Religious Beliefs

What is the nature of the human person in Shinto tradition?

Shinto tradition has not given great attention to speculation about the metaphysical aspects of the human person. Conceptions of soul or spirit at the core of human nature tend to be rather fluid, not unlike popular Chinese ideas about these things. Reflecting the various aspects of both human and divine action, soul or spirit (tama) can manifest itself as either rich in blessings, granting harmony and union, full of mysterious power, or “rough.” Individuals take second place to the needs of society as a whole; as a result traditional Shinto thought does not reflect in depth about the self apart from the collective. Above all, human beings are children of the kami whose natural birthright is to benefit from nature’s gifts. Society and family, as well as nature, are the wellsprings of life. Acknowledging and venerating one’s ancestors keeps healthy the link between individual and society because it keeps alive the continuity of heritage.


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