Tendai Buddhist Home Litrugy Example

Greetings readers! I have had a bit of extra time this week due to much-needed time off from work, and have been going through old projects, half-finished blog posts and such. One project I found today, which I decided to finish, was post a romaji-version of the Tendai Buddhist home liturgy for anyone who needs it.

The Tendai Sect in Japan has a nice homepage, linked above, but almost nothing in English for doing the home service. Tendai information in English is pretty scattered (though there are some great websites),1 so I decided to go back to the source, and just translate it directly using romaji (romanized Japanese) for easy pronunciation.

Some quick notes:

  1. I chose the shortest, simplest elements of the service, based on Tendai’s recommendation in the link above, and also through the book うちのお寺は天台宗 (双葉文庫) which I picked up some years ago. There’s a more extended version of the home service, but both the book and website explain that the essentials are the following elements that I am posting here.
  2. Where possible, I chose to use the Sino-Japanese pronunciation. The link above, lists both, and either option is fine (obviously English is fine too). The Sino-Japanese version, in my opinion, is the easiest to pronounce and chant, and ties back to the larger Buddhist tradition more closely. The videos on the Tendai site provide the native, liturgical Japanese, and it’s perfectly fine to use this too.
  3. Finally, traditions and liturgical styles vary, so don’t be surprised if another Tendai community does it differently.

The webpage also lists some tips (roughly translated here):

  • First, before you begin, double-check the offerings at your home altar make sure everything is in order: flowers, water, a candle,2 and any other offerings you wanted to make.
  • Before the service, take a moment to rinse your mouth and hands with water, freshen up, etc. That way, you can sit before the altar in a more purified state.
  • Drape any rosary you have over your left hand, and if you are holding a sutra book, lift it up gently and bow ever so slightly.3
  • When you do gassho, put your hands together in front of your chest at a natural angle (45 degrees is common based on personal experience).
  • When chanting, use a mild, even chanting voice, enunciating each word equally. If you feel like you don’t chant as well as the video links, don’t feel bad: these are professional monks chanting.
  • If you have a bell, there are certain times to ring it: twice at the beginning, once after reading the sutra, and three times at the end. I’ve added prompts to the liturgy below to match.
  • When done, close the Buddhist altar (if possible), and place the sutra book back on its stand.
  • Lastly, the book in particular mentions that any Buddhist sutra is OK to recite. The most common one is obviously the Heart Sutra, but any other Buddhist sutra is fine too. Find what you like, and feel free to recite that.

Minimal Tendai Buddhist Home Liturgy

(Ring twice)

Gratitude Toward the Three Treasures
(Buddha, Dharma and Sangha)

(三礼, sanrai):

Ish-shin cho rai jip-po ho kai jo ju san bo (repeat 3 times)

Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/JDZXXPFaQzg?autoplay=1

Renunciation of One’s Past Transgressions

(懺悔文, sangemon)

Ga shaku sho zo sho aku go-
Kai yu mu shi ton jin chi
Ju shin go i shi sho sho
Issai ga kon kai san ge

Youtube link (native liturgical Japanese): https://www.youtube.com/embed/WfNzd44EIZI?autoplay=1

The Four Bodhisattva Vows

(四弘誓願, shiguseigan)

Shu jo mu hen sei gan do
Bon no mu hen sei gan dan
Ho mon mu ryo sei gan chi
Mu jo bo dai sei gan sho

Youtube link (native liturgical Japanese): https://www.youtube.com/embed/HbMQQs7GiW0?autoplay=1

Sutra Chanting

(again, any Buddhist sutra is fine here, people often chant the Heart Sutra)

(ring once when done)

Homage to the Founder of Tendai, Saicho

(大師宝号, daishi hogo)

Namu shuso konpon dengyo daishi fukuju kongo
(repeat 3 times)

Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/0OoTMvXQpL8?autoplay=1

Dedication of Merit to All Sentient Beings

(回向発願文, ekō hatsuganmon)

Negawaku wa, gedatsu no aji hitori nomazu, anraku no ka hitori shosezu. Hokai no shujo to tomo ni myokaku ni nobori, hokai no shujo to tomo ni myomi wo fukusen.

Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z_j1cTE6JCQ?autoplay=1

End of Service

(ring 3 times)

Thanks everyone and I hope you find it useful. I will likely post updates and corrections as time goes on.

Namu amida butsu
Namu kanzeon bosatsu

1 There are, from what I can see from a cursory search, a number of Tendai communities in both the US and the UK. If you’d like to know more, I encourage you to contact such communities.

2 Japan also sells LED Buddhist altar candles. Halloween goods also offer LED candles. Great for avoiding fire hazards.

3 This custom is also found in other Japanese-Buddhist sects as a gesture of humility.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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