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Jodo Shinshu Buddhism
Essentials of Jodo Shinshu (Kyosho)
Name: Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (Nishi Hongwanji), the Hongwanji– branch of the True Essence of the Pure Land Way

Founder: Kenshin Daishi Shinran Shonin (1173 – 1262 A.D.)

Central Objective of Worship: Amida Tathagata (Namo Amida Butsu)

Sutra: Triple Pure Land Sutras
  • Bussetsu Daimuryojukyo (Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life)
  • Bussetsu Kammuryojukyo (Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life)
  • Bussetsu Amidakyo (Smaller Sutra of Immeasurable Life)

Teaching: Entrusting oneself in the teaching of Namo Amida Butsu, rejoice that one shall attain Buddhahood, and with the heart of gratitude, live for the welfare of the people of the world.

Tradition: We are a community of friends bound together in the joy of the same realization. We will always be mindful of our speech and action, work responsibly for the good of society, and pool our efforts in disseminating the true meaning of the Dharma. Bearing in mind of the principle of causation, we shall not engage in superstitious practices.


Who's Who in Jodo Shinshu
Amida Buddha
Buddha of Infinite Light and Infinite Life; central image of reverence; Namo Amida Butsu; Tathagata

Sakyamuni Buddha
Sakyamuni Buddha lived in the sixth century B.C. and attained enlightenment. He taught Buddhism as a way to teach other people how to become enlightened.

Shinran Shonin  1173-1262 A.D.
Founder of Jodo Shinshu and one of the great figures of Japanese Buddhism.

Rennyo Shonin  1411-1499 A.D.
The eighth hereditary Gomonshu of Jodoshinshu was largely responsible for the restoration of Jodoshinshu teachings as a major force in Japanese Buddhism and for organizing the sect into its present form.

Shotoku Taishi  572-622 A.D.
An Imperial Prince, the second son of Emperor Yomei. An ardent Buddhist and strong supporter of its acceptance and dissemination in Japan. He is regarded as the Father of Japanese Buddhism.

The Seven Patriarchs
The seven spiritual masters of the Pure Land teaching, according to Shinran.
India: Nagarjuna (Ryuju) 2nd-3rd century A.D.
Vasubandhu (Tenjin) 5th century A.D.
China: T’an Luan (Donran} 476-542 A.D.
Tao ch’o (Doshaku) 562-654 A.D.
Shan tao (Zendo) 613-681 A.D.
Japan: Genshin (Genshin) 942-1017 A.D.
Honen (Honen) 1133-1212 A.D.

Title of the spiritual leader of Nishi Hongwanji-ha (direct descendent of Shinran Shonin), whose headquarters are in Kyoto, Japan. 

Shonin (as in Shinran Shonin)
Title, which can be translated as “the venerable master”.


Buddhist Etiquette
Entering and Leaving the Hondo (Temple Hall)
The hondo should be entered quietly and with due reverence. It is traditional to bow on entry and exit.

Gassho means to put the hands together. The palms of both hands are placed together with the fingers and thumbs extended and with the juzu 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 midchest level. To bow during gassho, the hands should be held steady, while the body is bent forward from the hips and then back to upright position. Gassho signifies the oneness with Buddha, and is the natural expression of reverence and gratitude.

The physical postures of revering or worshipping the Buddha are many. In India there were nine forms in ascending degrees of formalness, in China there were eighteen, and in Japan there were three forms. In Jodo Shinshu, only the Teishugasshō Raihai is used, with the exception of very formal ceremonies performed by priests. Teishugasshō Raihai is to bow the body from the waist to a 45-degree angle, when sitting and standing. In most cases, a bow of 15-degree is adequate.

O-Nenju    O-Juzu 
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 represent Buddha’s teachings to overcome each suffering of beings. Nenju/ Juzu should be treated with the utmost respect at all times. Nenju/ Juzu encircles the hands during gassho, symbolizing Oneness.

Offering of Incense. Proceed toward the altar and bow lightly at a distance of about two steps in front of the shoko table. Step up to the table, and with the right hand take a pinch of granulated incense and drop it over the burning incense. Gassho and bow. Take two or three steps backward, bow, and return to your seat. It is symbolic of the followers purifying their mind and body before paying homage to Buddha. At the same time the smoke rising from the burning incense teaches us a lesson on the transciency of all existence.

Reciting of the Nembutsu
As Shinshu is based on the realization of the Nembutsu, the importance of reciting it correctly cannot be overemphasized.

Service Book/ Seiten
Service Book/ Seiten contains sacred teaching and words of Buddha; therefore, it should be handled with respect and reverence. Before opening it, please hold it with both hands and raise the book to your forehead to show your gratitude.

Service begins with the ringing of the Kansho. 

O-Saisen/ Offering
Saisen is a practice of dana, an act of selfless giving and receiving.


Buddhist Symbols
Buddhist Flag
The first five stripes of the flags are self-colors of blue, yellow, red, white and light red. The sixth color is a combination of the five. The flag symbolizes the unity and harmony of Buddhists.
Wheel of Law
The Wheel of Law is known as the Wheel of Life or Wheel of Dharma. It is called Dharmacakra in Sanskrit and Dhammacakka in Pali. The eight spokes of the wheel represent the Noble Eightfold Path. Their equal length symbolizes justice. The tire around the wheel represents the all-embracing Wisdom of Buddhahood. The hub teaches us modesty and thoughtfulness. The axle is the unchanging Truth upon which the Wheel turns.

Wisteria Crest
The double Wisteria Crest is the temple crest of the Hongwanji. The wisteria blooms with its blossoms hanging low. Thus, the wisteria crest symbolizes humility and sincere reverence to Amida Buddha. It is derived from Shinran’s family crest.
The lotus is an often-used symbol in Buddhism. The lotus grows with its roots anchored in mire. Its stem rises through the murky water and its blossoms bloom in full glory, pure and white, above the water. The Buddha taught that we should be like the Lotus. We may live in a mad world but we must rise above it and attain perfect peace of mind.


Rites of Passage
Hatsumairi – Infant Presentation: Presentation of babies to the Buddha, Dharma, and Temple Sangha; usually held in conjunction with Gotan-e service in May.

Kikyoshiki – Confirmation: Formal affirmation as a Buddhist, at which time a Buddhist name (Homyo) is given to the person being confirmed (entry onto the path of the Nembutsu)

Kekkonshiki – Wedding: Weddings are almost always held at the temple. When occasionally held at home or hotel, it is still conducted by a minister in front of a “Butsudan” (Buddhist altar). Jodoshinshu weddings are very short, lasting from 30 to 45 minutes. The ritual consists of chanting, the reading of the vows, the exchange of rings, presentation of Nenju (beads) and Oshoko (incense burning). The marriage vows are a translation of a wedding performed by the Buddha in which he asks the couple to be married, above all, to the Truth. The San San Kudo (a ceremony performed with 3 sake cups sipped by the bride, groom, and their parents) in its Buddhist form may be performed. This ritual symbolized the unification of the couple and their two families. The couple will receive a wedding Nenju from the temple.

Soshiki – Funerals: From the minister’s point of view and for the temple member who only occasionally comes to the temple, the funeral and memorial service are the two most important occasions for a person to be exposed to the teachings of Jodoshinshu. The minister’s sermon and the ritual of sutra chanting thus form the core of both services. Since in both cases, the gathering is for the sake of the living, attendance by family and friends is encouraged.

  • Makuragyo: This service is held as soon as possible following the death of the person, either at home, the mortuary, or at the temple. At this service, family members and sometimes close friends will Oshoko, while a sutra is being chanted by the priest. This is followed by a short sermon. After the service, the family will sit down with the priest and mortuary representative to make funeral arrangements. A member or members from the temple will often be present to offer any help that may be requested.
  • Funeral: In Southern California, 90% of all funerals are held in the evening, either at the temple or mortuary, typically from 7:30 p.m. The funeral is usually held 5 or 6 days after death.




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