How to Worship at Temple
While a shrine is a Shinto facility based on folk beliefs and natural beliefs, a temple is a Buddhist facility that came from India. As a religious object is different, the manner of worship is also different from the one for shrine. Many Japanese go to the temple at night on New Year's Eve to listen to sound of bell, or for attending a funeral of a family member or a friend. However, without special reason, you can feel free to drop in temples which are also sightseeing spots, such as Todai-ji Temple, Kiyomizu Temple and Senso-ji Temple. Let's learn the manner in preparation for visiting temples.
First of all, you bow to a mountain gate that is an entrance to the temple. The mountain gate, corresponding to shrine's torii, is a boundary between the world and a sacred area. When you pass through the mountain gate and enter precincts, you must not put your feet directly on a threshold, but step over it. On that occasion, you should take off your hat as well. Since the center of an approach road to the temple is a path for Buddha, please try to walk through the side of road.
In the temple, you visit a main building where the most important object of worship at that temple is enshrined. Before worshipping, please be sure to purify your hands and mouth at Chozuya, a purification trough. Purifying your hands and mouth will lead to purify your mind. The way to purify is as follows.
1. There is a ladle like a big spoon called “Hishaku” at Chozuya. Put water in the Hishaku, and clean your left hand first, then right hand.
2. Next, receive water in the palm of your left hand, rinse your mouth with that water, and put water again on your left hand used.
3. Purify the used Hishaku by holding it vertically to make water go along its handle, and return it to its original position.
If candlesticks and incense burners are placed near the main hall, you should offer a candle and incense sticks before worshipping at the main hall. The candle is offered to light the world and have Buddha lead you to the right direction. The incense sticks are offered to purify your body. The candle is placed from the back and the incense stick at the center, as a manner for the following people 's offering a candle and incense sticks.
Finally, you go to the main hall. Bow once, and put Saisen (money) into a Saisen box quietly. The amount of money can be decided at individual discretion. In general, it is common to offer small change you have. There is a metal drum hung from the front eaves of the main hall, together with a rope knitted with cloth. Beat the drum called “Waniguchi” with the rope. Its purpose is to communicate your feeling that I am going to worship to Buddha. If not, you can worship directly. Close your eyes and place your palms tightly together in front of your chest. This is a form of praying hands. Unlike a shrine, no applause is necessary. While joining your hands in prayer, bow once to the main hall and leave that place.
The precincts of the temple are a sanctuary. Don’t touch structures unnecessarily, and enter off-limits area in a garden etc. Depending on temples, you can enter a main hall and other buildings to see precious Buddha statues etc. Also, in that case, however, don’t touch the Buddha statue unnecessarily. It is a common courtesy to take off your shoes at the place where you are not allowed to enter with your shoes on, and not to take a picture at the place where photography is prohibited, even if with a smartphone. In addition, scribbling in the precincts may be a criminal act. You should keep it in mind that it is strictly prohibited.