Showing posts with label DOJO/TEMPLE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DOJO/TEMPLE. Show all posts

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ceremonies for joining the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist school

Question: What kind of lay ceremonies are offered for those who wish to enter Jodo Shinshu?

Answer: The following is only a short answer without entering into details.
In Jodo Shinshu lay people can receive: 1) confirmation ceremony – kikyoshiki or 2) refuge ceremony - kieshiki.

1)      Kikyoshiki (confirmation ceremony) can be given only by the Monshu-sama (Head Priest) of Nishi Hongwanji main temple in Japan, by the retired Monshu (Zenmon-sama), or by somebody appointed by them

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Don't bring worldly activities into the temple

inside the Hondo (Dharma Hall)
of Amidaji temple

Question: What do you think about the idea of having a bar in the temple – I heard some Japanese priests are doing it to attract people. Other temples organize parties or cultural events for the same reason.

Answer: I saw a lot of people praising that bullshit with Japanese Buddhist priests transforming temples into bars or having a bar on the temple grounds to attract people. Also, other Jodo Shinshu temples around the world organize bazaars, and even parties with alcohol for members and visitors. I find this to be disgusting. Such things will never happen at Amidaji. The temple should be a gate to the Pure Land, a place for listening deeply to Amida Dharma, and NOT for promoting our blind passions and worldly amusements.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Three Refuges in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism

download in pdf from 1) my google drive, 2) my page on

The Three Refuges[1] are:

Buddham saranam gacchami[2] (Namo kye Bu[3])
Dhammam saranam gacchami (Namo kye Ho)
Sangham saranam gacchami (Namo kye So)

     1) The meaning of taking refuge in the Buddha 
       This means to take refuge in Amida Buddha who is the central Buddha in Jodo Shinshu. Only through Him can we attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land as He is the only Buddha among all Buddhas who made the Vow of saving everybody, no matter their spiritual capacities.  

By taking refuge in Amida, we automatically honor and take refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha as the Teacher who showed us the path of Amida Dharma (His main reason for coming into this world) and in all Buddhas in the ten directions, as all encourage us, teach us and guide us to entrust to Amida Buddha.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The meaning of Arya Sangha in Jodo Shinshu

This article was recently revised and included in the 

- The Three Refuges in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism - 

please click on it to read it!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Verses of aspiration when making offerings

altar of Amidaji temple

I offer this flower to Amida Buddha on behalf of all beings. By seeing its decaying beauty may we realize that our lives and so called "spiritual achievements" are transitory, and turn our minds and hearts to the Salvific Power of Amida Buddha.

I offer this burning candle to Amida Buddha on behalf of all beings. May we accept Amida's Light which permeates every corner of the Universe, and entrust to Him with unshakable faith.

I offer this incense to Amida Buddha on behalf of all beings. May we become imbued with the perfume of His Dharma, receive faith in Him and be born in His Pure Land after death.

I offer this cup of water to Amida Buddha on behalf of all beings. May our thirst be forever saturated in His Pure Land where we attain perfect Enlightenment.

I offer this cup of rice to Amida Buddha on behalf of all beings. May we receive faith in Him and guide others to faith. May the seeds of Amida Dharma multiply endlessly until the ocean of Samsaric existence becomes empty.
Namo Amida Butsu


These words came to my mind spontaneously when sitting in front of the altar of Amida Buddha and making offerings. They are NOT some kind of merit transference, but a simple wish and act of awareness. Every object in the temple is a reminder of Amida's Compassion for us, and the need to rely on Him single heartedly. As far as I know, the flowers, incense and candles signify impermanence, perfume of Dharma and Light of Amida,  respectively, in all Shinshu temples affiliated with Hongwanji. Of course, one can simply say the Nembutsu, without the need for any other verse,  hymns or ritual implements. Its up to everyone to enjoy his (her) personal relation with Amida Buddha as he (she) likes it.

PS: instead of water you can offer tea or any other non-alcoholic drinks

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Amidaji is strictly a Jodo Shinshu temple - short discussion between me and Zuio Inagaki Sensei

the altar of Amidaji Temple
I was recently asked by Rev Zuio Hisao Inagaki (June 22nd 2016):

"I wonder if your temple is purely Jodo Shinshu or Zen or combination of both. I am in favor of seeing a combination of both, or a new way of Buddhism".

This was my answer:

My temple is strictly Jodo Shinshu. I am strongly against any combination between Jodo Shinshu and Zen or Jodo Shinshu and anything else.

As Shinran or Rennyo did not make any combination, I myself will make none. We are ignorant, unenlightened beings and so we do not have the authority nor the wisdom to play with various Dharma gates  or create a "new way of Buddhism", as you say. I even think that this is very dangerous and leads people into confusion. We, as priests and teachers should try to be as simple as possible, so that even illiterate can understand the Call of Amida, and have a simple faith in Him. We live in times of great confusion in the international sangha with various clerics and scholars teaching many wrong views, like the "Pure Land is here and now" or "in our minds", or describing Amida as a metaphor, fictional character, etc, and this makes ordinary people to depart from true birth in the Pure Land. To add more to this big mountain of confusion, like mixing Jodo Shinshu with Zen, is something I will never do.

My goal is to escape Samsara as quickly as possible and to help others escape it as quickly as possible. Without the Primal Vow, there is no chance of doing this, and in the Primal Vow there is no mention of anything else than entrusting ourselves to Amida Buddha, say His Name in faith and wish to be born in His Pure Land. Thus, Amidaji is a temple which limits itself to the Primal Vow. 

Here is another short question and answer between me and Inagaki Sensei:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Dharma activities go beyond any affiliation and institution

Recently a member of Higashi branch of Jodo Shinshu wrote to me and said that although he likes the way I teach Jodo Shinshu and how I stand up against modern divergences, he does not like the idea of leaving his branch or joining a new one.

I answered that my intention is NOT to create another branch of Jodo Shinshu, nor to attract people to the Nishi (Hongwanji-ha) branch, but to awake followers of all Shinshu branches, or without any affiliation, to the true Amida Dharma as it was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, Shinran and Rennyo. When I teach or discuss the Amida Dharma I don't make any distinction between followers of Nishi, Higashi or any branch. All I want is that the seed of true teaching be planted in the minds and hearts of all followers of Shinran Shonin, and the bad roots of wrong views be cut forever from all various Jodo Shinshu branches. So I think that my attitude would be better described by words such as, orthodox, non-sectarian and all-inclusive.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Guard the gates of the temple

Please, guard the gates of the temples and keep them locked for any worldly activity or worldly ideology. The temple has only one goal – solving the matter of the afterlife through birth in the Pure Land of Amida. There we should only listen to the Amida Dharma and say the nembutsu of faith. If something, anything, is not strictly related with this goal, please don’t allow it to enter the temple.

It is extremely important to help people understand that some places, even if they are built in this world, from the materials of this world and by people of this world, their function is not that of this world. And that nobody, be it a person or a worldly ideology can claim it for oneself. If the Jodo Shinshu temple or dojo will be used only for Dharma reasons, then people’s minds will become accustomed to think that shinjin and rebirth in the Pure Land are extremely important, even more important than their worldly pursuits. Thus, they will be encouraged to let go of any worldly goal when coming to the temple and respect other nembutsu followers who attend the same temple and sangha, but maybe lead a different life, according to different rules or customs. Enemies and competitors, people of various bakgrounds, will thus be able  to sit together, listen the Amida Dharma and receive the same faith.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beyond physical and ideological barriers

Shinran Shonin, the Founder of our Jodo Shinshu Buddhist school, stated clearly:

„Within the four seas, those who share the same Faith are all brothers”.

Rennyo Shonin, the Restorer and 8th Patriarch, also said:

“To get together, sit around, and talk to each other regardless of different rank and social status is consistent with Shinran Shōnin’s remark, ‘Within the four seas, those who share the same Faith are all brothers.’ My sole wish is that if we are sitting together, those who have questions may ask us about the teaching and acquire Faith.”

This shows a very important aspect of Amida Dharma – it’s universality and non-discrimination. Any difference in our personal life is useless here.

Our religious identity is more important than any other worldly identity. First and foremost we are disciples of Buddha and Shinran Shonin. Everything else is secondary and should never be mixed with the Dharma of faith in Amida Buddha.

The universal Buddhist flag
The Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) are our true family in exile in this world. The Pure Land of Amida is our true home, the place  where we’ll be born after the death of this illusory body. There we attain true Freedom, and from there we’ll start our career of saving all beings. But until then it’s very important to be sure we receive faith in Amida Buddha and that we transmit, untainted, this faith and teaching to others.
“Receive yourself shinjin, and help others receive shinjin” – is the urge of Shinran Shonin and the mission of our lives.

Our teaching does not require from us to leave our occupations or jobs, our friends, family, our samsaric country, hometown, or personal pleasures and opinions. The only requirement is that we should NOT modify Amida Dharma according to them, nor treat our brothers and sisters discriminatory based on them.

Amida Dharma is beyond the categories of our unenlightened minds and beyond the physical and ideological frontiers, beyond ethnicity, politics, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc, and because of this it cannot be treated in relation with them, it cannot be modified in accordance with them. This Dharma and the dojos or temples in which it is preached, should never be used, adapted or modified to correspond to the worldly, ethnic or ideological goal of any group.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A few verses on the right attitude of hearing the Amida Dharma

Raising the Sutra book to the forehead before reading
and after closing it, shows that the sacred writings are
not ordinary books. The teaching of the Buddha is supreme
in the world and should be received with veneration.

"Buddha said to Ananda, 'When they hear the profound Dharma, they joyfully accept it and do not entertain any doubt; and so, remembering the Buddha Amida even once, they sincerely aspire to be born in that land.'”
(Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha)

As we clearly see in this passage, the right attitude of mind when hearing the Amida Dharma is of joyful and immediate acceptance, like a child who welcomes without any restraint the calling of his Parent. "Without any doubt" and "joyfully accept" also mean that we do NOT apply the categories of our unenlightened mind to Amida Dharma, nor modify it to accommodate it to our own opinions.  By recognizing our inability to comprehend the profundity of the Buddha’s Mind and of His Dharma, we simply accept it as it is, with faith and gratitude.

Shakyamuni Buddha also said in the same sutra:

“Arrogant, corrupt and indolent people
Cannot readily accept this teaching.
But those who have met Buddhas in their past lives
Rejoice to hear it.”

“Arrogant, corrupt and indolent people” are those who assume that they have the right and capacity to transform the Amida Dharma, to change it and use it to support their own opinions or the various philosophies and ideologies of samsara. They are those who approach the Amida Dharma with a possessive mind, and not with faith, humbleness and veneration. They treat the Amida Dharma like it is a product of human intellect, and not the most precious medicine offered by the Buddha. Thus, they can’t be humble. Because they are incapable to revere the Amida Dharma they are like people who treat diamonds like mere stones.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sangha as spiritual friendship

It is recorded in the Samyutta Nikaya that one day, Ananda said to the Buddha:

“Venerable One, I thought a great deal and reached the conclusion that spiritual friendship is half of the spiritual life!”
The Buddha answered: “Don’t talk this way, Ananda. Spiritual friendship is everything in the spiritual life!”

Starting from the above passage, which produced a deep impression on me, I made a personal search into the classical texts of our school for the meaning of sangha.

Any group is founded on a common interest of its members, which in the case of sangha is a spiritual one. Rennyo Shonin made this very clear in many of his letters and drastically criticized the behaviour of his contemporaries when they turned their meetings into worldly gatherings:

Friday, August 26, 2011

The nembutsu meetings in the Romanian Shinshu Sangha

I was asked many times how we do things in the Romanian Shinshu sangha. How do we chant, if we do meditation, how is the Dharma talk, etc. The following is a short answer I gave today to a friend:

At Amidaji temple  and the dojos affiliated with it we chant (recite) in the traditional way - in sino-japanese, but we have the Romanian translation of the texts we use and the phonetic transcription. We usually recite either Shoshinge (hymn composed by Shinran), Sambutsuge (hymn from the Larger Sutra), Juseige (hymn from the Larger Sutra) or Amidakyo (Smaller Amida Sutra) followed by a (not fixed number) of Nembutsu recitations in the form of “NA MO AMIDA BU”. Thus, when we meet with  Jodo Shinshu followers from other countries, we can also have a common religious service (which is very easy to learn given the phonetic transcription), no matter which is their mother tongue. I find it wonderful to see people of different countries having a little service together, while they also have the translation in their own languages. This is also the reason why services are held at Hongwanji mother temple (Kyoto) in exactly the same way. However, our services are not complicated, and do not last long, as we give the most of our attention to Dharma talks and discussions.

I also make refuge ceremonies for those who wish to enter the sangha, when the new member chants together with the sangha The Three Refuges  followed by Ryogemon (Shinshu Creed) in Romanian. I also ask my members to learn Ryogemon by heart.

After the chanting, I give a Dharma talk on various topics of Jodo Shinshu teaching followed by questions and answers. I often ask my members various questions to check their understanding. The teachings I give are based exclusively on the sacred texts from the canon of our school. This is because in the Jodo Shinshu sangha of Romania ONLY the words of the sutras and the commentaries of the Masters of our tradition (Shinran, Rennyo, etc) are considered to be the true and real Jodo Shinshu teaching. In the rule 8th of  the dojos/temples from Romania it is written:

In the dojo only the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist teaching is taught in the exact way it was presented in the canonical texts of our school. Those who distort the teaching or wish to spread false views that are not present in the canonical texts, don’t have access at the dojo or temple. This rule applies to visiting teachers/priests, too “
No meditation is taught in the Romanian dojos/temples because Shinran and Rennyo did not taught meditation and our tradition is not about meditation. Also, in the Primal Vow, only Nembutsu, Faith and the wish to be born in Amida's Land are mentioned, and we do not feel the need to add something to it. Jodo Shinshu is a Buddhist teaching complete in itself and our single desire is to be in accord with the Primal Vow.
The greatest importance in the Romanian Shinshu sangha is placed on understanding the Dharma, listening the Dharma over and over again, asking questions, etc. Listening the Dharma is the only way to open the mind and heart to the Call of Amida Buddha.  This is in accordance with the teaching and instructions of Shinran and Rennyo who always emphasized listening the Dharma.
Chanting at the beginning of the meeting  is only as a prelude to listen to the Dharma and to express gratitude. But of course, if some people can't chant (although it is very easy and chanting can be learned in a few minutes by phonetic reading), they can simply stay silently with their hands in gassho and join us in the Nembutsu. 
At the beginning of the meeting, when people enter the dojo, they bow to the sacred image of Amida at the entrance, then they bow to greet the other members. They do the same at leaving the dojo. All members and visitors, no matter they are priests or lay, must follow the rules of the dojos.

I am trying to make my members aware of the modern divergences from the Shinshu teaching that are prevalent in our days so that they can stay away from them.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Question: are gay and lesbians welcomed in the dojo or temple?

I was asked this kind of question from time to time so I thought is good to post an answer here:

All people without exception are welcomed in the dojo or temple if their reason for being there is to listen to Amida Dharma and receive shinjin (faith). This should be very well understood.

But if you come to the dojo and tell me „I am gay”, I will reply, „did I asked you something?”
If you also come to the dojo and tell me, „I am heterosexual”, I will give you the same reply, „did I asked you something?”

Friday, October 3, 2008

Why do we need discipline in a dojo or temple?

Somebody who knows that I insist very much on discipline, recently asked me why do we need discipline in a dojo or temple.I think the answer is very simple: Because we are crazy.

Being unenlightened persons, everybody has his or her level of sickness and madness. We have some rules of behavior in the dojo, because we must not allow our madness to enter it and influence the others.
At the dojo we don’t speak about our personal ideas or fantasies, we don’t express our everyday personalities, but concentrate on the single goal of listening the Dharma in order to receive shinjin and be born in the Pure Land. We don’t speak about politics or personal ideas about this or that, we don’t engage in personal debates and fights. We also don’t show interest in the private lives of our fellow practitioners. We don’t enter in their private lives to judge them. It really doesn’t matter what members of a dojo are in their private lives. We just try to leave aside ourselves and concentrate on the Dharma.

It is not good to enter in a temple where people are fighting about their personal lives. That is not a suitable atmosphere in which we can concentrate on the Dharma.

Everybody’s life is difficult and everybody has his/her own problems. We never know what truly happens in somebody’s heart. This is why we should always try not to disturb anybody with our own personality, ideas and judgments. We should all concentrate on the Dharma and help each other to do the same. We should create an atmosphere in which everybody, no matter their difficulties and differences, can easily concentrate on the Dharma.

We should not follow personal goals in coming to the dojo or temple. This means that we come to the dojo not in order to express ourselves, our opinion on such and such worldly matter, to have a chat or who knows what, but to listen to the Dharma.
We also don’t come to the dojo to make friends, find a wife or husband or to eat cookies.

We should come to the dojo or temple like to the hospital where the best medicine is given to all. We should take the medicine to ourselves and help others take it, without interfering or disturbing no one and of course, without changing the medicine.
This is the essence of discipline in the dojo or temple.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Traditional respect towards one’s teachers

In the passage (138) “Be more reverential as you become familiar with the revered persons”, from Rennyo Shonin Goichidaiki Kikigaki, Master Rennyo said:

“…..The more familiar you become with the Tathagata, Shinran Shonin or your teacher, the more liable you are to attend them in a friendly manner. You should be careful to show more reverence to them as you become more and more familiar with them."

In every situation and no matter how relaxed I am in the presence of my teachers (some of them I know for many years), I always show my respect to them in accordance with the traditional etiquette. This is why I never call them just on their names, but always address them with “Sensei”. I do this no matter we are in a temple or outside the temple, but even when we meet in the men’s room:). I always let them walk in front of me when passing through a door, make gassho and raihai (short bow) when meeting with them, and I never stay higher than them or sitting down when they stand, etc.
In Buddhism, teachers are spiritual parents and even more important than physical parents, thus we should treat them with great respect. While physical parents give us birth in this human form but are not capable to free us from death, our teachers guide us to the path of true freedom which is beyond birth and death and all forms of suffering.
Thus, let us show more reverence to them as we become more and more familiar with them.Namo Amida Butsu

ps: I'll write about the role of the teacher in Jodo Shinshu in one of my next posts.

NEW poems by Gansen John Welch