Let’s shout our love (Nembutsu) in the center of the Hondo!!

by Rimban Katsuya Kusunoki

In Japan March is the end of the school year and fiscal year. Everything restarts in April. So, spring is the season when people experience parting from friends and meeting with new friends. Parting with and meeting with people are conditions of Love. Don’t you think so? Do you still remember the feeling of love, or are you still in love? I remember I made a lot of mistakes in Love. Love is blind! I was so nervous when I told about my love to a lady who I deeply loved.

Let’s think about a general love story where one person tells their feelings to another.

  1. First, someone has to ask a friend to go out with them. They invite them to lunch, dinner, or for a drive. They meet someplace and go out together. They talk and ask some questions to get more information about the other. However, it is very difficult to tell their feelings. In their mind they encourage themselves, and at last they find the courage to speak.

  2. “I have to tell you one thing. The reason why I invited you today is to tell you my feelings. I have a great affection for you. In fact, I love you.”

  3. Then, they start talking about the reason why they love the other. “You are so beautiful. You are my type. You are kind. I like your …whatever.” They sing the praises of the other.

  4. And then, they share their feelings again and wait for a reply. Hopefully, the other person is going to say, “I love you, too.”

  5. When they hear this reply, “I love you,” they are jubilant over their reply. They start calling their friends to tell this success story, sharing the news with friends. A wedding ceremony is one of the opportunities to share their happiness with their friends. And then, this love story concludes happily.

I want to arrange and repeat the order of this love.

  1. One invites the person they love.

  2. One shares their feelings.

  3. One sings the praises of the other.

  4. One tells of their love again and gets a reply from the other.

  5. One shares their happiness with their friends.

What do you think of this order?

I think this order is very similar to our Buddhist service. Let’s think about the order of Spring Ohigan service:

  1. Sanbujo (三奉請, Three Respectful Callings)

  2. Hyobyakumon (表白文, Aspiration)

  3. Sutra Chanting, “Sanbutsuge” (讃仏偈)

  4. Nembutsu (念仏)

  5. Eko (回向)

I want to compare the love story’s order with Spring Ohigan service’s order.

  1. One invites the person they love (Sanbujo).
    Here is the English translation of Sanbujo: “We respectfully call upon Amida Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Buddhas of the ten directions to enter this place of practice. As we joyfully scatter flowers of welcome.” Chanting “Sanbujo” means we are inviting Buddha here to this Hondo with scattering flowers.

  2. One shares their feelings (Hyobyakumon, aspiration).
    A minister reads a Hyobyakumon as a representative of all attendees. “Today, on this occasion of this service, we have reverently come before Amida Buddha. With the deepest reverence and gratitude for the all-embracing wisdom and compassion of Amida.” We confess our faith as we read “Hyobyakumon”.

  3. One sings their praises of the other (Sutra chanting).
    is a part of the Larger Sutra. The Sutra is Buddha’s words, Buddha’s teachings. It is a condensation of Buddha’s virtue, Buddha’s effort, and Buddha’s thought in this teaching. We are given this teaching, which tells us truth. Chanting or reading a sutra aloud means praising Buddha’s guidance.

  4. One tells of their love again and gets a reply from the other (Nembutsu, 念仏).
    Reciting Nembutsu is the most important in a Buddhist service. Reciting Nembutsu is the simultaneous call and response between Amida Buddha and us. “I love you, Amida Buddha.” “I love you, too.” We recite Namoamidabutsu (南無阿弥陀仏) expressing our feelings. However, at the same time, we are receiving Amida Buddha’s response with his compassion. We express our feelings, “We entrust Amida Buddha. We take refuge in Amida Buddha.” Amida Buddha sends us his compassion, “I accept you as you are.”

    At the end, as a conclusion:

  5. One shares their happiness with their friends (Eko).
    Here is the English translation of Eko. “May this merit virtue be shared equally with all beings. May we together awaken the Bodhi Mind and be born in the Realm of Serenity and Joy.” At the end of service we chant these words as a conclusion. We share Buddha’s teaching or Buddha virtue. We rejoice together and are born into the same Buddha Land.

This is the order to express our faith in Amida Buddha:

  1. Sanbujo

  2. Hyobyakumon

  3. Sutra Chanting “Sanbutsuge”

  4. Nembutsu

  5. Eko

At the service, each of us is forming a deeply connected love story with Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin. The Buddhist service is the opportunity to declare our respect and gratitude to Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin. Please come to our temple! Please come to Sunday Service. And let’s recite or shout NAMOAMIDABUTSU in the HONDO together.

From the April issue of the “Wheel of the Sangha” newsletter.