This Fall our Higashi Honganji temples will commemorate the life of Shinran Shonin, the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, with a special service called Hoonko. This is our most important service of the year.
Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) lived during an era of upheaval when warlords and their samurai armies battled each other for territory and power. During these desperate times, Shinran spoke to the worries of common people, assuring them of a path to spiritual salvation. Jodo Shinshu teachings are based on Shinran’s writings, actions and life. His teachings give us strength and wisdom in today’s turbulent world.
Our Higashi Honganji temples honor Shinran Shonin with the Hoonko service, which typically includes special rituals, traditional chanting, participation by visiting ministers and guest speakers. Thousands of people attend Hoonko at Higashi Honganji’s main temple in Kyoto, Japan, during a week-long observance, culminating in a climatic service on November 28.
“Hoonko” means “repaying our debt of gratitude,” which truly reflects our appreciation for Shinran’s teachings and life. It’s sometimes said if you only attend one service a year, then it should be Hoonko.
Rennyo Shonin (considered the second founder of Jodo Shinshu) wrote:
“As the thanksgiving services (Hoonko) this month are an annual ceremony of long standing, there has been no lapse up to now in our seven day observance of them. On this occasion, therefore, followers from various provinces come with an earnest resolve to repay their indebtedness and express their gratitude…
… however it seems that few dwell in the same faith. The reason for this is that their aspiration is not truly for the Buddha-dharma and if they are simply imitating others or following social convention, it is indeed a lamentable situation…
Even if you feel that you understand the significance of the Buddha-dharma—having listened through sliding doors or over a hedge—faith will be decisively settled by your repeatedly and carefully asking others about its meaning. If you leave things to your own way of thinking, there will invariably be mistakes…
You should ask others, time after time, about what you have understood of faith, until Other-Power faith is decisively settled.”*
Please check with your local temple for when Hoonko service will be held.
*from Rennyo Shonin’s letters, IV-7, in “Rennyo: The second founder of Shin Buddhism,” by Minor and Ann Rogers, Asian Humanities Press, 1991