Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, MVBT began to host “Sunday Service Watch Parties” on Zoom. In September 2022, we reopened the temple grounds and started “hybrid” services, where the live in-person service is broadcast over Zoom for those who are unable to attend in person. The Zoom link for service is distributed each Friday in Putra’s Post, our weekly e-newsletter. Click here to sign up for Putra’s Post.
Services are held weekly on Sunday at 10 am after the ringing of the kansho. When Dharma School is in session (September – June), the students sit in the front of the hondo with the adults seated in the remaining rows.
Shotsuki Hoyo. The first service of each month is dedicated to a monthly memorial service called Shotsuki Hoyo. It is a regular opportunity to honor loved ones who passed away in that month. As part of the service, our resident minister reads the names of members who died in that month. After the reading of the honorees, family and friends are invited to oshoko while the minister leads the Sangha in sutra chanting.
Japanese Language Service. Our resident minister, Rev. Mukojima, conducts a <regular/monthly/occasional> service in Japanese. The Japanese language service is held immediately after the regular weekly service.
A typical service at MVBT. A typical service is hosted by a Dharma School class or affiliated organization at the Temple.
Many times throughout the service, attendees are asked to gassho and recite the Nembutsu. The act of gassho is a reverent placing together of the palms of the hands with the elbows fairly close to the body, the hands at mid-chest level and held at a roughly forty-five degree angle. The Nembutsu is a recitation of the phrase “Namo Amida Butsu” which means “I take refuge in Amida Buddha,” where Amida Buddha is the principal Buddha in Shin Buddhism.
A typical service generally consists of the following activities in the order shown:
Ringing of the kansho bell. This indicates that the service is about to begin.
Opening remarks. Usually offered by a member of the host group.
Sutra chanting. Chanting led by the Minister, or an assistant. Sutras are found in the service books available in the pews. At the end of chanting, the leader will lead the Sangha in gassho and recite the Nembutsu.
Buddhist reading. A short passage for reflection offered by a member of the host group, followed by gassho and the reciting of the Nembutsu.
Oshoko. The offering of incense represents the cleansing of blind passions and the impermanence of existence. A member of the host group will invite people to offer incense. Usually, each Dharma School class and representatives of Temple organizations are invited to participate.
Gatha singing. Gathas are verses in song form that praise the Dharma. Singing is led by a member of the host group, who also leads gassho and a reciting of the Nembutsu at the end of the gatha.
Recitation of a passage. A member of the host group leads the recitation of a passage that emphasizes an aspect of Jodo Shinshu teachings. The passage, often the Threefold Refuge or the Golden Chain, is in the service book. It is followed by gassho and reciting of the Nembutsu.
Dharma talk. A message delivered by the Resident Minister, a guest Minister, or member of the Sangha.
Closing gatha. A final song led by a member of the host group. The gatha is followed by gassho and reciting of the Nembutsu.
Announcements. Members of the Sangha are invited to the front of the hondo to make announcements.
Closing remarks. A member of the host group offers gratitude to service participants.
Special services and Buddhist holidays observed at MVBT are listed below. Holidays, except for New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve services, are observed on the Sunday closest to the specific date noted.
January 1, Shusho-E. New Year’s Day Service. This is the first religious observance at the Temple in the new year. It is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the teachings of Buddha and to renew our appreciation for the spiritual guidance of the Three Treasures: the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.
January 10, Goshoki Ho’onko. Ho’onko means “a gathering to repay our gratitude.” This service expresses our gratitude to Shinran Shonin, the founder of the Shin Buddhist tradition. It is a time to express our gratitude for having the opportunity to awaken to life’s supreme meaning.
January 16, Ho’onko. Ho’onko is the annual memorial service for Shinran Shonin, the founder of the Shin Buddhist tradition. This service expresses our gratitude to Shinran for showing the path of wisdom and compassion that is Amida Buddha. The observance began after Shinran’s daughter, Kakushin-ni, carried on the administration of Shinran’s mausoleum, as did her descendants, who ultimately became the Monshu of the Hongwanji sect. Ho’onko is the principal holiday in which one participates in the art of “hearing the Light” through listening to Dharma talks, having discussions, participating in rituals, and sharing in the Sangha fellowship.
February 15, Nirvana Day and Pet Memorial. Nirvana Day, or Nehan-E, is the annual memorial service of Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism who died at 80 years of age. After his death, his disciples gathered from all directions and divided his cremated remains into eight parts. They enshrined these parts in stupas in order to preserve the memory of the Buddha. Over the centuries, the ashes were divided and re-divided many times. The stupa at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco enshrines a small portion of the Buddha’s remains that were donated to the Buddhist Churches of America in 1935 by the King of Siam (now Thailand).
In conjunction with Nirvana Day, MVBT includes an annual memorial service to remember our non-human family members and to remind us that all sentient beings possess Buddha-Nature (the potential to become a Buddha).
Mid-March, Spring Ohigan. Spring Ohigan recognizes the spring equinox. Higan literally means the “other shore.” It is a time to rededicate ourselves to awakening to the enlightenment of the “other shore” as opposed to delusion and ignorance of “this shore.” In our Jodo Shinshu tradition, this observance is also called Sanbutsu-E or “Gathering in Praise of Buddha.” During the equinox, the time of night and day is equal in length and the weather is neither too cold nor too hot. It is believed to be a time for Buddhists to contemplate upon the harmony of nature that pervades the universe and to further devote oneself to the realization of this harmony in one’s own inner self.
April 8, Hanamatsuri (Birthday of the Shakyamuni Buddha) and Hatsumairi (First Service). Hanamatsuri celebrates the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Shakyamuni Buddha, in Lumbini Garden. This holiday is commonly known as Hanamatsuri, or Flower Festival. It is also called Kanbutsue, or Bathe the Buddha gathering, because at this observance, a statue of the baby Buddha stands in the hanamido, a flower-covered shrine in a shallow bowl filled with sweet tea. Participants at this service come up to the hanamido and use a small ladle to pour some of the sweet tea on top of the small statue.
Hatsumairi, or “First Visit Ceremony,” is a service at which the parents present their child before the Amida Buddha and the Sangha. Children of all ages are welcome to participate in the Hatsumairi ceremony. The Mountain View Buddhist Temple traditionally holds the Hatsumairi service in conjunction with the Hanamatsuri service. The Temple has chosen to hold the Hatsumairi service as an in-person ceremony. This allows the child to be presented in front of the onaijin, or altar, which symbolizes the truth that is embodied within the human experience. The next Hatsumairi service is postponed until April 2022. This will be a combined service to celebrate Hatsumairi for 2020, 2021, and 2022.
May 21, Gotan-E (Birthday of Shinran Shonin). Gotan-E celebrates the birth of Shinran Shonin (1173 – 1263), the founder of Shin Buddhism (Hongwanji sect). He was born as Matsuwakamaro Hino and became a monk at the age of 9 after the death of both of his parents. He was one of the first monks in the Japanese Buddhist tradition to marry and raise a family, and he called himself “neither monk nor lay person.”
2nd weekend of July, Kangi-E. Traditionally called Obon, Kangi-E (Gathering of Joy) is a time to return to one’s home and reflect upon what one has truly received. Based upon an incident involving one of Shakyamuni’s disciples, Mogallana, Obon is an opportunity to honor and remember all those who have passed before us. It is a time to appreciate all that they have done and to recognize the continuation of their deeds upon our lives.
Over the centuries, the Obon service incorporated a festival. The festival included local folk music and Obon odori, or Obon dancing, in which a town, village, or temple would dance in memory of their ancestors.
Hatsubon or “first Obon,” is important for families who have lost a loved one in the previous year. This observance would be the first Obon since the passing, and the Obon odori is a way of expressing gratitude for the benefits our loved ones have already shared with us. The Hatsubon is also a physical expression of both the grieving and the joy of spiritual understanding.
Mid-September, Fall Ohigan. Fall Ohigan, or Shunki Higan-E, is a celebration of the fall equinox. As the time of day and night is again equal, it is a second opportunity each year to focus on higan, the “other shore,” beckoning with enlightenment and in contrast to the delusion and ignorance on “this shore.”
October 10, Bishops’ Memorial and ABA Memorial Service. This annual memorial service honors past Buddhist Churches of America Bishops and members of Mountain View Temple’s Adult Buddhist Association (ABA) members who have passed to the Pure Land.
Mid-November, Eitaikyo (Perpetual Memorial Service). This memorial service pays tribute to past members of the Temple. It is a time for all to extend respect and recognition to the contributions and deeds of our past members who, by their presence, contributed to the growth and development of our Temple. Through their efforts, we are able to listen to the teachings of the Buddha today. Click Here to Download an Eitaikyo Form.
December 8, Jodo-E (Bodhi Day). Bodhi Day celebrates the day that Siddhartha Gautama discovered enlightenment and became Shakyamuni Buddha. By his example, Siddhartha showed us that it was possible for a human to become a Buddha, a perfectly enlightened one. This day is a reminder to all of us that we too possess that potential to achieve enlightenment.
December 31, Joya-E (New Year’s Eve Service). This year-end observance allows us to express gratitude for the past year and to reflect upon the interdependency of all life, and on all the things that have made it possible for us to live this one year. After this short service, we take turns striking the kansho bell outside the hondo 108 times to complete the old year and ring in a fresh new year. Then, we enjoy a traditional meal of buckwheat noodles, hosted by Rev. Mukojima and family, which symbolizes longevity.