Mystery of Japanese monk who never reached India

IANS, Feb 4, 2010

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- A prince-turned-Buddhist monk from Japan set out on a pilgrimage to India over 1,000 years ago. It is a mystery how he ended up in Malaysia where his cemetery now lies.

Bhikshu Shinnyo, who left for India in 865 AD, died on the way and rests in the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. His memorial in the Japanese cemetery here records him as perhaps the first Japanese to set foot in Malaysia, the New Straits Times reported.

Japan Club of Johor secretary-general Nishikawa Takeshi said it was a mystery how Shinnyo ended up in Johor.

"He may have either lost his way or perhaps he really did have a reason to stop here. All we know is he never fulfilled his wish of going to India," he said.

"The head monk of Shinnyo's order visited the cemetery and honoured him with a plaque in 1970 for the hardship he went through."

Born in 799 A.D., Shinnyo began his journey to India on Jan 27, 865 A.D. at the age of 67. He had hoped to spend the rest of his life in India.

He was named Prince Takaoka at birth and was the third son of Emperor Heizei. He joined a monastery in 822 and changed his name to Shinnyo, say the cemetery records.

After years of studying Buddhism in China, he left for India from Kwang Chu, which is probably modern-day Guangzhou.

According to the club's records, the cemetery was discovered in 1962 when land was being cleared for development.