Basic Rites of Passage in Shin Buddhism


This is a presentation to the temple of a new baby. If there are lots of new babies, it is held once a year. If there are fewer babies, the babies are brought to the temple when they are 33 or 100 days old. It is a joyous occasion for the entire Sangha (congregation) but it is not a baptismal event. It is an acknowledgment that a Buddhist family has a new baby that will become part of the Temple family.


The shaving of the hair can be actual or symbolic. Actual shaving of the head most often happens when an individual becomes a priest, or a monk or nun. In Shin Buddhism, it is a one-time ritual of ordination. Some keep their heads shaved and others do not.

The symbolic shaving of the head usually happens when an individual obtains a Buddhist name (Ho-myo).


A Dharma Name, or familiarly called a “Homyo,” can be presented while the person is alive and well. It is common to have a large ceremony of persons gathered to receive their Buddhist names from the Gomonshu (spiritual leader of all Shin Buddhists worldwide) or the Socho (elected spiritual leader of Buddhist Churches [Temples] of America). The names are the new spiritual names of the individual and each begins with “Shaku” to signify being a follower of the teachings of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni.

Usually, the Sangha (congregation) does not use Homyo to refer to each other. On the other hand, the priest most often does use the Homyo presented at ordination as his or her new name. For example, my legal name is Judith Rebecca MacDonald and my Homyo is Jo-Ren. When I am addressed by name, it is usually Jo-Ren Sensei, Reverend Jo-Ren or MacDonald Sensei. People who have known me for decades will still call me Rebecca but most people don’t even know that my first name is Judith!

For a lay person, the Homyo is often filed away and always used by the family at the time of that person’s death. If there is no Homyo for that person, the priest will present one. Homyo are important as part of a funeral service. On the other hand, when one has one’s Buddhist name, already, it is a wonderful way of acknowledging oneself as a follower of the Teachings of the Buddha. It is a statement of spiritual journey. It is not uncommon for someone to ask, “What is your Buddhist name?”


Modern day brides in the USA most often wear a white wedding gown. Sometimes they will also have a kimono that they wear to the reception (or vice versa) but that is so expensive that is being seen less and less.

In the “olden times” in Japan, the white gown was a symbol of mourning. It meant that the wife was moving to her husband’s house and was now dead to her biological family. In the “olden times” in the USA, the white gown was a symbol of virginity. Now, it is simply the color of choice for most brides.

The Buddhist wedding ceremony reflects the culture of the USA. Added are rituals, such as chanting and sometimes SanSanKudo (the blending of families ceremony). It has the same “I do” and the same “I now pronounce you husband and wife” and the same kiss before the recessional. Afterward, it is the usual reception dinner.


Burial rites are based upon the elements of the planet and its life forms:

DOSO, or Earth Burial, began with the standard Confucian burial

SUISO, or Water Burial, is the casting of the body into water (This is what our founder wanted)

KASO, or Fire Burial, is cremation such as commonly seen in India. Oftentimes, it replaces Earth Burial

An exception is the Emperor of Japan, who is Earth buried as a monument to him

RINSO, or Wind Burial, is when the body is left to the elements to decay and return to the earth.

As you can see, what is done with the body after death is a personal choice, with none being better than the other.

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