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Shinnyo-en Buddhists Honor Founder's Birth

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Hundreds of Buddhists traveled to White Plains Sunday to honor the birthday of Shinjo Ito, who founded the Japanese branch of Buddhism called Shinnyo-en, with a “festival of the ever present” at the White Plains temple.

Shinnyo-en New York Temple Manager Eitaro Hayashi said Buddhists paid homage to Shinjo Ito, who would be 106 if alive, and the faith he wrought out of losing two children at a young age, surviving a war and facing religious persecution.

“We celebrate his birthday. If he wasn’t born, none of this would have happened,” said Hayashi, a White Plains resident. “I didn’t meet him. He passed away in 1989, but I knew his history and what he went through. It helps us look at our own circumstances in a positive perspective. It may be a really tough situation, but at least there’s somebody that can understand.”

Besides a Washington D.C. temple and a smaller center in Manhattan, the next closest Shinnyo-en center is in Chicago, which Hayashi, said means the White Plains temple “needs to cover a lot of ground.” The local temple welcomed approximately 300 people from as far as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania with taiko drumming. A chorus performance and guided meditation followed. The White Plains temple then joined Shinnyo-en temples across the globe in watching the current Shinnyo-en spiritual leader Shinso Ito honor the religion’s founder and recount his quest that “all work together to create a better future and world of joy.”

The White Plains temple began celebrated Shinjo Ito’s birthday on the weekends to accommodate traveling members and Buddhists with work conflicts. For the first time since the Shinnyo-en center’s 1995 opening, a wild turkey was seen roaming the grounds. It disappeared after March 28, Shinjo Ito’s actual birthday, which the temple noted as a “positive” sign that the year ahead will hold many feasts.

Many came to the White Plains temple for the “unique meditation” provided after the main service, according to Hayashi.

“You’re sitting down and you’re given words of guidance individually. They can relate to what’s going on in your life or in the world. What we get here, we take back home later and try to utilize it our daily lives,” said Hayashi.

Shinjo Ito’s ability to mobilize thousands in the approximately 70 years since he set out to spread Shinnyo-en is testimony to what an individual can accomplish, according to Arlen Ginsburg.

“It’s inspiring that one person can do so much with their life,” said Ginsburg, a pianist and composer from Brooklyn.

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