Her Holiness Shinso Ito Received an Honorary Doctorate from prestigious Sri Lankan University

April 25, 2022
Japan / Sri Lanka

In recognition of Shinnyo-en’s decades long commitment to educating underserved children in the community

On April 6th, Her Holiness Shinso Ito’s lifelong commitment as a Buddhist leader was recognized when an honorary Doctor of Philosophy from Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka was conferred at the institution's 22nd General Convocation. Venerable Shuichi Arai represented Her Holiness at the ceremony and received the honorary doctorate on her behalf.

Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka is a prestigious institution of Buddhist Studies, with graduates working in Sri Lanka and abroad. It is a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and International Association of Theravada Buddhist Universities.

“Most respectfully, I request your reverence, to award with high regard, the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy, as approved by the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka on the recommendation of the Senate of the university, to Her Holiness Venerable Shinso Ito who has been an emblem of Buddhism by following the altruistic path in Buddhism and honored by the people, local and foreign, for the yeoman welfare services rendered by her to the whole world as a true disciple of the Buddha”, read the Honorary Degree of Doctorate citation.

Her Holiness addressed the audience with a video message:

"I am deeply honored and grateful to receive this prestigious degree from the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka. Your university provides learning opportunities throughout the world through sincere research and human resource development.

I would like to express my sincere respect to the Venerable Chancellor, Venerable Vice Chancellor, and all the professors of your university for your wide-ranging educational activities in line with the wisdom and compassion of Buddhism."

Shinnyo-en’s relationship with Sri Lanka dates to the 1980’s when the country’s revered leader, the most Ven. Palipana Sri Chandananda, visited the Head Temple in Japan to offer a sapling of the sacred Bodhi tree.

In October of 1986, Master Shinjo Ito was conferred the Honorary Title "Mahayana Buddadharma Visharada Keerthi Sri'', for his great contributions to the religious world and society. It was the first time in the history of the Asgiriya buddhist tradition, which spans more than a thousand years, that this title was conferred to a foreigner.

That visit led to the creation of Shinnyo-en Lanka Free Nursery School in 1988. The school is dedicated to providing free state of the art pre-school education to underprivileged children in the local community.

Shinnyo-en covers all of the school's operating costs while also providing uniforms, school supplies, tuition, and snacks for the children. At the opening of the school, Shinjo Ito said, “for the children of this precious gem that is Sri Lanka, to cultivate lives full of blessings and joy to light the way to a bright future.”

Students from the school have gone on to pursue careers in medicine, engineering, banking, law and academia. One former student reflected, “the culture, discipline and good habits they taught us those days have now become life long habits and sometimes it makes us unique and I'm very grateful for that.”

Another added, “it was really a home away from home for two years back in 1992/93, where I can still recall the fond memories at the nursery and the warmth of the teachers. By having the best education and life skills at the very beginning of life has laid the foundation for me to become a reputable and responsible independent in the society.”

Her Holiness said of the school: 

“Over the past 35 years since the nursery school's inauguration, some 8,000 students spent meaningful years learning here. They have gone on to play important roles in a wide variety of fields in your country.

As an expression of our heartfelt support to Sunday Schools at temples in Sri Lanka that nurture the younger generation, we have contributed to projects that provide uniforms and school supplies.”

The citation also commends Her Holiness for her leadership during the aftermath of a Tsunami that brought much devastation to Sri Lanka in 2004. Shinnyo-en provided relief volunteers to aid in the recovery efforts, offering humanitarian relief to the citizens of Sri Lanka impacted by the disaster. Additionally, Shinnyo-en has provided assistance for the construction and renovation of buildings in Sri Lanka including, (SLFUW) Sri Lanka Federation of University Women in Colombo and the Diwaguhawa Cave Temple in Kuruvita.

Outside of Japan, in 2002 Shinso Ito was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University in Thailand in acknowledgment of her long-standing efforts to build mutual understanding and harmonious relations with Theravada Buddhism.

In 2013, representatives from the three main orders of Sri Lankan Buddhism—the Asgiriya Chapter of the Siam Nikaya, the Amarapura Nikaya, and the Ramanna Nikaya—all jointly conferred on Shinso Ito titles that are given to “the most knowledgeable and venerable in the field of Mahayana Buddhism”, in honor of her achievements as a master of Mahayana Buddhism and leader of Shinnyo-en’s philanthropic activities in Sri Lanka.

Her Holiness concluded her message with the words:

"It is exactly in these times with the ongoing pandemic and global conflicts that I keenly feel the importance of our actions and messages for peace as religious leaders. Together with our dear Sri Lankan people I wish to continue to pray deeply and devote myself to working for world peace."