History of Japanese Religion: With Special Reference to the Social and Moral Life of the Nation

By Masaharu Anesaki | Go to book overview

RELIGIOUS POLICY AND PROBLEMS

Religious Policy of the New Government

THE first step taken by the new government in regard to religion was an attempt to establish Shinto as the religion of the State.The restoration of the pre-feudal institutions was understood to imply, among other things, a re-establishment of the theocratic idea as embodied in the institution of the Jingi-kan, or National Cult Department.Although the Department had been, even during the earlier imperial régime, an institution for ceremonial observance, having little to do with matters of really religious or political significance, the leaders of the new era, mostly Confucian Samurai and Shinto nationalists, deemed its rehabilitation a matter of vital importance.The Department was given the highest position among the government offices, and Shinto was proclaimed the national cult or State religion.This meant at the same time a vigorous suppression of Buddhism, because it was a foreign religion and had flourished under the protection of the Shogunate Government.All privileges granted to the Buddhist clergy were abolished and a large part of the properties belonging to the Buddhist institutions was confiscated.A reign of persecution was started. Buddhists were driven out of the syncretic Shinto sanctuaries which they had been serving for ten centuries or more.Buddhist statues, scriptures, and decorations in those temples were taken out and set on fire or thrown into the water.The " purification " of the Shinto temples was achieved and the severance of Buddhism and Shinto ruthlessly carried out, thus

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