Sutras are Nothing More Than an Opener of a Memorial Service


The other day, a buddhist memorial service for the first death anniversary of my benefactor was held, where a buddhist monk of Jodo Shinshu(浄土真宗) sect was called upon to participate and read aloud a sutra. The young monk was the deputy of his chief monk, who was sick in bed.

  • the other day 先日
  • anniversary 記念日
  • benefactor 恩人
  • monk 僧侶
  • call A upon to~  Aに〜するよう呼ぶ
  • deputy 代理

Lectures by a monk of Jodo Shinshu sect are almost always interesting, so I was looking forward to listening to one given after the service. At first I was wondering if his lecture would be interesting because he was young, but unexpectedly it was really a good lecture.

  • lecture 講話
  • look forward to A Aを楽しみにする
  • at first 最初は
  • unexpectedly 予想外に

At the beginning of his lecture, he said abruptly “I’m sorry today for making you listen to the sutra which didn’t make sense too long. I was nothing more than a opener of this ceremony.” I thought this was an interesting start.

  • abruptly 突然
  • sutra お経
  • nothing more than A Aに過ぎない
  • opener 前座

“The main part of today’s ceremony is the dining prepared after this lecture. It is the content of the conversation among you related to the deceased that is a great solace for him.” I thought he was telling a spiritually right thing.

  • dining 食事会
  • prepare 用意する
  • content 中身
  • the deceased 故人
  • solace 慰め

“If a luxurious memorial service were not held, busy people wouldn’t come from a long distance. That people who know the deceased get together, getting on well with each other, proves that he was a person of virtue, making him happy the most.” That’s right, I thought.

  • luxurious 税タンクな
  • from a long distance 遠方から
  • get on well with A Aと仲良くやっていく
  • prove 証明する
  • virtue 美徳

Many monks of Jodo Shinshu are very human in a good sense and they seem to look at the world from a low position. They are brave enough to see and accept people’s sadness, foolishness, sorrow, and so on as Shinran(親鸞), the founder of the sect, felt, which seems to be a tradition of the sect.

  • human 人間的な
  • in a good sense 良い意味で
  • brave 勇敢な
  • sadness 悲しさ
  • foolishness 愚かさ
  • sorrow 悲しみ
  • tradition  伝統

However, the practice of the sect is not good of breaking an incense stick into three pieces and offering them to the deceased. They might be feeling it’s a sheer waste to use three incense sticks. But spiritually speaking, offering something broken is not good. They shouldn’t send the energy of stinginess to the deceased because the mind of offering something is important. Also, to engrave the act of breaking something into space would cause something to break in the other world.

  • incense stick 線香
  • waste 無駄
  • stinginess 出し惜しみ
  • engrave 刻む
  • factor 要因
  • the other world あの世

I use incense sticks which cost a little less than 1000 yen per a box. Though they sell incense sticks in a store which are a few hundred yen cheaper, I don’ feel like using them. To try to buy as cheap incense sticks as possible would bring you poverty in the World of Reality. However, to buy expensive ones for the purpose of becoming rich is not good, either.

  • less than A A以下
  • feel like~ing 〜したい気がする
  • poverty 貧困
  • for the purpose of ~ing  〜するために
  • either もまた

When you buy incense sticks, it’s important that you choose ones feeling for your ancestors. I thought that the sect would be much better if they offered three incense sticks to ancestors with gratitude and prepared a memorial tablet with “the place for so-and-so family’s ancestors” on it, based on the religious view of Jodo Shinshu. It’s regretful that they don’t , or rarely, express gratitude in Japanese, which brings about important spiritual effects, making too much of sutras, which are just translations of a foreign language.

  • feel for A Aのことを思う
  • ancestor 先祖
  • gratitude 感謝の気持ち
  • memorial tablet 位牌
  • based on A  Aに基づいて
  • regretful 残念な
  • rarely めったに〜ない
  • bring about A Aをもたらす
  • effect 影響
  • make much of A  Aを重要視する
  • translation 翻訳

生かして頂いて ありがとう御座位ます

I Ka Shi Te I Ta Da I Te A Ri Ga To U Go Za I Ma Su

Thank you so much for keeping me/us alive.