Worship Services





  1. What should my attitude be in worship?
  2. Inasmuch as we are but foolish being lost in delusions and without the least virtue we must not even think of offering our merits to the Buddha. Rather we should reflect on our helplessness, sorrow in our suffering and rejoice that despite these the compassion of Amida Buddha embraces and gives us deliverance.

    Rennyo-shonin in admonishing us has said, "The Buddha-dharma says that recompense for the beneficence is wrong for this will be only currying favors of the Buddha. The Dharma urges us only to be thankful." In other words, just devotion and gratitude should be in our hearts.

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  3. Is it necessary to worship before an altar? Can't we just worship in our minds?
  4. Foolish beings that we are, we can only reflect sincerely and correct our hearts by going through the act of seating ourselves before the Buddha and saying the Nembutsu with hands in gassho. Only when the act accompanies the heart can we say that respect and adoration have been fulfilled. Worship before the Buddha nurtures the hearing of the Dharma. By all means let us worship before the altar of our Amida Buddha.

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  5. Why do we have devotional services?
  6. The devotional service wherein the Sutra is chanted is an act of thanksgiving and praise of the Buddha's virtues. Many used to say of the devotional in these humble words, "I am thankful for having been given this opportunity."

    Even as it is important for a little child to learn to say 'good morning' and 'good night' to his parents, it is only proper that we should pay our devotion to the Buddha every morning and evening.

    In the memorial services we recall and cherish the memories of the deceased and together with everyone in the family we also express our deep gratitude and deepen our joy of faith in Amida Buddha.

    The chanting of the Sutra is listening to the voice of the Buddha and awakening to the Dharma.

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  7. Is it not the same whether we sit and chant aloud or do it in our minds?
  8. Chanting the sutra is not the same as reading a book. The Sutra is the manifestation in man's words of the Buddha's deep concern and compassion for all of us. It is the voice of Truth. Therefore, the vocal reading of the Sutra enables us to hear deeply and at the same time spread widely the Buddha-dharma to others as well. That is, we read the Sutra, hear the Sutra and enable others to hear the Sutra.

    Thus, chanting aloud is important.

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  9. Why do we place our palms together in gassho?
  10. There are various meanings in gassho. The holding of the two hands in gassho symbolizes harmony. For this reason it may be said that the first step into a life of faith starts with the gassho of adoration. Etiquette in India calls for gassho as a sign of highest courtesy and respect. As such Buddhism adopted gassho as the highest salutation to Buddha.

    Gassho is the most noble pose that we may take.

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  11. Why should we carry a juzu and how is it used?
  12. All Buddhists should carry a juzu for worship. In the early days, the juzu was made by stringing together beads (usually tree seeds) and was held in the hand in order to count the number of sutra axioms one repeated during his worship and was a reminder to him of the many cravings of man. Therefore, in accordance with the I 08 cravings, there are I 08 beads or fractions thereof in a juzu. In some Buddhist denominations which stress self-practice for the eradication of these cravings the beads are shuffled in count or else rubbed together to produce a loud sound during a sutra chant.

    However, in Jodo Shinshu which teaches that the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha assures deliverance of us all the beads are not shuffled nor are they rubbed together.

    In use the ojuzu is placed over the hands in gassho with the tassel down while the thumbs press lightly on top. When not in use the juzu is held in the left hand.

    The juzu is an important article in worship and must not be thrown around or desecrated in any manner.

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  13. What is the purpose of burning incense?
  14. From ancient times incense has been in use in India to purify the air during worship, and this custom was adopted in Buddhist ceremonials as representing the observance of the Six Paramitas. A passage in a sutra says, "The fragrance of the precepts permeates and seeps into all."

    Therefore, the incense is an adornment of purity offered to the Buddha during our devotions.

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  15. How many sticks of incense should we burn at one time?
  16. In Jodo Shinshu rites we do not stand the long incense in the brazier. It is broken into appropriate lengths and laid in the brazier. There is no need to be concerned about the number of incense sticks that is to be offered.

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  17. How many times should I burn granulated incense when called upon to offer incense?
  18. After placing just one pinch of granulated incense on the burning incense in the brazier, gassho, say the Nembutsu and bow. In Shinshu it is definitely improper to burn 2 or 3 pinches of incense or pay obeisance with the incense in your hands.

    You may have noticed believers of other denominations doing otherwise, but you should follow the proper manner determined by the Hongwanji.

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  19. Why do we receive a Buddhist name?
  20. When we receive confirmation rites (kikyo-shiki) from our Monshu a Dharma-name, that is a Buddhist name Shaku so and so, is bestowed on us to show that we have taken refuge in the Buddha-dharma. Shaku (Sakya in Sanskrit) means that through the teaching of Sakyamuni Buddha we have been able to hear the Dharma of Amida Buddha's Primal Vow and now are counted among the disciples of Sakyamuni Buddha. Thus, the Dharma-name is a sign that we have acquieced to the Truth. It is by far preferable for us to receive it while we are healthy and young.

    Furthermore, in Jodo Shinshu the name we receive is called homyo, Dharma-name, and not kaimyo, discipline name, for there are no disciplines to which we must adhere in our teaching.

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  21. How should I treat the Dharma-name and what is an 'ingo'?
  22. Jodo Shinshu followers who accept faith in Amida Buddha are given confirmation rites by the Monshu and are granted a homyo. The Dharma-name is either Shaku so and so for males or Shaku-ni so and so for females. Since the name is for those who are followers of Sakyamuni Buddha it is recommended that this rite is received as early as possible in life.

    The 'ingo' is a religious honorific title granted to those who have devoted themselves to the organization and have made contributions to the well-being of society.

    Both homyo and ingo should be treated with honor and reverence and kept in the drawer of the home altar.

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  23. Where should I keep the memorial tablet (ihai), family death register and photographs of the deceased?
  24. Ihai and Kakocho
    Memorial tablet / Death register
    Amida Buddha who guides us constantly is enshrined in the home altar and is the center of our daily activities. Therefore, the altar should not be used to enshrine the deceased.

    In Jodo Shinshu, although a memorial tablet is not issued officially and if perchance you should have one, it should be placed at the side of the altar and never in the center. Since the death register is a record of the family ancestors it may be kept in one corner. A photograph of the deceased should be placed near but never within the altar.

    All these items serve as reminders of the deceased and bring us before the altar, but it must always be remembered that it is to Amida Buddha alone that a devotional worship is held.

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  25. Who should lead the chanting in a home worship?
  26. Usually the head of the family leads the devotional worship, but anyone else may do so. In fact it would be good for everyone to take turns in leading because the devotional is the praising of the Buddha. In this case the leader should be properly attired, correct in posture and versed in chanting in order to give a harmonious rendition.

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  27. Why are the Shoshinge and Wasan chanted every day?
  28. It became traditional for the followers of Jodo Shinshu to chant the Shoshinge and Wasan in their daily devotionals through the urgings of Rennyo-shonin.

    The Shoshinge was composed by Shinran Shonin. Within the 1 20 lines he has summarized the teaching of Nembutsu which leads all men to enlightenment as it was transmitted by the Seven Patriarchs. The Nembutsu teaching is the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha elucidated in the Triple Sutras of Jodo Shinshu.

    The Wasan is a compilation of the poems of praises and thanksgiving to Amida Buddha and the Buddha-dharma that were composed in Japanese by Shinran Shonin.

    It behooves us to follow the footsteps of the Shonin and with deep reflection offer our thanksgiving to the Tathagata by chanting the Shoshinge and Wasan.

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  29. When did it become customary for people to chant the Shoshinge?
  30. The followers of Jodo Shinshu started the custom of chanting the Shoshinge during the time of Rennyo-shonin. Until then it was usual for people to chant the "Ojo Raisan-ge" composed by Master Zendo (Shan-tao) of China because people used to observe 'rokuji-raisan' , a six-times-a-day worship. Rennyo-shonin revised the custom to morning and evening devotionals with the chanting of Shoshinge, Nembutsu and Wasan by distributing copies of these made by means of woodblock printing.

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  31. The Shoshinge written in Kanji or 'romaji' is not understandable. Is there an understandable version available?
  32. The Shoshinge has been translated into English as the HYMN OF TRUE FAITH. The Sanbutsu-ge and Jusei-ge have been translated as PRAISES OF THE BUDDHA and THREE SACRED VOWS respectively and all three of these are used in English services. A BUDDHIST SERVICE BOOK is available at your local temple.

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  33. Because of circumstances we sometimes find that we do not have the time to chant the Shoshinge. What may we chant in its stead?
  34. We should always try to reserve a time to chant the Shoshinge, but when circumstances do not permit this, chant the Sanbutsu-ge or the Jusei-ge either in Kanji or in their translated versions.

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  35. What is the best 'service book' that has been compiled for laymen?
  36. The Jodo Shinshu Seiten Gongyo-shu is recommended for those who can read Japanese. This was compiled and designated as the standard by our Hongwanji to commemorate the 800th Anniversary of Shinran Shonin's Birth and the 750th Anniversary of the Founding of Jodo Shinshu. It is published by the Hongwanji Press.

    For the English reading followers BUDDHIST SERVICE BOOK or PRAISES OF THE BUDDHA are available at your local temple.

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  37. Is there a devotional book printed with the chants set to musical notes and staves?
  38. There is no book with all the chants but some of the essential ones have been set to musical notes. The Shoshinge and Junirai may be found in many books. The Seiten published by the Hongwanji Sunday School Federation, for one, has some of the chants set to musical notes.

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  39. Why is the chanting bell, rin, used?
  40. The rin is struck to designate breaks and pauses during chanting and also to set the tone of the voice. Some people strike the rin any number of times whenever they pay obeisance at the altar, but in Jodo Shinshu the rin is struck only at devotionals.

    The proper number of times to strike the rin is as follows: twice at the beginning of the chant, once at the middle break, and thrice at the end of the chant.

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  41. Why is the bonsho, a huge temple bell, rung?
  42. Bell and Bell tower
    Bell and Bell tower
    The bonsho is the call-to-worship bell because it is struck before a service is conducted in order to gather the members of the sangha living in the neighborhood to the temple. It is also rung at determined times in the morning and evening to let the people know the time of day.

    Listen to the bonsho with joy; in the resounding echo of the bell the Buddha's compassionate call can be heard reverberating throught the ten quarters of the universe .

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  43. When should I recite The Kyosho (Fundamentals of Jodo Shinshu), Seikatsu Shinjo (Daily Creed), Ryoge-mon (Creed of Jodo Shinshu), and Rakanmon (Three Treasures)?
  44. The Kyosho explicitly states the fundamentals of Jodo Shinshu, and therefore it behooves every follower to study this earnestly.

    The Seikatsu Shinjo outlines the objectives of daily practices and should be memorized, recited and practiced wholeheartedly every day. Recitation, singly or in groups, at home, devotionals and Dharma discussions is recommended.

    The Raisan-mon expresses faith in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and is usually recited together before devotional services.

    The Ryoge-mon is the affirmation of faith and should be recited after sermons and devotionals.

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  45. How many epistles are there in the Gobun-sho?
  46. The Gobunsho (Epistles) is a compilation of the letters written by Rennyo-shonin. Altogether there are 80 letters in 5 volumes. Of these the letters in Volume V are read most frequently.

    A collection called Okuwae Gobun-sho (The Edited Epistles) contains most of the letters of Volume V together with selected letters from the other 4 volumes.

    Another that is known as Shohon Gobun-sho (Small Book Epistles) is just small in size alone and contains all the letters.

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  47. How can I memorize the Daily Creed?
  48. In order to memorize the Daily Creed, 1) recite it at your morning and evening devotionals, 2) post it where you can see it many times each day, 3) recite it together with others at gatherings.

    These are just a few of the ways for memorizing it In the early days, many followers memorized the Shoshinge through diligent effort even though they were illiterate because they felt irreverent if they could not recite it by heart. Just so, we hope you will memorize the Daily Creed through your diligence.

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  49. What is the confirmation rite?
  50. Kikyo-shiki
    Confirmation rite
    Kikyo-shiki
    Confirmation rite, kikyo-shiki, is sometimes called 'okamisori' which means shaving the head . This is a rite wherein the follower comes before Amida Buddha and affirms his faith in the Buddha-dharma and avows to live a life of Nembutsu. At this time the Monshu confirms the faith and grants a Dharma-name, Homyo, to the follower. The Dharma-name indicates that the person has become a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha.

    At our Hongwanji this rite is conducted immediately after the morning devotional and again at 1:30 in the afternoon each day of the year, except on January 1 and 8 and December 20, for those who so desire.

    Confirmation rites are also conducted at district temples when the Monshu makes an official circuit visit.

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  51. What should I chant over a grave?
  52. In Jodo Shinshu we do not offer or direct our chants to the deceased. Our affection and respects to the deceased are expressed by visiting the grave and we take this opportunity to deepen our joy of faith by saying the Nembutsu. For a chant over a grave the Myogo, Buddha-name, is placed before the gravestone, but if the characters Namo Amida Butsu have been inscribed on the stone then there is no need for the Myogyo to be placed there.

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  53. What is the proper etiquette when visiting the temples of other Buddhist denominations?
  54. We must be careful not to hinder the rituals or get in the way of the worshippers there. Let us gassho quietly and reverently with Amida Buddha in our hearts.

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  55. What should my manner be when attending funerals at temples of other Buddhist denominations?
  56. Jodo Shinshu is one of the denominations of the Buddha's teaching and follows rituals in accordance with those of traditional India, and gassho is one of these. Therefor, even in temples of other Buddhist denominations it is proper to gassho in a respectful and reverent manner in expressing your condolences.

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