The "Shinnyo-ji" temple was founded in September 2004 and is officially recognized by Reverend Ryushin Azuma Roshi, the 72° abbot of the Daijo-ji Monastery in Kanazawa, Japan. An official calligraphy seal upon a wooden table declares: "Shinnyo-ji Daijo-ji Italia Betsuin" which in English means: "Shinnyo Temple, Italian Seat of the Daijo-ji Monastery".
This is the first Buddhist Zen Temple of the Japanese Sōtōshu School, guided by Teacher Anna Maria Iten Shinnyo, direct disciple of Reverend Ryushin Azuma Roshi from whom she received the Shiho- transmission of the Dharma- at the Daijo-ji Monastery on June 5th, 2008.
The following appointment to Abbot, received during the Zuise Ceremony at the Eihei-ji Monastery on June 21st, 2008 and the Soji-ji Monastery and with the achievement of thedegree of Nitōkyōshi on June 22nd 1020, authorized Iten Shinnyo, according to the Japanese Zen Sōtōshu School the ability to ordain followers that then will enter the official Lineage beginning with the historic Buddha Shakyamuni, through the Ancient Patriarchs and the Inherited Teachers from direct descent, arriving to Reverend Ryushin Azuma Roshi and to his disciple, Anna Maria Iten Shinnyo.
The temple door at Shinnyo-ji is always open to everyone, regardless of every orientation, creed, and occupation. Anyone may come to meditate on the scheduled days for practice: a zafu- a cushion for meditation- is always available for whomever in any moment of their life decides to come and sit in Zazen.
The ancient Jizō Bosatsu statues in the Shinnyo-ji Zendo
Jizō Statues donated to the Shinnyo-ji Temple.< /p>
In Eastern Mahayana Buddhism, there are four principle Bodhisattvas: Samantabhadra, Manjusri, Avalokitesvara and Ksitigarbha.
Ksitigarbha, whose name means “Earthly Treasure”, “Bowels of the Earth”, “Earthly Matrix”, is known to have taken the vow to take care of and instruct all sentient beings of the six reigns during the period from the death of Shakyamuni Buddha to the coming of the Maitreya Buddha. In the traditional Mahayana texts, particularly the Daśacakrasū from which Ksitigarbha, in the V century, become famous in China, is recorded that he reached Perfect Illumination, renounced to Compassion and achieved the Buddha state until the coming of Maitreya, until all evil is relieved and every sentient being has reached salvation.
Ksitigarbha is a Bodhisattva that received the summit of the Perfect Compassion and of Perfect Knowledge, included amongst the Eight Sublime Bodhisattvas in the Indo-Tibetan tradition. In Japan, Ksitigarbha took his Jizō name, otherwise known as O-Jizō-Sama, as a sign of respect.
He guides every living being, human or animal, in the difficult path through the six worlds of rebirth (Rokudō), taking a different aspect in each worldū, devoted in particular to those who suffer from wrong-doing and working to relieve the karmic weight.
The Zendo at the Shinnyo-ji Temple. The Altar and the Jizō statues.
The story of Ksitigarbha is retold in the “Sutra of the great vows by Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha”, recited by Gautama Buddha just before dying to heavenly beings of Trayastrimsa, as a sign of gratitude for his mother: this is where recite that Ksitigarbha had an extreme filial love and allows us to say Ã²the Great Vows to save all sentient beings.
The Zendo at the Shinnyo-ji Temple. The Altar and the Jizō. statues.
Jizō appears as the savior of souls in the Japanese literary tradition in the year 823 in a collection of Buddhist anecdotes, the Nihonryoōiki, but his cult became stronger only later beginning in the second half of the Heian period, aournd 1000. This is why Ksitigarbha is venerated in temples as the one who incarnates Perfect Compassion, he who is always open to take on the sufferings of every being who is still a prisoner of his or her anguish of death and of the infinite cycle of rebirth, therefore, who is still on their path. His statues are often found along the roads, crossroads, and on the boundary lines of villages and cemeteries.
Jizō appears in many different forms to relieve the suffering of the living and dead and it is not an overstatement to say that every village or community has its very own Jizō, with its specific name based on its specific saving functions. It is traditionally venerated as the patron of pregnant women, of women in labor, of children, travellers and pilgrims; but above all, the protector of unborn children, abortion, ill newborns and premature babies. In Japanese mythology, it is believed that the souls of deceased newborns were not able to cross the Sanzugawa, the river to the Beyond that brings them to the world of the defunct to find peace, but are forced to remain at the pebbly shore of the Sai no Kawara, a gray world of silence and waiting, since they did not have the opportunity to sufficiently accumulate good actions and made their parents suffer.
The Zendo at the Shinnyo-ji Temple. The Altar and the Jizō.
The Jizō statues donated to the Shinnyo-ji Temple.
It is thought that the Jizō saves their souls by accumulating stones along of river for eternity, taking them away from demons by hiding them underneath their tunics and having them listen to the mantras. The Jizō statues are often surrounded by rocks and small bowls, which are left by people in hopes of shortening the time in which the babies must stay in the inferior world. Sometimes the statues are adorned with newborn baby outfits, bibs, bonnets and toys, left by mournful parents in hopes that the Jizō helps and protects their babies; the offerings are also left to thank the Jizō for having saved their children from serious disease.
This great Illuminated one, who in popular belief, protects us from serious diseases (Kitamuki Enmei Jizō) and guides the spirits in punishment, in the traditional iconography he is represented with a shaven head, wearing a simple tunic for monks. In his left hand he holds the Chintamani, a jewel that answers wishes, and in his right hand, the Shakujō, a stick with six rattles, the symbol of the six worlds of rebirth, to warn insects and small animals of their arrival, or to take is role as protector of the six states of existence. Sometimes he is represented seated upon a lotus flower, to symbolize the fact that he is free from the karmic wheel of rebirth. He is most often figured standing, with one foot in front of the other, indicating that Jizō is walking in the present world. In many statues, Jizō has a childlike aspect, perhaps to seem closer to those whom he protects. His features become childlike and sweet at the beginning of the Edo period in the XVII-XIX centuries, as testified in the collection of anecdotes that prefer him to be in the living world as protector of pregnant women, associating him to babies.
The Jizō statues donated to the Shinnyo-ji Temple.
The 24th day of each month is considered connected to the Jizō, a holy day. It is believed that dedication prayers to him on this day brings greater merit and better results than in other days. Jizō Bon is celebrated on the 24th August, also known as the Confession Ceremony to Jizō in which people confess to Jizō their mistakes committed in the past year, hoping to lighten their karmic load and to guarantee a long life and protection for oneself and for their children. Today it is also connected to a holiday for children: in some places children paint the Jizō’s face, or they wash them and dress them in bonnets, bibs and new red tunics. They are then hung from red lanterns new the Jizō and the children eat red colored snacks.
Statue of Jizō Bosatsu donated from the Mibudera Temple in Kyoto, Japan.
Six ancient stone statues of Jizō Bosatsu from the Edo period, XVII-XIX centuries, donated to Shinnyo-ji as a gesture of friendship between Italy and Japan from Reverend Shunkai Matsuura, from the Abbot of Mibudera Temple in Kyoto, and 85th Abbot of Tōshōdai-ji in Nara. Florence, Shinnyo-ji 25th of April 2009
Teacher Iten Shinnyo at the Mibudera Temple in Kyoto along with the Abbot Reverend Shunkai Matsuura who donated the six stone Jizō statues to Shinnyo-ji and friend Nomura sensei.
The Shinnyo-ji Temple holds the six stone Jizō statues in the Zendo, received by donation in 2008. The Shinnyo-ji Sangha, the presence of the Jizō Bosatsu and for being closely taken care of in practicing the Way, by the walking Bodhisattvas is profoundly thankful to Reverend Abbot Shunkai Matsuura, who donated the statues to the Temple, with these statues it is possible to have a direct experience of great worth and tradition that would otherwise not be able to be found in the West. The Shinnyo-ji Sangha is just as thankful to Ms. Junko Fukui, President of “Magnificent Florence Club”, Association for Italian and Japanese Language Exchange that in 2008 organized an Exposition on Jizō, which emerged from the statues donated to Shinnyo-ji. Thanks to her intermediation the Exhibition: “Jizō and tabernacles: protection at the crossroads of life” was set up by the Diocese Museum of Sacred Art of the Church of Saint Stefano at Ponte from the 4th to 23rd of April 2008.
The exhibition was created with collaboration from the
Mibu of Kyōto Temple, Special Cultural Activities P.S.A.E. and for the Museum Center of Florence Office of Sacred Art,
the Archdiocese of Florence Friends of Florentine Museums Foundation Romuoaldo Bianco
and with patronage from
the Japanese Embassy in Italy
Italian Association for Japanese Studies
Theological Department of Central Italy