The customary practices of the Sangha are based on the reverence and respect we feel for the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. They exist to guide us towards a life of awakening, inner peace, and harmony.
Entering the hondo (main hall) of the temple: When entering or exiting, face the onaijin (altar) and make a slight bow of respect. We are entering the realm of Amida Buddha, the representation of Immeasurable Wisdom and Compassion. We come to the temple to hear the Dharma teachings that will allow us to live each moment with reverence and gratitude.
Onenju and Gassho: The onenju (or ojuzu) is a circle of beads carried in the left hand or worn on the wrist to remind us of our blind passions. The onenju is treated with respect at all times. Gassho means to put our palms together with the onenju encircling them.
Before service begins: After being seated in the Hondo, it is customary to bow in gassho and say “Namo Amida Butsu”. It is a good opportunity for quiet refection and meditation.
Nembutsu: We recite “Namo Amida Butsu”. Nembutsu is our Buddhist life manifested verbally and is also an expression of gratitude for the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It is said before and after chanting and after Dharma talks, but it can also be said informally at any time.
Kansho: The “calling bell” or kansho is struck at the beginning of the service.
Oshoko: An offering is made in front of the onaijin. Stand before the table a few paces away. Bow slightly, and with your left foot first, approach the offering table. At the Calgary Buddhist Temple, incense is not used as an offering – please pick up a bead as an offering and place it into the container. Bow in gassho, saying the nembutsu, then step back with your right foot, and bow slightly again. Oshoko may be performed before, during, or at the end of service depending on the temple custom. In Shin Buddhism, offering is an expression of reverence and gratitude. It is not done for self-purification or to bring material benefits.
Okesa: The okesa is an embroidered cloth draped around the neck that symbolizes membership in a Buddhist Sangha. The simplified okesa for lay members is called a monto shikisho. Wearing it at services is encouraged and indicates readiness to hear the Dharma.
Onaijin: The onaijin is the altar area and represents the Pure Land of Amida Buddha or nirvana. Every item on the onaijin is symbolic and represents an aspect of the Dharma.
Osaisen: Monetary offerings are made by donations into osaisen container and reflect the aspect of Dana or giving. At the Calgary Buddhist Temple, the osaisen is located in the entranceway of the Temple.
Service Book: The service book contains words of wisdom, and we thus show our reverence by raising the closed book toward our forehead before and after opening and closing it. Out of respect, never lay a service book on the floor.
(Extracted from the Shin Buddhist Service Book; Buddhist Education Centre, Orange County Buddhist Church)