Example Jodo-Shu Buddhist Liturgy

As someone who is well-acquainted with Japanese Buddhism, Jodo Shu Buddhism has always had a special place in my heart since my first encounter at Chion-in temple more than 10 years ago, but resources for Jodo Shu outside of Japan are pretty limited (though this gradually changing).  This page is based on a Japanese-language service book I obtained a few years ago, as well as the Japanese-language Jodo Shu official homepage.  English translations can be found the North American Jodo-Shu mission website.  I left them out for the sake of keeping this page concise.

In any case, feel free to print this out, and use at home.

A basic Jodo-Shu service will include the following:¹

  • Kōge (香偈) – this is a short-verse offering incense to the Buddha, and also to help purify one’s own mind.

    GAN GA SHIN JO NYO KO RO
    GAN GA SHIN NYO CHI E KA
    NEN NEN BON JO KAI JO KO
    KU YO JI- PPO SAN ZE BU

  • Sanbōrai (三宝礼) – this is another verse expressing praise of the Three Treasures (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha) and one’s intention to take refuge in them. This is an almost universal practice in Buddhism, though the actual verses will often vary.

    ISH-SHIN KYO RAI JI- PPO HO KAI JO JU BU
    ISH-SHIN KYO RAI JI- PPO HO KAI JO JU HO
    ISH-SHIN KYO RAI JI- PPO HO KAI JO JU SO

  • Shibujō (四奉請) – this is another short verse inviting the Buddha and Bodhisattvas to be present at this service.  This is another common practice in Buddhist services.

    HO ZEI SHI HO JO RAI JI TO CHO SAN KA RAKU
    HO ZEI SE KYA JO RAI JI TO CHO SAN KA RAKU
    HO ZEI BI TA JO RAI JI TO CHO SAN KA RAKU
    HO ZEI KAN NIN SE SHI SHO TAI HO SA
    JI TO CHO SAN KA RAKU

  • Sangégé (懺悔偈) – this verse is to acknowledge one’s past mistakes, particular driven by greed, anger and ignorance, and to resolve not to do them again.  As with other verse above, tis is a very common Buddhist practice.

    GA SHAKU SHO ZO SHO AKU GO
    KAI YU MU SHI TON JIN CHI
    JU SHIN GO I SHI SHO SHO
    I- SSAI GA KON KAI SAN GE

  • Recite the nembutsu 10 times.  Often called Jūnen (十念). There’s a certain style to reciting the nembutsu like this, which you can see here.
  • Kaikyōge (開経偈) – This is a small verse recited before chanting a sutra. This expresses appreciation for encountering the Dharma, etc.

    MU JO JIN JIN MI MYO HO
    HYAKU SEN MAN GO NAN SO GU
    GA KON KEN MON TOKU JU JI
    GAN GE NYO RAI SHIN JITSU GI

  • Shiseige (四誓偈) – This is the actual sutra you’re reciting. It is a short excerpt of the Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life where the buddha-to-be (Dharmakara Bodhisattva) vows to become the greatest of Buddhas and to help rescue all beings. This is also chanted in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism as the Juseige.  The full chant is here (posted in a separate page due to length).
  • Honzeige (本誓偈) – This is a short verse for dedicating the good merit accumulated by reciting this sutra toward rebirth in the Pure Land.

    MI DA HON ZEI GAN GOKU RAKU SHI YO MON
    JO SAN TO E KO SOKU SHO MU SHO SHIN

  • Recite the nembutsu again 10 times.
  • Shōyakumon (摂益文) – This is another short verse from the Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life detailing the benefits of encountering the light of Amitabha Buddha.

    KO MYO HEN JO JI- PPO SE KAI
    NEN BUSH-SHU JO SES-SHU FU SHA

  • Recite the Nembutsu as needed (nembutsu ichi-é 念仏一会)
  • Sōékōgé (総回向偈) – This is a declaration to share the good merit of this service with all beings.

    GAN NI SHI KU DO KU BYO DO SE I- SSAI
    DO HOTSU BO DAI SHIN O JO AN RAK-KOKU

  • Recite the nembutsu again 10 times.
  • Sōgangé (総願偈) – This is the Four Bodhisattva Vows, another common verse recited in Buddhist services.

    SHU JO MU HEN SEI GAN DO
    BON- NO MU HEN SEI GAN DAN
    HO MON MU JIN SEI GAN CHI
    MU JO BO DAI SEI GAN SHO
    JI TA HO KAI DO RI YAKU
    GU SHO GOKU RAKU JO BUTSU DO

  • Sanshōrai (三唱礼) – this is another variation on reciting the nembutsu (see here for details).  Here, it is said three times slowly, drawn-out, follow by a bow.  Repeat two more times for a total of nine recitations.

    NAMU AMIDA BU NAMU AMIDA BU NAMU AMIDA BU (bow)
    NAMU AMIDA BU NAMU AMIDA BU NAMU AMIDA BU (bow)
    NAMU AMIDA BU NAMU AMIDA BU NAMU AMIDA BU (bow)

  • Sōbutsugé (送仏偈) – This verse is to pray that the Buddhas return to their lands. This is in contrast to the Shibujō above.

    SHO BUTSU ZUI EN GEN PON GOKU
    FU SAN KO KE SHIN SO BUTSU
    GAN BUTSU JI SHIN YO GO NEN
    DO SHO SO KAN JIN SHU RAI

  • Recite the nembutsu again 10 times.
  • Service End.

My hope is that others who explore Jodo-Shu find this useful.  Namu-Amida-Butsu

¹ As the North American Jodo Shu Buddhist Mission explains, these are optional.  The primary practice is to recite the nembutsu.  All other verses are supportive of nembutsu practice, but can be adapted or removed as deemed necessary.

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