Q-60pxMy mother died in June 2012. Moments before she passed, you came to the hospice center in Skokie to perform a ceremony I believe is called Makura-gyo? Can you tell me the meaning, purpose and intent of that ceremony?

Also, at her memorial service, you gave my mother the Buddhist name Shaku-Ni-Raku (Eat–Joyful). Can you give me its translation (by the way, the name you chose aligns so perfectly with her) and the purpose of the naming tradition?


A-60pxThe Makura-gyo Service, literally, means “pillow Sutra.” This is a short traditional short service just prior to death or immediately after death. In recent years, this service is not common (it is performed maybe 20% of the time).In the Pure Land Schools, it was believed that Amida Buddha and his entourage would appear as a person was dying and take the person to Amida’s Pure Land. So, this service is to “welcome” a new Buddha to the Amida’s Pure Land.

The Homyo or Buddhist name is given to a person, either at the Funeral Service (or a person can receive a Buddhist Name from the Bishop or the Monshu—head Abbot).

This is symbolically the name that one uses in the Pure Land, which is free of human limitations. The characters for the Homyo has to come from the Sutra (words of the Buddha), so only about 5,000 characters can be used.

For your mother, I tried to use characters that meant something to her. In talking with your family, I realized that food and eating were important to your family, thus I selected “to eat” and then the character for “joyful.” This second character has deep Buddhist meanings about the benefits of the Dharma (Teaching), which is expressed as “great joy” or “joyful.”