Faculty & Student Scholarship: Shinnyo-en Lantern Ceremony

Written by Kristina Alvarado
April 29, 2015

Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry has developed a national and growing international reputation for innovative thinking about the best ways to prepare people for ministry in a variety of contexts, as spiritually-aware and informed social justice activists in our religiously diverse world. As part of this commitment, the School is committed the work of interreligious dialogue and has worked hard the past five years to build a tradition of hospitality to people of all faiths and traditions. ?This hospitality is intentionally shared through dialogue groups, hosted community gatherings, conferences, and more. The school?s faculty and staff are trained in interreligious encounter and conversation. Many courses are broadening to include more advanced educational programing that invite people of different religious traditions into dialogue, such as people from within Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, and Mormon contexts. ?Students are invited to go deeper into their own tradition and from that place of religious and spiritual authenticity to engage others in pursuit of deeper understanding, cooperation and collaboration on contributing to a more just and humane world.

Next month, four students from the school will accompany Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Cobb to Hawaii to experience first-hand the Shinnyo-en Lantern Floating Ceremony. Transforming Spirituality student Nindyo Sasongko, Relationship & Pastoral Therapy student Kristina (Tina) Alvarado, Divinity-Chaplaincy student Cathy Nilon, and Doctor of Ministry student Larry Walls will be traveling together as a part of this faculty and student scholarship experience.?

Shinnyo-en is a Buddhist community founded in Honolulu by a Japanese engineer and monk who wished to honor those who died in World War II. The community?s Floating Lantern Ceremony is held to honor those who have passed on from this life, particularly those in military service, and to generate hope for the future by allowing people of faith and good will to join together in the praying for peace throughout the world. ?The ceremony draws over 40,000 people to O?ahu?s south shore?and unites others all over the world via live streaming. For over 15 years, the ceremony has served as a powerful intercultural and interreligious ritual that offers a communal experience of healing, remembrance, and gratitude in service of the Buddhist community?s vision for a sense of harmony in diversity and peace for all. The ceremony has become one of the largest Memorial Day events in the United States, and draws people from around the globe.

The Shinnyo-en Foundation has invited one faculty member and four students from only two of the 270 schools of theology in North America?our very own School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University and Hartford Seminary, one of the oldest seminaries in the United States. Over the course of five days, participants will learn about Shinnyo-en community beliefs, engage in dialogue about different faith tradition?s ways of honoring the deceased, and participate in the Lantern Floating Ceremony.. ?

Dean Mark S. Markuly, PhD attended the ceremony last year with his wife Terry, and the president of Hartford Seminary. He reflects, ?It was one of the most moving religious and civic rituals I?ve ever encountered. ?At Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry we are committed to helping students learn how to practice public theology in society, bringing the values of faith and faith perspectives into public discourse about the common good. ?The Shinnyo-en ceremony is a remarkable example of engaging a broader public to think reflectively about life and death and the power of love to transcend the darkest corners of our human existence.?

?Dr. Markuly will be speaking more about his experience at a special event hosted by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Student Association at the University of Washington. See the flyer below for more information about the event and reserve your free ticket here. All are welcome to come and learn more about this moving ritual.?

?Dr. Cobb will be sharing about the experience in Fall Quarter 2015?s course ?STMC 5750 Systems of Trauma Treatment.? With approval from the Relationship & Pastoral Therapy program director, auditors are welcome to inquire on the course. Email casavant@seattleu.edu if you're interested.

More Info: The Shinnyo-en School & Foundation
In Japanese, the word Shinnyo-en means ?a borderless garden of the unchanging and real nature of things.? The Shinnyo-en school of Buddhism was founded in Japan in the 1930s by Master Sinjo Ito and is now led by Her Holiness Shinso Ito, one of the few women to become a Buddhist master and reach the highest priestly rank of Daisojo. This community teaches an engaged form of Buddhism that invites people from diverse cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds to utilize their daily surroundings to cultivate an ability to live and act with unwavering kindness and compassion. Shinnyo-en does not try to convince people to become Buddhist, but rather promotes methods of Buddhist meditation and reflection that are accessible to anyone who is interested in cultivating a deeper sense of peace and connectedness to all of reality. The Shinnyo-en temple in Hawaii is the first Shinnyo-en temple to have been dedicated outside of Japan, though over one hundred temples exist all over the world today.?

Find more information about the Shinnyo-en and its Lantern Floating Ceremony here:?


Photo source: www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com