Information for Newcomers

Welcome newcomers and visitors!  Please feel free to visit us on Sundays at 11 am. Services are in English and open to the public, except Labor Day weekend and a few other rare days off.  Check our calendar and our Facebook page for the latest updates and for events and classes held throughout the week. Special services and events are held throughout the year and on New Year’s Day. Refreshments follow service, with luncheons on special holidays.

For more intensive dharma study or cultural classes such as Japanese drumming, see the Education page.  See About Us for a brief history of BTC and its lineage. Our Facebook feed on the right side of the page lists upcoming special events.

Are there special rituals?

There are no difficult practices or complicated rituals. The few we do have are completely optional:

  • Chanting – Most chants are monotone and easy to follow. The most difficult chant is the Shoshinge, which is quite melodic. If you find your voice dying out, you may wish to take this time to read and reflect on the translations of the chants in the service book.
  • Incense offering – During the chant, you add your incense to the incense of others in a symbolic gesture of Oneness. In the past, we used to actually burn the incense, but the smoke proved to be too much for everyone and now the offering is symbolic. Feel free to observe what the others do and imitate them. Most attendees contribute $1 or $20 or more for offertory. The donation is completely optional but greatly appreciated.
  • Nembutsu – We frequently recite the Nembutsu, which is Namu Amida Butsu.
  • Gassho – This is pressing your hands together, palms facing each other, in a sign of respect. It is often followed with a bow.

Where does the service format come from?

Traditional Jodo Shinshu temples in Japan generally do not hold weekly services. The first Japanese Americans to set up temples in Chicago (our temple and our sister temple, Midwest Buddhist Temple) modeled Sunday service after those of Christian church services in the United States, so if you attend or attended church, the format may feel familiar. The weekly services also provide an opportunity for more structured Buddhist practice as well as a central place for community activity.

Is there a dress code?

Many members dress up a bit, but casual dress is fine as long as it is respectful.

May I take photographs?

Due to past disruptions and privacy concerns, we ask that visitors refrain from photography during service and ask permission before taking photographs of individuals, especially of children. Temple members may photograph their own family members during special  ceremonies, and occasionally temple leaders may take photos for our publications.

Is food or drink allowed?

Food and drink are allowed in the common area, but not in our main sanctuary (hondo) where we have our services. Water, cough drops, and other items for health issues are allowed if you consume them quietly and take all waste with you. Speakers, singers, ministers, lay ministers, and chairpersons may have a beverage to avoid dry throat.

May I bring my child(ren)?

Little ones are absolutely welcome. You may bring your children into the hondo or, if it makes you more comfortable, you can stay out in the common area where the service is broadcast over the speakers. For kids old enough for school, check out our Dharma School classes, held every other week. We even have a children’s taiko (Japanese Drumming) group. and our free Aikido class is open to young ones.

Is there anything else I should know?

Turn off or silence mobile devices during service. If you are hard of hearing, we have amplification headphones available upon request.  Please arrive early to request one and to get set up.

Who can I contact if I have more questions?

For general questions about our hours or services, you can call us at (773) 334-4661. For more in-depth questions about Buddhism, contact Bill, Temple President, at Bill is often available after Sunday service at the book counter to answer questions. You can also send an inquiry via our Facebook page.

Last updated March 2, 2019