4. Why Is Worshipping Important ?
Mind and Body:
“Please attend Oko services" .
“Endeavor to visit the temple"
“Participate in study sessions"
HBS is very strict about their parishioners visiting the temple and participating in their activities. There is no other religion beside HBS that is so strict. Why is this?
There are four reasons:
Buddhism originally placed importance on practices. A religion that does not engage in practices is not Buddhism. There are two forms of practices in Buddhism. One is placing a great emphasis on the mind; a meditation practice (Kannen Kampo) to discipline, polish, and enhance attainment of enlightenment through concentration. The other is a practice by mouth and body. It is a practice using the mouth to chant the Odaimoku, and the body to visit the temple and attend Oko services.
An instructive poem of Nissen Shonin stated: “In the age of the last Dharma, one's faculty to engage in severe practices is lacking, Thus, one should not attempt to understand enlightenment by mind, but to use the body to accumulate merits in this age (of the Last Dharma) by visiting the temple".
Using the body to visit the temple, chanting the Odaimoku by mouth, and listening to sermons are the first reason.
One attends a school to pursue one's studies or hobbies. The purpose of visiting the temple and participating in Oko services is to pursue knowledge about HBS's religion. This is the second reason.
“Why is it necessary to visit the temple or Oko services when we can chant the Odaimoku before the altar and save time traveling?"
Chanting the Odaimoku at home is a fundamental duty of a practitioner, but by doing only this, you deny yourself sermons and this becomes a self‐style practice. By neglecting to listen to sermons, a soul of distrust and doubt will arise. A visit to the temple is important from that standpoint. This is the third reason.
An older or middle―aged person sitting idly at home increases his chances of becoming senile. Men must use their brain and body to keep fit. Similarly, by not engaging in religious practices, listening to sermons and communicating with others, one will become religiously senile. This is the fourth reason.
The legs are for the purpose of walking. Do not use them for the pursuit of greed. Use them to accumulate merits.
The following are the teachings of Nissen Shonin concerning temple visits:
“Use the legs to visit the temple for religious practices, and the mouth to chant Namumyohorengekyo." These are the basic practices of HBS.
“The legs are active for leisure purposes, but weak for visiting the temple or Oko services".
“Depending on one's degree as to whether they do or don't visit the temple or attend Oko services acts as a barometer."
An Oko activity is an important function of HBS:
“O" is an honorific. “Ko" means a prayer and lecture-meeting session. It is not a gathering for religious debauchery. An “Oko" session is a gathering of parishioners to pray and chant the Odaimoku conscientiously; to listen to Buddlnst teachings (Gohonzon);announcing merit rewards received from the altar by an individual, and to spread the teachings of HBS to others. In other words, it is a school teaching Buddhist doctrines. Based on Nissen Shonin's proposal, Oko is now being held at least once a month at various homes comprised of small groups of parishioners who are divided into various districts. It is not only confined to the temple. As a parishioner of HBS, to conduct a “Oko" service in their home is proper. However, if it is more convenient, a group Oko may be alternately held at the homes of members at least once or twice a month by means of assigning a “Ganshu" (the person responsible for holding the service in their home). At such time, tithe is offerd to the priest. Some parishioners are under the impression that a tithe serves as means of merit-transference for their ancestors or prayer for their wishes. That is not so. The primary purpose of an Oko is to pray for the promotion to teach others. Of course, by chanting the Odaimoku in unison by the parishioners, it acts as a salvation for the soul of the ancestors and to build merits for the safety of members of each family. But, do not waste the time to talk about trivial matters after the service. The time should be utilized to discuss ways and means to improve the groups' activities for the betterment of the temple and to spread the teachings to others and aiding those who are suffering.
Let me elaborate on two or three other small items. They are the same for home or temple conditions, so please conform to it:
l. Arrive at Oko ten minutes before the designated time, and while awaiting for the arrival of the priest(s), be chanting the Odaimoku.
2. Sit nearer to the altar in the order of arrival.
3. Chant the Odaimoku clearly and in a loud voice.
4. The priest is representing you when offering a prayer, so, press your palms together, and listen carefully to what is being offered (Gonjo).
5. Listen carefully to sermons, and try to comprehend the meaning of “Gokyoka" (Verse or poems of religious instruction) and “Goshinan" instruction). Taking notes is recommended.
6. Ingroup Oko, each attending member is a “Ganshu", and the prayer being offered is for each individual, so when a tithe is made to the priest, everyone should express their appreciation together.
A HBS Oko cannot be imitated by other sects. It is a unique, independent and worthy system of HBS. Recently, an interest in holding an Oko among parishioners has been declining. It is very important, therefore, to remind yourself of the purpose for what the Oko is held and attempt to hold it in your home at least once a year. Also, parishioners should try to attend other parishioners' Oko as much as possible.
“Plan your time, either from work or an errand, to fit an Oko in your schedule to express your gratitude to the altar. When one experiences a lack of interest in attending an Oko, an evil spirit had entered your soul in an attempt to block you from going. Try to overcome that pressure and force yourself to attend." stated Nissen Shonin.
It is more important to think about building virtues rather than profits. Therefore, try to avoid doing businesses on the day of an Oko, and attempt to participate in the various religious services.