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13.4: Study Questions on Similarities and Differences

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    Although differences between Buddhist Shugendo and Charismatic Christianity as described in these two accounts may seem apparent, significant similarities are present as well. Spend some time comparing the practices. Keep in mind the danger of generalizing from these specific instances of shamanic mediation to all forms of shamanic mediation in either tradition. Be mindful of how much may be involved implicitly in the actual practice of these specific forms that may be going unsaid in the two accounts just given. (For example, although trance is not discussed in the excerpt from Christianity, it occasionally is found in the material Sneck covers and it is pervasive in the experience of Pentecostal Christians. Also, in Blacker's account, Shugendo shamans frequently demonstrate their spirit power through engaging in superhuman feats such as firewalking. Although this is not found in Charismatic Christianity, in the older Pentecostal movement, from which it in part emerged, one can find some groups that practice handling poisonous snakes and drinking poisons to demonstrate the supernatural power of being "filled with the Holy Spirit." It is also worthwhile to note that Charismatic Christianity involves a fusion of the ways of shamanic mediation and devotion, with perhaps stronger emphasis placed on the latter than the former.) Answer the following questions.

    1. First, note as many similarities as you can. Seek to identify not just superficial similarities, but deep structural similarities. (Consider, for example, the special "calling" to become a shaman or mediator of spiritual power; recognition of good and bad, lower and higher spiritual powers; kinds of shamanic services offered; offering such services out of compassion for others; resorting to ascetic spiritual disciplines to build up, or become a freer channel of, spiritual power; etc.).
    2. Assuming that both of these movements exemplify the same generic way of being religious in two distinct religious traditions, what if anything do the similarities identified in answer to the first question indicate that is essential to that way of being religious (which the framework identifies as the way of shamanic mediation)?
      1. What, if anything, do these two accounts have in common regarding their respective means of approach to ultimate realityo?
      2. What common existential problems is each concerned with and seeking to address-problems both in those persons who are being served by the shamanic practices and in those persons who are attracted to or called to the role of shaman?
      3. Is there anything that indicates the characteristic way each interprets its broader tradition's scripture and symbol system as distinct from other traditional ways of taking them? What sorts of features of ultimate realityo does each specifically highlight? That is, what kind of "face" does each envision ultimate realityo to have? (Note commonality here, despite the obvious differences.)
      4. What sorts of social structures (social organization, group activity, roles and responsibilities, etc.) are involved in each?
      5. What specific virtues in the practice of its religious life does each appear to commend, whether explicitly or implicitly, and what specific vices in that practice does each appear to condemn? (Be careful here to distinguish criticisms each may apparently offer of the religious practices of others from critical expectations set for its own members.) That is, what ideal(s) of practice does each uphold? And what sorts of things would fall short of those ideals?
    3. Keeping in mind the similarities brought to light in answer to questions 1 and 2, try now to identify the dissimilarities between Shugendo and Charismatic Christianity.·Avoid for the moment the questions having to do with what is better and what is worse, what is truly "of God" and what is not, and so forth, and attend simply to what is different about each.
    4. To what extent is shamanic power concentrated in the individual shaman or spread out and shared with others? To what extent is that power regarded as a kind of "natural" supernatural force that is manipulable or acquirable through a given set of rigorous ascetic practices, or as having a mind of its own, which the shaman must discern and follow? How is the supernatural realm specifically conceived and what is the nature of the kinds of spiritual forces thought to be met with in that realm?
    5. What is it like to experience the mediation of supernatural power in each? For example, how is the experience of exorcizing a demonic spirit similar and different in each? Also, compare the relationship between shaman and client in each.
    6. What among the differences identified in questions 3, 4, and 5 seem specifically due to the differing theologicalo convictions and symbol systems of Buddhism (or specifically of Japanese Shugendo Buddhism) and Christianity (or specifically of Roman Catholic Charismatic Christianity)? (It may be that some differences may be specifically due to the strong presence of elements of the way of devotion in the latter and their virtually total absence in the former.)

    This page titled 13.4: Study Questions on Similarities and Differences is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dale Cannon (Independent) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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