Syncretism is the mixing of elements of one religion with those of another. One of the great strengths of Buddhism has always been its tolerance. When it came to an area, rather than destroying the existing religion, it would usually try to integrate it into itself, modifying some parts, reinterpreting others. This `skilful means' meant that the coming of Buddhism was rarely the cause of friction or conflict. Unfortunately, it has also meant that the Dhamma has sometimes ended up being compromised.
The worship of nats in Burma, of phi in Thailand and Laos, the practice of caste in Nepal and Sri Lanka, the reliance on magic, astrology, talismans and divination common throughout the Buddhist world, would all be examples of this. Popular Buddhism amongst Chinese incorporates elements of Taoism and folk religion while Tibetan Vajrayàna has absorbed into itself some beliefs and practices of Hinduism and Bon, the original religion of Tibet. Buddhism in Japan incorporated into itself aspects of Shinto, a trend called Shinbutsu Shågo, `Gods and Buddha Together'.