Ito Shinjo (伊藤真乗)

Shinjo ITO (Fumiaki ITO, March 28, 1906 - July 19, 1989) was a religious leader who founded Shinnyoen, the lay Buddhist Organization. He was also a founder of Shinnyo Sanmaya School. His secular name "文明" read as 'Fumiaki' was his official name but may often read as 'Bunmei' by its Chinese-derived pronunciation.

Personal Profile and Episode

He was born in Nagasaka-cho, Kitakoma district, Yamanashi Prefecture
It is said that he was once abandoned in an alley, picked up by neighbors, and returned to his parents' home a week later according to the customs of the neighborhood, because he was born in the climacteric year for his father,
He was regarded as a child prodigy from his infancy and had the mysterious power of predicting people's birth and death and others.

The Ito family was such a wealthy farming household that it employed farm hands. His father Bunjiro took office as chamberlain of Akita village and later even became a member of a village assembly. His family subscribed to newspapers, which was rare in those days. His father, when taking office as chamberlain, was a benefactor who paid taxes for villagers on their behalf. It is said that a large box containing receipts of those taxes was found later in the earthen storehouse (a storehouse with thick earth and mortar walls) of the Ito. In fact, however, these generous activities never made his family so well-off, although his family was said to be wealthy.

The maiden name of his mother, Yoshie, was Yamamoto, and the family tree is said to reach to Kansuke YAMAMOTO, who had been a strategist of Shingen TAKEDA.
(However tracing the family line is said to be difficult.)
Yoshie's father, Shigeharu, was a prominent figure and served as the principal of an elementary school. His funeral service is said to be of the largest scale ever in the village. The Ito family was said to be a prominent and old-established family of the village because of these facts.

He was influenced by Zen Buddhism because his father took the office of the representative of a family which supported a temple of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism. Among his six brothers and sisters, he was the only person that the art of divination 'Koyoryu byozeisho (Selections on Divination of Illness of Koyo-ryu school)' based on "Koyo Gunkan," the art of warfare of Shingen TAKEDA was handed down by word of mouth as had been passed down for generations to the family. Kai koku shi (Records of Kai Province)' describes that Tokuhon NAGATA, a noted Chinese medicine doctor, examined shogun of the Takeda family according to this art of divination, and that the Ito's ancestor was listed as a donor for the building of Manseizan Myoki-in Temple (a branch temple of Choyozan Seikozen-ji Temple).

This art of divination, kuden (oral instruction), has no script.
Fumiaki (later Shinjo) was not taught how to write his name 'byozeisho'in kanji by his father so he wrote it as '病筮鈔.'

He left for Tokyo with an ambition to work hard at mastering English and soon worked for 'Taiseido shop,' a photographic apparatus shop located in Kandanishiki-cho. He obtained and translated the diagram written in English and the shop built a radio based on it for sales. The radio became a big hit riding the crest of the radio boom in those days. He got such a high reputation as an amateur photographer that he won the highest prize in the photo contest hosted by Tachikawa Monopoly Bureau and communications department of the Yomiuri Shinbun in 1934 as well as in 'the First Photo Constest' hosted by Tamagako kai (organization of Tamagako) in 1834. In addition, the April issue of monthly magazine 'Gendai' carried a photo of Fumiaki on its opening page along with a poem titled 'Light' of Saisei MUROO in the same year.

He later became an engineer of Tachikawa Aircraft. In 1932, he got married his second cousin, Tomoji ITO. Since he worked as an engineer; his life was settled enough to buy an expensive camera from Leica in those days when people described it as saying, "Let's get a Leica or house." Immediately after the marriage, however, the couple began to realize their religious missions behind their own backgrounds through abnormalities in the health and career of Fumiaki (Shinjo). By the way, Tomoji had believed in Yakushi Nyorai (the Healing Buddha) and Yakushi Kannon and had faith in them because she was taught them by her grandmother, Hojuin. Also Shinjo had had faith in Protestantism of Christianity and practiced it on the advice of his elder sister, however Tomoji was said to had difficulty in getting accustomed to it. At that time they began to have an increasing number of followers with Kannon Worship and Byozeisho.

When an elder ex-colleague of Tachikawa Aircraft had his fortune told in Ikebukuro, he mentioned the name of ITO.
The fortune-teller hearing of ITO is said to have said, "You do not have to pay any fee if you are an acquaintance of ITO. "
Shinjo is also said to have such a high confidence that even a control officer of Army visited him for advice. He gave a warning to General Affairs Division of Tachikawa Aircraft to be on guard in the direction of northeast and instructed those concerned to carefully set up fire-extinguishing equipment. A fire broke out a week later at a predicted site. However, thanks to the carefully established fire-extinguishing equipment, the fire did not turn into a serious situations. It is said that the company offered Fumiaki an exclusive contract for the service of solving problems and determining business conditions but he declined the offer because of his family's kakun (family percept) that divination is not allowed for the pursuit of profit.

Around 1933 or 1934, he had a connection with Shingon Esoteric Buddhism after a Shingon Buddhist visited him and said, "Please teach the art of divination in exchange for Shingon Esoteric Buddhism." In the next year, he was asked by Nakamaru okunodoshi, a sculptor master of Buddhist statues, to call up and infuse the spirit of the statue of Dainichi Daisho Fudo Myoo, a very precious statue with heijogan (literally, normal eyes) --gojibutsu of Tokimasa HOJO believed to be made by Unkei Itto-Sanrai (to worship three times with every stroke on sculpturing statues) and believed to be gojibutsu of Tokimasa HOJO. Shinjo at first had asked the sculptor to make an identical statue of the Buddha and intended to buy it. However, master NAKAMARU is said to have had an extraordinary experience as he quoted, "The statue made him unwilling to make an identical copy because it wants to go to the Fumiaki." Master MAKAMARU, after this experience, offered to give the statue to Fumiaki for nothing. However Ito felt obliged and paid three million yen in token of his gratitude to receive the statue at his home. The three million yen is a great bargain to pay for a statue of Buddha made in the Kamakura period but never a small amount. In those days when the average monthly wages for salaried workers was about 50 yen, ITO's salary as an engineer was higher than the average but the money he managed to raise by selling his expensive camera and others was short of the 3 million yen. It is said that people who gathered with faith in Byozeisho heard of his intention to buy the statue of Fudo-son and gave him jozai (donation) so he was able to raise the money. This shows that the religious organization had been already spontaneously growing before the organization was established.

It was snowing on the morning when the statue of Fudo-son was given but it stopped snowing and cleared up around 1 p.m. It is said that Fumiaki and two daughters of master NAKAMARU, when they were in the taxi on his way home, saw clouds in five colors trailing from the engine of the car, although it was not in the evening. It is also said that these clouds were found out to be saiun (glowing clouds) believed to be a good omen in Buddhism.

He took mizugori (cold-water ablutions) from January 4, at the very beginning of the year, to January 31 before completion (fulfillment) of a vow, when Tomoji showed the power of see through. This made him decide to quit his job on February 8 and start devoting himself to the field of religion. He looked back on the days around the completion day of the vow (February 3) in kanshugyo (ascetic practices in cold weather), saying that the coupled feeling uncertainty of devoting themselves to the field of religion were as if they had fought between Buddha and a man; one proposed to get devoted to the religion while the other opposed to it and vice versa. This made them turn their lives into financial difficulty from well-to-do lives.

It is said that, when he called up and infused the spirit of Fudo Myoo and had kanshugyo, a sendatsu (a guide) advised him by saying, "it is better for you to become a disciple of mine because ordinary people can not protect such a outstanding statue of image." The sendatsu lost patience and returned home in frustration with Fumiaki, who did not accept the advice. He said, "This is only what I can still guess, but I believe he wanted this precious statue." But Fumiaki rather felt a pity for the way the sendatsu saw it as only valuable things and no religious leader should do that, and thought that the sendatsu might have suffered from the anger and blame the sendatsu put on Fumiaki from a different point of view. Fumiaki also thought that he needed to put himself in another person's place and, in consideration of this issue, he decided to always earnestly pursue a calm mind and train himself to become a religious leader superior to the sendatsu. He recalled this event and expressed his thoughts that this is the grateful lesson that Lord Buddha gave me and the admonition with deep mercy beyond expression.

The teachings of the school, Kintai-ryobu denpo-kanjo was completed after Ein Kanjo (the ceremony to be the successor of a ritual of the Ein School) was held at Daigo-ji Temple in 1941, the year when war between Japan and the United States broke out on December 8. At the end of the previous year, 1940, he was told by Tomoji, "Something serious will happen next year.
In particular, take care in December. "
It is said that, on March 3, 1941, Shinjo also saw Benito MUSSOLINI, Adolf Hitler, and Stalin having a meeting in his dream and had a feeling that "war," even a great war is going to start. In 1944, the war raged and bombs were dropped in Tachikawa and Tomoji and children evacuated to the countryside. Tachikawa suffered air raids every time Shinjo visited them. It has been said that neighbors said, "A radiotelegraph must be within the temple for communication."
Neighbors also suspected that he might be a spy by saying, "Without such a equipment, he could not have avoided the air raids by going to the country side. "
With the end of the war, Godo Shingon shu (joint Shingon sect) broke up into individual original schools. Tachikawa Fudoson Kyokai' seceded from the Shingon sect and established 'Makoto religious organization,' a nonaligned and independent organization whose authority is the Nirvana Sutra.

Later a religious persecution called 'Makoto kyodan jiken (Makoto religious organization incidence)' occurred. When he was put into a jail as the result of an accusation by an ex-follower, he was in a cell with a vicious parricide murderer because he was told, "A religious leader like you must have an ability to give a hand to such a vicious man."
(Shinjo was told that the man was a parricide murderer, but he was not a parricide murderer but the man was a lineal murderer because he killed his nephew.)
In the beginning, the man acted out in violence against him. However, he came to open his mind, after Shinjo looked after him, when he was sick, by cooling his forehead with a towel soaked with water valuable in a jail, and chanting ryoju of Fudo Myoo. Although the man used an impolite way of addressing Shijo like 'Omae,' he began to use polite and respectful ways, such as 'Dannna (sir)' or 'Sensei (teacher)' and listen to him with an open mind.
Seeing this change, another prisoner is said to have showed Shinjo a tattoo written as 'You know the deepest mind of others when you come down in the world and shed tears to wet a sleeve.'
In this way, Shinjo had followers in the prison. It is also said that Shinjo read all the three volumes of Mikkyo daijiten (Encyclopedia of Esoteric Buddhism) many times until they became worn out.

In a trial over this religious persecution, his lawyers were at first acquaintances of followers. However they were regarded as being no benefit to the religious organization. And then Shojuin visited the home of Senzo HIGAI, who was a Minister of State of the second Yoshida cabinet, and was from the same town, Yamanashi Prefecture and also a legal scholar, and explained the details of what happened. A daughter of HIGAI said, "My father considered it necessary for the religious organization to remain because Mr. Ito was not what had been reported." HIGAI introduced a lawyer to support the organization without receiving any money. HIGAI died without seeing how the incident was settled and how the trial was concluded. After that, the Ministry of Education authorized the organization to change its name from 'Makoto religious organization' to 'Shinnyoen Buddhist' and continue to exist.
Then Shinjo and Shojuin said, "We would like to pay a visit to the grave of Mr. HIGAI to express gratitude and report the survival of the organization. "
HIGAI's daughter said that she was surprised to hear that they never failed to visit the grave in Sendagaya on the date of HIGAI's death every month although she thought they would pay a visit only once.

As for the trial, a team of defense lawyers advised, "You are a just a step away from innocence." However Shinjo himself did not made a final appeal and his conviction was decided and said, "I want to spend more time to save people than keeping my mind on the trial."

One of his disciples who committed sabotage out of conceit in Buddhism had been deprived of his qualification of teacher and purged (or expelled). According to the disciple, he was sent to the world with words, "Remember to return, because I will never break off relations between a mentor and disciples." The disciple repented his sins and visited the temple but was ignored by any followers or turned away at the door many times, because those who met him got ill. However only Shinjo and Shoji welcomed him cordially by saying, "Welcome back." This disciple thought that what he could do to repay the mercy was to clean the sins he had committed and do fuseharamitsu (perfection of generosity) and desired to do so. He put his decision into practice and became a teacher again. This led to the establishment of kangi seido (the contribution system) of the religious organization.
(The system does not exist anymore.)

Shinjo known as a heavy smoker thought of giving up smoking.
However he still felt attached to smoking and planned to 'suspend it.'
One day, when asked by a follower if he had stop smoking, he responded, "I just suspended it." The follower said to other followers, "Our head is taking care of his health for us followers by quitting smoking." Hearing this, Shinjo thought he had to abandon his halfhearted resolution of 'suspending' and made up his mind.

Shinjo excommunicated his own first and second daughters, and. Zensho and Upamaana, believed to be children of Shakyamuni did not fulfill their discipline.
Shinjo enlightened people by giving the metaphor of three diciples that only Ragora, Rahula completed his discipline to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Regarding this, he also gave another example that Shinran, the founder of Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism), excommunicated his son Zenran. Jodo Shinshu advocates Zaike Bukkyo that agrees with 'meat and matrimony (Buddhism),' in which the road to Buddhism is strictly pursued. Shinjo said that he realized what a strict stance Shinran had toward his family.

With a dramatic increase in the number of followers between 1970 and 1990, Shinnyoen Buddhist and the name of Shinjo ITO became widely known. Before that, Shinnyoen Buddhist and his name had been known to only a part of the religious world. Therefore Shinjo was regarded as 'oxidized silver in the religious world' in those days. Takeyasu MIYAMOTO, who was the president of Myochikai Kyodan (religious group), said so in the paper of "Chugai Nippo," when Shinjo, the head of the organization, died.

Busshi (Sculptor of Buddhist Statues) of Showa

Many Buddha statues, such as honzon (principal images of Buddha) were made by Shinjo. However, there had been few founders of a religious sects except Shinjo that engraved and painted statues of noble characters from the days of Kukai and Nichirenno until modern ages. Shuten OISHI of Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan pointed out this, when he was invited to the dainehan-zo kaigan-shiki (Opening of the Eyes Ceremony of statue of Great Nirvana) held at Sesshin dojo (concentration hall (used for martial arts training)) in 1957.
Since then, Shinjo was called 'Busshi of Showa.'

Myokei MATSUMOTO, a busshi, evaluated Buddha statues made by shinjo by saying, "The eyes do not look like anything that I have ever seen. "
He also said, "Those statues are highly appreciated because what people expect of the figure of Buddha is expressed in them." He also commented, "Those statues are different from what our experts make and I am astonished that he already felt a state of mind that I finally attained with difficulty in making those statues."

Chronological Record

He was born as the second son of Bunjiro ITO and Yoshie on March 28, 1906.
(He was the third child among six brothers and sisters.)

In 1923, he left for Tokyo for studying hard. He studied hard in the evening while he worked for the purchase department of Chuo Denshin Kyoku (present Central Telegraph Office) Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, as of now).

In 1924, he entered a general course for Seisoku English School (present Seisoku-gakuen School).

He went to an advanced course in 1925, but one month later, he had to leave school because of a school rule and entered seinen kunrensho (Young Men's Military Training Corps). He quit the purchase department of Chuo Denshin Kyoku and started work for a photographic apparatus shop.

In 1927, he joined Konoe hiko dai 5 rentai (the Fifth Regiment of Imperial Guards aviation) according to the order for calling up in 1926 and assigned to the photograph department.

He was discharged from military service on December 10, 1928.

In the middle of January, 1929, he started to work for the engineering department of the Ishikawajima Aircraft Manufacturing Company. He started to study the Jodo Sect, art of divination, Nichiren school of Buddhism, and Hokekyo (Lotus Sutra) with an influence of his colleague.

In 1932, he got married with Tomoji UCHIDA (later Tomoji ITO). Shinojo and Tomoji came from the same village and second cousins of each other. They were inspired by each other's religious background handed down to each family line and gradually studied Buddhism.

In 1935, he called up and infused the spirit of the statue of Dainichi Daisho Fudo Myoo, and get engaged in shukyosenju (working exclusively for religion) with Tomoji. In May of the same year, he entered the priesthood to become a monk at Daigo-ji Temple of the headquarters of Shingon-shu Diago sect (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture).

In 1936, he established Naritasan tachikawa tachisho ko ((Buddhist) lecture meeting of Naritasan tachikawa tachisho) as the kochu (religious groups) of Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple of Shingon sect in association with Fudo Myoo.

In 1938, he established Tokeizan Shincho-ji Temple and changed its name to 'Shingon sect Daigoha school, Tachikawa Fudoson Kyokai.'

In 1939, at Daigo-ji Temple, he completed the teachings of Ein Kanjo (the ceremony to be the successor of a ritual of the Ein School), Daiho (great traditions of Esoteric practices) for lay believers.

In 1941, at Daigo-ji Temple, he completed the teachings of Kintai-ryobu denpo-kanjo, Daiho (great traditions of Esoteric practices) for priests to become Great Ajari, but he devoted himself to the management of his own religious sect and the establishment of his own teachings without aiming to become zasu (temple's head priest) of Daigo-ji Temple.
After World War II, he became independent from the Shingon sect and established 'Makoto religious organization.'

In 1950, Shinjo was arrested on an accusation of his former private pupil.
('Makoto kyodan jiken (Makoto religious organization incidence)' occurred.)

In 1952, the name of 'Makoto religious organization' was changed to 'Shinnyoen Buddhist.'
He established the new system of the religious organization on the basis of the Nirvana Sutra he had studied long as Konpon kyoten (primal scripture).

In 1953, 'Shinnyoen Buddhist' was authorized as a religious organization by Ministry of Education under newly enforced Religious Corporation Act.

In 1957, he made Kuonshochushakamuninyorai (kind of statue) (Dai nehan sonzo (statue of great Nirvana), the principal image.

In March 1966, he received the title of Daiso Jyoi from Shisoyama Daigo-ji Temple. In November, he attended 'The Second World Fellowship of Buddhists' held in the Kingdom of Thailand as a representative of Japanese Buddhist Society.

In 1967, he visited eight European countries as the head of 'European religious communication international goodwill envoy' and met Pope Paul VI, and gave Nehanzo (an image of the Buddha immediately after his death).

In 1970, a presentation ceremony for Shotoku Taishi zo (Statue of Prince Shotoku) donated by him was held in Montebello City, California, United States of America, where he was made an honorary citizen.

In 1979, he made Honzon Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu nyubutsukaigan hoyo (Buddhist memorial service of enshrining a Buddhist image and opening eyes of 11 faced Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) for the celebration of the construction of the second Shoja temple.

In 1979, he visited five European countries as 'Shinnyoen Buddhist religious communication good will envoy' for preachment.

In 1984, he was asked by Daigo-ji Temple to conduct the ceremony for the 1150 years anniversary of Kobo Daishi's "Nyujo" (falling into deep meditation).

On July 19, 1989, he died (at 0:23). Died at the age of 83.
He was given hogo (a Buddhist name) of '真如教主金剛身院常住救鳳真乗大本位' by Daigo-ji Temple

[Original Japanese]