Address by Her Holiness Shinso Ito at the Third Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace

September 20, 2015
New York, NY

Tonight we celebrate our third Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace in New York City. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for joining us.

We see before us beautifully-lit lanterns in all the colors of the rainbow. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing with all of us. According to Buddhist custom, we dedicate our lanterns to our loved ones who have passed on. This tradition links us to the past, but also empowers us to express our thoughts, hopes, and resolve for the future.

Some of us may remember the important people in our lives who nurtured and supported us. Others may cherish the people with whom we share the present. And all of us are continuously looking forward, into the future.

Regardless, participating in our lantern floating is about making new discoveries about yourself, while remembering those on whose shoulders you stand.

The founder of Shinnyo-en, Shinjo Ito, was a fully qualified grand master of an ancient Buddhist tradition. He taught me, “I don’t believe in seeking the perfect situation, separate from reality. Only by looking deeply into what is real before us in our lives will we find a way to make our dreams come true. Each of us is a light to this end.”

There is nothing easy about the realities we all face daily. Our everyday lives may include laughter and joy, but they may also include hardship and sadness. Both the good and the bad make us strong.

Shinjo Ito taught, take a step back and look closely, compassionately at yourself and your surroundings. If you see someone experiencing difficulties, be present for them. If not all your attempts are successful, remember that each setback is also an opportunity to spring forward. Once we determine the changes we want to make, all that remains is putting our insight immediately into action. 

In tonight’s ceremony, we not only write a message on the lantern, but we take that lantern, place it on the water, and put a little bit of physical effort – a push – and send it away from us, to float into the future.

That little push reminds us that having good thoughts and intentions is not sufficient. We have to act, in a practical, physical way. . . . little by little in our everyday life, to bring our ideals into reality.

All of us have had moments when we did not think we could go further. At such times, I tell myself that it is all right to stop and take a deep breath, to readjust my bearings and call it a day.

We can then try again with renewed determination and deeper insight. However many times we may fall, we can still get up and go forward. Never underestimate the human ability to do so. Each time we rise again, we can, and will, stand taller. That’s what makes our efforts genuine; that’s what leads to making a difference.

I remember the first time I visited New York, 45 years ago. Every visit since then has been an opportunity for me to pray for harmony in the world and the happiness of all people. Shinnyo-en places special emphasis on what we call buddha nature. We are all endowed with a positive life force. I am reminded of this life force in the people of New York. It is what lets us embrace our diversity, overcome our setbacks, and challenge the limits of human possibilities.  

Each of our lanterns tonight is a beacon of peace—and a symbol of our resolve. As we float the lanterns, we express our ardent intention to push forward, carrying into the future an impassioned commitment to the peace and well-being of others. See how the individual lights of the lanterns shine on one another.  

You are not alone.

Whenever your light may start to dim, someone will be there to light the way. The person to whom we dedicate our lanterns will surely be at our side. Each of us, in turn, will be there for others. Keep in your heart the messages you were inspired to write on your lantern. Give them full expression in your thoughts and in your actions.

We are all continuously faced with change, and sometimes that means profound difficulties or loss. But these changes also mean that we have the power of transformation.

Believe in yourself as a beacon of light and carry through with confidence. Together, our collective lights will pierce any darkness . . . .to blaze the way toward peace. 

Thank you very much.