What Is Eitaikyo?

Eitaikyo is the abbreviation of ”Eitai Dokkyo” which means “the perpetual chanting of sutras” on behalf of and for the benefit of a deceased person. This is a special trust fund for the Buddhist temple to endow the Dharma infinitely and to ensure the existence of the temple. For this purpose, families donate one lump sum of the donation toward the Eitaikyo Fund. 

By donating to the Eitaikyo Fund, the name of a deceased relative or friend of the donor will be entered into the special Eitaikyo Book. The Eitaikyo Book is a record book which is kept in the Naijin. It lists the deceased’s name, Buddhist name called “Homyo”, the day of their death called “Meinichi” and other information. Every year, Eitaikyo service is dedicated to those deceased. Thus, by donating to the Eitaikyo Fund, sutras are chanted for the deceased in perpetuity. 

In most schools of Japanese Buddhism, memorial services and the Eitaikyo, espe- cially, are looked upon as being for the benefit of the deceased. Jodoshinshu is the one outstanding exception to this view despite the fact that many Japanese and Issei Jodoshinshu Buddhists continue to adhere to the popular view that the chanting of sutras, influences the status of the deceased. 

In Jodoshinshu teaching, memorial services are not for the dead. They are services in memory of the dead by the living who come together as an extended family to listen again to the Dharma and to reaffirm their family ties. From another point of view, the deceased, though their karmic actions while alive, are calling their living relatives and friends to the Dharma. We do not do it for them, they do it for us. 

If you think about it, most Jodoshinshu services are memorial services. We observe and even celebrate death days - we accept death in all its myriad forms as an es- sential part of life. We are taught the underlying presence of death from the time we attend our first memorial service as a small child. We may not like it , but we are familiar with it and are taught from a very early age that it is a natural thing. Death is the most important key to life truly seen and truly lived. 

Memorial services which rise out of our love for deceased relatives and friends, are at the same time important opportunities for hearing the Dharma at the time when we are truly prepared to listen. 

There is no magic power in the chanting of sutras to soothe or appease the spirits of the dead, at least not in Jodoshinshu teachings. The daily chanting of sutras and the annual Eitaikyo memorial service are for the benefit of the living on the occa- sion of the memory of the dead. All of us who live in the past and in the future are urged to experience the reality of the present - a present where we only imagine ourselves to be. 

Namo Amida Butsu.


(Original article was written by Rev. Masao Kodani) 

永代経法要の意味

『永代経』というのは、永代読経のことでお経、つまり仏さまの教 えを永遠に伝えていくというのがそもそもの意味です。仏さまの教えを 聞く場所はお寺ですから、そのお寺が永遠に続いていってもらうように 援助するという事で懇志をあげさせてもらうのです。懇志、つまりドー ネーションをするに当たって何かチャンスが必要です。そこで私達の一 番親しかった人が亡くなっていかれたときその方のメモリーとしてこの 永代経を納めさせて頂くのです。この懇志はお寺が永遠に続くようにと の願いを込めてされるものですから、お寺にとってとても大事なものに なります。亡くなった人は後に残った家族や親戚の者が幸福になります ようにと願われているに違いないのですから、浄土真宗ではお寺で仏さ まのお話を聞いて私たち自身が本当の幸福をいただくことが大事なこと になります。本当の幸福とは、ただたんにお金持ちに成るとか有名人に なる事ではないはずです。浄土真宗では、仏さまにあわせて頂く事が本 当の意味で幸福になると説きます。この世のすべてのものは全て消え失 せていくものです。お釈迦様はそれを「全て夢幻の如し」とお説き下さ いました。全て消えていくものの中で私達を救うぞという仏さまのお誓 いだけは消えない確かなものです。その仏さまのお慈悲にあわせて頂く 事こそ本当の幸福になるのです。今は亡き人の願いを無にすることなく その方々への感謝を胸に私たち自身が本当に幸福になるときお寺そのも のが輝き本当の役目を果たすことができるのです。この永代経ファンド はそういった尊い目的のためにのみ使われる事が約束されたものです。 奮って参加して頂きたいとお願い申し上げます。 

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