|Shinso Ito |
Her Holiness Keishu Shinso Ito was born in Tokyo in 1942, the daughter of Shinjo and Tomoji Ito, the founders of Shinnyo-En. As a child, Keishu Shinso began the study of Buddhist practices. After graduating from Taisho University in Tokyo with a degree in Philosophy and Literature, she devoted herself wholly to Buddhist education. She completed the comprehensive religious training and recieved the highest initiation of Shinnyo Buddhism. In 1992, the Daigo-ji Shingon Buddhist monastery in Kyoto awarded her the highest priestly rank of Dai-Sojo.
Keishu Shinso became head of the Shinnyo-En order after her father’s death in 1989. As spiritual head, she not only dedicates herself to the Shinnyo-En community, but also strives towards greater harmony between different cultures and religions. Thus in 2002, in cooperation with the Catholic Church in Japan and in Europe, religious concerts with Buddhist chants (“Shomyo”) were held in Catholic churches in Krakow, Cologne, Paris, Milan and Rome. In 2008, for the first time, Keishu Shinso performed a Saisho ceremony in a church at St. Peter’s in New York as a prayer for world peace.
In 1997, a prayer hall dedicated to Shinjo Ito and the Shinnyo Buddhism which he founded was consecrated on the grounds of the Daigo-ji monastery, one of many centres of Shingon Buddhism. As part of the consecration ceremony, Keishu Shinso was given the honour of being the first woman in the 1100-year history of Daigo-ji to officiate in the main hall of the monastery.
As female head of a Buddhist order, Keishu Shinso has broken through traditional social constraints. She encourages all people – irrespective of their gender – to take an active role in religion and society.
Alongside her substantial religious responsibilities, Keishu Shinso also oversees the founding of numerous Shinnyo-En foundations and associations dedicated to religious dialogue and promoting education and culture. She also continues to support the many charitable projects started by her father with international organisations such as the United Nations, the Red Cross, and Médecins sans Frontières. Keishu Shinso has encouraged a further commitment to philanthropy through new social welfare projects such as the Izumi Foundation, which is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in the developing world.
Keishu Shinso lives with her husband in the head temple of Shinnyo-En in Tachikawa, Tokyo. When travelling abroad, she likes to engage with the art and culture of the countries she visits. She has also been inspired by her father’s artistic work to study Japanese calligraphy.