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Daigoji Reflections of a Summer Fellow


Foundation guests at Ryukyo-in Gardens in Kyoto


Katie Boehnlein, student at Seattle University and Summer Intern at the Shinnyo-en Foundation recently accompanied the Foundation on a trip to Japan. Her reflections on the trip and insight into her experiences give us a heartfelt report of her week in Japan.

Shinnyo-en Foundation Staff and guests were in attendance at a Commemorative Ceremony at Daigo Temple (Daigo-ji in Japanese) in Kyoto, Japan on October 16, 2009. The ceremony was officiated by Her Holiness Shinso Ito, the current Head of the Shinnyo-en Order, commemorating the 1,100th year since the passing of Shobo Rigen Daishi who established Daigo-ji in 874 AD. The Shinnyo-en Order has always had a strong connection to Daigo-ji, as its founder, Shinjo Ito, was ordained at Daigo-ji and established Shinnyo-en based on the teachings of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, of which Shobo Rigen Daishi was a Master. This year also commemorates the 20th year since the passing of the Founder, Shinjo Ito.

Haru Inouye and Henry Lozano of the Foundation were in attendance as well as honored guests of the Foundation Duncan Williams, Chair of the Center for Japanese Studies at UC Berkeley; Carl Bielefeldt, the Chair of Religious Studies and Co-Director of Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford University; Paul Harrison “George Edwin Burnell” Professor of Religious Studies and Co-Director of Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford University; Mark Blum, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at SUNY-Albany; Mark Farr, Senior Director of Interfaith Initiatives at the Points of Light Foundation; and Alison Young, a friend of the Foundation and previous director of USA Freedom Corps in the White House.

The Head of the Order officiated a moving ceremony following remarks by Professor Blum outlining the life of Shobo Rigen Daishi. Outside the main temple, there were over 5,000 people in attendance at the ceremony, of which 400 had travelled from out side of Japan to attend. The wonderful weather itself reflected the holy and joyous mood of the occasion as red, purple, green, red, and yellow flags and banners flapped in the wind and the sun shone through the green leaves. Orchestral music interspersed with traditional Japanese instruments and drumming, the chanting of prayers, and the physical location of the temple nestled within the hills just outside of Kyoto all added to this feeling of harmonious and peaceful energy. Both Shobo Rigen Daishi and Shinjo Ito, in their respective eras, wanted all humans to attain happiness through their spiritual lives and were teachers who dedicated their lives to helping people along the path to attaining enlightenment.


Daigo-ji is an ancient place of connection for Buddhists around the world, let alone Shinnyo-en followers. Both the Shinnyo-en Order and Daigo-ji are dedicated to making harmony a reality in our world, a goal that the Shinnyo-en Foundation lives out tangibly with its grantmaking and programming. The Shinnyo-en presence of promoting peace was felt at Daigo-ji, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and a place of reverence for Buddhist followers around the world. Shinnyo-en and Daigo-ji will continue their harmonious relationship and commitment to a peaceful world for all.


– Katie Boehnlein, Shinnyo Summer Fellow