We had a memorial service in my wife's family this week, and we are sitting Zazen today to recall ... in stillness and silence ... our loved one.
I am not too much for ceremonies myself, but the following is a description of a Japanese memorial service that I really like (from a Jodo Shinshu [True Pure Land] Buddhist temple) ...
Memorial services for the deceased, or "Hoji", have a long history in Japanese Buddhism. Family and close friends gather at the Temple in memory of the deceased member of the family, and a monk will chant. Following the service, the group will usually eat together. This meal is important in that it renews each member in both mind and body and strengthens the ties that bind the group together. This custom and the memorial services help to emphasize that death is a natural occurrence in life and is not something to be feared. The memorial service is also a wonderful opportunity of reinforcing family ties beyond one's immediate family, which helps to create a sense of continuity and community from generation to generation.
Chuin refers to the first 49 day period of mourning after death. In the past it was often marked with services held every 7 days. In the some sects of Buddhism, the karmic energy of a person is believed to be in a state of flux, moving to a new state of existence every seven days. This state of flux was called the shadowy world of yin. Thus the name Chuin meaning "in the middle of yin." After the 49th day the energy was said to be reborn. This belief was widespread in China and Japan. [Memorial services may be observed also at the 1st year, 3rd year, 7th year, 13th year, even as far as the 50th year].
However, Jodo Shinshu categorically denies the efficacy of such observances but nevertheless observes Chuin in grateful memory of the deceased and as yet another opportunity to listen to the Dharma. The memorial service in Jodo Shinshu is not for the sake of the dead. In holding the service in memory of the deceased, we acknowledge our ties to the various causes and conditions in our life, that allow us to exist.
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