Sunday Dharma Service

WELCOME – Welcome to our temple. Thank you for attending our weekly service. Please feel free to take part in some or all aspects of the service and to ask those around you for assistance or direction. We hope this experience will open your heart and mind to the Way of the Buddha. You may sit anywhere in our main hall.

TEMPLE BELL – The service will commence by ringing the temple bell which invites us to prepare to hear the Dharma (teachings of the Buddha). This is a time for reflection. The officiating minister is seated on the right of the altar and any guest ministers or assistants present are seated on the left. The service is typically chaired by one of our Dharma School classes. Beginning immediately after the ringing of the temple bell the sūtra chanting will commence.

AMIDA BUDDHA – The statue at the center of the altar represents the character and nature of Amida Buddha in personification. Amida Buddha, or Infinite Light (Wisdom), is the central focus of our religion. Amida Buddha is neither divine nor historic, but rather is symbolic. Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Shakyamuni Buddha, is the historical Buddha who in his own lifetime became enlightened and discovered the Amida Buddha. This temple follows the Jodo Shinsu sect of Buddhism named for its founder Shinran Shonin.

SŪTRA CHANTING – Sūtra in Sanskrit means a thread. In Buddhism, the sūtras are religious writings regarded as records of the verbal teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. Sūtra chanting is an opportunity to exhibit gratitude for and learn of the Buddha's teachings. Several key sūtra passages are recited with Japanese pronunciation of texts written in classical Chinese. English translations appear at the bottom of these passages in the service book.

OFFERING OF INCENSE – As a symbolic act of purification, the offering of incense prepares one to listen to the Buddha's teaching. The fragrance of the incense gives the room one scent and disguises all others. Offering incense expresses one's desire to enter into a condition of purity or equality. You may offer incense either before or after the service. Bow slightly in front of the incense burner. Stepping forward approach the burner and with your right hand place a small pinch of ground incense into the burner. Place your hands together in gassho and bow while saying the Nembutsu. Then step back and bow again.

GASSHO – Gassho is a position with palms together and fingers pointing upwards. Traditionally used as an expression of greeting, request, thankfulness or reverence, we gassho as a practice of gratitude and respect for the Buddha's teachings. Gassho is an integral part of our practice, especially during the service. With hands together we recite the Nembutsu followed by a slight bow to reflect our reverence and gratitude.

NEMBUTSU – This is the phrase "Namo Amida Butsu" (nam-moh-ah-mee-dah-boo-tsoo) which is the primal expression for a Shin Buddhist's gratitude for the boundless Wisdom and Compassion that has been given to us through the Amida Buddha. The phrase literally means "I gratefully entrust myself to and rely solely upon the Buddha of immeasurable light and life (or wisdom and compassion)." As we recite the Nembutsu during today's service, and every day as well, the true meaning of "Namo Amida Butsu" becomes the voice of truth, which calls to us continuously, just as our own breath or blood flow throughout our bodies.

GATHAS – We sing together in verse as a musical way of expressing gratitude for the Buddha's teachings. Many of our gathas are sung in Japanese in deference to our temple's Japanese cultural heritage.

RECITATIONS – Recitations, such as The Three Treasures and The Golden Chain, remind us of the most basic Buddhist teachings which can be practiced by everyone, including children and adults alike, whether one is Buddhist or not.

DHARMA MESSAGE – The minister will deliver a message intended to help us understand the teachings of the Buddha. On special occasions part of the message may be delivered in Japanese out of respect for the temple's cultural origins.

LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION – The loving kindness meditation is chanted at the end of the service and is meant to develop good will and loving kindness towards ourselves and all other sentient beings. After the loving kindness meditation the service will close with a short period of quiet meditation. The entire service lasts about one hour. Service is followed by refreshments for the adults and Dharma School for students five years old through high school ages. Adult choir practice is held immediately after service. Dharma School taiko (drum) practice is frequently held after Dharma School ends.