Yet even its conquests were but partial. Its triumph was secured only by its adulteration. Japanese Buddhism is a distinct product among the many forms of the Asiatic religion. Buddhism secured life and growth on Japanese soil only by being Japanized, by being grafted on the original stock of ideas in the Japanese mind. Thus, in order to popularize the Indian religion, the ancient native heroes and the local gods were all included within the Buddhist pantheon, and declared to be the incarnations of Buddha in his various forms. A class of deities exist in Japan who are worshipped by the Buddhists under the general name of “gongen.” They are all deified Japanese heroes, warriors, or famous men. Furthermore, many of the old rites and ceremonies of Shinto were altered and made use of by the “bonzes,” or priests.
It may be doubted whether Buddhism could have ever been popular in Japan, had it not become thoroughly Japanized. Some of the first fruits of the success of the new religion was the erection of temples, pagodas, idols, wayside shrines, monasteries, and nunneries; the adoption of the practice of cremation, until then unknown; and the cessation of the slaughter of animals for food. The largest and richest of the ecclesiastical structures were in or near Kioto. The priests acted as teachers, advisers, counselors, and scribes, besides officiating at the altars, shriving the sick and attending the sepulture of the dead.
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From General Nelson A. Miles
Thrilling Stories of The Russian-Japanese War, 1904