• Shinto: The Way Home

  • Dimensions of Asian Spirituality
  • By: Thomas P. Kasulis
  • Narrated by: Dean Sluyter
  • Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (168 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Nine out of ten Japanese claim some affiliation with Shinto, but in the West the religion remains the least studied of the major Asian spiritual traditions. It is so interlaced with Japanese cultural values and practices that scholarly studies usually focus on only one of its dimensions: Shinto as a "nature religion", an "imperial state religion", a "primal religion", or a "folk amalgam of practices and beliefs". Thomas Kasulis' fresh approach to Shinto explains with clarity and economy how these different aspects interrelate.

As a philosopher of religion, he first analyzes the experiential aspect of Shinto spirituality underlying its various ideas and practices. Second, as a historian of Japanese thought, he sketches several major developments in Shinto doctrines and institutions from prehistory to the present, showing how its interactions with Buddhism, Confucianism, and nationalism influenced its expression in different times and contexts.

In Shinto's idiosyncratic history, Kasulis finds the explicit interplay between two forms of spirituality: the "existential" and the "essentialist". Although the dynamic between the two is particularly striking and accessible in the study of Shinto, he concludes that a similar dynamic may be found in the history of other religions as well.

Two decades ago, Kasulis' Zen Action/Zen Person brought an innovative understanding to the ideas and practices of Zen Buddhism, an understanding influential in the ensuing decade of philosophical Zen studies. Shinto: The Way Home promises to do the same for future Shinto studies.

©2004 University of Hawaii Press (P)2012 Redwood Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"An outstanding introduction to the basics of the Shinto tradition and its many practices." ( Philosophy East and West)
"Kasulis takes a comparative, philosophical approach, identifying both Japanese and universal characteristics of ‘Shinto spirituality'.... The book has a clear thematic structure, reads well, and will certainly provoke lively classroom discussion." ( Journal of Asian Studies)
"Through illustration and example, Kasulis explains Shinto as have few previous scholars. As in his earlier Zen Action/Zen Person, the author demonstrates without recourse to jargon and agreed-upon models. His concern is not that you be impressed but that you understand, and the result is one of the finest books on Shinto now available." ( Japan Times)

What listeners say about Shinto: The Way Home

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Limited information on actual Shinto practice.

This book focuses heavily on dissecting the history of Shinto and comparing essentialism versus existentialism. It has limited information on Shinto practice and mythology. Narrator was pleasant to listen to.

6 people found this helpful

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A scholarly intro to Shinto

If you've ever listened to one of the Great Courses lecture series, this is very similar in its structure, delivery, and technical complexity. The author states at the beginning that this is intended as an introduction to the changing philosophy and social function of Shinto through Japanese history, and it works very well as that. If you are looking for a more approachable or detailed discussion of source texts, shrines, and religious practice, keep looking.

2 people found this helpful

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Informative and well read

The start of the book is a bit bland amd takes some effort to get though but most of the book is well written and informative. There are times, however, that the author tries to use a $2 word rather than a 2 cent one but then follows up with a description. I think this is an annoying habit. Either use the word and expect that your audiences are at the level of understanding or just switch to using the normal phrasing.

2 people found this helpful

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A perfect blend of academic and actual experience

An excellent incite on Shintoism. Rife with historical and experiential commentary. The author did well to cover a wide variety of opinions on the topic and deliver a personal account that was relatable and relevant. This book is certainly a reliable text on the experience, history, and existence of the religion of Shinto. It isn't a guide to start performing shinto rituals, or delving into yokai lore, but it's an excellent basis to understanding the real meaning behind Shinto in the pre-modern and modern traditions.

1 person found this helpful

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Words one must hear

Ever feel like somebody said something to you that made miss a beat, and had to ponder their words?
Fantastic presentation of Shinto in its whole; from the ancient, to its medieval Buddhist synchronization, and its eventual rise as an ideological basis for the Imperial Japanese. Many questions were raised, and given the appropriate space to be argued in, my opinion, a fair way. This analysis was essentially what I needed to hear for my own spirituality; simply observe, and enjoy.

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Ultimately political

In the first part of the book, the author explains the nature of Shinto and how it is integrated with Buddhism and Confucianism. He then gets into the history and evolution of Shinto, and explains the views of the various individuals who developed Shinto and its relationship to the other religions and to the Japanese national identity. The last part, unfortunately, gets into the current-day politics and passes judgments on what kind of Shinto is better and worse. That I didn’t appreciate. I know it’s a controversial subject in Japan, but from this American author, I would have liked a more dispassionate survey of attitudes and practices. Because of that last part, the whole book reads as, from beginning to end, as an ideological, even propagandistic work, written from the point of view of the American empire.

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Dense but rewarding narrative

Great length are gone to to establish a baseline level of terminology which greatly slows down the first portions of the book. Ultimately, this presents a very rewarding exploration of the development of Shinto in its various forms and the key impact that it has had on Japanese history.

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Suitable for Audio?

This may be one of the very few books I have run into out of the 400 that I have listen to from Audible, that I might say is not as suitable for audio. It really needs to be read very slowly and studied. It’s one of those books I would read the paragraph, do some underlining, make notes in the margin and so on. It’s excellent but I found myself rewinding sections or even chapters a couple times. I was not familiar with Shinto before.

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A good book on Shinto.

A good recording of the book on Shinto that is precise and informative, but largely a heavy read that seemed to be more than an introduction!

This book was great to read, and the audio, while dry at times, was engaging nonetheless.

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A Great Way To Understand Shinto

This is the best book I've read on Shinto and the Japanese way. It makes so much sense as to how Japanese people have a good sense of balance and appreciation for nature. Having a long history with Japan, and filtering through the eyes of foreign missionaries, I now understand why it's so difficult for Christians to totally convert people that are already grounded in a set of beliefs that are more visible and don't rely on fantastic promises.
Read it to understand and be entertained. Now I have to buy the print copy for a solid reference book!

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  • Sam
  • 08-10-16

Informative but dry delivery

The information itself was interesting but as a British listener the narration was a turn off. Sadly the dry monotone voice just resulted in my brain switching off. The content however I thought was useful for my purposes.

4 people found this helpful

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  • The Mighty Pigeon
  • 01-12-22

Good book, very interesting.

Very interesting book.

Read very calmly, so if you don't like that, not for you.

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  • Viktorija
  • 10-15-21

It's okay

I must say talk about shinty is probably isn't easy at all, so to write a whole book it's an achievement, however the second half of the book was not organized as much as first one, I started to feel lost what is went 5alked about. but learned basics of what is Shinto religion in Japan

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-17-20

Wonderful book

Very informative book about Shintoism. Emotive and easy to listen to narration. Definitely recommend for anyone with an interest in Japan and/or Shintoism.

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  • Jeremy J
  • 10-15-19

The spirituality of awe and wonder!

A great introduction to the spirituality of awe and wonder. It gives insight into the everyday practices, place in Japanese culture and it's evolution. Well narrated.