Excerpt from Chapter 4 – “The Greater Life”

Published June 2, 2017

When we Buddhists talk about religion with people of other faiths, they often ask, “Do you believe in God?” In such a case, before we can say yes or no, it is important that we clarify what they mean by “God.” Mankind has had a god or gods of various kinds probably since humanity came into being on this earth. All nations and ethnic groups around the world have had some kind of god. Many different names have been given to these ideas of God, including Ra (Egypt), Odin (Scandinavia), Allah (Arabic-speaking world), and Kitchi Manitou/Great Spirit (Algonquin culture of North America).

In Japan, a native religion called Shinto was already widely disseminated and accepted when Buddhism was introduced in the sixth century. Even after the introduction of Buddhism, Shinto has persisted in the minds of the Japanese people to the present day. According to statistics, in 2006, 107 million Japanese belonged to Shinto sects, 89 million belonged to Buddhist sects, 3 million belonged to Christian denominations, and 10 million belonged to various others. The total turns out to be 209 million, though the population of Japan at that time was 127 million.