Temple Etiquette

Temple Etiquette

Please enter the Temple quietly. Services taking place in the Hondo can be disrupted by noises originating in the lobby, multi-purpose room, or auditorium.

Each Sunday service is announced by the small, bronze bell, called the "kansho" or "calling bell", outside the Temple’s main entrance. Some soft conversation is typical prior to the service, however, when the kansho begins, this is the signal for everyone to begin quieting down.

The main service room is called the Hondo (main hall). When you enter the Hondo, it is customary to bow and enter with your left foot leading. Our left side is our "foolish being" or human side and entering with your left foot represents the idea that we are entering the realm of wisdom as our human selves. When we exit the Hondo, we bow and exit with our right foot leading. Our right side is our Great Wisdom side and exiting with your right foot represents the idea that, though you entered as a "foolish being", you are leaving with a bit more wisdom. Also, please
remove your hats before entering the Hondo and leave your food and drink outside.

Service books are available to the right of the Hondo doors. Please take a service book before going to your seat and return the book to its shelf before leaving the Hondo.

The order of service is typically announced in a step-by-step fashion by an appointed chairperson. Dharma School students typically serve as chairpersons for the Family Service while the ministers or ministers' assistants typically chair the Adult services. Special services often have a printed program that gives the order of service.

We begin our services with the chanting of the sutras, which is done in unison. Choose the deepest pitch that suits you, and the chant will be a harmonious blend of all voices. We chant the Japanese transliteration of Chinese words, so it is the sound, rather than the meaning of the words, is the basic experience of chanting. Translations of most chants are in the blue service book on the page immediately following the printed sutra.

Some terms you may hear at service

Gassho: This symbolizes the unity of you and the Buddha, and involves placing your hands together, palm to palm with your nenju (the beads carried or worn on your left hand) encircling both hands. Place your hands just below chest level, pointing away from the body at a 45-degree angle, then bow your head.

Amida Buddha: The Buddha of Infinite Light and Life (wisdom and compassion respectively).

Pure Land: The realm of Amida's enlightenment

Namo Amida Butsu: Usually pronounced 'namo-ami- da-butsu', this phrase means 'i take refuge in Amida Buddha'. This recitation is the most important practice for Jodo Shinshu Buddhists. It is considered to be both the call of Amida leading us to the Pure Land of enlightenment, and our response in gratitude for the the teachings that will lead us there.

Oshoko: is the burning of incense. Offering incense is an expression of thankfulness and gratitude. Oshoko is typically done either right before or right after the services. When you are in front of the incense burner facing the onaijin, take one step forward with your left foot and bow. Then walk to the incense burner, pinch a small amount of incense and drop it onto the burning charcoal. Gassho with a bow to the altar (onaijin), take one step back with your right foot, bow again, then turn and walk away using the side aisles.

Sensei: Literally 'teacher', this is a title used to address the ministers and ministers' assistants. The term 'Reverend' is also used, but refers only to the fully ordained ministers.

Before leaving the Hondo, stop at the doorway and turn to face the altar (onaijin). Bow as you did upon entering. Then turn and leave the Hondo leading with your right foot.