Korean-shinto is the Korean interpretation of the native religion of Japan, Shinto. Though it retains the name of its namesake, it has little in common with Japanese Shinto. Korean-Shinto has recognizable influences from Buddhism and several notable similaritites to Christianity.
Korean-Shinto is a monotheistic religion which preaches the existence of one all-powerful and omnipotent god who created and protects all mankind and the world. This god (though commonly identified as a female presence; there is no name) has complete authority over nature, humanity, and fate. Despite this, the god rarely takes any direct hand in human affairs, focusing on greater matters. The 'day-to-day' affairs are 'delegated' to an individual's own ancestors. Ancestors are not worshipped as gods but are highly honored; they are best compared with the saints or angels of Christianity. Each individual's own family watches over and protects him or her. The ancestors are not always completely benevolent beings, and may punish or test their living descendants at their discretion. A descendant will seek to commune with his or her ancestors through meditation. In addition to God and the ancestors, Korean-Shinto includes several other figures held in high regard. These include famous heroes or leaders as well as several 'borrowed' deities from China and Japan (though they do not retain their status as gods), the most notable being the Chinese god of war, Guan Yu.
Korean-Shinto doctrine is centered around adherence to and observance of the 'eight principles'. These include:
Of these, honor is the most important: the pursuit of and maintenance of honor is a driving force in a Korean-Shinto's life. Honor may be gained via things like adherence to the eight principles, acts of heroism or self-sacrifice, or charity. Honor may be lost or stripped by things like failing to live in a manner in line with the eight principles, failing to respect one's parents, or cowardice. Each Korean-Shinto bears not only the weight of his or her own honor but that of the entire family, including the ancestors. The loss of honor is an irreparable loss to a Korean-Shinto comparable to excommunication from the Catholic church. A person whose honor has been stripped is a total outcast from the faith and his or her family, to be regarded with both pity and revulsion. Loyalty to one's family and friends is, perhaps, the most important component to one's personal honor. The willingness to sacrifice oneself for friends and family is a key of Korean-Shinto—no act can bring greater honor.
Strength refers not only to physical power (Korean-Shinto advocates a strong body) but also to mental strength. Unlike many religions, Korean-Shinto emphasizes a strong body as an essential counterpart to a healthy soul and mind. Courage in all forms is highly honored in Korean-Shinto; while the warrior who places himself in the path of an advancing army will win everlasting glory, the man who stands up for his convictions will not be forgotten by his ancestors. Sincerity is highly valued: earnestness and clear direct speech are a cornerstone of Korean-Shinto. Serenity is the goal of every Korean-shinto: they strive to stay at peace, to listen more than they speak, etc. Courtesy is a manifestation of respect, which is very important to Korean-Shintos. Discipline is second only to honor in importance, whether it entails resisting physical pain or disciplining one's mind.
Korean-Shinto is a highly individualized religion, with little (if any) group involvement. Worship is accomplished through reflection and meditation, which can be accomplished anywhere, though obviously tranquility in the environment will aid the process. There are therefore no temples or shrines in Korean-Shinto worship. Anywhere there is great natural beauty is a good place to commune with one's ancestors or to meditate or reflect. The goal of a Korean-Shinto's meditation is not necessarily the pursuit of enlightenment (though this may be the case) but can be simply a mental cleansing exercise.
Korean-Shinto is a very severe religion, and there is little comfort to be had for those in search of it. There is no promise of afterlife; a person must earn the right to sit amongst his or her ancestors in bliss. This is accomplished by leading a life in accordance with the eight principles. Korean-Shinto embraces the idea of karma, but it acknowledges that there are things that happen for no purpose or reason. A Korean-Shinto must simply bear these things and move on. Korean-Shinto places heavy emphasis on the idea of repentance and sincere penance for error. This is largely an individual decision; a Korean-Shinto may choose to fast for a set amount of time, spend a certain amount of time in deep meditation on the error, or even use a form of physical self-punishment (Korean-shintos believe strongly that 'pain cleanses the soul').
Relation to other faiths
Korean-shinto is a very open religion. A staple of the faith is the belief that "Salvation is a river from which one may drink with many different cups". Korean-shinto embraces all other sincerely held faiths. A Korean-shinto does not view religion as a case where certain parties are 'wrong' or 'right'. Indeed, he or she will not even see Korean-shinto as necessarily 'correct' in as much as other faiths would then be 'incorrect'. At the center of Korean-shinto is the belief that God is still God anywhere one may go and under any name.
Korean-shintos are an extreme minority even in Korea, with probably fewer than 100 practicing members in the world.
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