The Shinnyo-en Foundation, which has supported Hartford Seminary’s Religious Diversity Leadership Workshop for the past two years, hosted faith leaders from across the country at the 15th Annual Shinnyo-en Lantern Floating Ceremony on May 27th in Honolulu, Hawaii. The gathering’s purpose was to deepen connections between the organizations that Shinnyo-en supports by experiencing the Lantern Floating and reflecting together as an interfaith community .
Each year on Memorial Day, crowds gather at the Ala Moana Beach Park near Waikiki beach at sundown to watch a service and lantern floating ceremony presided over by the head of the Shinnyo-en order, Her Holiness Shinso Ito.
The Lantern Floating is a traditional Buddhist ceremony in which participants float lanterns down a river or in the ocean. This symbolic ceremony honors those who have lost their lives in war or by other unfortunate events or disasters as well as loved ones who have passed away. The event also carries with it a message of hope toward the achievement of a harmonious and peaceful world. As part of the ceremony, all participants are invited to write remembrances and prayers on specially prepared lanterns to be floated during the ceremony. This year approximately 2,000 lanterns were released in a collective act of remembrance and gratitude to those who came before us.
On the day after the Lantern Floating Ceremony, participants were invited to a Reflection Gathering on impressions of the Lantern Floating Ceremony, guided by an experienced interfaith facilitator. The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Lee, Director of Hartford Seminary’s Department of Institutional Advancement , UCC pastor and specialist in unaffiliated funerals ,attended the Lantern Floating Ceremony and Reflection Gathering, as did Morteza Rezazadeh, a recent participant in the Seminary’s International Peacemaking Program. (see photo below)
The Shinnyo-en Order was established in 1936 by Shinjo Ito, following the principles of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, one of Japan’s oldest forms of Buddhism. It teaches lay people how to use each day as an opportunity to connect with others and seek enlightenment. Founded on the commitment to universal truth, compassion and service, Shinnyo-en teaches that all people carry the seed of enlightenment within them and that by acting with sincerity and kindness, they each may bring that seed to fruition.
The Shinnyo-en Foundation was established in San Francisco in 1995 as a secular, philanthropic arm of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order and supports educational programs that engage and inspire young people in meaningful acts of service. The mission of the Shinnyo-en Foundation is to promote global peace through service by nurturing future generations. Shinnyo-en supports relationship building with other faith or religious groups. This foundation has been a significant supporter of Hartford Seminary’s Religious Diversity Leadership weeklong course, which teaches interfaith dialogue and is held each year in June at Hartford Seminary.