Jodo Shinshu Traditions

The traditions of the temple refine our behavior in relation to Amida Buddha. The purpose these traditions in the lives of Buddhists is to put into action the reverence and gratitude which we feel for Amida Buddha. In teaching small children, we should convey this feeling of reverence and gratitude, and the basic forms of etiquette. Children will learn through the examples set by their parents and teachers.

Image courtesy: The Iowa Shinshu Dojo

Gassho means to put the hands together. It signifies the oneness of Buddha and all beings. It also expresses reverence and gratitude.The palms of both hands are placed together with the fingers and thumbs extended and with the ojuzu encircling both hands and held lightly between the thumbs and the fingers. Both elbows should be fairly close to the body and the hands should be at mid-chest level. To bow during the gassho, the hands should be held steady, while the body is bent forward from the hips and then back to the upright position. Gassho is the natural expression of reverence and gratitude.

The ojuzu should be treated with the utmost respect at all times. It is a collection of beads with three main beads strung together is used when in gassho at the time of worship. Three main beads represent the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and other beads representing Buddha's teachings to overcome each suffering of beings. At home it should be kept in a special place, such as in a drawer near the family shrine. At other times, the Buddhist should carry the ojuzu in the purse or in the coat pocket so that it will always be available. During the service, the ojuzu should be held in the left hand. The Ojuzu encircles the hand during gassho symbolizing Oneness.

When burning incense, walk up to the front of the shrine and bow at a distance of about two steps in front of the incense table. Step up to the table and with the right hand take a pinch of powdered incense and drop it into the incense-burner. gassho and bow. Take two steps backward, bow and return to your seat. The burning of incense should be done with reverence because it prepares us to receive the Dharma. It means to pay homage to Buddha and remind ourselves of the law of impermanency of all things including ourselves.

The Seiten and Gatha books should be handled with proper care. Before and after the chanting the book should be raised to the forehead as a gesture of appreciation and reverence to the words of the Buddha.

The Hondo should be entered quietly and with reverence. Upon entering, gassho facing the shrine. Take your seat and quietly wait for the service to begin. Avoid being late and try not to enter the Hondo during meditation. Before leaving the Hondo, when the service is over, turn to face the shrine and gassho before leaving.

Leading the congregation in reading, whether it be sacred writings or excerpts from the sutras, is an honour and therefore should be performed in that spirit. Gassho and bow towards the shrine before beginning the reading. Hold the book with both hands and read slowly and distinctly so that the congregation can follow together.