One Heart

What is Shinnyo-en?


Shinnyo-en was founded in 1936 by Master Shinjo Ito and his wife Tomoji.  Shinjo trained at Daigoji, the head temple of the Daigo School of Shingon esoteric Buddhism.  There, he mastered all the trainings and gained the title of Great Acharya ("Great Master").  He became a successor of the "dharma stream," the traditional flow of Buddhist wisdom handed down in an unbroken line since the time of the Buddha over two thousand five hundred years ago.  This also qualified him to start his own lineage, or denomination.  However, because Shingon Buddhism is an esoteric tradition, it forbids revealing its teachings to the non-initiated.

Esoteric refers to an understanding that cannot be described or taught through human language, as doing so would prevent full understanding.  Esoteric Buddhism (or Vajrayana) developed relatively late in Buddhist history, and so it includes all the teachings that came before it.  Emphasizing direct experience of practice rather than religious discipline, study of texts, or other external methods, it also requires that teachings and rites be passed on only by a senior in faith who is sure that the trainee is indeed ready to receive them.

Searching for a way to share the enlightenment he had realized through Shingon, Shinjo further studied the Buddhist teachings and came across a set of scriptures known as the Nirvana or Mahaparinirvana ("Great Passing into Nirvana") Sutra, the "last teachings" of the Buddha. Reading this sutra, Shinjo realized that its all-embracing concepts were the doctrinal support he needed to make effective spiritual practice accessible to everyone.

Today, the Shinnyo-en path to spiritual liberation is recognized in official and Buddhist circles as an independent branch of esoteric Buddhism (Jpn. Mikkyo).  Since the passing in 1989 of Shinjo Ito, the order has been led by his successor, Her Holiness Shinso Ito.

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