Lantern Floating Festival Fosters Local Community Spirit in London

August 26, 2014
London, England

On Bank Holiday Monday 25th August, an audience of over two hundred comprising families, mixed-faith groups and young adults gathered for a Shinnyo Lantern Floating Festival to express wishes for Harmony and Friendship at Shinnyo-en’s UK Buddhist Temple. The Festival was the culmination of Shinnyo-en’s Open Day, which included a visit from the Mayor of Elmbridge Councillor Barry Fairbank, a series of meditation sessions, children’s activities and a dedicated young inter-faith, inter-cultural workshop.

In the beautiful and peaceful surroundings of the Temple, Shohei Nishino, Head of Shinnyo-en UK performed the traditional Shinnyo ritual and, for the first time in the UK, participants floated over one hundred message-bearing lanterns on water. The atmospheric festival drew people from the Temple’s local community in south-west London and from nearby faith organisations. They wrote messages expressing wishes, intentions and commitments for harmony and friendship on lanterns that were then lit and floated on the scenic lake in the Temple’s grounds. In this centenary year, a special lantern was floated in remembrance of those lost during World War I and conflicts before and since.

Shohei Nishino said: “As a community of Buddhists in south-west London it is important to us to get to know our neighbours and other faith organisations. Lantern floating – which is a very special practice in Shinnyo Buddhism – is a beautiful, peaceful and inclusive rite and we are very happy that our local community and members of other faiths were able to share this moment with us. The lanterns we lit were in gratitude for the past, in appreciation of the present and with hope towards the future.”

In addition to the Lantern Floating Festival, the day’s highlights included a young adult interfaith workshop. Facilitated by St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace the workshop explored ‘identities and purpose’ in today’s diverse society.

Shinnyo-en has conducted Lantern Floating events around the world, in settings as diverse as New York, Hawaii, Taiwan and Kenya. They provide an opportunity for all people – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or religious tradition – to come together and offer collective messages for peace, goodness or harmony with others around us. Shinnyo-en was founded in 1936 by Master Kyoshu Shinjo trained in Esoteric Buddhism at Daigoji monastery in Kyoto, Japan and today has more than 100 temples and meditation centres around the world – including New York City, Paris, London, Sao Paolo and Hong Kong - and more than one million members.