What is Shinnyo-en?
Shinnyo-en is a Buddhist
order that is based on the Nirvana
. Considered the "final teaching
" of the Buddha
, this set of teachings emphasizes that all people have the seed of enlightenment
within them, and by acting with compassion and concern for others, everyone can cultivate that seed and find their true self.
Over the centuries, Buddhist instruction has been freely available to all. However, those who have gone on to the higher levels of training and become teachers themselves have primarily been people who withdrew from society to train in monasteries or remote locations. Shinnyo-en was created to provide an alternative framework for guidance and practice so that ordinary people can make society their fundamental training ground. Although Shinnyo-en's doctrine is firmly grounded in traditional Buddhism, it is an order where lay practitioners can train on an equal level with conventional clergy. In short, it is a diverse spiritual community (Sangha) that tries to support each and every one of its members to walk the path towards wisdom.
The foundation of Shinnyo-en date back to the life and ministry of Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived more than 2,500 years ago. As an order, Shinnyo-en's beginnings go back to Japan in the mid-1930's, when Shinjo Ito and his wife Tomoji (see footnote 1!!) were leading a contented life with their two children. However, out of a wish to find a path to happiness that all people could follow they embarked on their religious path in 1936. Soon thereafter, Shinjo Ito was ordained as a monk and became Buddhist master (acharya) on Shingon Esoteric Buddhism (see footnote nr 2!!).
In the course of his pursuit , Shinjo Ito came across the Nirvana Sutra and realized that its all-embracing concepts were the doctrinal support he needed to make effective spiritual practice accessible to everyone. His earlier training in esoteric Buddhism had emphasized becoming aware of the everpresent benevolence, compassion and wisdom that fill the universe and inspire people at the deepest level. In Buddhism, one way of referring to such consciousness is "Buddha-nature" (the potential for Buddha-hood), but traditionally, those who focused on cultivating this part of themselves became monks and nuns. The Nirvana Sutraencourages all people - monastic and lay practitioner alike - to help themselves by helping others, as everyone has a Buddha-nature at their chore, whether they are aware of it or not. In summary, the Sutra's four major principles are:
1. Everyone has a Buddha-nature, without exception.
2. "Buddha" is an everlasting, unchanging existence.
3. Even the worst wrongdoes (someone who willfully tries to destroy people's faith) can eventually attain Buddhahood.
4. Nirvana is a state of mind that we cultivate in the here and now, something, "always present, blissful, of teh true self, and pure."
In essence , the Nirvana Sutra contains a hopeful message: that all people, by acting altruistically and reaching into themselves through reflection and meditation, can bring forth the great joy, loving kindness, and compassion of Buddhas.
For the first time in history, the profound truths in the last sutra of the Buddha were linked with the wisdom of the traditional esoteric Buddhist lineage (Dharma-system). Together with the spiritual faculty (Shinnyo Reino), the Nirvana Sutra and the Shingon Dharma-stream became the foundation for a new current: an esoteric teaching which guides lay and monastic followers equally to enlightenment and salvation, with everyday life as one's ultimate trainging ground.
In 1957, Kyoshu-sama sculpted a statue of a reclining "Buddha in Nirvana" as an embodiment of the everlasting truths found in the Nirvana Sutra, with the wish that all sentient beings cultivate their Buddha-nature. From then on, it became the principal figure of Shinnyo-en.
The order of today
Shinnyo-en's head temple is located on the outskirts of Tokyo in the same city (Tachikawa) where it was founded. The Shinnyo-en teaching is recognized in official and Buddhist religious circles as an independent branch of esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyo). Since the passing in 1989 of Shinjo Ito, the orderhas been led by his successor, Shinsho Ito (also known as Keishu-sama, meaning "Dharma successor").
Shinnyo-en values all spiritual truths, so it does not ask its members to convert or give up their current religion. Anyone interested simply requests membership and begins to practice under the care of the preson who introduced him or her to the Order. COming from different countries and religious traditions, members gather in various parts of the globe and whenever possible, train at sanctuaries established in Asia, North America, Europe and Australia.
Meditation is a practice advocated in all schools of Buddhism. It provides a powerful tool for looking at aspects of ourselves that would be virtually impossible to see otherwise. In addition, many of us question why our lives unfold as they do, why there is suffering, and what is ultimately fulfilling. WIth proper practice, answers can be found for such questions, and the potential for spiritual growth becomes limitless.
Shinnyo-en has its own unique form of meditation, called sesshin ("touching the essence"). It is performed with the aid of other followers who have trained enough to become spititual guides (reinoshas) and act as spiritual mirrors for trainees in meditation. In short, sesshin helps people to look into themselves and strip away the greed, anger and ignorance that may be clouding their Buddha-nature and preventing them from aspiring higher and develoip themselves further. Key to one's training is application in daily life. This means to put into practice - in one's community, home, or workplace - the insights that one gains through meditation. Life's daily struggles and challenges are considered the fertile soil for cultivating wisdom, humility and appreciation.
Through sesshin, we can also learn about our karma, an important concept in Buddhism. A simple way to understand karma is to think of a seed (the cause). Given the proper soil and water (the conditions), it will sprout (the result). Thus, the seeds of what we reap today were sown in the past, and what we sow today will be reaped in the future. Past, present and future are connected through karma, which is also known as "cause and effect". Negative karma helps us to aspire toward truth, enlightenment and a better life. With such knowledge, and with guidance as to how to counteract negative karma, we can take concrete action that will lead to a brighter future.
Those who come to Shinnyo-en are first invited to join services and home meetings. On these occaton there is sutra-chanting, and followers' experiences and teachings are presented. Services are held on various days for different purposes, such as spiritual consolation for the deceased, purification and important Buddhist observances.
In addition to services, gatherings and meditation there is the basic training we call the "Three Practices". Based on giving, which is the forst of the six paths to perfection (Six Paramitas) of Buddhism, the Three Practices are a means of practicing generosity and cultivating a caring and compassionate heart. The first of the Three Practices is "service" (gohoshi), and involves giving one's time to serve others during temple activity or in society at large. The second is known as "joy" (kangi), as it refers to making donations joyously, in other words, doing so only when one is truly willing. The donations of followers are used not only for upkeep of the Order's facilities, but also for charities and philantropic work outside of the Order. Finally, there is "guiding" (otasuke), which is to share the teachings and give other people the oppurtunity to walk the path as well. Fundamental to the Three Practices is the sincere altruism displayed by the Buddha in seeking enlightenment for the sake of all living beings. The Buddha taught that true generosity cultivates joy in oneself as well as harmony with others.
Study of the Doctrine
After a sufficient amount of basic practice, followers can also enroll in seminary courses (Chiryu Gakuin) in order to better understand and convey the essence of the Buddha's teachings. Students study ritual and doctrine, and recieve initiation into esoteric aspects of the Shinnyo-en teachings. Upon graduation, they are conferred with a priestly rank and later given the oppurtunity to take formal vows as Buddhist disciples.
Everyone at Shinnyo-en joins the Order through a "guiding parent". This is the person who introduces a new follower to the Order and helps that person to practice. When the order was small, Shinjo and Tomoji Ito guided followers directly, making them feel like part of a family. However, with increasing numbers of followers, such direct guidance became inpossible, and so guiding parents are now responsible for conveying their same loving kindness and compassion. This Dharma (teaching) relationship helps both the "guiding parent" and the "guiding child" to exchange experiences, gain greater insight, and practice in a way that nurtures each one's Buddha-nature.
Through this system of guiding parents and children, the Order's membership is organized into groups called "lineages" where followers can convey the warm feeling of fellowship that has existed sicne Shinnyo-en's birth.
1. Wife of Shinjo Ito, founder of Shinnyo-en.
Also called Kyoshu-sama and Shojuin-sama by followers pf Shinnyo-en. Kyoshu-sama is an honorific title meaning, "master from whom the teaching originates".
After her death Tojimo Ito was given the title Shojuin-sama ("one who embraces/recieves all") because she embodied the concept of "embracement" (shoju) preached in the Nirvana Sutra.
2. Esoteric Buddhism
Esoteric refers to an understanding that cannot be described or taught through human language, as doing so would prevent full understanding.
Esoteric Buddhism was the last branch of Buddhism to develop, and so it includes all the teachings that came before it.
Emphasizing direct experience in practice rather than religious discipline, study of texts etc... it also requires that teachings and rites be passed on only by a senior in faith who can ensure that the trainee is indeeed ready to recieve them.
2200 SUmmit Drive
Burlingame, CA 94010 USA
Shinnyo-en U.S.A., Los Angeles
18111 Bastanchury Road
Yorba Linda, CA 92886 USA
Shinnyo-en U.S.A., Seattle
13353 202nd Aveneu S.E.
Issaquah, WA 98027 USA
Shinnyo-en U.S.A., New York
370 North Street
White Plains, NY 10605 USA
2348 S. Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 USA
Shinnyo-en U.S.A., Chicago Propagation Point
199 Soutch Addison Rd., Suite 103
Wood Dale, IL 60191 USA
36 Rue Ampere
75017 Paris, France
Via Vasari 6
201 35 Milano, Italy
The Manor House
Woodstock Lane North
Surrey KT6 5HL, ENgland
Shinnyo-en Germany, Hamburg
Dammotr Str. 31B Kalkhof
20354 Hamburg, Germany
Shinnyo-en Germany, Munich
Heilmann Str. 17
81479 München, Germany
Asia / Oceania
coming soon... kida tired of rabbling addresses!!