We received word last week that Her Holiness Shinso Ito, head priest of the international  Shinnyo-En Buddhist Order, will be in New York soon to address the 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. Shinso Ito is pictured below in a photo by Richard Walker from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

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No one in the Tricycle office was very familiar with details about Shinnyo-En, or the Shinnyo Buddhism they practice. Founded by Shinso Ito’s father Shinjo Ito in 1936, Shinnyo-en has grown into a large lay Buddhist organization in Japan and also has a large presence in Hawaii and on the West Coast of the United States. Their primary US temple is in Redwood City, California, but they have offices all over the country, including two in the New York area.

Master Shinjo based Shinnyo Buddhism on Shingon Buddhism, a form of Japanese Vajrayana, and chose the (Mahayana) Mahaparinirvana Sutra as its foundational text. Shinjo Ito taught:

Life is good because of how we are living it. If we only view ourselves from a material perspective, it is easy to think that the more we possess or the richer we become, the better our life will become. But no matter how materially blessed we may be, we are not guaranteed a good life. True fulfillment comes from serving and caring about others. For me, this ideal is most admirable and I try to live my life by it.

Consequently, the Shinnyo-en Order focuses on helping others via philanthropic and charitable activities, as well as through simple service to those in need. As head priest of Shinnyo-en (since 1989) Shinso Ito has emphasized interconnectedness and made promoting peace through interfaith dialogue a priority. She will be meeting with Mayor Bloomberg to present a statue cast by her father to the city of New York, and she will also have a small amount to speak to the press. We look forward to meeting with her and finding out what she thinks about lay Buddhist practice in the 21st century.

The Summer 2008 issue of Tricycle featured a piece of dharma art from Shinnyo-en’s founder, Shinjo Ito. Read the complete article here.

Sambo, Shinjo Ito, 1959, magnolia wood, 12.6 x 22.8 inches; “Sambo” is the Japanese term for the three jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha
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