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More than 90 minutes
  • Religious Literacy
  • Educator

If this is your first Religious Traditions course, we recommend familiarizing yourself with key frameworks used in religious studies before beginning. Methods of Religious Studies – Review

  • Introduce themselves to the tradition
  • Investigate the diverse beliefs, behaviors, and experiences of belonging related to conceptions of suffering and death
  • Explore the intersections of Buddhist traditions with Shinto traditions in Japan


As you begin an exploration of Buddhist traditions, consider the following questions:

  • What do you know/think you know about Buddhist religious traditions?
  • Where did you learn this information? Do you believe these sources are credible? Why or why not?
  • Have you personally spoken with someone who self-identifies as Buddhist about their religious identity or religious tradition?


Return to the reflection questions above and review the responses:

  • What have you learned in this module that has changed or deepened your understanding of Buddhist traditions?


  • How do the sources explain the internal diversity of beliefs, behaviors, and experiences of belonging in Buddhist traditions? Provide specific evidence/examples.
  • Do you think it’s more appropriate to speak of a Buddhist tradition or multiple Buddhist traditions?
  • Based on these sources, what beliefs, behaviors, or experiences of belonging, if any, bind together all people who self-identify as Buddhist?


  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. Look for at least one Shinto site and one Buddhist site. Are there any sites that feature both of these traditions? Why have these sites been selected as World Heritage Sites? What do they demonstrate about the influence of these two religious traditions in Japan?

Some scholars use the term “syncretism” to describe the phenomenon of individuals “mixing” features of different religious traditions in their daily lives. Other scholars think this definition is too simplistic because it ignores the internal diversity of religious traditions by assuming we can distill religions down to two “-isms” that can be mixed in the first place.

  • When considering the interaction of Shinto and Buddhist traditions in Japan, should we describe these phenomena as “mixings” of two religious traditions? Explain your thinking.
  • Briefly propose another way to describe the interaction of Shinto and Buddhist traditions in Japan.

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