Start here if you are new to the Jodo Shu School of Honen Shonin. The Pure Land awaits…
If you’re new to Honen’s Pure Land – or Buddhism at all – this is the place to start. Please rest assured that Jodo Shu North American Buddhist Missions is steeped in Pure Land traditions, but we welcome people of all faiths. You’ll also see that as with any religion, there are followers who strictly adhere to the practices and who study academic texts with fervor, others who follow the practices as their own lifestyles allow while maintaining their faith, and still others who may subscribe to another Pure Land School, another Buddhist school, or another religion altogether who augment their beliefs with Pure Land philosophies and practice.
Honen Shonin and Nembutsu
Honen Shonin (1133-1212), sometimes referred in the West as the Buddhist “Saint,” established his school in Japan as a means of making Buddhist principles more accessible to the masses. Honen taught that by simply reciting “Homage to Amida Buddha” or Namu Amida Butsu, ordinary men, women and children would be able to be born in the Pure Land. This recitation is called nembutsu and is the foundational basis for Honen’s school of Pure Land Buddhism.
Nembutsu is often recited in front of the altar – either at home or in a sanctuary – but is even more often recited informally during the day without pomp and circumstance. Because the heartfelt recitation of nembutsu is the most important element of Jodo Shu practice, Honen’s Pure Land Buddhism lends itself perfectly to a decentralized congregation or virtual sangha. While congregating with followers of like mind can develop into long lasting friendships and make the spirit soar in times of trouble, the most important practice in Jodo Shu is always nembutsu, no matter what the circumstance.
Although not a requirement of Jodo Shu practice, there are a number of rituals, ceremonies, and prayers that followers may participate in to become closer to the religion. Among these are otsutome, or daily prayer, in which the practitioner recites the prayer kneeling in front of a home altar or in the temple’s sanctuary. If practiced at the temple, it’s customary that the practitioner follow along and recite nembutsu with the ministers and the congregation.
There are other ceremonies and celebrations, including the spring and autumn equinox services (Higan) at which time we look toward “the other shore,” honor our ancestors and contemplate the Dharma and virtue of Amida Buddha; the midsummer Obon service when we honor the spirits of our ancestors with festivals and prayer before sending them on to the Pure Land; and the springtime celebration of Hanamatsuri that honors the birth of Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha. These are just a few of the most well-known of the Jodo Shu and Buddhist ceremonies and rituals – above all, the recitation of nembutsu alone or with a congregation is the most important.
This page and Website will continue to be updated, so please check back for more. In the mean time, here are some places to visit and learn more, both within and external to this site.