Her Holiness Shinso Ito is the current head of the Shinnyo sangha. For Shinnyo practitioners, she is the central teacher and role model, a living embodiment of the enlightened qualities of loving, kindness, compassion, and wisdom.
Shinso Ito was born in Japan in 1942, the daughter of Kyoushu Shinjo and Shojushinin Tomoji. Her Holiness began her formal Buddhist training as a child under the care of her parents, who were her main spiritual teachers, and eventually she became their formal and spiritual successor. She was ordained in the Shinnyo tradition in 1966 and undertook her initial priestly Buddhist training between 1970 and 1982. In 1984, her accomplishment as a dharma (teaching) master and future successor was announced by her master, Kyoushu Shinjo, and since 1989 she has led the sangha. She is one of the few women to have become a master of Esoteric Buddhism and receive the highest priestly rank of daisaojo. Her Holiness has twice conducted important services at Daigoji, a 1,100-year-old Shingon monastery in Kyoto, Japan, and the place where Kyoushu Shinjo trained as a priest
While Shinso Ito draws inspiration from Buddhist tradition, she is profoundly aware that the teachings must be made relevant to the world today. She wishes for the Shinnyo sangha to truly reflect the times in which we live, and her spirit of openness exemplifies how the sangha is organized and run. Her Holiness personally leads the most advanced rituals, in which she offers formal prayers on behalf of the sangha.
In recent years, Shinso Ito has created innovative ceremonies to reach out to more people around the world. Through her teachings of an engaged, relevant Buddhism, she guides both the individual and the sangha. Under her leadership, Shinnyo-en has established or supports a number of foundations and organizations that promote education, health, the arts, economic empowerment for the underprivileged, environmental awareness, and interfaith dialogue.
Shinso Ito's palpable joy and warmth continue to inspire as she shares the message of peace and enlightenment taught by the founders of Shinnyo-en. Her Holiness sincerely believes that good communication is vital to bringing people closer together in this fractured world, and in her role as spiritual leader of the Shinnyo sangha she continues to promote harmony and cooperation between all religions and cultures.