"SCULPTING the BUDDHA WITHIN" - The Biography of Shinjo Ito

September 03, 2019
Tokyo, Japan

Sculpting the Buddha Within: The Life and Thought of Shinjo Ito, the first major English-language biography of the founder of Shinnyo-en, was published September 3, 2019 by Wisdom Publications (Somerville, Massachusetts), the leading publisher of books, podcasts, and online courses on contemporary and classic Buddhism, mindfulness, and meditation.

The author, Shuri Kido, is a prominent contemporary Japanese poet with a profound knowledge of Japanese culture. He has published several books of poetry and essays and translated important English poems; most notably, he introduced works by Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot to Japan. Kido has also been a critic and columnist for magazines and newspapers in Japan.

Sculpting the Buddha Within traces Shinjo Ito’s evolution not only as a spiritual master but also as an inspiration for how to work towards a brighter future despite uncertainty and turmoil in the world. The biography explores the challenges of spiritual practice in post-war Japan and documents Shinjo’s turbulent personal life and how the Shinnyo practice evolved under his leadership. His wish was to help people see their potential so that they, too, would work diligently to give form to their inner Buddha, in accordance with the gratitude, creativity, and happiness latent within one’s Buddha nature.

Some of the incidents elaborated in the book will be familiar to Shinnyo-en practitioners, but the sweep of the narrative, embedded with the fundamentals of Shinnyo teachings, has never before been presented, in English, so fully and movingly. Sculpting the Buddha Within will be especially interesting to readers who are not familiar with Shinnyo practice but who have an interest in the place of Japanese esoteric Buddhism in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Sculpting the Buddha Within is now available in bookstores and online in paperback and Kindle editions.

Shinjo Ito has elsewhere written about the era which falls at the center of Sculpting the Buddha Within:

“Seeing how society had declined after the war, I strongly felt that I would not be a true spiritual leader unless I were somehow able to help the living experience and express the wisdom and lovingkindness of the Buddha. In order to do that, I first needed to open the eyes of the younger generation to their potential, those who would rise up and take on the burdens of society in the coming years.

“Peace had come to the country, but no one had any idea what the future held. This led to a strong tendency amongst those who turned to religion for mental and emotional support to do so only for themselves . . . The Basic Makoto Training that we held was out of the desire to cultivate a true (Jpn. makoto) aspiration that would align with the spirit of the Dharma for altruism and service to others.”