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This blog is devoted to the propagation of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, a 750-year-old Buddhist tradition.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jodo Shinshu Ritual: Makuragyo

Like other forms of traditional Buddhism, Jodo Shinshu practice has many rituals that its clergy and lay-members perform. "Ritual" can be a word with many definitions - while some may believe that ritual connotates an empty meaning, or rote and unthinking behavior, in the Shinshu tradition it can provide the context in which ordinary Shin followers understand the Buddha-Dharma teachings and implement the Buddha-Dharma in life-affirmations. The most commonly performed rituals involve the memorial service for the deceased, which can come in several forms.

The initial memorial ritual for the deceased is called the makuragyo, or "pillow service." Traditionally, this is conducted at the bedside of the dying individual, although in the modern context it is now usually conducted soon after a person's passing. In Japan, the Shoshinge is used as the liturgical text for chanting; in the United States, it is the Juseige, again primarily for its brevity. Makuragyo may be conducted by the priest or minister, or by an ordained layperson, such as a minister's assistant.

The location of makuragyo depends on the Shin family of the deceased's preferences : it is one of the few Shin rituals not to be usually performed at the temple. It may be at the hospital or hospice (very typical in the U.S.) or if the person has passed at home, it may be conducted at the home, with the family present. Makuragyo is essentially the "last rites" ritual of Shin Buddhism. As with other rites of Shin Buddhism, the Makuragyo does not "ensure" the person in born in the Pure Land, or help with rebirth, but to affirm the Shin Buddhist identity of the individual, and to give the surviving family members the peace-of-mind that memorial services, of any religious tradition, can provide. Buddhist last rites can be performed for any individual, regardless of faith affiliation, if the individual or his/her family or friends so requests. The most recent makuragyo I performed was here in Afghanistan, for a fallen Marine. The rituals of Buddha-dharma help affirm for us the lasting teachings of the Buddha, which apply to any human situation. As death and dying is something that every human and sentient being encounters, so the importance of Dharma is applied, in the form of such ritual, to help us understand this cause and condition.

1 comment:

  1. Intonations or chanting, the burning of candles,the presence of flowers, all bring a life-force energy that is thought by some to be helpful to the spirit crossing over. They are also, of course, calming influences on the living mourners, as well.


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