Dharma Name: Homyo
Rev. Koho Takata
What is a Homyo?
The Japanese term, Homyo, means Dharma Name. A Homyo is conferred upon ministers by the Gomonshu who is the spiritual leader of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji – ha denomination on the occasion of their ordination ceremony. For laypeople, it is also given by the Gomonshu on the occasion of the Confirmation Ceremony. In the United States, a Homyo is given by the bishops on the occasion of the Affirmation Ceremony.
When do we receive a Homyo?
Many people tend to think that a Homyo is only given to a person after one’s life ends. This is a great misunderstanding. A Homyo is conferred on a person when one is still living and not on a person who has passed away. The reason is to give the living person the opportunity to become a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha. That is, it is to encourage people to hear the Teachings of the Buddha while they are still able to do so. Therefore, one should receive a Homyo while still living. However, a Homyo can also be conferred after a person’s death if one missed the opportunity earlier. This is to allow the surviving members of the family as well as the friends of the deceased to hear the Buddha’s teachings.
What does it mean
to receive a Homyo?
In the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, one was allowed to join the Sangha by taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha for guidance. Buddha refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, Dharma two Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching, and Sangha to the community of fellow followers who have entrusted themselves to the Buddha and his teaching.
To receive a Homyo means one becomes a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha. In other words, one joins Shakya family and commits oneself to live the teachings.
How the Homyo can guide and enrich your life
In the case of our secular name (first name), there is a wish made by our parents but no commitment on our part since it was chosen before our birth. In the case of the Dharma Name, there is a strong commitment made by recipients to center the teachings in their lives.
There are so many conflicts and problems occurring in our daily lives. In Buddhism, we are the problem. We always carry attachments and a self-centered nature. Because of I myself, we have to suffer with problems. The Dharma is the answer to our lives. The Dharma is a mirror which reflects the reality of who we are and shows the cause of our problems.
Shinran Shonin, founder of Jodo Shinshu, further defined our human nature in his writing as follows;
“We are full of arrogance and blind passions. Our desires are countless, and anger, wrath, jealousy, and envy are overwhelming, arising without pause; to the very last moment of life they do not cease, or disappear, or exhaust themselves.”
(CWS P. 488, notes on Once – Calling and Many – Calling #20)
Buddhism signifies the teachings of the Buddha but also awakening to the Truth. However, our eyes are always covered and hindered by our ignorance and blind passions and they obstruct us from seeing the Truth. This is the key point Shinran Shonin focused on to resolve the issues in his life. Jodo Shinshu teaching is for those foolish beings possess of blind passions and cannot be free from the self-centered mind.
Receiving a Homyo and centering one’s daily life in the Dharma will become a precious opportunity for one to focus one’s true nature on the Universal Truth of the Dharma and fully live with deep meaning rooted in one’s own Homyo, which embodies the essence of the teaching of the Buddha. The Dharma connection to one’s daily life will change and make one’s life meaningful and fulfilling and further empower one to pursue the path of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
What is the difference between Homyo and Kaimyo?
In Jodo Shinshu, the Dharma Name we received is called a Homyo and not a Kaimyo which is offered by other Buddhist schools. Kai means precepts. Therefore, receiving a Kaimyo means to seek enlightenment by upholding the precepts. We, Jodo Shinshu followers, however, are not mandated to observe the precepts of Buddhism as practiced by other Buddhist schools. Followers of Jodo Shinshu receive a Homyo, which signifies living in the True Teaching by wholeheartedly entrusting the working of the Buddha, thereby abandoning self-practice that is a reflection of our self-centered nature.
If you want to live in the Teachings by receiving your Homyo, please contact a minister.
Excerpted in gratitude from: BCA, Sothern District Ministers Association - HOMYO