Ten Day Recitation: Juya-e

In Jodo Shu Buddhism and some Tendai Buddhist temples there is a special holiday called Jūya-e (十夜会), which is the Ten Nights Recitation, though the literal meaning in Japanese is “ten nights gathering”. In more informal Japanese it’s just called O-jūya (お十夜). The basis for this holiday is an excerpt from the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life where the Buddha states that:

If in this world you do good for ten days and nights, the merit acquired will surpass that of practicing good in the Buddha-land of other quarters [ a Buddha’s Pure Land in other words ] for a thousand years.

So, devout Jodo Shu Buddhists spend 10 nights in special Buddhist practice. In the context of Jodo Shu, and the related Jodo Shinshu sect that I follow, this practice means reciting the nembutsu and studying the Dharma. However, this can be expanded further, as evinced by the quotation above. The point of Jūya-e is a ten day focus on intensive Buddhist practice, and building of merit.

I really like the idea of this holiday, and I have decided to start a campaign to promote the holiday to a wider Buddhist audience because:

  • I am also a Pure Land Buddhist. ;)
  • Jodo Shu is a really nice sect of Buddhism, but not well understood outside of Japan/Hawaii.
  • In honor of the now-defunct Jodo Shu Buddhism Group (JSBG) website which was abruptly shutdown and suffered attrition.* They were a nice bunch of folks, and I felt like carrying on some of the good ideas there.
  • The basic principle is something any Buddhist can follow.

So starting Nov. 2nd,** for ten nights, I am going to observe Jūya-e service with the following basic format:

  1. Recite or read aloud a Buddhist sutra, or important text. This can be whatever fits your Buddhist tradition.
  2. Pick something to chant: a mantra, the nembutsu, the odaimoku, a small gatha, etc. Chant it for 10 nights above and beyond what you might do. In other words, challenge yourself a little, but also be reasonable. The key is to do it for 10 nights, not one night a lot and less the next night.
  3. Pass on the good merit to others. Dedicate to all living beings and wish them well.
  4. For those ten days, consider cultivating something like mindfulness, kindness to others, the Six Perfections, whatever. Or instead, try abstaining from something.

True to my Pure Land background, I will:

  1. Read aloud the Amitabha Sutra before my altar.
  2. Recite the nembutsu 1,000 times, or one full revolution on my Jodo-Shu style Buddhist rosary.
  3. Dedicate merit to help all beings.
  4. Outside of service, I will try to use this time to be more mindful of my actions, study the Dharma more, and be kinder to those around me. :)

But do what is familiar with your tradition. The point is to make the most of what you have for 10 days to effect good in yourself and others.

So, if interested, let me know, or better yet, pass it along to others. I think this can be a good holiday for any Buddhist. Thanks!


* – Discussion still continues on the Jodo Shu Discussion Group though.

** – Hawaii’s Jodo Shu Betsuin, is holding their Jūya-e starting on Nov. 9th, but I decided I on Nov 2nd because it’s the first Sunday of November (i.e. easy for me to remember in later years “1st Sunday in November”).

3 thoughts on “Ten Day Recitation: Juya-e

  1. I am so glad you posted this! I was just wondering last night if there was a Buddhist equivalent to Lent. (The possible abstaining aspect of this holiday would be a parallel. Obviously, not the rest of the Lent thing. I wasn’t raised Catholic so I am woefully ignorant of a lot of its practices.)

    I am also thinking a lot about discipline, for the fact that I have very little. I practice maybe four nights out of seven, these days. Not bad, but I have long wanted to cultivate discipline and I consider my current focus on meditation a part of learning how to commit to something fully. I will join you on Nov. 2nd in celebrating this holiday; it will be a nice way to feel connected to this community, as well as shore up my practice.

  2. Wonderful, and thanks for your support.

    I think the “lent” analogy is a very good one, and a fitting term. When it comes to self-discipline, I have found it works best to be 1) forgiving of mistakes 2) keep your expectations simple and reasonable and 3) don’t expect progress overnight.

    Setting simple, realistic not idealistic goals, helps. So, if one were to just recite the nembutsu or a mantra 10 times for ten nights, that’s really great. It doesn’t have to be a huge number.

  3. Sounds like a great idea! I’m not sure I’m ready to follow you this year but I will think of it :) Actually I find the practices of Jodo Shu a bit more appealing than that of Jodo Shinshu for some reason, don’t ask me why.

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