The Info List - Shinnyo-en

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SHINNYO-EN (真如苑, Borderless Garden of Truth) is a Japanese new religion in the tradition of the Daigo branch of the Shingon Buddhism
. It was founded in 1936 by Ito Shinjo (伊藤真乗, 1906-1989) and his wife Tomoji (友司, 1912-1967) in a suburb of metropolitan Tokyo, the city of Tachikawa , where its headquarters is still located.

It is open to lay and monastic practitioners alike. Its principal teachings are based on the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra . They also integrate elements of traditional Theravada , Mahayana and Vajrayana
as well as teachings and practices initiated by the founders of Shinnyo-en, Shinjō Itō (born as Fumiaki Itō), a great master (大阿闍梨 dai ajari) of Shingon Buddhism, and his wife Tomoji Itō (born as Tomoji Uchida), the first woman in the thousand-year history of Daigo-ji in Kyoto to receive the rank of Daisōjō (大僧正) as a laywoman.

In 2011, Shinnyo-en was reported to have 860 000 members, and temples and training centers in several countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas. The temples are characterised by the Nirvana image, a statue of the reclining Buddha.

Central to Shinnyo-en is the belief, expressed in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, that all beings possess Buddha-nature , a natural, unfettered purity that can respond creatively and compassionately to any situation in life.

As of 2014 the head of Shinnyo-en was Shinsō Itō (born 1942, also known as 'Keishu'), who holds the rank of Daisōjō, the highest rank in traditional Shingon Buddhism.


* 1 History * 2 Teachings * 3 Organizational structure * 4 Social action

* 5 Shinnyo practice

* 5.1 Three Practices * 5.2 Sesshin * 5.3 Dharma
School * 5.4 Fire and Water Ceremonies * 5.5 Other Practices

* 6 Missionary Activities * 7 Shinnyo Buddhist ceremonies * 8 Shinnyo-en and the arts * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 Sources * 12 Bibliography * 13 External links


Shinnyo-en was established in 1936 by Shinjō Itō and his wife Tomoji in the Tokyo suburb of Tachikawa. In December 1935, Shinjō Itō and Tomoji Itō had enshrined an image of Achala believed to have been sculpted by the renowned Buddhist sculptor Unkei
and they began a 30-day period of winter austerities in early 1936. Tomoji cultivated her spiritual faculty (霊能, reinō) on February 4, inheriting it from her aunt. From that time, Tomoji and Shinjō began a new life together entirely devoted to encouraging people's spiritual growth.

In May 1936, Shinjō Itō was ordained by Daisōjō and Chief Abbot Egen Saeki at Sanbō-in , a temple of the Daigo school of Shingon Buddhism. The Chief Abbot conferred to him the monastic name of Shinjō, meaning "True Vehicle", and the title of Kongō-in, which means " Vajra
", in December 1938. Accordingly, he changed his name from Fumiaki Itō to Shinjō Itō in April 1942.

The community was first named Risshō-kaku, then the Tachikawa Fellowship of Achala ( Tachikawa Fudoson Kyokai, 1938-1948). Formally registered in 1948 under the Religious Corporations Ordinance (Japanese : Shukyo Hojinrei, enacted in 1945) the name changed to Sangha
of Truth (Makoto-Kyodan) with Shinchō-ji as its Head Temple.

In spring of 1949, a young man, who then assumed a top position in the temple office, began violating the Buddhist precepts and became negligent in his training. He finally left the sangha in the fall of 1949 and filed formal charges against Shinjō in 1950. His primary claim was that he had been beaten during one of the sesshin trainings. Testimony by Shuten Oishi, director of the Federation of New Religious Organisations of Japan, provided proof that sesshin training does not involve physical abuse. Shinjō was given a sentence of eight months in prison, suspended for three years. The Federation of New Religious Organisations criticized this verdict as follows:

The fact is that the defendant should have been found "not guilty". However, the social climate has led people to place so much emphasis on individual rights, that any plea concerning a civil rights violation, no matter how outlandish, will be heard by the courts. As such, the Head of the Sangha
of Truth was found guilty of abuse for using only negligible force during sesshin training. This case clearly exemplifies the prevailing attitudes of post-war Japan, in which the police, the media, and the general public have branded all new religious organisations as evil and subjected them to persecution without finding out what they really are.

The sangha was permitted to continue, but under a different name. It was reorganized and renamed Shinnyo-en on June 21, 1951 and Tomoji Itō became its administrative head. After the revision of the Japanese Religious Corporation Act in April 1951, Shinnyo-en filed an application in the following year and received approval from the Minister of Education on May 16, 1953.

The first image of the reclining Nirvana Buddha, sculpted by Shinjō Itō, was consecrated on November 3, 1957.

Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen , a Thai vihara , presented Shinnyo-en with śarīra (relics of Gautama Buddha ) on July 30, 1966.

During June and July 1967 Shinnyo-en's co-founders visited seven European countries and Israel on a religious goodwill mission and presented a nirvana image to several Universities and religious organisations.

The first Shinnyo-en Sanctuary outside Japan was inaugurated on March 2, 1971 in Mililani, Hawaii, followed by the dedication of temples in Honolulu (1973), San Francisco (1982), Taiwan (1985), France (1985), Los Angeles (1990), Italy (1990), Belgium (1991), Hong Kong (1992), U.K. (1994), Germany (1994), Singapore (1994), Australia (1999).

On September 11, 1997 the "Shinnyo Samaya Hall" was dedicated at Shimo-Daigo, the lower part of Daigo-ji monastery in recognition of Shinjō Itō's founding of a new school of Buddhism.


The principal Sutra
on which the Shinnyo teachings are based on are the Prajñāpāramitā
Sutra, the Lotus Sutra and the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra. According to Shinnyo-en, the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sutra
teaches four key points:

* Buddhahood is always present * All beings possess a Buddha-nature * There is hope for everyone to attain nirvana * Nirvana is of the present moment and characterized by permanence-bliss-self-purity.

According to the Junna Nakata, the 103 Chief Abbot of Daigo-ji Monastery:

If we view the Buddhist tradition as a vertical line, and the world we live in as a horizontal line, Shinjō Itō placed the teachings of Nirvana to work as a link between the two, and proved the validity of the Nirvana teachings.

Schrimpf commented on the introduction of the Mahaparinirvana sutra to Shinnyo-en members in 1956,

By choosing a text that is rather irrelevant in esoteric Buddhism, Shinjō Itō left the doctrinal path of Shingon, thus emphasising the uniqueness of his Buddhist teachings and training. This direction was further underlined by the replacement of Fudō Myōō as the main object of veneration by Kuon Jōjū Shakyamuni Nyorai, the dying Buddha who taught his last sermon (...).

The teachings also integrate elements of traditional Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana
Buddhism, cultural influences characteristic to Japanese Buddhism, as well as practices and rituals initiated by Shinjo Ito, the founder of Shinnyo-en.

As all religious organizations founded since the middle of the 19th century Shinnyo-en is classified by Japanese scholars as a new religious movement.


According to Schrimpf, "the community is divided into various units that form a hierarchical pyramid." The basic organizational unit of the Shinnyo-en sangha is said to be the “lineage” (Japanese : suji), which consists of a group of members mentored by a “lineage parent” (Japanese : 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 sangha as a whole encourages and participates in volunteer activities in the spirit of Buddhist practice.

The leadership in Shinnyo-en follows the Buddhist tradition of Dharma succession from master to disciple.

In Daigo-ji there are two Dharma
streams (lineages) - that of lay Buddhism
(Ein) and that of monastic Buddhism
(Diamond and Womb Worlds). Shinjō Itō succeeded to both from the 96th Dharma-successor and Chief Abbot of Daigo-ji, Egen Saeki. I believe Shinjō Itō had the intention of merging the two Dharma-streams from the beginning. By doing so, he gave rise to a new Dharma-stream. The Shinnyo Dharma-stream unites the Buddhist tradition and society. (The Most Venerable Junna Nakata, the 103rd Chief Abbot of Daigo-ji Monastery)

In 1982 Shinsō Itō (born 1942 as Masako Itō), the third daughter of Shinjō and Tomoji, completed her Buddhist training and became a successor in the Shinnyo dharma lineage. Shinjō announced her to become his successor in 1983 and gives her the priestly name 'Shinsō'. A ceremony to confirm this dharma succession was held at Daigo-ji monastery on April 24, 1984. After Shinjō's passing on July 19, 1989 Shinsō Itō becomes the head of Shinnyo-en. In 1992, Shinsō Itō was conferred Daisōjo, the highest priestly rank in traditional Shingon Buddhism, by the Daigo-ji Shingon Buddhist monastery. She also received an honorary doctorate from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Thailand in 2002 for her long-standing efforts to foster relations with Theravada Buddhism. She was invited twice by the Daigo-ji monastery to officiate at a ceremony held in Daigo-ji's central hall Kondō, becoming the first woman to preside a Buddhist service there; on September 11, 1997 on the occasion of the dedication of the Shinnyo Samaya Hall, and on October 16, 2009, marking Great Master Shōbō Rigen's 1,100th memorial.

In Shinnyo-en's Dharma
School (Japanese : Chiryu-Gakuin) members study buddhist doctrine and learn ritualistic aspects. After graduating as a Dharma
Teacher they can further qualify for undergoing Buddhist ordination (Japanese : Tokudo-Jukai) and receiving traditional monastic ranks.


Shinnyo-en believes an individual's action can contribute to creating a harmonious society. Working towards this goal, the organization engages in interfaith dialogue, environmental activities, 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.

Their 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.

Shinnyoen, in 2001 planned to build nonreligious facilities — including parks and sports and cultural centers — on part of the 1-million-sq.-meter plot between Musashimurayama and Tachikawa in western Tokyo that it planned to purchase from Nissan. “We are hoping to make space accessible and spiritually appealing to the public,” said Minoru Shitara, a Shinnyo-en spokesman.

During 2005-2007, Shinnyo-en supported and cooperated with the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue to enact the Palestinian-Jewish Family Peacemakers Camp—Oseh Shalom - Sanea al-Salam, at Camp Tawonga that brought hundreds of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish youth and adults into relationship.

People who are interested in traditional Buddhist training are always welcome, but volunteer activities provide an additional avenue for Shinnyo-en to contribute to the wider secular community. (Shinso Ito)


Shinnyo-en practitioners are encouraged to practice Sesshin Training and undertake the Three Practices (三つの歩み, mittsu no ayumi), which are a distillation of the Pāramitā
taught by Shakyamuni Buddha.


The Three Practices (三つの歩み, mittsu no ayumi) are:

* Joyful donations (歓喜, okangi, giving/generosity): Monetary or other types of material donations; the giving of kind, encouraging, harmonious words; offering one's home to guests or those in need of shelter; offering one's seat in public transit etc. Monetary contributions are voluntary and can be made to the organization of Shinnyo-en or to any other organization/cause the practitioner deems as meritorious.) * Sharing of the Dharma
(お救け, otasuke): This essentially means helping people grow spiritually by sharing the Buddhist teachings. Sharing the dharma can be done explicitly or implicitly: The practitioner can explicitly share the content of the Shinnyo practice or his/her experience in the practice, or merely be there as an empathizing friend or listener, (thereby implicitly expressing the essence of the Buddha's teachings with his/her sincere and caring demeanor). Though the practice of sharing the dharma may sometimes lead to registering someone as a new member, true otasuke is not about winning new members, but about guiding a person out of a self-absorbed or ego-centered state of mind and ultimately towards true happiness/spiritual liberation.) * Giving time and service (ご奉仕, gohōshi: This is volunteer work done within the order of Shinnyo-en or society at large. As with the other 2 practices, the goal is to cultivate a heart of sincerely wanting to benefit others, as opposed to asking for something in return for one's efforts.)


Sesshin (the word is composed of the two Chinese characters, “touch” and “heart” ) is the central element of spiritual practice for Shinnyo practitioners. This is not to be confused with the sesshin in Zen
Buddhism. Whereas in Zen
Buddhism, sesshin refers to a period of intensive meditation, with many hours of meditation each day, sesshin in Shinnyo-en has an entirely different meaning.

A sesshin involves receiving guidance from a 'Spiritual guide' (霊能者, reinōsha, medium), a person who has been specially trained and whose spiritual faculty (霊能, reinō') is recognized by the Shinnyo-en organization. This kind of guidance is given only at a Shinnyo-en temple and should help members to understand themselves in light of Buddhist concepts. This guidance lasts for about three minutes per person.

Shinnyo-en refers to the spiritual world from which the guiding messages emanate as the shinnyo reikai (真如霊界). This is not merely the dwelling place of the spirits of the dead, it also encompasses and is equated with the Buddha realm (仏界, bukkai). The spiritual guides' contact with this world is not direct, but aided by the intercession of two 'children' (両童子, ryō-dōji) and various dharma protectors, who are viewed as being one with forces of the heavens and earth. The Two Dōjis are none other than the first and second sons of Ito Shinjo, posthumously named, respectively, Kyodoin (教導院, died aged one year old) and Shindoin (真導院, died aged fifteen). Guidance from the Buddha realm is passed to the spiritual guides and subsequently to the practitioners.

Schrimpf describes the practice of sesshin as follows:

In a regular meditation, up to fifty or sixty followers will gather in a room, sit in a circle and meditate. They are faced by five to ten reinosha who are also in meditation. After a while, the media experience some kind of intuitive cognition. It is interpreted as something indicated (shimesareta) to them from the spirit world. They transform this cognition into words - the so-called spiritual words (reigen) - and transmit them to the person they are directed at. Often, these are rather abstract phrases, but usually the listener can relate them to a certain problem or situation he is coping with.


Practitioners have the opportunity to further their practice by studying at Shinnyo-en's dharma school. After three years of classes and fulfilling various requirements, including passing a written test and assessment of everyday practice, they are granted priestly ranks (僧階 sokai) and become dharma teachers.


According to the Shinnyo-en website they practice water and fire ceremonies. "While most traditional Buddhist fire rituals focus on personal purification and awakening, the Shinnyo-en ceremony is dedicated to awakening people to their innate compassionate and altruistic nature, transcending all boundaries of age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, and religious tradition, and directing the positive energy of the ceremony outward with the hope that all people can live in a world of hope and harmony."


Through mindfulness and seated meditation, practitioners 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 for others. Therefore, practitioners are encouraged to cultivate mindfulness and self-reflection, and to apply in daily life the insights gained in seated meditation.

Shinnyo-en practitioners in pursuing the Path to Nirvana vow to abide by the Five Precepts (Pali: pañca-sīlāni) and follow the Eightfold Path , although no reference can be found of Shinnyo-en teaching Right Mindfulness , nor Right Concentration , these being the last two steps on the Eightfold Path and those which contain traditional Buddhist meditation practice.

By learning to identify with others (or "place oneself in the shoes of another"), practitioners aim to cultivate the virtues of a bodhisattva.


In Shinnyo-en a school for the training of missionaries has been developed, and lectures are given on Shinnyo-en doctrine, history, and missionary methods. Members allowed to enter this school take three years to complete the prescribed course of study. At the end of that time, they are granted some kind of missionary status, depending on their test results, success in mission work, academic career, social standing, and the like. The system of missionary ranks is called sokai or “stages in Buddhist discipleship.”


Traditional ceremonies, derived from Shingon Buddhism — many of which can be traced back to ancient Vedic and Hindu ceremonies — are an important aspect of Shinnyo Buddhist practice. Rituals are used as means to purify the mind, awaken compassion, or to express gratitude for the chance to develop oneself and practice the Buddhist teachings.

Prayers for ancestors and departed souls, such as the Lantern Floating ceremony, and O-bon (Sanskrit: Ullambana), are believed to also help cultivate kindness and compassion within practitioners.

With the wish of creating cultural harmony and understanding, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, officiated the inaugural Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony on Memorial Day, 1999.

Traditional fire ceremonies such as homa are performed to help practitioners overcome obstacles that hinder their spiritual progress and liberation.


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.


* Buddhism in Japan * List of new religious movements * New Religious Movements, Cults, and Sects * Shingon Buddhism * Ullambana Sutra


* ^ Mikiko, Nagai (1995). Magic and Self-Cultivation in a New Religion: The Case of Shinnyoen, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22, No. 3/4, p. 302 * ^ Usui 2003, p. 224 * ^ Mikiko, Nagai (1995). Magic and Self-Cultivation in a New Religion: The Case of Shinnyoen, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22, No. 3/4, p. 303 * ^ Shiramizu, Hiroko (1979). Organizational Mediums: A Case Study of Shinnyo-en, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 6, No. 3, p. 415. * ^ Pokorny, Lukas (2011). Neue religiöse Bewegungen in Japan heute: ein Überblick . In: Hödl, Hans Gerald and Veronika Futterknecht, ed. Religionen nach der Säkularisierung. Festschrift für Johann Figl zum 65. Geburtstag, Wien: LIT, p. 191 * ^ The Path of Oneness, p.392 * ^ The Path of Oneness, Shinnyo-en, English Revised Edition, 2009, p.402-406 * ^ "Chronicle of Postwar Religions," published by Federation of New Religious Organizations in Japan (新日本宗教団体連合会) in 1963 * ^ A Walk through the Garden Vol.II p.65-72 * ^ Daigo-ji official website * ^ Starting Out p.57 * ^ A Walk through the Garden Vol.II p.29 * ^ Schrimpf, Monika (2011). "Shinnyo-en"; in Staemmler, Birgit; Dehn, Ulrich (ed.), Establishing the Revolutionary: An Introduction to New Religions in Japan. Münster: LIT Verlag, . ISBN 978-3-643-90152-1 , p. 184 * ^ Schrimpf, Monika (2011). "Shinnyo-en"; in Staemmler, Birgit; Dehn, Ulrich (ed.), Establishing the Revolutionary: An Introduction to New Religions in Japan. Münster: LIT Verlag, . ISBN 978-3-643-90152-1 , p. 184 * ^ Usui, p.234–235. * ^ A Walk through the Garden Vol.II p.29 * ^ RNS April 25, 2013 * ^ History of Daigo-ji * ^ Shinnyo-en official Japanese website * ^ Hiroshi Matsubara, Japan Times News-2001/10/25 * ^ Peacemaker Camp 2007 * ^ Tricycle Magazine, Interview with Shinso Ito * ^ The Path of Oneness, p.193 * ^ Ishii Kenji 石井研士 1986 Sezoku shakai ni okeru Bukkyo no kanosei 世俗社会における 仏教の可能性. Riso 633: p. 173. * ^ Nagai, Mikiko. 1995. Magic and self-cultivation in a new religion: The case of Shinnyoen. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22: p. 305. * ^ Shiramizu, Hiroko (1979). Organizational Mediums: A Case Study of Shinnyo-en, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 6, No. 3, pp. 421. * ^ Shiramizu, Hiroko (1979). Organizational Mediums: A Case Study of Shinnyo-en, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 6, No. 3, pp. 428. * ^ Shiramizu, Hiroko (1979). Organizational Mediums: A Case Study of Shinnyo-en, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 6, No. 3, pp. 421. * ^ Shiramizu, Hiroko (1979). Organizational Mediums: A Case Study of Shinnyo-en, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 6, No. 3, pp. 424. * ^ Mikiko, Nagai (1995). Magic and Self-Cultivation in a New Religion: The Case of Shinnyoen, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22, No. 3/4, pp. 305-306. * ^ *Schrimpf, Monika (2004). Notions of Secrecy in a New Religious Movement in Japan: A Study of Shinnyo-en. In: Kleine, Christoph; Schrimpf, Monika; Triplett, Katja (eds.), Unterwegs - Neue Pfade in der Religionswissenschaft. München: Biblion Verlag. p. 314. ISBN 3-932331-93-1 . * ^ http://www.shinnyoen.org/beliefs-practices/index.html * ^ Organizational mediums: A case study of Shinnyo-en. Author: Shiramizu Hiroko 1979 Vol:6:3 Journal: Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. p 434. * ^ Kealii, "Ninth Annual Lantern Floating Ceremony," May 2007 * ^ http://www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com/page/history * ^ "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.


* A Walk through the Garden Vol.II Foundations of Shinnyo-en, Shinnyo-en, Japan, 1999 * Starting Out An introduction to Shinnyo Practice, Shinnyo-en, 2010 * The Path of Oneness, Shinnyo-en, English Revised Edition, 2009 * Melville, Sinclair. 'More than a Drop in the Ocean,' "Buddha Ripples," IAD publishing, 2009 * 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


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