Mahaparinirvana Buddha Statue Re-inspirited at Ceremony at Oyasono Temple

October 15, 2011
Shinnyo-en Ogen'in Temple Complex, Tachikawa

Three years into an extensive renovation and enhancement of the Shinnyo'en Oyasono headquarters temple complex in Tachikawa, the statue of the Mahaparinirvana Buddha was re-inspirited at a ceremony performed by head priest, Her Holiness Shinso Ito. The 16-foot image of the reclining Buddha was sculpted by Shinnyo-en's founder, Master Shinjo Ito, in 1957 and was first inspirited that year marking the beginning of Shinnyo-en as a spiritual community based on the last teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, as its central text. A second inspiriting ceremony was conducted in 1968 following additions and renovations to the head temple complex in Tachikawa, in western Tokyo prefecture. The most recent renovations of Oyasono were begun in February 2008.

The ritual to enshrine the peaceful and elegant image is called "the eye-opening ceremony," which has long been a part of many Buddhist traditions. The ceremony inspires people to seek personal growth and awakening through acts of kindness, generosity, and compassion in daily life. Various kinds of eye-opening ceremonies are found in spiritual traditions throughout Asia. An image is not treated as an object fit for meditation or veneration until it has been infused with blessings through a ceremony of consecration that involves symbolically opening its eyes.

The eye-opening ceremony conducted in Shinnyo Buddhism comes from the traditions of Shingon Esotericism, which the founder, Master Shinjo Ito, mastered at Daigoji temple in Kyoto. According to Esoteric Buddhism, spirituality contains two elements: the phenomenal (outer) and the noumenal (inner). In the case of the eye-opening ceremony, the phenomenal aspect is the esoteric ritual that a master performs, which one can participate in by attending the service or by making an offering. The noumenal element has to do with how a practitioner makes daily efforts to elevate one's bodhi mind, in other words, personal transformation and spiritual growth.

Shinnyo-en founder, Master Shinjo Ito, was always careful to emphasize that buddha images are not meant to be worshipped. Rather, they are seen as tools for reflection, reminding people that there is a beautiful potential inside themselves that can also be shaped into a buddha.

Her Holiness Shinso Ito said, "This inspiriting of the Buddha image at Oyasono is a way of confirming the presence of the Tathagata in our lives. With our own hands, we can make this site of our original temple a place for the future. I'd like us to think about it as a new start for our practice tradition, one that will help us in the effort to show the path of spiritual liberation to all people of the world."