Interfaith and Cross Cultural Dialogue
Dialogue across religious and cultural traditions is a core value of Shinnyo Buddhism. In 1966 Shinjo Ito, the founder of Shinnyo-en, attended the Eighth International Congress of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Goodwill missions to India, Europe, Israel, the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia to foster ties of friendship and mutual understanding followed in close succession.
Today Her Holiness Shinso Ito continues this tradition by expanding the scope of Shinnyo-en's international activities, driven by a belief that people, and all forms of life, are interconnected, and that Buddhism should actively engage in serving our society.
Shinso Ito has repeatedly taught that the goal of interfaith dialogue must be for different faiths to learn from one another. The various religious traditions provide evidence for how spiritual practices provide relief and motivate compassionate action. Shakyamuni Buddha reminded us: the world is burning with darkness, greed, and anger. Our spiritual practices open our awareness to this suffering of others and of our societies and the environment. Shinnyo-en believes that people of faith need to explore together how their practices empower, individually and together, to transform this world of suffering toward a world of harmony and understanding.
Shinnyo-en continues to participate in significant spiritual events around the world. For example, in May 2012, Shinnyo-en’s Senior Bishop, the Venerable Mitsuo Nagatsuka, represented Shinnyo-en at the 9th International Buddhist Conference, observed on Vesak Day, as organized by the United Nations and Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Bangkok, Thailand.
Shinnyo-en has conducted its fire and water ceremonies for the public and interfaith gatherings all over the world – from Japan to Taiwan to Kenya to France to England to the United States. In May 2013, Shinnyo-en will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Lantern Floating Hawai’i, an interfaith, public ceremony adapted from the Shinnyo fire and water rites that welcomes over 15,000 people each year – people of all faiths and nationalities.
Each year, Shinnyo-en hosts interfaith dialogues among leaders of differing faiths. Most recently in September 2012, Shinnyo-en hosted and convened, in partnership with the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW), a conclave of religious and spiritual leaders to consider how the emergent popular interest in contemplative practices can be channeled into more effective engagement for relief of suffering in the world and towards building unity and affirming diversity. Representatives of 25 religious traditions and denominations explored how their contemplative practices have concrete impact both within their communities and globally. Religious leaders and meditation teachers represented Buddhist (Mahayanan, Theravadan), Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Roman Catholic), Hindu, Indigenous African, Sufi, Yogic, and Non-Theistic contemplative traditions. As an acknowledgement of the importance of interfaith cooperation and action, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, conducted a Shinnyo fire ceremony on the morning of September 17th for conference participants and over 12,000 Shinnyo-en members and guests.