Buddhist Hymn: Dedication of Merit

The dedication of merit at the end of a Buddhist service (at the temple, or home services) is a time-honored tradition, and you’ll see it in almost every Buddhist community in one form or another. In Japanese Buddhism, this dedicated of merit called ekō (回向) and you’ll often see it recited in more or less the same way:

This hymn, called the ekōku (回向句, “verses on dedication of merit”), ekōmon (回向文, “text on dedication of merit”) or ekōgé (回向偈, “hymn of dedication of merit”), depending on the particular Buddhist tradition, is attributed to the 7th century Chinese-Buddhist master Shan-dao (善導 613-681) and goes like so:1

Chinese charactersJapanese-RomanizationTranslation
願以此功徳Gan Ni Shi Ku DokuMay this good merit that I have accumulated…
平等施一切Byo Do Se Is-SaiBe offered equally with all beings…
同発菩提心Do Hotsu Bo Dai ShinThat they may equally awaken the Bodhi Mind
往生安楽国O Jo An Rak-kokuAnd be reborn in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha…

An example of how this is sung or recited is here:

Interestingly, you will also see this in Chinese Buddhism as well with more elaborate lyrics (I found multiple versions online) where it is called the Huí Xiàng Jì (回向偈):

Anyhow, the dedication of merit and its various hymns encompass the Mahayana-Buddhist notion that we’re all in this together. Just as one person awakens the bodhi mind and wishes to share with others, hopefully others will benefit from this too.

Namu Amida Butsu
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu

1 Some Buddhist traditions in Japan translate this into a more native text, using flowery liturgical language, but the meaning is basically the same.

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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