fuke Won Buddhism: Korean Reformed Buddhism Pure Land Jodo Shu Jodo Shinshu Tiantai Cheontae Tendai Nichiren Nichiren Shū Nichiren Shōshū Nipponzan Myōhōji Soka Gakkai Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism Nyingma New Bön Kadam Sakya Ngor-pa Tsar-pa Jonang Gelug Kagyu: Shangpa Kagyu Marpa Kagyu: Rechung Kagyu Dagpo Kagyu: Karma Kagyu Tsalpa Kagyu Baram Kagyu Pagtru Kagyu: Taglung Kagyu Trophu Kagyu Drukpa Kagyu Martsang Kagyu Yerpa Kagyu Yazang Kagyu Shugseb Kagyu Drikung Kagyu Rime movement Japanese Mikkyo Shingon Tendai Early Buddhist schools Mahāsaṃghika Ekavyahārikas Lokottaravāda Golulaka Bahuśrutīya Prajñaptivāda Caitika Apara Śaila Uttara Śaila Cetiyavāda Sthaviravāda Pudgalavāda Vatsīputrīya name: Saṃmitīya Dharmottarīya Bhadrayānīya Sannāgarika Vibhajjavāda Theravāda Mahīśāsaka Dharmaguptaka Sarvāstivāda Kāśyapīya Sautrāntika Mūlasarvāstivāda Vaibhashika Buddhist modernism Humanistic Buddhism Sōka Gakkai Vipassana movement New Kadampa Tradition Friends of the Western Buddhist Order Fo Guang Shan Buddhism by country Buddhism by country Buddhism in the East Buddhism in South Asia Tamil Buddhism Buddhism in Central Asia Buddhism in Southeast Asia East Asian Buddhism Buddhism in the Middle East Buddhism in the West Buddhism in the Americas Buddhism in Central America Buddhism in Australia Buddhism in Europe Buddhism in Africa Buddhist texts Pali literature Pāli Canon Vinaya Pitaka — Basket of Discipline Suttavibhanga Patimokkha — Buddhist Monastic Code Khandhaka Mahāvagga Cullavagga Parivara Sutta Pitaka — Basket of Discourses Digha Nikaya — the Long Discourses Brahmaja
Śuddhodana, meaning "he who grows pure rice," was a leader of the Shakya, who lived in an oligarchic republic on the Indian subcontinent, with their capital at Kapilavastu. He was the father of Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as Buddha. In renditions of the life of the Buddha, Śuddhodana was referred to as a king, though that status cannot be established with confidence and is in fact disputed by modern scholarship. Śuddhodana's father was Sihahanu and his mother was Kaccanā. Suddhodana's chief consort was Maha Maya. Maya died shortly. Suddhodana next elevated to chief consort Maya's sister Mahapajapati Gotami, with whom he had a second son Nanda and a daughter Sundarī Nandā. Both children became Buddhist monastics. At the age of 16, Siddhartha married the niece of Maha Maya and Mahapajapati. Yasodhara's father was traditionally said to be Suppabuddha. Though depicted and referenced as a king, most recent scholarship on the matter refutes the notion that Śuddhodana was a monarch. Many notable scholars state that the Shakya republic was not a monarchy but rather an oligarchy, ruled by an elite council of the warrior and ministerial class that chose its leader or rājā.
While the rājā may have held considerable authority in the Shakya homeland, he did not rule autocratically. Questions of consequence were debated in the governing council and decisions were made by consensus. Furthermore, by the time of Siddharta's birth, the Shakya republic had become a vassal state of the larger Kingdom of Kosala; the head of Shakya's oligarchic council, the rājā, would only assume and stay in office with the approval of the King of Kosala. Therefore, however influential Śuddhodana may have been as a leader, he was not a king in any traditional sense of the word; the earliest Buddhist texts available to us do not identify his family as royals. In texts, there may have been a misinterpretation of the Pali word rājā, which can mean alternatively a king, ruler, or governor. Or as noted in the related article on Buddhism, "Some of the stories about Buddha, his life, his teachings, claims about the society he grew up in may have been invented and interpolated at a time into the Buddhist texts."
Siddhartha Gautama was raised in the Shakya capital of Kapilavastu. According to legend, Śuddhodana went to great lengths to prevent Siddhartha from becoming a śramaṇa, but at the age of 29, after experiencing the Four Sights, Siddhartha left his home in search of spiritual answers to the unsatisfactory nature of life, leaving behind his wife Yasodharā and infant son Rāhula. The story of Siddhartha's departure is traditionally called The Great Renunciation. Śuddhodana spent considerable effort attempting to locate him. Seven years after word of his enlightenment reached Suddhodana, he sent nine emissaries to invite Siddhartha back to the Shakya land; the Buddha preached to their entourage, who joined the Sangha. Śuddhodana sent a close friend of Siddhartha, Kaludayi, to invite him to return. Kaludayi chose to become a monk, but kept his word to invite the Buddha back to his home; the Buddha returned to visit his home. During this visit, he preached the dharma to Suddhodana. Four years when the Buddha heard of Suddhodana's impending death, he once again returned to his home and preached further to Śuddhodana at his deathbed.
He gained Arahantship Immediate family of Shuddhodana Why was the Sakyan Republic Destroyed? by S. N. Goenka
The four sights are four events described in the legendary account of Gautama Buddha's life which led to his realization of the impermanence and ultimate dissatisfaction of conditioned existence. According to this legend, before these encounters Siddhārtha Gautama had been confined to his palace by his father, who feared that he would become an ascetic if he came into contact with sufferings of life according to a prediction. However, his first venture out of the palace affected him and made him realize the sufferings of all humans, compelled him to begin his spiritual journey as a wandering ascetic, which led to his enlightenment; the spiritual feeling of urgency experienced by Siddhārtha Gautama is referred to as saṃvega. After the birth of his son, King Śuddhodana called upon eight Brahmins to predict his son's future. While seven of them declared that the prince would either be a Buddha or a great King, the Brahmin Kaundinya was confident that he would renounce the world and become a Buddha.Śuddhodana, determined that his son should be a great king, confined the prince within the palace and surrounded him with earthly pleasures and luxury, thereby concealing the realities of life that might encourage him to renounce these pleasures and become an ascetic.
After leading a sheltered existence surrounded by luxury and pleasure in his younger years, Prince Siddhārtha ventured out of his palace for the first time at the age of 29. He set off from the palace to the city in a chariot, accompanied by his charioteer Channa. On this journey he first saw an old man; when the prince asked about this person, Channa replied that aging was something that happened to all beings. The second sight was of a sick person suffering from a disease. Once again, the prince was surprised at the sight, Channa explained that all beings are subject to disease and pain; this further troubled the mind of the prince that none can live a pain free life. The third sight was of a dead body; as before, Channa explained to the prince. After seeing these three sights, Siddhārtha was troubled in his mind and sorrowful about the sufferings that have to be endured in life. After seeing these three negative sights, Siddhārtha came upon the fourth sight; this sight gave him hope that he too might be released from the sufferings arising from being reborn, he resolved to follow the ascetic's example.
After observing these four sights, Siddhārtha returned to the palace, where a performance of dancing girls was arranged for him. Throughout the performance, the prince kept on thinking about the sights. In the early hours of morning, he looked about him and saw the dancers asleep and in disarray; the sight of this drastic change strengthened his resolve to leave in search of an end to the suffering of beings. After this incident and realizing the true nature of life after observing the four sights, Siddhārtha left the palace on his horse Kanthaka, accompanied only by Channa, he sent Channa back with his possessions and began an ascetic life, at the end of which he attained enlightenment as Gautama Buddha. Before this, he saw a group of people meditating and he decided to join them; the leaders of this group thought him to be so good. However, he thought, he tried to discipline his body by fasting, but he realized that by doing this, he would die before he reached enlightenment. In the early Pali suttas, the four sights as concrete encounters were not mentioned with respect to the historical Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama.
Rather, Siddhārtha's insights into old age and death were abstract considerations. Though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me:'When an untaught, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to aging, not beyond aging, sees another, aged, he is horrified, humiliated, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to aging, not beyond aging. If I — who am subject to aging, not beyond aging — were to be horrified, humiliated, & disgusted on seeing another person, aged, that would not be fitting for me.' As I noticed this, the young person's intoxication with youth dropped away. Analogous passages for illness and death follow; the Ariya-pariyesana Sutta describes rather abstract considerations: And what is ignoble search? There is the case where a person, being subject himself to birth, seeks what is subject to birth. Being subject himself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, he seeks what is subject to illness... death... sorrow... defilement.
These passages do not mention the fourth sight of the renunciant. The renunciant is a depiction of the Sramana movement, popular at the time of Siddhārtha and which he joined. In the early Pali sources, the legendary account of the four sights is only described with respect to a previous legendary Buddha Vipassī. In the works Nidanakatha and the Lalitavistara Sūtra, the account was also applied to Siddhārtha Gautama; some accounts say that the four sights were observed by Siddhārtha in one day, during a single journey. Others describe; some versions of the story say that the prince's father had the route beautified and guarded to ensure that he does not see anything that might turn his thoughts towards suffering
The Shikoku Pilgrimage or Shikoku Junrei is a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kūkai on the island of Shikoku, Japan. A popular and distinctive feature of the island's cultural landscape, with a long history, large numbers of pilgrims, known as henro, still undertake the journey for a variety of ascetic and tourism-related purposes; the pilgrimage is traditionally completed on foot, but modern pilgrims use cars, buses, bicycles, or motorcycles. The standard walking course is 1,200 kilometres long and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete. In addition to the 88 "official" temples of the pilgrimage, there are over 20 bangai — temples not considered part of the official 88. To complete the pilgrimage, it is not necessary to visit the temples in order. Henro is the Japanese word for pilgrim, the inhabitants of Shikoku call the pilgrims o-henro-san, the o being an honorific and the san a title similar to "Mr." or "Mrs.". They are recognizable by their white clothing, sedge hats, kongō-zue or walking sticks.
Alms or osettai are given. Many pilgrims begin and complete the journey by visiting Mount Kōya in Wakayama Prefecture, settled by Kūkai and remains the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism; the 21 kilometres walking trail up to Koya-san still exists. Pilgrimages have played an important part in Japanese religious practice since at least the Heian period. Centred upon holy mountains, particular divinities, or charismatic individuals, they are to Buddhist sites although those to the shrines of Kumano and Ise are notable exceptions. Kūkai, born at Zentsū-ji in 774, studied in China, upon his return was influential in the promotion of esoteric Buddhism, he established the Shingon retreat of Kōya-san, was an active writer, undertook a programme of public works, during visits to the island of his birth is popularly said to have established or visited many of its temples and to have carved many of their images. He is posthumously known as Kōbō Daishi; the legends and cult of Kōbō Daishi, such as the episode of Emon Saburō, were maintained and developed by the monks of Kōya-san who travelled to expound Shingon and were active, along with other hijiri, in Shikoku.
In the Edo period, the policy of tochi kinbaku restricted and regulated the movement of ordinary people. Pilgrims were required to obtain travel permits, follow the main paths, pass through localities within a certain time limit, with the book of temple stamps or nōkyō-chō helping to provide proof of passage. Shikoku means "four provinces", those of Awa, Tosa and Sanuki, reorganised during the Meiji period into the prefectures of Tokushima, Kōchi and Kagawa; the pilgrim's journey through these four provinces is likened to a symbolic path to enlightenment, with temples 1–23 representing the idea of awakening, 24–39 austerity and discipline, 40–65 attaining enlightenment, 66–88 entering nirvana. The pilgrim's traditional costume comprises a white shirt, conical Asian hat, staff; this may be supplemented by a ceremonial stole. The henro carries a bag containing name slips, prayer beads, a booklet to collect stamps/seals, incense sticks, coins used as offerings; the more religiously-minded henro may carry a book of sutras and go-eika set with a bell.
Upon arrival at each temple the henro washes before proceeding to the Hondō. After offering coins and the osame-fuda, the Heart Sutra is chanted along with repetition of the Mantra of the main image and the Mantra of Light. After kigan and ekō prayers, the henro proceeds to the shrine of Kobo Daishi. Coins and a fuda are offered, again the Heart Sutra is chanted, along with repetition of the Gohōgō Mantra, namu-Daishi-henjō-kongō. Attesting to the popularity of the Shikoku pilgrimage, from the eighteenth century a number of smaller imitative versions have been established; these include a 150 kilometres circuit on Shōdo Island northeast of Takamatsu. Outside Japan, another version is on the Hawai'ian island of Kaua'i. Collectively, the 88 temples are known as Shikoku Hachijūhakkasho or the Hachijūhakkasho. Shingon Kōyasan Japan 100 Kannon, pilgrimage composed of the Saigoku, Bandō and Chichibu pilgrimages. Saigoku 33 Kannon, pilgrimage in the Kansai region. Bandō 33 Kannon, pilgrimage in the Kantō region.
Chichibu 34 Kannon, pilgrimage in Saitama Prefecture. Chūgoku 33 Kannon, pilgrimage in the Chūgoku region. Kannon Buddhism in Japan Tourism in Japan For an explanation of terms concerning Japanese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhist art, Japanese Buddhist temple architecture, see the Glossary of Japanese Buddhism. Statler, Oliver. Japanese Pilgrimage. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-01890-4. McLachlan, Craig. Tales of a Summer Henro. Tokyo: Yohan Publications. ISBN 4-89684-257-X. Reader, Ian. Making Pilgrimages: Meaning and Practice in Shikoku. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2876-3. Dempster, Lisa. Neon Pilgrim'. Footscray West, Vic.: Aduki Independent Press. ISBN 0-9803351-7-5. Lewis-Kraus, Gideon. A Sense of Direction
Maya (mother of the Buddha)
Queen Māyā of Sakya was the birth mother of Gautama Buddha, the sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. She was sister of the first Buddhist nun ordained by the Buddha. In Buddhist tradition Maya died soon after the birth of Buddha said to be seven days afterwards, came to life again in a Hindu-Buddhist heaven, a pattern, said to be followed in the births of all Buddhas, thus Maya did not raise her son, instead raised by his maternal aunt Mahapajapati Gotami. Maya would, however, on occasion descend from Heaven to give advice to her son. Māyā means "illusion" in Sanskrit. Māyā is called Mahāmāyā and Māyādevī. In Tibetan she in Japanese is known as Maya-bunin. Sinhalese known as මහාමායා දේවී. In Buddhist literature and art Queen Maya is portrayed as a beautiful fecund woman in the prime of life. Although sometimes shown in other scenes from her life, such as having a dream foretelling her pregnancy with Gautama Buddha or with her husband King Śuddhodana seeking prophecies about their son's life, shortly after his birth, she is most depicted whilst giving birth to Gautama, an event, accepted to have taken place in Lumbini in modern-day Madhesh.
Maya is shown giving birth standing under a tree and reaching overhead to hold on to a branch for support. Buddhist scholar Miranda Shaw, states that Queen Maya's depiction in the nativity scene follows a pattern established in earlier Buddhist depictions of the tree spirits known as yaksini. Māyā married King Śuddhodana, the ruler of the Śākya clan of Kapilvastu, she therefore his cousin. Māyā and King Suddhodhana did not have children for twenty years into their marriage. According to legend, one full moon night, sleeping in the palace, the queen had a vivid dream, she felt herself being carried away by four devas to Lake Anotatta in the Himalayas. After bathing her in the lake, the devas clothed her in heavenly cloths, anointed her with perfumes, bedecked her with divine flowers. Soon after a white elephant, holding a white lotus flower in its trunk and went round her three times, entering her womb through her right side; the elephant disappeared and the queen awoke, knowing she had been delivered an important message, as the elephant is a symbol of greatness.
According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha-to-be was residing as a bodhisattva in the Tuṣita heaven, decided to take the shape of a white elephant to be reborn on Earth for the last time. Māyā gave birth to Siddharta c. 563 BCE. The pregnancy lasted ten lunar months. Following custom, the Queen returned to her own home for the birth. On the way, she stepped down from her palanquin to have a walk under the Sal tree confused with the Ashoka tree, in the beautiful flower garden of Lumbini Park, Lumbini Zone, Nepal. Maya Devi gave birth standing while holding onto a sal branch. Legend has it, it was the eighth day of April. Some accounts say, but legend has it. He was named Siddhārtha, "He who has accomplished his goals" or "The accomplished goal". Scholars agree that most Buddhist literature holds that Maya died seven days after the birth of Buddha, was reborn in the Tusita Heaven. Seven years after the Buddha's enlightenment, she came down to visit Tavatimsa Heaven, where the Buddha preached the Abhidharma to her.
Her sister Prajāpatī became the child's foster mother. After Siddhartha had attained Enlightenment and become the Buddha, he visited his mother in heaven for three months to pay respects and to teach the Dharma. Referring to the prophetic dream Queen Maya had prior to conception, the life story of the Buddha according to the Pali Cannon say that his mother did not engage in sexual activity or entertain any thoughts of other men during her pregnancy, it does not say. However, some parallels have been drawn with the birth story of Jesus. Z. P. Thundy has surveyed the similarities and differences between the birth stories of Buddha by Maya and Jesus by Mary and notes that while there may have been similarities, there are differences, e.g. that Mary outlives Jesus after raising him, but Maya dies soon after the birth of Buddha, as all mothers of Buddhas do in the Buddhist tradition. Thundy does not assert that there is any historical evidence that the Christian birth stories of Jesus were derived from the Buddhist traditions, but suggests that "maybe it is time that Christian scholars looked in the Buddhist tradition for the sources of the idea".
Other scholars have, rejected any influence, e.g. Paula Fredriksen states that no serious scholarly work places Jesus outside the backdrop of 1st century Palestinian Judaism. Eddy and Boyd state that there is no evidence of a historical influence by outside sources on the authors of the New Testament, most scholars agree that any such historical influence on Christianity is implausible given that first century monotheistic Galilean Jews would not have been open to what they would have seen as pagan stories; the birth of Buddha Family of Gautama Buddha History of Buddhism Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini Koli Caste Media related to Queen Maya at Wikimedia Commons
Dharma is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions like Hinduism, Jainism and others. There is no single-word translation for dharma in Western languages. In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible, includes duties, laws, virtues and "right way of living". In Buddhism, dharma means "cosmic law and order", is applied to the teachings of Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is the term for "phenomena". Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of proper religious practice; the word dharma was in use in the historical Vedic religion, its meaning and conceptual scope has evolved over several millennia. The ancient Tamil moral text of Tirukkural is based on aṟam, the Tamil term for dharma; the antonym of dharma is adharma. The Classical Sanskrit noun dharma or the Prakrit Dhaṃma are a derivation from the root dhṛ, which means "to hold, keep", takes the meaning of "what is established or firm", hence "law".
It is derived from an older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-, with a literal meaning of "bearer, supporter", in a religious sense conceived as an aspect of Rta. In the Rigveda, the word appears as an n-stem, dhárman-, with a range of meanings encompassing "something established or firm". Figuratively, it means "sustainer" and "supporter", it is semantically similar to the Greek Themis. In Classical Sanskrit, the noun becomes thematic: dharma-; the word dharma derives from Proto-Indo-European root *dʰer-, which in Sanskrit is reflected as class-1 root dhṛ. Etymologically it is related to Avestan dar-, Latin firmus, Lithuanian derė́ti, Lithuanian dermė and darna and Old Church Slavonic drъžati. Classical Sanskrit word dharmas would formally match with Latin o-stem firmus from Proto-Indo-European dʰer-mo-s "holding", were it not for its historical development from earlier Rigvedic n-stem. In Classical Sanskrit, in the Vedic Sanskrit of the Atharvaveda, the stem is thematic: dhárma-. In Prakrit and Pāli, it is rendered dhamma.
In some contemporary Indian languages and dialects it alternatively occurs as dharm. Ancient translationsWhen the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka wanted in the 3rd century BCE to translate the word "Dharma" into Greek and Aramaic, he used the Greek word Eusebeia in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription and the Kandahar Greek Edicts, the Aramaic word Qsyt in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription. Dharma is a concept of central importance in Indian religion, it has multiple meanings in Hinduism and Jainism. It is difficult to provide a single concise definition for dharma, as the word has a long and varied history and straddles a complex set of meanings and interpretations. There is no equivalent single-word synonym for dharma in western languages. There have been numerous, conflicting attempts to translate ancient Sanskrit literature with the word dharma into German and French; the concept, claims Paul Horsch, has caused exceptional difficulties for modern commentators and translators. For example, while Grassmann's translation of Rig-veda identifies seven different meanings of dharma, Karl Friedrich Geldner in his translation of the Rig-veda employs 20 different translations for dharma, including meanings such as "law", "order", "duty", "custom", "quality", "model", among others.
However, the word dharma has become a accepted loanword in English, is included in all modern unabridged English dictionaries. The root of the word dharma is "dhri", which means "to support, hold, or bear", it is the thing that regulates the course of change by not participating in change, but that principle which remains constant. Monier-Williams, the cited resource for definitions and explanation of Sanskrit words and concepts of Hinduism, offers numerous definitions of the word dharma, such as that, established or firm, steadfast decree, law, custom, right, virtue, ethics, religious merit, good works, character, property. Yet, each of these definitions is incomplete, while the combination of these translations does not convey the total sense of the word. In common parlance, dharma means "right way of living" and "path of rightness"; the meaning of the word dharma depends on the context, its meaning has evolved as ideas of Hinduism have developed through history. In the earliest texts and ancient myths of Hinduism, dharma meant cosmic law, the rules that created the universe from chaos, as well as rituals.
In certain contexts, dharma designates human behaviours considered necessary for order of things in the universe, principles that prevent chaos and action necessary to all life in nature, family as well as at the individual level. Dharma encompasses ideas such as duty, character, religion and all behaviour considered appropriate, correct or morally upright; the antonym of dharma is adharma, meaning that, "not dharma"
Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima, best known for its "floating" torii gate. It is in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan; the shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Japanese government has designated several buildings and possessions as National Treasures. The Itsukushima shrine is one of Japan's most popular tourist attractions, it is most famous for its dramatic gate, or torii on the outskirts of the shrine, the sacred peaks of Mount Misen, extensive forests, its aesthetic ocean view. The shrine complex itself consists of two main buildings: the Honsha shrine and the Sessha Marodo-jinja, as well as17 other different buildings and structures that help to distinguish it; the complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, six of its buildings and possessions have been designated by the Japanese government as National Treasures. Itsukushima jinja h was the chief Shinto shrine of Aki Province, it is said to have been erected in 593 by Saeki Kuramoto during the Suiko period.
However, the present shrine has been popularly attributed to Taira no Kiyomori, a prominent warlord who contributed to the building of the shrine during his time as governor of Aki Province in 1168. Another renowned patron of the shrine was the warlord Mori Motonari, was lord of Choshu, responsible for rebuilding the honden in 1571, it is important to note, that as a result of waging war against Sue Takafusa there in 1555, Motonari is said to have tainted the island's grounds by battling on the island This relates to the strict notions of sacred purity that Shinto shrines stand for. The only surviving structure in Itsukushima shrine from the Kamakura period is the Kyakuden or "Guest-God's Shrine", it was not uncommon during the 16th century for daimyo to build shrines or take on other architectural projects in order to "reflect their power and splendor." The Taira are known for their involvement in maritime trade with the Sung dynasty, attempting to monopolize overseas trade along the Inland Sea.
Kiyomori was at the height of his power. He "ordered construction of the main hall of Itsukushima Shrine as a display of reverence for the tutelary god of navigation and to serve as a base for maritime activities..." Miyajima soon became the Taira family shrine. Kiyomori chose the location for the reason to further establish himself in the Heian aristocracy as one who deviated from the social norms of Shinto pilgrimage, he lavished great wealth upon Itsukushima, he enjoyed showing the place to his friends and colleagues, or to royal personages..." It is said that Kiyomori rebuilt the shrine on account of a dream he had of an old monk who promised him dominion over Japan if he constructed a shrine on the island of Miyajima, pay homage to its kami who are enshrined there for his success in life. The renovations funded by the Taira allowed for Itsukushima to "grow into an important religious complex." The Itsukushima shrine is dedicated to the three daughters of Susano-o no Mikoto: Ichikishimahime no mikoto, Tagorihime no mikoto, Tagitsuhime no mikoto.
Otherwise known as the sanjoshin or "three female deities", these Shinto deities are the goddesses of seas and storms. Kiyomori believed the goddesses to be "manifestations of Kannon," therefore the island was understood as the home of the bodhisattva. In Japanese, Itsukushima translates to mean " island dedicated to the gods" In fact,the island itself is considered to be a god, why the shrine was built on the outskirts of the island. Adding to its sanctity, Mount Misen is "its tallest peak" ranging about "1,755 feet high." Tourists can either take a ropeway to the top. Its treasures include the celebrated Heike Nōkyō, or'Sutras dedicated by the Taira House of Taira'; these consist of thirty-two scrolls, on which the Lotus and Heart sutras have been copied by Kiyomori, his sons, other members of the family, each completing the writing of one scroll, " decorated with silver and mother-of-pearl by himself and other members of his clan." Itsukushima was a pure Shinto shrine "where no births or deaths were allowed to cause pollution.
Because the island itself has been considered sacred, commoners were not allowed to set foot on it throughout much of its history to maintain its purity. Retaining the purity of the shrine is so important that since 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near it. To this day, pregnant women are supposed to retreat to the mainland as the day of delivery approaches, as are the terminally ill or the elderly whose passing has become imminent. Burials on the island are forbidden. To allow pilgrims to approach, the shrine was built like a pier over the water, so that it appeared to float, separate from the land; the red entrance gate, or torii, was built over the water for much the same reason. Commoners had to steer their boats through the torii before approaching the shrine. Japan has gone to great lengths to preserve the twelfth-century-style architecture of the Shrine throughout history; the shrine was designed and built according to the Shinden zukuri style, equipped with pier-like structures over the Matsushima bay in order to create the illusion of floating on the water, separate from island, which could be approached by the devout "like a palace on the sea."
This idea of intertwining architecture and nature is reflective of a popular trend during the 16th century as well as the Heian period in which Japanese structures tended to "follow after their environment," allowing trees and other forms of natural beauty