The Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order of Hawaii commemorated Memorial Day on 25 May by co-presenting the Lantern Floating Hawaii event with the Na Lei Aloha Foundation. Lantern Floating Hawaii takes place on Memorial Day each year at Ala Moana Beach, Honolulu, with the purpose of honoring loved ones, sharing grief and memories, and generating hope for the future. The program was titled “Many Rivers, One Ocean.”
Lantern Floating Hawaii is one of Memorial Day’s most popular and well-attended occasions. This year, an estimated 40,000 people gathered in Honolulu for the event, which included live chanting, taiko drum performances, videos, an address by Shinnyo-en’s leader Her Holiness Shinso Ito, and a ceremonial lighting of the Light of Harmony (a symbolic flame lit by torches from community leaders). The final event was the release of thousands of lit paper lanterns into the sea to honor loved ones who have passed on and those who died serving in the military. About 6,000 people each floated a lantern in memory of a loved one, many of them decorating their vessel with personal writing, photographs, and drawings.
Attendees of different backgrounds shared with the Honolulu Star their reasons for coming to the event and how the atmosphere of healing affected them. “It’s very moving because everyone has come here to express their thoughts and their concerns for their loved ones,” said Chris Trapanier, 62, who dedicated her float to her late husband and late mother. Ted Hamura, 65, floated a lantern in memory of his mother, who died five years ago. “I’m the youngest, so she always took care of me and worried about me,” he told the Honolulu Star. “This was my time to say goodbye to her, I guess. I wrote her a little note on the lantern to tell her not to worry, that I’m doing OK.”
The organizers have stated on their Facebook page, in response to concerns about pollution and litter, that “All lanterns are retrieved from the ocean and refurbished for use each subsequent year. Thank you for inquiring. We really want everyone to know how important we feel it is to protect the environment. Aloha.”
Shinnyo-en was founded in 1936 in Japan under the Shingon tradition and takes the Nirvana Sutra as its central text. Her Holiness Shinso Ito was born in Japan in 1942. She is the daughter of Master Shinjo Ito (1906–89), the founder of Shinnyo-en and a daisojo (Great Master or acharya) of Shingon. According to the Shinnyo-en website, she “was ordained in the Shinnyo tradition in 1966 and undertook her initial priestly training between 1970 and 1982. In 1984, Shinjo announced Shinso’s accomplishment as his disciple and future successor.” One of the few women to attain the highest Shingon priestly rank of daisojo, Shinso has also conducted important services at Daigo-ji, the 9th-century Shingon monastery in Kyoto.
Hawaii Celebrates Memorial Day With A Glowing Sea of Memories (Huffington Post)
Shared grief, healing and love fill Ala Moana Beach with thousands of lanterns bearing hopes for peace (Honolulu Star)
Lantern Floating Hawaii (Facebook)
Her Holiness Shinso Ito (shinnyoen.org)
Lantern Floating Hawaii (shinnyoen.org)
Lantern Floating Hawaii (lanternfloatinghawaii.com)