Format for a typical Sunday Service

  • Ringing of the “Bonsho” and “Bonsho Meditation”
  • Calling for the “Kansho” and response “Hai”
  • Ringing of the Kansho
  • Opening Remarks
  • Sutra Chanting
  • Sanbutsuka
  • Reading of the Three Treasures
  • Howa (Dharma Talk)
  • Sanbutsuka
  • Buddhist Reading
  • Announcements
  • Closing Remarks

Some Definitions

In the Jodo Shinsu Tradition the Kansho is often referred to as the Gyoji-sho or “ritual bell” because it is rung just prior to the beginning of the ritual. This bell is the sound that lets the priests know to enter the naijin or “inner altar” area.

the bonsho, or main temple bellThe Bonsho is the large temple bell. It is suspended inside the shoro constructed specifically to house the bell. The Japanese character “bon” is used to express purity. Because the Bonsho is used for Buddhist Services it is given this honorific title. The Seattle Betsuin uses the Bonsho in a very unique style. Although the Bonsho is traditionally only rung prior to the service to let the “assembly” know that the service will begin, the Bonsho at the Betsuin is also rung after the beginning of the service and is used as a focal point during our “Bonsho Meditation”. Listening to the Bonsho may remind us of the words found in the beginning of the Heike Mono-gatari: “The voice of the bell at the Jetavana grove resounds with (the teaching of) all conditioned things are impermanent…”

Sanbutsuka (lit. “song in praise of the Buddha)
The Sanbutsuka, often miscalled Gatha, are songs sung in praise of the virtues of the Buddha. The Sunday ritual service itself is also conducted in praise of the Buddha’s virtues: the virtues of a Buddha help reveal to us the path that allows us to transcend the world of birth, old age, sickness, and death.

Gathas are the teachings of the a Buddha (or commentaries) written in verse form and because of that is often mistaken as a song.

Three Treasures
The Three Treasures of Buddhism are the Buddha (an enlightened person), the Dharma (the body of truth a Buddha becomes enlightened to), and the Sangha (the community that tries to live its life based on the Buddha’s teaching).

Howa (lit. Dharma Talk)
A message given based on one’s interpretation, experiences abut a scriptural passage. This word is contrasted to Sekkyo (lit. Explanation of Teaching) or sermon, and Kanwa (lit. Feeling Talk) which is talk not about any particular scriptural passage.