November 2nd, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Sacred Spaces: Inside a Buddhist fire rite ceremony

Editor's Note: In this occasional series, the Belief Blog looks inside worship spaces from faiths around the world. CNN's Jim Castel brings us this report from Redwood City, California with a look at a Buddhist fire rite ceremony.

For the last several years Shinnyo-en Buddhists have conducted the Saisho Homa fire rite ceremony in Taiwan, Paris and Berlin. This year, for the first time, the rite was brought to Shinnyo-en’s head temple in Redwood City, California.

A homa ceremony is Buddhist prayer ceremony. Saisho is a reference to the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha.

“The Saisho Homa ceremony is really a prayer for world peace,” said Nichelle Blanco, an ordained Shinnyo-en priest. “It is a rite that includes various elements such as fire and water.”

Shinso Ito, who leads Shinnyo-en, traveled from Japan to perform the rite. “The water is the symbol of being able to use what we have for other people and to remind people that everyone is so valuable,” she said.

Shinso is only one of a handful of women who are Buddhist priests.

Shinnyo-en Buddhism was founded by Shinjo Ito in Japan in 1936. Shinjo was an aircraft engineer but developed a desire to study Buddhism.

He then started a fellowship of Buddhist practitioners that eventually became Shinnyo-en. His daughter, Shinso Ito, completed her Buddhist training in 1982.

Seven years later upon Shinjo’s death, Shinso became the head of Shinnyo-en. It is practiced by more than one million people around the world. It is a community of people who focus their efforts on altruism.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Buddhism • California • Houses of worship • United States

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Retta Heitzman

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    January 21, 2014 at 8:59 pm |
  2. Peter Hings

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    February 4, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  3. Sum Dude


    November 16, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Sum Dude


      November 16, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  4. Sum Dude


    November 16, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  5. Sum Dude


    November 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  6. Sum Dude


    November 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  7. Reality

    Peace2All, (an untenable desire),

    Apparently you are into meditation. Tis a free country. Muslims bowing/meditating to Mecca five times a day was only cited as an example with substantial proof given. Others forms of meditation e.g. mouthing RCC Mass prayers, saying rosaries/prayer beads, staring at walls cross-legged, statues or cows, drinking beer et al are, although some being enjoyable, are still a waste of time and sometimes dangerous as in saying a rosary while driving.

    November 4, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  8. John Bergman

    As a member of Shinnyo-en Buddhism your comments good or bad are an encouraging sign. You have taken a step to open dialogue which is the first step toward peace. Alturism comes from the heart knowing that you are helping other in an effort to make this a better world. As part of our effort we choose not to make a distinction between friend and foe. If you ever get a chance to visit Hawaii on Memorial Day should come to the Lantern Floating Celebration we host. Their are 6 Billion Paths to Peace, which path will you take? May peace shine on your day.
    John Bergman
    Shinnyo-en member

    November 4, 2010 at 2:13 am |
  9. Reality

    Peace2All, (the name is nice but untenable)

    Obviously from the review of what is required for Muslims to pray/meditate five times a day to/about Mahound and his and mythical friend Gabriel and probably mythical god Allah, the original conclusion that meditation is a waste of time and sometimes dangerous are valid conclusions.

    November 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Again.... Even worse this time. With each posting you continue to make less, and less sense while being a bigot.

      You have now just kept it to Muslim's which has 'nothing' to do with your original posting in that it was a 'waste of time for everyone.'

      You have now tried to isolate a group of 'fundamentalist' muslims as some kind of counter-example.... to 'meditation'.. Really..?

      Sorry Pal, you have become totally unreasonable now. You lost the argument... You were way out-of-line from your original argument.

      O.K... I'm officially done here with this posting on this thread. Why don't we call it a day, as you and I have always seemed to have a good blog posting relationship.

      I would prefer to keep it that way...


      November 4, 2010 at 12:54 am |
  10. Reality

    Bowing to Mecca Five Times – The Specifics of the Prayers/Meditations

    The Five Times Are Specified in the Quran – The Details

    (1) The Dawn Contact Prayer is mentioned by name in 24:58. Before sunrise.
    (2) The Noon Contact Prayer is specified in 17:78. When the sun declines.
    (3) The Afternoon Contact Prayer is in 2:238. Midway between noon & sunset.
    (4) The Sunset Contact Prayer is mentioned in 11:114. Immediately after sunset.
    (5) The Night Contact Prayer is in 11:114, and is mentioned by name in 24:58.

    The Call to Prayer (Azaan)

    Azaan is not part of the Contact Prayers, nor is it required. But it has become a tradition in the Muslim communities to summon the people to prayer through a loud announcement. The original Azaan used to conform with the Quran's teachings, but became corrupted with time.

    Originally, the call to prayer consisted of:
    (1) Allahu Akbar (God is Great), 4 times.
    (2) Laa elaaha Ellaa Allah (There is no god beside God), once.

    Many years later, some people added Muhammad's name to the Azaan. This violates God's commandments in 2:136, 2:285, 3:84, 4:150 and 72:18. Later, other groups of Muslims added the names of Ali and family. Today the Azaan is severely corrupted throughout the Muslim world, and const-itutes idol worship, not Submission to God ALONE.

    The Correct Azaan

    If you pray by yourself, an Azaan is not needed. The Azaan is usually observed when a group of people are ready to observe the prayer. One person stands up and utters the Azaan words, or chants them as follows:

    Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (God is great, God is great).
    Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.
    Laa Elaaha Ella Allah (There is no god besides God).

    Preparation for the Contact Prayer (The Ablution)

    O you who believe, in preparation for the Contact Prayer, you shall
    (1) wash your faces,
    (2) wash your arms to the elbows,
    (3) wipe your heads with wet hands, and
    (4) wash your feet to the ankles. [Quran 5:6]

    Like all other aspects of Submission, the Muslims have corrupted the ablution by adding unauthorized steps. Ironically, the innovations became vested with such authority that anyone who questions them finds himself accused of innovation!!

    It is therefore crucial to uphold God's commands by strictly observing the ablution decreed in the Quran. Any additional steps represent another god besides God.

    The Major Ablution

    Following any se-xual activity that results in a c-li-max (org-asm/ej-acu-lation), one must bath or take a shower (4:43).

    The Dry Ablution (Tayammum)

    If water is not available, one must touch clean dry soil, then wipe his hands and face. This suffices as a substi-tute for ablution (4:43, 5:6).

    What Nullifies Ablution

    Digestive excretions through the intestines, including gas, solids, or urine nullify ablution. Sleeping also nullifies ablution, since one becomes unaware. Thus one may observe a number of Contact Prayers with one ablution, provided he or she does not go to the bathroom, p-a-ss gas, or fall asleep.


    1. Face the direction of Mecca (Qiblah):

    This is an organizational point decreed by God in 2:125. God wills that all submitters must face the same direction when they observe the contact prayers. In the U.S.A., the direction is slightly South of East.

    2. The Intention

    In your own language, secretly or audibly, state your intention that you are about to observe the Contact Prayer. Remember to state the time (Dawn, Noon, Afternoon, Sunset, or Night).

    3. Raise your hands to the sides of your face:

    Your thumbs touch your ears, and the palms of your hands face forward.

    4. Say "Allahu Akbar".

    As you raise your hands to the sides of your face, then move them down to your sides in a continuous motion, you say, "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great). This opens up the prayer. You are in contact with your Creator.

    5. The Standing Position:

    You are now standing with you arms resting naturally at your side. Some people place the left hand on the stomach, and the right hand on top of the left hand. Either position is correct – you may place your hands on your stomach while standing, or you may let your arms hang down by your sides.

    6. Recite "The Key" (Sura 1) in Arabic:

    We learn from 2:37 that God gives us the words by which we establish contact with Him. We must utter the specific sounds dictated in "The Key". A translation of "The Key" would be human-made. The Arabic sounds of "The Key" represent a numerical combination that opens the treasure. Like a telephone number, unless a specific numbers are dialed, contact cannot be established. This is all the Arabic you need. Everything else can be said in your language. Reciting "The Key" in Arabic unifies all Submitters of the world, regardless of their languages.

    [The Key]
    (In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful)
    (Praise be to GOD, Lord of the universe)
    (Most Gracious, Most Merciful)
    (Master of the Day of Judgment)
    (You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help)
    (Guide us in the right path)
    (the path of those whom You blessed; not of those who have deserved
    wrath, nor of the strayers)

    Since "The Key" is recited 17 times a day, it will become easy for you to recite and understand in a few weeks; it will become like your mother tongue.

    7. The bowing position (Rukoo)

    After reciting "The Key" while standing, you bow down into the position of Rukoo`. As shown in the figure, you bow down from the waist, keep the knees straight, and place your hands on your knees. Your eyes look at a point about 2 feet in front of you.

    As you move from the standing position to the bowing position you say, "Allahu Akbar".

    While bowing you say "Subhaana Rabbiyal Azeem" or "Glory be to God, the Great" or "God be glorified" for short.

    8 Stand Up:

    As you stand up from the bowing position to the standing position you say, "Sami`Allahu Liman Hamidah" or "God responds to those who praise Him".

    You stay in the standing position only a second, then you fall prostrate. As you go from the standing position to the prostration position you say, "Allahu Akbar".

    9. The Prostration Position (Sujood):

    From the standing position you go down on your knees, then place your forehead on the floor about 1-2 feet in front of your knees.

    During prostration you say, "Subhaana Rabbiyal A`laa" or “Glory be to God, the Most

    High” or "God be glorified" for short

    10. The Sitting Position.

    As you sit up from the prostration position, you say, "Allahu Akbar." You remain in the sitting position only for a second, then you go down for the second prostration.

    As you go down for the second prostration you say, "Allahu Akbar."

    During the second prostration you say, "Subhaana Rabbiyal A`laa" or “Glory be to God, the Most High” or "God be glorified" for short Once you complete the second prostration, you have completed one full unit (Rak`ah).

    11. Stand up for the second unity (Rak`ah).

    As you stand up you say, "Allahu Akbar."

    The Dawn Prayer

    This Contact Prayer consists of 2 units.

    Repeat steps 5 through 11.

    Thus, when you get from the second prostration you say, "Allahu Akbar," and as-sume the sitting position. While in the sitting position you pronounce the First Pillar of Submission, the shahhaadah:

    Ash-Hadu An Laa Elaaha Ellaa Allah, Wahdahu Laa Shareeka Lah.
    (I bear witness that there is no other god beside God. He ALONE is God; He has no partner).

    Look to the right and say, "As-salaamu Alaikum," then to the left and say the same. This completes the Dawn Prayer.

    The Noon Prayer

    This prayer consists of 4 units. Thus, you do the first two units exactly as explained for the Dawn Prayer up to the sitting position. You pronounce the First Pillar (known as "Shahaadah") then you stand up for the third unit. You do not utter the Salaams (As-salamu Alaikum).

    As you stand up for the third unit you say, "Allahu Akbar." The third and fourth units are identical to the first two units.

    When you get up from the second prostration of the fourth unit, you say "Allahu Akbar" and you as-sume the sitting position. In the sitting position you pronounce the Shahaahah, and you say the Salaams on both sides. This concludes the Noon Prayer.

    The Afternoon Prayer

    This prayer is identical to the Noon Prayer. Only the "Intention" of course is different.

    The Sunset Prayer

    This prayer consists of three units. Steps of each unit are just as detailed above. Thus, when you complete the second prostration of the second unit, you a-ssume the sitting position, recite the Shahaadah, then you continue to the third and last unit. After the second prostration of the third unit, you as-sume the setting position, recite the Shahaadah again, then utter the Salaams on both sides. This concludes the Sunset Prayer.

    The Night Prayer

    This prayer is identical with the other 4-unit prayers, the Noon and the Afternoon Prayers.

    The Contact Prayers and The Quran's Mathematical Code

    As noted above, the Dawn, Noon, Afternoon, Sunset, and the Night Prayers consist of 2, 4, 4, 3, & 4 units, respectively. When we put these 5 numbers next to each other we get 24434, and this number is a multiple of 19 (24434 = 19 x 1286). The common denominator of the Quran's code is 19. This phenomenon confirms that the number of units for each Contact Prayer has been preserved intact, but the sequence 2, 4, 4, 3, and 4 is also confirmed.

    Your Tone of Voice During the Contact Prayers

    You shall not be too loud during your Contact Prayers, nor shall you say them secretly; you shall maintain an intermediate tone [17:110].

    During a group prayer, only the Imam is audible; everyone else listens.

    The Group Prayer

    Two or more people may observe the Contact prayers together. One person leads the group prayer, uttering "The Key" in a loud enough voice to be heard by everyone in the group. Other utterances must be silent. Anyone may join the group late, in the middle of the prayer. He or she must make the same moves as the group. Then, at the end of the prayer, he or she must stand up and make up whatever portion was missed.

    The Friday Prayer

    The Friday Congregational Prayer (Salat Al_Jum`ah) is so important, a whole sura is ent-itled "Friday" and a commandment is decreed in Verse 62:9 to observe this prayer. Every Submitter – man, woman, and child – is commanded by God to observe the Friday Congregational Prayer.

    The Friday Prayer replaces the Noon Prayer every Friday. Instead of 4 units, the Friday Prayer consists of listening to two sermons delivered by the Imam, and two units of prayer.

    Each sermon must begin with "Al-Hamdu Lillah" (Praise be to God), "Laa elaaha Ellaa Allah" (No other god besides God). Each sermon should last 10-15 minutes and must be delivered in the language of the congregation. At the end of the first sermon, the congregation is asked to repent, "Tooboo Ela Allah." The Imam then sits down for about a minute and makes his repentance together with the congregation, then stands up for the second sermon. The second sermon ends by asking one of the people to say Azaan. The Imam leads the 2-unit prayer.

    At the end of every Prayer

    The worshippers may shake hands, hug each other, and /or exchange greetings after completing the prayer. The custom is to say to each other, "Congratulations." This is because the Contact Prayers are a gift from God, that helps us nourish and develop our souls. One should be congratulated upon completing such a blessed accomplishment."

    November 3, 2010 at 8:23 am |
    • Peace2All


      And 'all' of your cutting and pasting on this. STILL... does not 'justify' your assertion that 'all' meditation is a waste of time for 'everyone.'

      Even your attempt to try to create the issue about Muslims, which had really-nothing to do with your initial argument. Also, you mentioned about time better spent in soup kitchens, etc.. So, are you now saying that 'anyone' who meditates, does 'none' of these things...? Seems that is what you are saying. Again, very flawed and skewed world-view, and drastic generalizations.

      Reality... Normally, you have more of a sense of, well..'reality' bud...! Not sure how you are not seeing that your attempt to argue that ...'meditation' = bad for everyone at anytime, is just not at all accurate...?

      Unless, you can come up with a sound and reasoned argument, since your most recent attempts are just a much 'larger' re-hashing,' I am going to decline to post on this particular topic any further. Maybe we should move on to something different... yes..?

      Respectfully.... Peace...

      November 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  11. Reality

    Time meditating would be better spent studying computer programming and/or practicing the piano. Or playing golf!!!

    November 2, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • Peace2All


      So, you are generalizing that 'everyones' time 'meditating' would be well spent doing the things you say...?

      Hmmmm.... Maybe a bit 'ego-centric' on that post buddy....?


      November 2, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • Reality


      One of the many causes of hallucinations:

      "Meditation and/or sensory deprivation. When the brain lacks external stimulation to form perceptions, it may compensate by referencing the memory and form hallucinatory perceptions. This condition is commonly found in blind and deaf individuals."

      November 2, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hey Pal...

      You Said....... "Peace2All, One of the many causes of hallucinations:

      "Meditation and/or sensory deprivation. When the brain lacks external stimulation to form perceptions, it may compensate by referencing the memory and form hallucinatory perceptions. This condition is commonly found in blind and deaf individuals."

      Your comment or reply still doesn't 'nullify' my response to you 'over-generalizing' that 'not' meditating is better for 'everybody.'

      Sorry dude... However, I know I am going to regret that I chose to take you on about this.. 🙂


      November 2, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
    • Reality

      Muslims "meditate" five times a day. Just think if they spent that time reading something other than their book of horror and terror aka the koran??

      November 2, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
    • Peace2All


      You Said......"Muslims "meditate" five times a day. Just think if they spent that time reading something other than their book of horror and terror aka the koran??"

      Sorry my friend... yet again, I am going to have to respectfully call you on your lack of understanding, and continual over-generalizing. Now, you have added bigotry.

      You are now attempting to take the practice of 'meditation,' which is typically understood, and defined and practiced, especially in the Easter Religious context as a 'quieting, and stilling of the body and mind, to clear the mind of negativity, and create states of peace, harmony, joy, etc...

      As far as Muslim's go... You are overgeneralizing again, and using a specific religion... 'ALL' Muslim's now....? I don't know that all Muslim's necessarily do anything. But, if I am understanding you accurately to what you are attempting to convey. If you are referencing one of the 5 pillars of Islam, (Salah) Muslim's are typically 'not' meditating in terms of the normal understanding or practice as used, but are 'praying' to their God-Allah.

      You then made a 'hard' left turn in your argument to suggest that not only do Muslim's 'meditate' 5 times per day, but that also = reading the Qur'an =book of horror and terror.

      You have now attempted to switch this to All Muslims reading a book, and placing 'your' interpretations on the so-called 'bad' of Qur'an, while leaving out anything about love/peace, etc... which if you talk to Muslim's that are about peace.. they will show you peace in said book.

      'Meditation' as a mental/emotional practice of clearing the mind is a long established practice, in virtually all religious cultures, and in psychology, neurology, medicine, etc.. as basically 'good' for most people in general. There is more and more evidence, mounting in the 'science' fields regarding the benefits of Meditation. There have been studies done on long-term meditators, and researchers have found through FMRI's that there are distinct changes in areas of the brain that typically lead to greater levels of peace, well-being and better mental and emotional control. Besides the ones that do engage in the practice, actually 'feel' better, in their subjective view.

      Reality, my friend.... You started out this discussion by suggesting or by inference that all meditation is a waste of time. I responded, you then tried to counter by using the Muslim's are bad argument, which you often use... then, suggesting Muslims are 'meditating'=reading Qur'an=horror and terror. Which implies, all Muslim's are bad. Which you have fervently stated before. I believe the 'near' exact quote was 'ALL (male) Muslim's are not to be trusted in any way."–Something pretty close to that.

      So.... My post not only still stands, but your argument my friend, was inaccurate and bigoted.

      You know I respect you, but on this one, maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so. I gotta' call you on it when your arguments are based on untruths, and just plain over-generalizations, bigotry, and a basic lack of understanding.


      November 3, 2010 at 4:38 am |
    • Reality


      v., -tat·ed, -tat·ing, -tates.

      1.To reflect on; contemplate.
      2.To plan in the mind; intend: meditated a visit to her daughter.

      a.Buddhism & Hinduism. To train, calm, or empty the mind, often by achieving an altered state, as by focusing on a single object.
      b.To engage in devotional contemplation, especially prayer.

      2.To think or reflect, especially in a calm and deliberate manner.


      One of the many causes of hallucinations:

      "Meditation and/or sensory deprivation. When the brain lacks external stimulation to form perceptions, it may compensate by referencing the memory and form hallucinatory perceptions. This condition is commonly found in blind and deaf individuals."

      An added observation:

      Put down your rosaries and prayer beads and stop worshiping/revering cows and bowing to Mecca five times a day. Instead work hard at your job, take care of aging parents, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to charities and the poor and continue to follow the commandments of your religion or any good rules of living as gracious and good human beings. And lets all hope there indeed is a place called Heaven!!!

      November 3, 2010 at 8:02 am |
  12. David Johnson

    Did everyone remember to vote? This is necessary only if you are voting for the Dems. If you are voting for Republicans, Please stay home.

    November 2, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • Reality


      Off topic: I voted for all the Pro-Life candidates who are in general Republicans in my state.

      November 2, 2010 at 11:24 am |
    • Sum Dude

      BOO@Reality! BOO!

      The blog receives a motion of no confidence in Reality's ability to reason effectively. Do I hear a second?

      November 2, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • Peace2All

      @David Johnson

      Yep.... VOTED today.


      November 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  13. Protonic

    They need to burn whatever it is that makes them think religion is going to help them be altruistic.

    November 2, 2010 at 10:31 am |
    • Moi

      Buddhism isn't a religion; there's no deity. I'm not sure why it's being called one in this article.

      November 2, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  14. Frogist

    Personally, anything that focuses people on altruism and world peace sounds good to me. Two things that are desperately needed right about now. I have to wonder about why there are only a handful of female priests though... patriarchy strikes again???

    November 2, 2010 at 9:41 am |
    • Peace2All


      Well said...

      November 2, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • David Johnson


      You asked: "I have to wonder about why there are only a handful of female priests though"

      I thought the good book made this obvious. Woman is made from the rib of a man. A cheaper cut.

      November 2, 2010 at 11:22 am |
    • Sum Dude

      Women need more privileges? I thought you guys had it pretty good already. 😛

      November 2, 2010 at 11:36 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Sum Dude & @DJ

      If my wife saw your postings as my 'cyber-friends'.... she would hit... 'me'... with a brick..! 🙂

      November 2, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • Sum Dude

      Dude, you are whipped. Go to the nearest secret Man Station and turn in your nads. 😛

      November 2, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  15. Eshinesu

    Sparks from this burning house of a world,
    fill the sky with light as we stumble,
    blind and helpless,
    feeding the flames.

    November 2, 2010 at 6:48 am |
  16. Not Found

    Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn't here.

    November 2, 2010 at 6:25 am |
    • Sum Dude

      No kidding.

      November 3, 2010 at 3:21 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.