As you enter the Hondo (main hall), you will find a statue of Amida Buddha (Buddha of Infinite Wisdom and Compassion).
To the left, the Nembutsu (Namu Amida Butsu) is written in Japanese on a scroll. To the right of the statue, you will see another scroll with a picture of Shinran Shonin (1173-1263). Shinran Shonin is the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.
Service books (Seitan) and programs are available as you enter the Hondo. It is not necessary to remove your shoes. Seating is in chairs.
1. The Ringing of the Bell (Kansho)
A large gong is rung by Sensei to signal the beginning of the service.
2. Entrance of the Children
Sensei will gather the children and walk with them to the front of the Sangha (congregation).
3. Reciting the Nembutsu (Namu Amida Butsu)
This is the Japanese pronunciation of the original Sanskrit phrase (Namo'mitabhaya buddhaya) meaning "I take refuge in Amida Buddha."
4. Chanting of Vandana and Ti-sarana (Triple Treasures)
Taking refuge in the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) is the universal affirmation of all Buddhists. The first part, which is sung, is in the ancient Pali language of India. The second part, which is recited in English, elaborates on the Pali verses and finally in Japanese.
5. Singing of Gathas
In contrast to the traditional chanting, gathas (sings) are musical expressions of the Dharma.
6. Dharma School Reading
A Dharma School student is selected to lead in a children's reading from the Seitan.
7. Dharma Children's Story
Sensei will engage the children in a story or fable that reinforces the Dharma, followed by a children's prayer.
8. Sutra Chanting
The word sutra originally meant 'thread' so that literally, today, a sutra is the thread that ties the teachings of the Buddha into our lives. The historical Buddha, Sakyamuni, who lived in northern India more than 2,500 years ago gave many teachings, hundreds of which were repeated, handed down, and later written by his followers as either Sanskrit or Pali. Each sutra traditionally begins with "Thus have I heard" and does not claim to give anything like the exact words of the Buddha, but to convey the teachings as his listeners heard and understood them.
We chant the sutras aloud, in unison, in the traditional style. The chants are recited in Sanskrit and then in English. Since the chants are read in Sino-Japanese, they are not chanted for comprehension. Rather, it is a symbolic gesture of listening to the Dharma and is considered a form of meditation. The Jodo Shinshu tradition is unique, in that everyone, not only the priests, is encouraged to chant together. Through participation in the chanting, the full experience of the Buddhist service is realized.
During the sutra chanting, children offer incense and exit to attend Dharma School.
9. Dharma Talk by Sensei
10. Dana (Giving) and Announcements A voluntary donation box is circulated while announcements are made.
11. Nembutsu, Silent Meditation and Benediction
12. Oshoko (Offering of Incense)
We end our service with the offering of incense, This is an opportunity to show respect and gratitude for the Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and the Buddha. It is a symbolic act which represents the transience of existence. We bow in Gassho putting the hands together to signify the oneness of Buddha and all beings. It is customary to use an Ojuzu (beads), around your hands at this offering.
After service, an informal gathering is held. It is an opportunity for people to gather, to ask questions, share their insights, and share each other's company over light refreshments.
Monthly Memorial Service
Buddhists consider a memorial service, a significant occasion to remember the deceased with feelings of gratefulness and love. For Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, the significance of a memorial service is not for appeasing the spirits of the deceased, but is, rather, the opportunity to pay tribute to and recall the memories of the deceased, while listening to the Buddha Dharma. In remembering the deceased, we acknowledge the influence of the deceased on our lives.
For more information, go to Traditions.