Shinnyo-en Annual Saito Homa Ritual Observed

October 01, 2011
Yamanashi prefecture, Japan

On October 1 and 2, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, conducted the annual saito homa ritual at a temple near the shore of Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi prefecture, Japan. On October 2nd, Shinso Ito conducted the ritual, as she has done since she assumed leadership of Shinnyo-en in 1989, assisted by lay members from Shinnyo-en communities worldwide.

The weather was clear and Mt. Fuji was clearly visible. About 12,000 Shinnyo-en members attended over the two days, and, worldwide, another 600,000 members attended at their respective local temples.

The saito homa, a powerful and energizing event meant to inspire participants' aspirations for enlightenment and awaken inner strength and determination, is an ancient ritual based on how ascetic masters are believed to have prepared a mountain location, purifying it as a sacred space, for spiritual training and for communing with the deities. Incorporated into Buddhism in the late 7th century CE, the saito homa ritual became part of the Buddhist mountain ascetic practices called Shugendo, through which one can be reborn through pilgrimage, training, and rituals in the mountains that represent the spiritual world.

Shinnyo-en founder, Shinjo Ito, in 1941, conducted the first Shinnyo-en saito homa, but not in the mountains. Shinjo Ito conducted the ritual near his home in Tachikawa, consistent with his teachings, based on the Nirvana Sutra, that the home and the workplace are equally manifestations of the spiritual realm where one can pursue enlightenment. Shinjo Ito wrote, "I wished to express that Shinnyo-en's ritual is intended to achieve the Nirvana Sutra's goal of guiding everyone to nirvana by liberating them from delusion and suffering and by embracing all people equally."

Her Holiness, Shinso Ito, on the occasion of this year's saito homa said, "The purpose of the ritual is to kindle, with the fire of wisdom, illumination in the hearts of all people equally, and to extend loving compassion to everyone."