Ekoku: Dedication of Merit


One of my favorite bits of Buddhist liturgy is a small text called the ekōku (回向句) or “verses on dedication of merit”. Sometimes it’s also called ekōmon (回向文).

The notion of dedicating good merit (i.e. good karma) to others is a time-honored Buddhist practice that has existed since the beginning. It takes a variety of forms, but you’ll pretty much find it in all Buddhist institutions in one way or another. The idea is simple: when one does something good and noble such as helping other living beings, reciting Buddhist verses, doing devotional practices, etc, they can share this merit with others. For Pure Land Buddhists, you can also dedicate merit to rebirth in the Pure Land. It doesn’t take the place of reciting the Buddha’s name, but helps that much more so. This is a pretty wide-spread practice.

Anyhow, the particular verses I’m talking about were composed by a famous Chinese Pure Land Buddhist named Shan-tao (善導, 613-681) also known as Zendō in Japanese, and goes like this:

Gan ni shi ku doku
I vow that the merit-virtue of this truth

Byo do se is-sai
Be shared equally with all beings.

Do hotsu bo dai shin
May we together awaken the Bodhi Mind,

O jo an raku koku
And be born in the realm of Serenity and Joy.

You can hear an example of the Ekoku here:

This is the more melodic version, which you often hear at the end of longer, more dramatic chants such as the Shoshinge hymn. There is a simpler, easier version that I often hear during Buddhist services. I prefer this version, though I still get off-key on the third-line.

Anyhow, I think it’s a great verse because it expresses Buddhist good-will and compassion very well, ties back to a venerated Chinese master and is short and sweet.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

3 thoughts on “Ekoku: Dedication of Merit”

  1. I have followed you for a long time and save each of your posts. I particularly enjoyed this one.

    I have never felt comfortable identifying with any particular sect of Buddhism. My inspiration came early from what you might consider a strange source, Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”. I also love the story of the “Loyal Forty Seven”, Chushingura. I find the problem of competitive values extremely interesting.

    Dr. Robert L. Randell


  2. “My inspiration came early from what you might consider a strange source, Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim””

    That was one of my earliest Buddhist influences too. The relationship between Kim and the Lama brought me to tears.


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