View Full Version : About the Dedications (Eko)

09-06-2022, 09:10 AM
In Mahayana Buddhism, it is standard for each of us who have undertaken the "Bodhisattva Vows" (vowing to save all sentient beings) to dedicate the "merit" of all our practices and good actions to others. This is known as Eko 回向 or Fu'eko, 普回向, the three Chinese characters meaning something like "universally, widely" 普 "going around" 回 and "facing" 向 or, we might say, "widely spreading the good stuff around and giving it out." :)

In traditional belief in Karma, it is possible for someone to help others earn good Karma points by gifting them some of ours which we earned in our own practice and good deeds (which also earns even more good Karma for the gift giver due to their generosity, a 'win-win' for all. :encouragement:) Even if one does not hold literally to such a system of Karmic bank accounts and credit transfers [gassholook], one can still conclude that our good acts and sincere intentions may have good effects, obvious and more indirect, in our world and on those around us. For this reason, I sometimes describe our "Eko" at Treeleaf as our "dedication of our sincere efforts and aspirations" for others to benefit, rather than as actual transfers of Karmic merit.

We also tend to be minimalists and rather simple in our Ceremonies at Treeleaf, in keeping with Nishijima Roshi's way in which the true and only needed Ceremony is Zazen! So, our Ekos tend to be rather simple. In my way, I have also avoided some of the more fantastic elements and esoteric references, to modernize some of the language, add mention of female, disabled and other diverse "Ancestors" who have been ignored or lost to history, and to focus more on peace and positive change in this world, rather than focusing on other realms beyond this world. Thus, for example, the standard Ekos for the long "Morning Service" performed at Japanese Soto monasteries will say the following:

Having chanted the “Universal Gate of Kanzeon Bodhisattva” Chapter of the Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma, Great Compassionate Mind Dharani, and Marvelously Beneficial Disaster Preventing Dharani, we reverently offer the merit accumulated thereby to our Great Benefactor and Founder of the Teachings, the Original Master Shakamuni Buddha ... to the Eminent Ancestor, Great Master Jōyō [Dogen Zenji], and to the Great Ancestor, Great Master Jōsai [Keizan Zenji], that it may adorn their awakening, the unsurpassed fruit of buddhahood. We further offer it to the dharma-protecting devas [heavenly gods and benevolent deities]; to the dharma-protecting saints; to the earth spirit of this place and to the monastery-protecting spirits; to Jōhō Shichirō Daigen Shuri Bodhisattva [another monastery-protecting spirit enshrined in the earth spirit's hall even in Dogen's time]; and to the tutelary deities enshrined in all halls.

We pray for peace in the land, harmony among all nations, prosperity and longevity for donors throughout the ten directions, tranquility within the monastery, and peace and happiness for the oceanic assembly; may sentient beings throughout the dharma realm equally perfect omniscience.

... Having chanted the Heart of the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, we transfer the merit generated thereby to the eternal three treasures [Buddha Dharma Sangha] in the ten directions; to the countless disciples in the sea of buddhahood; to the sixteen great arhats [https://www.nichirenlibrary.org/en/dic/Content/S/219]; and to all beings associated with the class of worthy ones. We pray that you will use your three awarenesses [a Buddha's or enlightened being's ability to see their own and all the past lives and course of liberation of all sentient beings] and six supernatural powers [including celestial hearing, to read the hearts and minds of others and more] to turn the age of the end of the dharma [the final, declined age of Buddhist history] into the age of the true dharma; use your five powers [of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom] and eight liberations [https://www.nichirenlibrary.org/en/dic/Content/E/23] to lead living beings to the birthless; continuously turn the two wheels of the monastery [the offering of Dharma and receiving of Alms]; and forever prevent the three disasters [from flood, fire or wind] from afflicting the land.

... Having chanted the Harmony of Difference and Equality and the Precious Mirror Samadhi, we offer the excellent merit accumulated thereby to the successive generations of buddhas and ancestors who transmitted the flame, (great assembly together recites names in lineage, beginning with the Most Reverend Bibashi Buddha [first of 6 ahistorical Buddhas leading up to Shakyamuni Buddha] and ending with the lineage holder immediately preceding founding abbot of monastery in question].

... Having chanted the Great Compassionate Mind Dharani, we offer the excellent merit accumulated thereby to the founding abbot [and successive generations of past abbots of this monastery], to exalt their posthumous status.

... Having chanted the Verse from the “Life Span of the Tathagata” Chapter of the Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma, we transfer the merit generated thereby to the ... deceased monks of this monastery; to the departed spirits of every member of the sangha throughout the dharma realms; to the founding patron <Name> of this monastery; to the spirits of martyrs of every nation ... to the six close kin and seven generations of parents of the pure assembly gathered at this monastery; and to sentient beings throughout the dharma realm. May they equally perfect awakening.

[English translation by the Soto Zen Text Project]

Our Ekos at Treeleaf generally avoid mention of "dharma protecting divas," "earth spirits" and other protective deities, certain extra-sensory powers and the like. However, we emphasize the sentiment contained in the hope for "peace in the land [and] harmony among all nations." Rather than "prosperity and longevity for donors," we emphasize peace and empathy with victims of many crises. Thus, our simple "Dedication" during our Zazenkai service tends to emphasize the "Reality" and "Buddha Nature" which pervades everywhere and right here now, that we dedicate our efforts for all beings' tranquility and well-being, serenity and Wisdom, and that we dedicate our "hopes and aspirations" to victims of war, violence and natural events, to the healing of hatred among all peoples, and to the peace of the world:

Buddha Nature pervades the whole universe, Reality, existing right here now: In reciting THE HEART OF THE PERFECTION OF GREAT WISDOM SUTRA (and THE IDENTITY OF RELATIVE AND ABSOLUTE) we dedicate our sincere efforts to:

Shakyamuni Buddha Honored One; the Historical Buddha and Teacher,

and to those ancestral teachers:
Eihei Dogen Honored One
Soji Keizan Honored One,

All successive Honored Ones up until
Zuigaku Rempo Honored One and
Gudo Wafu Honored One

and to all other Honored Ones throughout history, same yet diverse Honored Ones, whose names have been forgotten or left unsaid.

We also dedicate these efforts to the Three Treasures, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha,

To all Awakened Ones and Teachers in all places and times.

We especially seek tranquility & well being for all creatures now suffering or ill in health.

May they be serene through all their ills.

May their lives be at peace and Wisdom pervade the darkness of ignorance.

We dedicate our hopes and aspirations:

To all victims of war and violence and natural events
To the injured and to all families touched by these tragedies
To the healing of hatred in all countries and among all peoples
To the wisdom and compassion of our world leaders
To the peace of the world and harmony of all beings.

Thus, let the harmful effects of words, thoughts and actions be dispelled and Compassion bloom in perpetual spring.

May we all realize and live the Enlightened Way together:

All Buddhas throughout space and time
All Bodhisattvas-Mahasattvas [Bodhisattva Great Beings]
Maha Prajna Paramita [The Great Virtue of Wisdom (Emptiness)]

During our Rohastsu Retreat, we add special Dedications for our Women Ancestors, to all who are same yet diverse, and this Dedication for our "Differently-abled Ancestors":

Buddha Nature pervades the whole universe, Reality, existing right here - now: In reciting the Heart of the Perfection of Great Wisdom Sutra we dedicate our sincere efforts to the successive generations of Buddhas and Ancestors who transmitted the flame, those of different body and special mind so often misunderstood by the many, those who may have been met with exclusion or fear, those for whom the Path was filled with obstacles and barriers, we honor those for whom entrance was so often denied and halls once barred, successive generations of buddhas and ancestors who transmitted the flame ... Those many sentient beings, each and all Teachers in their way, who have struggled with addictions, confusion, depression and mental conditions often misunderstood. And to all the many other honored ones, same yet diverse beings through the generations, to whom the doors were closed, or whose names have been forgotten or left unsaid. We now seek to welcome all with doors flung open, halls unbarred.

Gassho, J