Jodo Shu TOP
Welcome Message
About Pure Land Buddhism
About Honen Shonin
About Jodo Shu
Teachings and Practice
Jodo ShuInternational
Terminology
Publications
Events
Contact us
About Jodo Shu
» History of Jodo Shu   » Honen the Father of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism  
» The Funeral (sogi) & Other Ceremonies of Remembrance   » Ceremonies of Ordination  
» Major Annual Ceremonies   » Main Temples in Japan    » Virtual Temple of Jodo Shu
Major Annual Ceremonies
(A) Ceremonies relating to Buddhism in general,
(B) Ceremonies relating to Jodo Shu,
(C) Ceremonies relating to individual temples (dates of ceremonies are irregular). We would like to introduce here general Jodo Shu ceremonies.
New Year Practice (shusho-e)
Honen's Memorial Day (Gyoki-e)
Buddha's Memorial Day (nehan-e)
Chinzeiki
Zendoki
Spring season Higan-e
Founder's Day/Honen's Birthday (shuso-kotan-e)
Buddha's Birthday (kanbutsu-e)
Segaki-e May to September

Kishuki
Urabon-e
Autumn season Higan-e

Ten Night Chanting (ojuya) October to November

Buddha's Enlightenment (jodo-e)
Chanting of the Buddhas' Names (butsumyo-e)
Joya
January
New Year Practice (shusho-e)
This is a common ceremony held in Japanese Buddhism to commemorate the New Year. In Jodo Shu, we gather together to recite the Nembutsu. Just before midnight on New Year's, the temple bell is rung 108 times (joya-no-kane), symbolizing the washing away of the 108 human defilements and the beginning of a purified new year.
Back to Top
Honen's Memorial Day (gyoki-e) Jan. 25
The memorial service for the Founder of Jodo Shu, Honen Shonin. Honen Shonin died on January 25, 1212 and Gyoki-e takes place on this day every year to recall his virtue. The original meaning of Gyoki-e is the memorial service at the time of death of an emperor or empress. The imperial family gave authorization to use the word Gyoki-e for Honen's memorial service. From the year 1877, Gyoki-e has been taken place in April when it is warm and flowers bloom rather than in cold January.
Back to Top
Febrary
Buddha's Memorial Day (nehan-e) Feb. 15
Nehan-e is the memorial day of Shakyamuni Buddha who initiated the teachings of Buddhism. Shakyamuni passed away from his 80 years life at the foot of the Linden balm tree in Kushinagara, India. Nehan means liberation from all desires and freedom from all suffering.
Back to Top
Chinzeiki
This is the memorial service for the second patriarch of Jodo Shu, Seikoubo Bencho. Bencho-Shonin spent most of his life in Kyushu. Since Kyushu was called Chinzei at that time, Bencho Shonin has been called Chinzei Shonin. In 1238, he passed away at Zendo-ji Temple in Kyushu at 77 years of age. Zendo-ji is one of Jodo Shu's seven main temples in Japan and is known as one of Kyushu's most famous temples.
Back to Top
March
Zendoki
This is the memorial service for Zendo (Shan-tao) Daishi, a Chinese priest of the Tang Era who passed away on March 14, 681. Zendo developed the nembutsu as the reciting of Amida's name rather than the visualization of him in his Pure Land. In Jodo Shu, he was Honen's greatest spiritual influence and is respected in Jodo Shu as Kouso-sama (Initiator) while Honen Shonin is known as Genso-sama (Founder).
Back to Top
Spring season Higan-e
Higan-e starts three days before the Vernal Equinox, a Japanese public holiday, and finishes three days after that day, continuing for a total of one week. Higan-e takes place twice a year in spring and in autumn. Higan means literally "the other shore", that is the other shore of enlightenment which contrasts this worldly shore of birth and death. It is a ceremony to honor our ancestors and to come together to chant the nembutsu. At this time, families visit their family graves and also gather at the temple for a communal ceremony.
Back to Top
April
Founder's Day/Honen's Birthday (shuso-kotan-e) Apr. 7
This is the day when people celebrate the birth of Honen Shonin. Honen Shonin was born on April 7, 1133 in Okayama prefecture. The father of Honen was a chief of police, while Honen's mother was from a notable family professional weavers. There is an old myth that says when Honen's mother conceived him, she dreamed of swallowing a razor. When Honen was born, two streams of white banner flew down from a sky of purple clouds and fell on an aphananthe aspera tree in the garden.
Back to Top
Buddha's Birthday (kanbutsu-e) Apr. 8
Shakyamuni Buddha was born in 463 BC at Lumbini in northern part of India (currently in Nepal ). Lumbini was the traditional land of the Shakyamuni clan and Shakyamuni was born as the prince of the Shakyas. It is said that when Shakyamuni was born, birds sang, flowers bloomed and two elephants poured sweet dew for bathing Shakyamuni. The just born Shakyamuni walked seven steps, each in the four cardinal directions, pointing with his right hand to heaven and with his left hand to earth, and declared that he would become a great sage and lead humanity out of suffering. At present, many temples in Japan celebrate this day as Kanbutsu-e every year. Children pray by pouring sweet tea over the statue of Shakyamuni placed in a miniature flower garden of Lumbini. Shakyamuni's right hand points to heaven and left hand to earth. This ceremony is also known as Hanamatsuri.
Back to Top
May
Segaki-e May to September
Segaki was originally a ceremony of offering food to monks for the benefit of dead ancestors who had become hungry ghosts. The origin of this event was that one night, a hungry ghost appeared in front of Ananda, one of the 10 major disciples of Shakyamuni. The hungry ghost said that Ananda would live only another 3 days only and then would fall in the hell of starvation (Gaki-do). Ananda asked Shakyamuni for assistance and was told he could prolong his life by feeding many unknown people. In Jodo Shu, Segaki-e has become a popular time for the whole community to come together to chant the nembutsu and to make offerings of merit to all ancestors.
Back to Top
July
Kishuki
This is the memorial service for Jodo Shu's third patriarch, Ryochu Shonin who passed away on July 6, 1287 after 89 years of long life. Ryochu Shonin wrote over 50 books and established the doctrinal foundations for the teachings of Jodo Shu. He developed many disciples and founded Komyou-ji Temple in Kamakura which is one of Jodo Shu's seven main temples.
Back to Top
Urabon-e
Urabon (also Obon or Bon) is the traditional summer festival held in mid July or mid August in Japan to invite spirits of dead ancestors back home, hold a memorial service and then send the spirits back to heaven. These dead ancestors are called hotoke-sama, literally "venerable buddhas". This is especially true in the Pure Land tradition where we are assured of birth in the Pure Land and ultimate enlightenment in the next life through Amida's saving grace.
In Indian Sanskrit, Urabon-e means to remove the torture of beings hanging upside down. The original meaning of Obon is that Mokuren, one of the 10 major disciples of Shakyamuni, fed poor monks and people to rescue their mothers who had fallen into the hell of starvation (gaki-do) due to not sharing with the poor.
The way to invite the spirits of ancestors is to first install a special table of offerings (shoryo-dana). Place a memorial tablet (Ihai) in the center, then an incense burner and a candle stand, and then decorate with a horse made of cucumber and a cow made of eggplant, wishing that the spirits may arrive soon, staying longer and return without hurry. Flowers and seasonable fruits are also placed on the table. It is common that the priest comes to each family's house to chant the nembutsu and the Pure Land sutras in front of this special table. At the beginning of "Obon", people make a sacred fire to welcome spirits and also make a bonfire at the end for escorting the spirits back. Also during Urabon, individual families will get together to make offerings and prayers at the family grave site.
Back to Top
September
Autumn season Higan-e
Similar to Spring season Higan-e, this is a week to practice Buddhism with a public holiday on the day of the equinox. Higan means literally "the other shore", that is the other shore of enlightenment which contrasts this worldly shore of birth and death. It is a ceremony to honor our ancestors and to come together to chant the nembutsu. At this time, families visit their family graves and also gather at the temple for a communal ceremony.
Back to Top
October
Ten Night Chanting (ojuya) October to November
This is a Jodo Shu tradition of followers gathering together to chant the nembutsu through the nights of ten days. It is considered a time of Special Nembutsu (betsuji-nembutsu) in homage of Amida Buddha. Nowadays, it usually lasts for only a few days. Komyou-ji in Kamakura, one of the seven main temples of Jodo Shu, has been holding Ojuya frequently and now, many Jodo Shu temples in Japan do the same thing.
Back to Top
December
Buddha's Enlightenment (jodo-e) Dec. 8
Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, experienced spiritual awakening at the foot of the bodhi tree in Buddhagaya, India on December 8th at 35 years of age.
Back to Top
Chanting of the Buddhas' Names (butsumyo-e) at end of the year
Butsumyo-e is a ceremony for followers to gather at the end of the year to chant the Buddhas' names, and in Jodo Shu especially, Amida's name, repenting of this past year sins. Follower then can welcome the new year with their fresh and holy themselves.
Back to Top
Joya: December 31
The night of December 31, the last day of a year, is called joya. The original meaning of joya in Japanese is to stay awake throughout the night. On December 31 at midnight, temples of all over Japan ring their bells to welcome in the New Year. This nationwide event is called as "the night-watch bell." The temple bell is rung 108 times, symbolizing the washing away of the 108 human defilements and the beginning of a purified new year.
Back to Top | Jodo Shu Home
Copyright © 2002-2008 Jodo Shu