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Her Holiness Shinso Ito speaks to the Shinnyo-en community in earthquake-struck Ishikawa Prefecture

January 18, 2024

An elderly Japanese woman dressed in black attire with a priestly Buddhist surplice around her shoulders sits on a low chair in front of a Buddhist shrine with a large statue of a reclining Buddha, speaking intently to an audience of Japanese people seated neatly in rows on the floor.

Kanazawa, Japan / Her Holiness Shinso Ito speaks with Shinnyo-en members at Hokuriku Head Temple who were affected by the earthquake in Ishikawa Prefecture.

After the earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage in many parts of Japan earlier this month, I imagined how everyone must be feeling and decided to come, if by chance I may be of any help at all to you. Thank you for letting me come.

First, I want you to know that the actions that you took to help others and to stay safe during such a harrowing experience, while turning your hearts to the Shinnyo Founders and chanting Namu Shinnyo, is something you should never feel any regret or doubt about. You did well. The words and actions that unfolded as a result of your reaching out to our Founders and their two sons were your own responses to their blessing of encouragement. It is no easy feat to act in those moments, when the earth is shaking and the tsunami is coming. You all acted as best you could, for which you have my deepest admiration. I am glad of the life you have and the trust you place in shinnyo, and I hope that you will value it and continue to dedicate your efforts so that others will also be able to share in the experience of shinnyo.

Earlier, the staff and I were able to hear from some who shared their stories. I can only imagine what you must have gone through. I know everyone here went through so much, even if you haven’t been able to share anything yet. And I know that you want to tell me it’s not over, that your challenges are ongoing even now. It is my wish that we find a way to overcome all of them, together.

As for how our sangha* has responded to the disaster: my sister, myself, and the staff have been conducting specific prayer rites every day and offering continuous prayers. Wanting to offer any help we can in these challenging times, we have also mobilized relief efforts by contributing needed funds, and dispatching Shinnyo‑en Relief Volunteers (SeRV) to the region. Please know that our sangha is doing all that we can. As you continue your efforts to remain in oneness with shinnyo, please also act wherever you are able.

An elderly Japanese woman wearing a long brown overcoat with tartan pattern stands in front of a car under a portico, smiling at a group of Japanese men and women wearing hi-vis vests emblazoned with the SeRV logo who stand neatly in a row, bowing slightly to greet her.
Her Holiness Shinso Ito greets members of the Shinnyo-en Relief Volunteers that have been aiding relief efforts in Ishikawa Prefecture following the earthquake.

Earlier today, I conducted a blessing rite to rekindle the light of shinnyo in our temple sanctuary. I offered wholehearted prayers to transfer merit to those who fell victim to the recent disaster and prayed that all in affected areas will rise again with strength. I am truly grateful to all who came today to pray together with me. Thank you very much. Our sangha will continue to sincerely offer our support and ongoing prayers.

Aside from offering my prayers and directing and advising our temple office, Ichinyosha, and our sangha to act wherever we can, I also created a card to share with you in the hopes that it may buoy your spirits and help you feel the strength to rise again. On one side of the card is a photograph of the Yasashi Jizos, the Jizo figures with very gentle features enshrined at our branch temple in Noto. On the other side I have written with an olive leaf the calligraphy yasashi (kindness). Next to the calligraphy I’ve placed the message:

Rustic Japanese calligraphic letters, written in a light, water-color-like ink, and punctuated with a Japanese signature seal in red ink at the bottom.
The calligraphy of yasashi written by Her Holiness with an olive leaf.

Trusting in the ever-present, let us reach out to one another in kindness—with wisdom and loving compassion—so that together we may persevere. Namu Shinnyo—we are always one.

Me, all of you, the Shinnyo Founders, their two sons—we are all together. There’s an old song with the verse, “Noto is kind, right down to its soil.” How nice it would be if everyone, not only those in Noto, were like this! Thinking of you, with your thoughtful and kindhearted natures and devotion to faith and practice, I picked an olive leaf, dipped it in ink, and wrote the letters yasashi. I wrote with an olive leaf, which is a symbol of wisdom and peace, with the wish that the merit of awakening and wisdom will reach everyone. I wrote and imbued it with prayers and will give one to each of you today.

Each of the Yasashi Jizos embrace the hands of the other with their own, supporting a dharma wheel in the center. Placing our trust in the Ever-Present, may we take each other’s hands. Whenever things become too hard to bear, we can chant Namu Shinnyo. When we do, we will feel the presence of the Shinnyo Parents and their two sons with us.

Together may we erect unwavering pillars of faith. Please do not allow yourselves to feel defeated. By practicing the teachings at Shinnyo-en, we gradually become equipped with a spirit that is not easily defeated. We have a strength unlike any other, which will allow us to overcome whatever may come. You are all so strong. You have all endured so well.

Thank you for coming today. Please be strong. Thank you very much.

* Sangha: A Sanskrit word that means “community” and can refer to a specific Buddhist community or to the community of Buddhists in general. For more definitions like this, visit our FAQ and Glossary.

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