The English language edition's article on the original kamikaze (divine wind) against the Mongol empire (not WWII) refers to Buddhism, though it also mentions Japanese "gods".

...1274 and again in 1281. Due to growth of Zen Buddhism among Samurai at the time, these were the first events where the typhoons were described as "divine wind" as much by their timing as by their force.

This surprised me a little - I thought the "kami" in kamikaze referred to beings from Japan's native shinto belief system, which many Japanese have alongside Buddhism.

Was kamikaze typically regarded as a supernatural event in Buddhism?

  • Hi Andrew, welcome to the site. I'm not sure what the connection with "non-violence" is (and asking whether Samurai were Buddhist and violent might presumably be another, different question). If I were posing a question around the quoted statement, I might phrase it as questioning why/whether "Zen Buddhists" of that time and place would call a phenomenon "divine" or attribute it to "a god's intervention". So I edited the question slightly, to remove references to non-violence and to add the god tag instead.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 12:32

1 Answer 1


I don't think the line between Shinto and Buddhism has been very clear in Japan, just as the line between Hinduism and Buddhism was never very clear in India.

For that matter, whenever any religion travels it is forced to either defeat or integrate its newest cultures. Religion can't take prisoners of war, it has to conquer by assimilation or destruction.

I don't have personal knowledge of this branch of Buddhism, but I've made use of a search engine to find these sources.

Syncretism of Shinto & Buddhism in Japan


Most in Japan may know Buddhism has something to do with controlling lust and anger, and is associated with funerals and graves, while Shinto involves venerating nature, and weddings. But many people have trouble making theological distinctions between the two or even telling a Buddhist temple from a Shinto shrine.

The internationalists in the Japanese court welcomed Buddhism. Others saw it as a threat to the status quo, with Buddha nothing more than a “jajin,” or devil.

Prince Shotoku (574-622) promoted Buddhism and it took hold. Still, Japan would never see a full conversion away from its indigenous religion, as occurred to a much greater extent across pagan Europe with the introduction of Christianity. Rather, Japanese absorbed Buddhism gradually, mixing it with local folk religions.

This process played out in the divine realm, too, with certain Shinto gods coming to be seen as protectors of the Buddha. One was Hachiman, the Shinto god of war, who legend has it aided the construction of the Great Buddha statue in Nara during the Nara Period (710-784). This act of kindness won him the name “Great Bodhisattva (Buddhist saint) Hachiman” in 781.

Reflecting this meeting of religions, Hachiman was sometimes depicted in sculptures as a very unwarlike Buddhist monk.

But what does the eighth century have to do with mixups over temples and shrines now?

The syncretism, or weaving together of religions, would continue over centuries as Japan went about absorbing Pure Land, Zen and other Buddhist sects from China. Over time, cross-pollination between Buddhism and Shinto would deepen in a process known as “shin-butsu shugo” (Shinto-Buddhism coalescence), or less flatteringly as the “shin-butsu konko” (Shinto-Buddhism jumble).

Much of the convergence amounted to Buddhism trying to make a mark on the host culture. Buddhist monks felt certain Shinto divinities needed salvation. So they chanted sutras in front of shrines that were the gods’ sacred homes.

Meanwhile, temples started sprouting up next to Shinto shrines, to be called “jingu-ji,” meaning “shrine-temples.” By the 16th century, such mixing and matching had become official policy.

Kamis vs Butsus


In modern Japan, both Shintō and Buddhist practice among the common folk has taken on the air of “this-worldly benefits” (concrete rewards now; Genze Riyaku). To many Japanese, Shintō and Buddhist faith is primarily involved with petitions and prayers for business profits, the safety of the household, success on school entrance exams, painless child birth, and other concrete rewards now, in this life. Shintō deities are called KAMI, SHIN , JIN , SAMA , TENJIN , GONGEN , and MYŌJIN to distinguish them from their Buddhist counterparts. The latter are known as BUTSU and NYORAI (all mean Buddha or Tathagata), BOSATSU (meaning Bodhisattva), TEN (meaning Deva), MYŌ-Ō (meaning Luminescent Kings).

  • You haven't really answered the question. "Was kamikaze typically regarded as a supernatural event in Buddhism?"
    – Jayarava
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 19:11
  • No, I was merely offering an explanation for his puzzlement about Shinto vs Buddhism. I'd be happy for this answer to be superseded by a more comprehensive one. Let not perfect become the enemy of good, etc.
    – Buddho
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 19:19

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