In Honmon Butsuryu Shu, various Buddhist services are held on a daily basis not only at temples but also at homes of lay followers. A representative Buddhist service held at home is called “Oko (御講).” To hold an Oko, the host invites a Kyomu (HBS Buddhist priest) and other followers in the neighborhood in his or her house. In one session of Oko, a Kyomu performs as a Doshi (officiating priest) and conduct various prayers to the Gohonzon in the presence of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and gods on behalf of the host and participants. At the end of an Oko, a Gohomon (sermon) is also preached.
Oko is characteristically and uniquely an important thing for HBS. The foundation of Honmon Butsuryu Shu originates from an Oko that Nissen Shonin and his several enthusiastic followers held at home of Asashichi Tanigawa who was one of his followers. The kanji “Ko (講)” originally represents a “group of priests and lay followers who study together Buddhist scriptures and seek the truth of Buddhism.” Therefore, an Oko is basically the place which a Kyomu gives a lesson about the doctrine of the Primordial Buddha to followers.
Buddhism originally expanded its mission by providing places where people can listen to Buddha’s sermons. It was sometimes temple, home of believers, or under a big tree. People gathered and looked forward to meet Buddha or His disciples for their sermons. An old Buddhist scripture describes the circumstances that people gave offerings to Buddha and His disciples in proportion to their means. The Oko of HBS which is held at home of believers is reproduction of places where Buddha preached in modern style.
In one session of Oko, chanting the Odaimoku, praying for the propagation of HBS and safety and prosperity of the host family, transferring merits to departed souls (especially to the host’s ancestors), preaching a sermon, and announcing the experience of receiving Gensho-no-Goriyaku (manifest evidences) by followers are taken place. These are all the same content that is taken place in a Buddhist service held at a temple. In short, it can be said that an Oko is a miniature version or temporary branch of a temple providing a practice hall for propagation.
Believers can learn more about Buddhist doctrine and improve and enhance their faith by participating an Oko. On the contrary, the host can accumulate a great deal of merit by providing a place and an opportunity for participants to be more devout believers.
Specifically, holding an Oko at home has following merits:
- The host family can get stronger protection of the Gohonzon because a great many voices of the Odaimoku, Namumyohorengekyo, will be delivered to the Gohonzon.
- Participants can listen to a Gohomon (sermon) and improve and enhance their faith.
- Eko (transferring of merits to departed souls of ancestors) is taken place.
- The host can accumulate a great deal of merit by serving directly a Kyomu (HBS Buddhist priest) who is considered as a disciple of
- Nichiren Shonin and giving Ofuse (an offering of money) and offerings of food to the Kyomu.
- The officiating Kyomu and all participants pray for the safety and prosperity of the host family.
- Participants can exchange their experiences of receiving rewards from the Gohonzon and enhance their faith by listening to them.
- Participants can communicate well each other and become strongly united.
The meaning of Oko of HBS held at home of believers is quite different from the one of Buddhist memorial services of other Buddhist sects (Jodo, Zen, or Shingon sect) only for the repose of departed souls.