Incense Offering

Buddhist SchoolNumber of timesWay of offering
Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (Nishi Hongwanji)1 timePlace a pinch of incense directly on the charcoal without raising it to the forehead.
Shinshu Otani-ha (Higashi Honganji) 2 timesPlace a pinch of incense directly on the charcoal without raising it to the forehead.
Soto Shu2 timesFirst time: raise a pinch of incense to the forehead before placing it on the charcoal.
Second time: Place a pinch of incense directly on the charcoal without raising it to the forehead.
Jodo Shu1 to 3 times No set guidelines.
Tendai Shu1 or 3 timesNo set guidelines.
Shingon Shu3 timesRaise a pinch of incense to the forehead each time before placing it on the charcoal.
Rinzai Shu1 timeRaise a pinch of incense to the forehead before placing it on the charcoal.
Nichiren Shu1 or 3 timesNo set guidelines.
Nichiren Shoshu3 timesRaise a pinch of incense to the forehead each time before placing it on the charcoals.
Information translated from http://www.sanretsu.jp/shoukou/kaisuu.html

Why only one pinch of incense in Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha?

We offer incense as an expression of gratitude to the great oneness that is Amida Buddha.

Why isn’t incense raised to the forehead in Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha

One common understanding is that incense is raised to the forehead as an expression of gratitude for the purification that is received (Jpn. itadaku 頂く) though the offering.  In the Jodo Shinshu tradition, the way of offering incense expresses the understanding that the fragrance is not something we receive for our own self-purification, but rather is something that we offer as an expression of our gratitude and reverence for the Buddha’s great compassion.  The words of the Buddha found in the Three Pure Land Sutras assure us that the Buddha’s great compassion embraces us just as we as are—with all our impurities of body and mind—so incense does not serve the purpose of purification in the Jodo Shinshu tradition.

Some common explanations for offering incense three times: 

(Thanks to Rev. Koraku Mikami of the Shingon Shu tradition)

The most common understanding is that incense is offered to

  1. Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana Buddha)—as a symbol of the principle of true reality
  2. Kobo Daishi—as a symbol of our Master/Founder
  3. Ancestors—as a symbol of our origin

Another common understanding is that incense is offered to “burn away” or purify the negative karma created by

  1. thought
  2. speech
  3. behavior

Incense may also be offered on behalf a departed loved one

as an expression of homage to

  1. The Buddha
  2. The Dharma
  3. The Sangha

or

in order to eliminate/purify oneself of the three poisons

  1. Anger
  2. Craving
  3. Aversion

before going to the next realm.

A person who offers incense on behalf of a departed loved one shows their respect and honor for the deceased through the intentions described above.  Through the power of the Buddha, Bodhisattva, or other being (ex. Fudo Myoo) to which the incense is offered, impurities are transformed into virtues or merit (Jpn. kudoku 功徳) that can support and aid the deceased when they are about to be born into the next realm.

These understandings are based on the Shingon goma fire ritual, in which spiritual thoughts are burned with the fire of the Buddha to create goodness or remove karmic defilements.  In this way, the fire, smoke and incense express a goma fire ritual conducted by a representative of the deceased.

Memories of San Mateo Buddhist Temple’s First Obon

By Susan (Kawakita) Kwong

Hearing my mom reminisce of how she and a handful of her friends started Obon at San Mateo Buddhist Temple, it quickly caught my attention and found it my mission to contact her friends and listen to their stories. Wish I had known years earlier since I was only able to obtain a few people’s memories. Was quite interesting and wanted to share this story since our Obon is around the corner. Thank you, Mrs. Wada, Mrs. Hashimoto, and mom for reminiscing about San Mateo Buddhist Temple’s first Obon.

Continue reading “Memories of San Mateo Buddhist Temple’s First Obon”

The Six Superhuman Powers

Six kinds of superhuman ability attained by a Buddha or enlightened disciple of the Buddha as a result of their spiritual practice.

1. Divine Feet

2. Divine Eyes

  • Also called “Knowledge of Death and Rebirth” or “Knowledge of Samsara”
  • The unimpeded ability to see into every place and to know the future rebirths of all beings.
  • See the 6th Vow of Bodhisattva Dharmakara

3. Divine Ears

4. The Wisdom to See into the Minds of Others

5. Knowledge of Past Lives

6. Complete Extinction of Afflictions

  • The ability to know that one has completely extinguish one’s blind passions (greed, anger, and ignorance), such that they will never arise again.
  • See the 39th Vow of Bodhisattva Dharmakara

48 Vows of Bodhisattva Dharmakara (Amida Buddha)

From the Three Pure Land Sutras, Volume II: The Larger Sutra, pg. 20-29

1

“‘If, when I attain Buddhahood, there should be hell, the realm of hungry spirits, or the realm of animals in my land, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

2

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land, should, after their death, return once more to the three evil realms, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

3

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be the color of genuine gold, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

4

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be of the same appearance and should be either beautiful or ugly, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

5

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not remember all their former lives,[1] and thus be unable to know at least the events of the previous hundred thousand kotis of *nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

6

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine eyes,[2] and thus be unable to see at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

7

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine ears,[3] and thus be unable to hear the teachings being expounded by at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddhas or remember them all, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

8

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess the wisdom to see into the minds of others,[4] and thus be unable to know the thoughts of the sentient beings of at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

9

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine feet, and thus be unable to go beyond at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands in a thought‐moment, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

10

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should give rise to any thought of attachment to their body, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

11

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the *stage of the truly settled and necessarily attain nirvana, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

12

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my light should be finite, not illuminating even a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

13

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my life should be finite, limited even to a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

14

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the number of sravakas in my land could be counted and known, even if all the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas in the *triple‐thousand great thousand worlds should spend at least a hundred thousand kalpas counting them, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

15

When I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land will not have a limited life span, except when they wish to shorten it freely according to their original vows. Should this not be so, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

16

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should even hear that there are names of evil acts, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

17

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters should not all glorify and praise my name, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.[5]

18

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters who, with sincere and *entrusting heart, aspire to be born in my land and say my name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the *five grave offenses and *those who slander the right Dharma.[6]

Continue reading “48 Vows of Bodhisattva Dharmakara (Amida Buddha)”

Ways of Practicing Dana

The three types of Dana:

1. The gift of material goods (財施 zai-se): To share of one’s wealth and property for the benefit of the community and those in need.

2. The gift of Dharma (法施 hō-se): To share one’s appreciation of the Buddha’s teachings.

3. The gift of freedom from fear (無畏施 mui-se): To share the courage of true wisdom, so that the difficulties of life can be met with a calm and peaceful heart.

Seven gifts that do not require any possessions and yet bring great results:

1. The gift of kind eyes (眼施 gen-se): To see goodness and beauty in all people and not look down on others.

2. The gift of peaceful and joyful facial expressions (和顏悦色施 wagen-etsujiki-se): To refrain from frowning and making angry faces even in times of difficulty.

3. The gift of kind words (言辭施 gonji-se): To speak gently to others, refraining from coarse and rude speech.

4. The gift of a helpful and respectful body (身施 shin-se): To reach out with a helping hand for those in need.  To show attentive and respectful body language to all people.

5. The gift of a generous heart (心施 shin-se): To joyfully give assistance to others without resenting any inconvenience it may cause for oneself.

6. The gift of a comfortable seat (床座施 shōza-se): To offer the most safe and comfortable seat to a guest, even it means giving up one’s own favored seat.

7. The gift of welcoming hospitality: 房舍施 (bōsha-se): To warmly welcome all guests, making them feel at home in one’s company.

Letter from Bishop Koyu Uchida to the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization

Japanese Immigration: Hearings before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, House of Representatives, Sixty-Sixth Congress, Second Session, July 12, 13 and 14, 1920, Part 1, Hearings at San Francisco and Sacramento, California, page 576

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433004755009;view=1up;seq=580