|Shinjo Ito |
Shinjo Ito was born in 1906 in Yamanashi, Japan. He came from a religious family and soon came into contact with Buddhism. His career eventually led him to Tokyo, where he worked as an engineer in the aeronautics industry. In 1932 he married Tomoji Uchida, who also came from a religious family. They had six children, although their two sons died at a young age. After having engaged intensively with religion since he was a child, he decided in 1936 to become a priest. He left his job and was ordained at Daigo-ji-Tempel in Kyoto. Daigo-ji is the head monastery of the Daigo Order of esoteric Shingon Buddhism and a centre of traditional Buddhist training. There Shinjo Ito underwent and completed a demanding ascetic training before receiving the highest initiation of Shingon Buddhism to become a Great Master (Dai-Ajari), in 1943.
Shinjo Ito was always seeking ways to share the profound teachings of the Buddha with people for whom intensive monastic Buddhism was not an option. He was convinced that all people should be able to understand the Buddha’s teachings and find answers to their questions in life, regardless of their situation in life. With this in mind, Shinjo Ito founded Shinnyo-En as an independent branch of the Buddhist faith. In 1953, the Japanese Government formally recognised Shinnyo-En as a religious community.
Shinjo Ito founded Shinnyo Buddhism and developed teachings so that lay devotees could also practise the essence of the Buddha’s teaching. The key was the Great Nirvana Sutra. This scripture, passed down in Mahayana Buddhism as the last earthly guidance of the Buddha, explains the ways in which everyone can have the chance to understand the profound core of the Buddha’s teachings.
Daigoji retained close ties with Shinjo Ito, awarding him the highest priestly rank in Japanese Buddhism, “Dai-Sojo”, in 1966. In 1997, the “Shinnyo Sanmaya Hall” was built and consecrated at Daigo-ji in honour of Shinjo Ito and the Shinnyo Buddhism he created.
Shinjo Ito always emphasised the importance of religious dialogue for a peaceful future for humanity. As part of a trip to Europe in 1967, he visited the Vatican and in an audience with Pope Paul VI presented him with a likeness of the “Parinirvana Buddha” as an expression of the common efforts towards understanding and peace between all religions and peoples. Shinjo Ito died in 1989 at the age of 83.
Social commitment was also always at the centre of Shinjo Ito’s efforts towards making a better life for people. It is for this reason that Shinnyo-En engages in many social projects not only on a local level, but also on a global scale. To find out more about Shinnyo-En’s social engagement projects please click here.
Alongside this social commitment, Shinjo Ito was also a significant artist, particularly in the field of sculpture. To date, his work has been exhibited on three continents.