Recently, I have been taking an interest in the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism (which in turn is based on the venerable Chinese Tiantai sect) after re-reading a biography about the Tendai founder Saicho (最澄, 767 – 822). Tendai/Tiantai as a Buddhist sect definitely has some things going for it, in my opinion:
- It includes multiple Buddhist practices such as Zen meditation and reciting the Buddha’s name (e.g. the nembutsu) without limiting itself to one practice for the sake of doctrinal purity.
- It centers itself around the Lotus Sutra, which is one of the most fundamental and most important sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. You basically can’t have Mahayana Buddhism without the Lotus Sutra.
Resources and information around Tendai are quite limited in English, and there is only two overseas community in the US (California and New York) that I am aware of, so I decided to get back to the source and study what information I could in Japanese from the official website in Japan.
Soon, I found their home-liturgy page and realized that it differed significantly from some old posts I had made here and here. Further, now that I can read Japanese more easily than before, plus have more experience with Japanese-Buddhist liturgy, I decided why not translate the official home liturgy page into English?
The home-liturgy page is great because it has links to Youtube videos so you can chant along, and see how it sounds, plus the chants in Tendai seem to be relatively short so they’re not hard to learn.
The Tendai page offers some suggestions when doing a home service:
- Offering water, candle, etc is encouraged before the home altar.
- Before you face the altar1 for the service, take a moment to wash out your mouth with water, wash hands and purify the body.
- The number of incense sticks to offer is not fixed, you can offer as many or few as you like.
- Have the service book or sutra you’ll recite open in front of you.
- When reciting or chanting, your voice will be a bit higher than your normal conversational voice, and the chanting will be in a smooth, even manner.
- At the beginning fo the service, if you have a small bell, ring it twice. Then, after each chant, ring it once to conclude. At the very end of the service, ring three times.
- Once finished, make sure to close the sutra book and put it away.
Warning: these are amateur translations. It is not the official translation, and if you need further information, please contact your nearest Tendai temple. 🙂
Warning 2: For convenience, I only listed the shorter version of the Tendai liturgy for home services. On the website, these are the parts listed as essential while the other chants are nice to do if time permits.
Tendai Buddhist Home Liturgy:
The Three Gratitudes (三礼, sanrai): (Youtube)
ish-shin cho rai jip-po ho kai jo ju san bo
(repeat 3 times)
“I praise with all my heart the Three Treasures [Buddha, Dharma and Sangha] that endlessly pervade the Ten Directions.”
Renunciation of Past Transgressions (懺悔文, sangemon): (Youtube)
ware mukashi yori tsukureru tokoro no moromoro no akugo wa mina mushi no tonjinchi ni yoru shingoi yori shozuru tokoro nari issai ware ima mina sange shitate matsuru
From the beginning-less past, driven by the Three Poisons (greed, anger, ignorance) I have committed all kinds of transgressions; these I hereby humbly repent in full.
The Four Bodhisattva Vows (四弘誓願, shiguseigan): (Youtube)
shujo wa muhen naredomo, chikatte dosen koto wo negau
bonno wa muhen naredomo, chikatte danzen koto wo negau
homon wa mujin naredomo, chikatte shiran koto wo negau
bodai wa mujo naredomo, chikatte shosen koto wo negau
Sentient beings are innumerable; I aspire to enlighten them all.
Delusions are innumerable; I aspire to extinguish them all.
The gates of the Dharma are inexhaustible; I aspire to know them all.
The awakened mind is incomparable; I aspire to attain it.
The Heart Sutra (般若心経, hannya shingyō): (Youtube)
I have posted a link to the Heart Sutra for chanting.
Note: According the book うちのお寺は天台宗, you are welcome to chant a different sutra if you prefer. It doesn’t have to be the Heart Sutra if you are not inclined to chant that one.
Also, I believe that it does not need to be in Japanese either.
Homage to the Founder, Saicho (大師宝号, daishi hogo): (Youtube)
namu shuso konpon dengyo daishi fukuju kongo
(repeat 3 times)
“Praise to the original founder, Dengyo Daishi [Saicho] the Vajra of Accumulated Blessings”2
Dedication of Merit to All Sentient Beings (回向発願文, ekō hatsuganmon): (Youtube)
negawaku wa gedatsu no ajihitori nomazu, anraku no kahitori shosezu. hokai no shujo to tomo ni myokaku ni nobori, hokai no shujo to tomo ni myomi no fukusen
(Rough translation…) I pray that I receive not a single taste of liberation for myself, nor a single moments peace for myself. [But rather] May I together with all beings ascend the Buddhist path to Awakening, and abide in the Sublime together.
1 According the book うちのお寺は天台宗, the central figure (御本尊, gohonzon) in a Tendai Buddhist altar can be any number of Buddhist deities. More on that in a later post.
2 The term fukuju kongō (福聚金剛) is was hard to find a meaning for, because it’s apparently related to esoteric Buddhism. Based on the DDB entry (login: guest) it seems that it’s related to a phrase in the Lotus Sutra, which would explain why it’s given to Saicho. Still, that’s about all an amateur like me can figure out.