Temple Terminology

Gassho – the placing of your hands together, signifying the oneness with Amida Buddha. It is the natural expression of reverence and gratitude. The palms of both hands are placed together with extended fingers and thumbs. The O-juzu, encircling both hands, is held lightly between the thumbs and fingers. Both elbows are held close to the body, with the hands at midchest level. To bow during gassho, the hands are held steady while the body is bent forward from the hips and then back to the upright position.

O-Juzu – a collection of beads strung together. Three main beads represent the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The other beads represent Buddha’s teachings to overcome suffering. The O-juzu encircles the hands during Gassho, symbolizing Oneness. It is treated with the utmost respect at all times. When not in Gassho, during religious service, it is held in the left hand.

O-Shoko – is the offering and burning of incense, done with reverence, as homage to Amida Buddha. It prepares one to receive the Dharma and a reminder of the impermanence of all things. Offering of incense at the Temple Shrine is done by approaching the incense burner and bowing at a distance of two steps in front of the incense table. Step up to the incense burner and, with the right hand, take a pinch of granular incense from the incense cup. Place the incense into the incense burner. Gassho and bow with reverence to the Buddha. Take two steps backward and bow. Incense burning is observed in the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition as a symbolic act of purification. It is the acceptance of the natural transiency of all existence as symbolized by the smoke of the burning incense rising from the burner.

O-Senko – incense sticks used within the incense burner.

Kansho – In the Jodo Shinshu tradition, the Gyoji-sho (ritual bell) is struck with a wooden mallet to a predetermined number, intensity and spacing of strikes.  The sound lets the minister know to enter the inner altar area.  The bell sound also prepares those attending the service that the minister is about to begin the service.  On New Year’s Eve, the Kansho is traditionally struck 108 times at the end of the service by those in attendance.  This number signifies the number of human passions or defilements which each person is said to possess.  With the sound of the bell fading into the night, it is thought that so does the memories of the year fade away, marking the beginning of the New Year with a clear mind and heart.

Dana – the act and practice of selfless giving and receiving.

Hosha – Hosha means to give or to help as an expression of one’s gratitude.

Koden the act, by those attending memorial services, of giving money in a sealed envelope to the family of the deceased as a way to assist during this time of grief.  A gift receiving table is usually located at the entrance to the Temple.  Traditionally, the family of the deceased maintains a list of the ‘koden’ gifts received and may act to repay this kindness.