Buddhism Shinnyoen
Elisabetta Porcu, Ugo Dessi
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0275


Shinnyoen was founded in Japan in 1936 by Itō Shinjō 伊藤真乗(b. 1906–d. 1989) and his wife, Itō Tomoji 伊藤友司 (1912–1967). It is a Buddhism-based new religious movement that follows the line of esoteric/Shingon Buddhism, with a strong link to the Daigoji denomination. Here, Itō completed his training and in 1941 became a Great Master (dai-ajari). Although Shinnyoen is an independent religious organization, its ties with Daigoji remain today. The group’s current name, Shinnyoen, dates back to 1951 (previously it was known as Risshōkō, Tachikawa Fuōson Kyōkai, and Makoto Kyōdan) and received legal status in 1953. Its current leader is the founder’s third daughter, Itō Shinsō伊藤真聰 (b. 1942). Shinnyoen considers itself as the third line of esoteric Buddhism, which it defines as “Shinnyo esotericism,” or Shinnyo mitsu 真如密. Its teachings and practices are directed toward a lay community of practitioners and are based on its central text, the Mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra, combined with practices and rituals performed by spiritual mediums (reinōsha). The figure of medium is of fundamental importance and the main practice of the group, sesshin (not to be confused with the Zen Buddhist intense meditation practice), consists in spiritual guidance through mediums. This is believed to help practitioners achieve buddhahood (that is, the buddha-nature inherent in each human being) and thus religious liberation, while counseling offered during these sessions is also meant to be put into practice in daily life. The idea of guidance and the application of the teachings to daily life, which are central to Shinnyoen, can be found, with the due differences, in other new religious movements in Japan too.

General Overview

Studies on Shinnyoen are not numerous and the following bibliography is divided into two main categories: Primary Sources and Secondary Sources. Primary sources include publications provided by the group itself in the form of the founder’s writings, autobiographical accounts, and teachings and talks, both in books form and online from 1957 to the present. Among the secondary sources, apart from a few entries in encyclopedias and handbooks, there are studies that focus specifically on Shinnyoen in relation to society, the transmission of the teachings outside Japan, its doctrines, and gender issues. A separate entry of this bibliography (Other Publications) includes articles and book chapters that although not specifically focused on Shinnyoen include references and analyses on this new religious movement.

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