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Buddhist Terminology

Terms you might hear in the temple

The Altar in the Kelowna Buddhist Temple

Jodo Shinshu
Branch of Pure Land Buddhism founded by Shinran Shonin.  Also know as Shin Buddhism.
Shotsuki-Hoyo / Shotsuki
Monthly memorial service in memory of people whose anniversary of death occurs during that month. Sho means “joyous,” Tsuki means “month,” and Hoyo means “Dharma essence.”
Amida Buddha
Buddha of Infinite Light (also called Amitabha) 
Bodhi Day (Jodoye)
At the age of 35, while meditating under the bodhi tree, Siddhartha Guatama attained enlightenment and became Shakyamuni Buddha. By his example, the Buddha showed us that it was possible for anyone to become a Buddha – a fully enlightened person. We commemorate this very special event on Bodhi Day. 
Bodhisattva Dharmakara
Originally a king. Dharmakara made 48 vows for the benefit of all beings. He attained Buddhahood and was named Amida Buddha.
As the first of the Six Paramitas and a major virtue in the Buddhist Teachings, the practice and understanding of Dana (giving selflessly) should be constantly practiced along with the other Paramitas.
gassho means to put the hands together. Both hands are placed palm to palm, with the fingers and thumbs aligned. The o-nenju encircles the hands and is held lightly under the thumbs. Both elbows should be fairly close to the body and the hands should be at mid-chest level. When bowing during gassho, the arms should be held steady against the body, while the torso is bent forward from the hips and then back to an upright position.
Celebrated on May 21 to commemorate the birth of the founder of Jodo Shinshu – Shinran Shonin on May 21, 1173.  Various joyful services and events take place at the mother temple. In the family home, Gotanye may be observed by chanting Shoshinge. In Japan, offerings of red and white mochi (pounded rice cakes) may be placed on the shrine to symbolize joyfulness.
Hanamatsuri (Buddha’s Birthday)
The birth of Shakyamuni Buddha is celebrated on April 8th. The Hanamida (flower shrine) is decorated with beautiful flowers and a statue of the infant Buddha is placed in the centre – “flower festival”.  This shrine reminds us of the flower garden of Lumbini where the Buddha was born more than 2500 years ago.
Spring or Fall equinox service. Higan is an abbreviated form of “to higan”, meaning “reaching the other shore (of Enlightenment)”.  It has been a long Buddhist tradition at these times to gather before the sacred shrine of Amida, meditating on the harmony of nature and devoting ourselves to the realization of this harmony in our lives.
A Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism who passed away at noon on January 16, 1262. Ho-On means “gratitude” and Ko means “to clarify the meaning.”  The memorial is observed in mid-January.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada
Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada Women’s Federation
Jodo Shinshu
Branch of Pure Land Buddhism founded by Shinran Shonin.  Also know as Shin Buddhism.
Literally, “Great Vehicle“.  One of the two great schools of Buddhism. The other school is Theravada (“Teaching of the Elders”).
montoshikisho (Sash)
In addition to an ojuzu, we wear a montoshikisho at services. This is equivalent to the wagesa that a minister wears. It is a decorative shoulder cloth, symbolic of a monk’s patchwork robe, that is worn by lay members of the Jodo Shinshu sect. Although it is not necessary to wear the montoshikisho all the time, it should be worn at important services as well as weddings and funerals. Remember that there is a front and a back to a montoshikisho and wear it correctly.
Inner area of the temple where the main object of reverence is placed.
Recitation of the Buddha’s name: Namo Amida Butsu.  The word nembutsu literally means “thought on Buddha.”
service begins in the morning with gravesite visits to reflect upon the love and affection that our deceased parents, family members and friends have shared with us. As we pause to reflect upon the hardships that they endured for our sake, we can understand more clearly the interdependency of all life, and rededicate ourselves to the Buddhist way of life. These visits are followed by an afternoon Temple service, potluck dinner and Odori dance celebration. 
O-Nenju (o-juzu)
The o-nenju encircles the hands during gassho, symbolizing our Oneness with Amida Buddha. The o-nenju should be treated with utmost re­spect at all times. At home it should be kept in a special place, such as in a drawer near the family Butsudan (Buddha altar). At other times, the o-nenju should be carried in a purse or coat pocket so that it will always be available. During service, when not in use, the o-nenju should be held in the left hand. 
Parinirvana Service (also known as Nehanye or Nirvana Day)
On February 15th, the Shakyamuni Buddha passed away. To remind us of His noble teachings, and paying our tribute and follow the way which He laid down for us, the Nirvana Service is held.
Service book
Shinran Shonin (1173-1262)
Founder of our Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.
A clerical official roughly equivalent to a bishop
Sutra (Chanting of)
“Sutra” is a Sanskrit term that means “words of Sakyamuni Buddha”, who founded Buddhism over 2,500 years ago in India. In essence, the intent of his numerous sermons and discourses was to teach that universal compassion of Amida Buddha embraces and sustains all be­ings with infinite light and immeasurable life and leads them to enlightenment.

The sutras which are contained in Jodo Shinshu Service Books are all meant to lead us to awaken to these virtues of Amida Buddha. Sutra chanting is a distinct practice in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, in which the words of the Buddha are to be read aloud with one’s innermost heart in praising the virtues of Amida Buddha. The harmonious sound of chanting lead many followers to awaken to the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha and to listen to the teachings. Their gratitude to Amida Buddha was expressed through chanting.