ETIQUETTE & EXPLANATIONS
Everyone is welcome. It is expected that new attendees may not participate in all aspects of the service or perform differently than our custom. As you approach the service with a respectful curiosity, we encourage you to participate in our service rituals.
The Hondo is the hall. It includes the shrine (Onaijin) and the areas with pews for seating (Gehin). It is considered a refuge. Upon entering, most attendees will bow in respect. We ask that those entering turn off cell phones and leave food or drink in the foyer.
Gassho is a gesture made when both hands come together and is usually accompanied by a bow. It is a natural expression of gratitude and reverence, which is performed several times during the service – often accompanied by the reciting of “Namo Amida Butsu.” It is not a prayer, request for favor or blessing, or action designed to achieve merit.
The nembutsu is the recitation of “Namo Amida Butsu,” which may be translated as “I take refuge in Amida Buddha.” It is also often considered an expression of gratitude – a practical acknowledgement of the two truths of Buddhism: impermanence and interdependence.
Amida Buddha is not an actual person, deity, or being. Amida Buddha is the personification of infinite wisdom and compassion and reality itself. Amida Buddha is featured centrally on the shrine. The mirror behind Amida symbolizes that as we come to see the Buddha, we begin to see ourselves.
ONENJU (WRIST BEADS)
The onenju are our religious beads. “Nen” means “mindful thinking” and “ju” means “beads.” The tassel-string loop represents Samsara, the cycle of birth to death. The end strings of the tassel represent Nirvana, or the ‘cutting’ or severing of the cycle. The onenju is typically carried in the left hand. During Gassho, the beads are encircled around both hands as a symbol of oneness with infinite wisdom and compassion as we say the Nembutsu.
OSHOKO (INCENSE OFFERING)
If you would like to offer incense, begin by waiting in line before the Koro (incense burner) in front of the shrine. Lightly bow about two steps in front of the Koro. Step forward with the left foot. With the right hand take a pinch of powdered incense and drop it into the incense burner. Gassho and bow deeply (45 degrees). Take a step back with the right foot, lightly bow and return to your seat.
These steps are being provided to help those who have never participated in incense burning before to gain a sense of familiarity with the ritual. However, more important than doing the ritual correctly with one’s body, is to do it sincerely with one’s heart.