Shinnyo-en (真如苑) (meaning "Borderless Garden of Truth") is a reputed Buddhist school open to lay practitioners, from different religions or beliefs, and monks alike. The principal Sutra on which the Shinnyo teachings are based is Buddha's Mahaparinirvana Sutra. The teachings also combine elements of traditional Theravadan, Mahayanan and Vajrayan Buddhism with the teachings and practices initiated by the founder of Shinnyo en, Shinjo Ito (né, Fumiaki Ito; March 28, 1906-July 19, 1989) who trained at Shingon, and his wife Tomoji Ito (née,Tomoji Uchida, May 9, 1912-August 6, 1967), the first woman in the 1,000 - year history of Daigoji monastery in Kyoto to receive the rank of 'daisojo' as a laywoman.
Today, Shinnyo-en has more than one million followers worldwide, and temples and training centres in several countries in Asia, Europe and America. The temples are characterised by the statue of the reclining Buddha.
Central to Shinnyo-en is the belief, expressed in Buddha's Nirvana Sutra, that all beings possess a natural, unfettered purity that can respond creatively and compassionately to any situation in life.
The current head of Shinnyo-en is Her Holiness Keishu Shinso Ito (1942-) who holds the rank of 'daisojo', the highest rank in Japanese Buddhism. On October 16, 2009 she accepted an invitation from Daigo-ji monastery to officiate at a ceremony marking Great Master Shobo Rigen's 1,100th memorial.
Shinnyo-en was established in 1936 by Shinjo Ito and his wife Tomoji Ito in the Tokyo suburb of Tachikawa. The organization was originally named Risshōkaku. In December 1935, Shinjō Ito and Tomoji Ito enshrined the image of the Mahavairochana Achala (believed to be sculpted by the renowned Buddhist Sculptor, Unkei) and they began the 30-day winter training from the beginning of the New Year in 1936. Tomoji succeeded to Reinō (the Spiritual Faculty) from her aunt on 4 February 1936. From that time, Tomoji and Shinjō began a new career together entirely devoted to religion. Shinjo Ito became a Great Master Acharya in the Shingon tradition of Japanese Buddhism.
The basic organisational unit of the Shinnyo-en school is the “lineage” (Jpn. suji), which consists of a number of members linked to a “lineage parent” (Jpn. sujioya). Practitioners usually gather at the temple and training centre for prayer, meditation and training, and, if they so wish, also at home meetings,. The lineage as a whole often carries out civic duties in the spirit of Buddhist practice.
Shinnyo-en believes social action can create a harmonious society. Working towards this goal, it has engaged in interfaith dialogue, environmental cleaning, and disaster relief. Shinnyo-en also supports organizations such as Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), the Red Cross Society, and the World Wildlife Fund. The cultural projects include the reconstruction of ancient musical instruments, support for the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, the excavation of ruins at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and collecting Cambodian oral folk tales for a children’s book project.  (See also Press report of The Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage(INTACH)
Shinnyo-en practices a form of meditation called "sesshin" training. Sesshin (the word is composed of the two Chinese characters, “touch” and “heart”) is meditation with the addition of guidance or insights given to trainees by specially trained “spiritual guides” (Jpn. reinosha).
Through meditation, practitioners can reflect on themselves and resolve to practice harmony, gratitude, kindness, and acceptance. The school teaches that one realizes his or her true potential by acting with compassion and concern. Therefore, practitioners are encouraged to apply in daily life the insights gained from sesshin meditation.
Shinnyo-en Buddhist Ceremonies
Traditional ceremonies, derived from Shingon Buddhism, and many of which can be traced back to ancient Vedic and Hindu ceremonies, are an important part of the traditional Shinnyo Buddhist practice, and are used as means to purify negative energy or to express gratitude for the chance to develop through Shinnyo training. Prayers for ancestors and departed souls, such as the Lantern Floating ceremony, and Urabon (Sanskrit: Ullambana), are believed to also help cultivate kindness and compassion within practitioners. Traditional fire purification ceremonies such as Homa (Sanskrit: Yajna) are performed to help practitioners overcome obstacles that hinder their spiritual progress and liberation. (See also Saisho Goma ceremonyand Lantern Floating ceremony).
Shinnyo-en and the arts
Shinnyo-en believes art is a way to communicate universal, spiritual truth. Shinnyo-en sponsors many international cultural events to share their aesthetic philosophy. In addition, Shinnyo-en has staged several concerts showcasing the drumming of the Shinnyo-en Taiko Drumming Ensemble.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 A Bibliography of...; 7
- ↑ Usui, p.234-235.
- ↑ Shinnyo-en official Japanese website
- ↑ Spiritual Wonders, p.39
- ↑ Kealii, "Ninth Annual Lantern Floating Ceremony," May 2007
- ↑ "Address by Her Holiness Keishu Shinso, Saisho Homa, Taiwan, October 27th, 2007."In Step. Number 7, November 2007.
- ↑ "Buddha Ripples," p. 7
- ↑ Melville, 'More than a Drop in the Ocean,' "Buddha Ripples," p. 162-167.
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- Usui,Atsuko. "Women's 'Experience'in New Religious Movements: The Case of Shinnyo-en." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 30/3-4: 217-241. Nagoya, Japan: Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, 2003.
- Ito, Shinjo: Shinjo: Reflections, Somerset Hall Press, USA, 2009.
- Shinnyo-En (official website in English)
- Shinnyo-En - France
- Shinnyo-En - Germany
- Shinnyo-En - Italy
- Shinnyo-En - USA
- Saisho Goma/Homa Ceremony -Berlin
- Lantern Floating Ceremony - Hawaii
- Press report of The Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage(INTACH)
- Smile Foundation Newsletter India
- Article in the New York Times
- Shinnyo en Visiting Professorship at Stanford University USA
- UC Berkeley Press Release
- Article in Art Knowledge News
- Friends of Shinjo Ito
- Two films on Shinnyo made by an independent film production company
Shinjo Ito quotes
- "The spirit of Buddhism is, more than anything, about valuing harmony and unity, in which others are respected and embraced rather than denounced. This has been the way of Buddhism since the beginning, and this is true Buddhism".
- "The Buddha shared his teachings so that everyone, without exception, could reach the same supreme state of liberation that he had attained through practice and effort".
- "Sometimes when people see a successful person, they either become envious or attribute their success to luck, forgetting the efforts the person has made to get there."
- "Examine the present and learn from the past to see how the future will unfold. Too often we just look at the present and base our actions solely on that".
- "What is most important is to go deep into ourselves and discover the loving kindness and compassion of the buddha within - the awakened nature we all possess".
Shinso Ito quote
- “When we act for the sake of others, it gives rise to joy. Mutual understanding is a result of our efforts to expand the practice of loving kindness and altruism, starting with those around us. I believe that such efforts will ultimately lead to lasting peace in the world.”