Eko (Buddhist Thoughts of Outgoing and Returning) (回向)

"Eko" (回向, also written as 廻向) or pariNaama (sanskrit) means to 'turn,' 'change' or 'proceed,' and '回向' as its translation with Chinese characters shows the meaning of rotation in '回' and device in '向', which is a thought that Mahayana Buddhism features.


This refers to the concept that satisfaction is derived from the expectedhope for effects in other directions as a result of an individual's good deeds. Though the karma of good deeds is essentially supposed to come back to oneself, everything is regarded as being empty in Mahayana Buddhism, so it is possible to turn the karma to others. Expecting and practicing the results of good deeds to benefit other people is called "shujo eko (eko for mankind)," and practicing the expectation for the result of good deeds to attain Buddhahood is eko for Buddhist enlightenment. That is to say, turning and giving charity and merit that one pursues to others, is called eko.

This is why the envelope says "eko ryo (fee for a memorial service)" when hiring a temple or a priest for sutra chanting.

The levels of ascetic practices with the mind of eko are divided into ten, which are called "juekoi (ten eko levels)" and are regarded as important processes of ascetic practices for enlightenment. The charity one pursues is turned to Buddhahood to remove self-obsession. "Charity" is always turned in the directions of others, and turns into "merit," then self-centeredness is removed. This is the inevitability of eko. It is not to mean that the accumulation of charity becomes Buddha, but that all charity has meaning in having eko.

Eko generally consists of three kinds; (1) Bodai eko (awakening eko), (2) Syujo eko (mankind eko), (3) Jissai eko (reality eko). They are supposed to lead to awakening, to give merit to mankind, and to pursue the enlightenment of absolutely permanent existence, respectively.

Seshin preached Gonenmon (Five Practice-Gates of Mindfulness), which are "raihai (pray), sandan (praise Buddha's virtues), kansatsu (observe), sagan (make a vow), and eko," and cited going to the Pure Land to become Buddha together by having eko to all mankind with the various merits pursued as an important point.

Ogen eko (outgoing and returning eko)

Donran preached that there were two kinds of eko, 'oso eko (outgoing eko)' and 'genso eko (returning eko),' in the second volume of "Muryojukyo Ubadaisha Ganshogechu."

Oso eko' is preached based on a wish to go to the Pure Land together by turning the charity and merit one has pursued to others and taking them as others' merit.

Genso eko' is an abbreviation of 'genrai ekoku no sojo (a state of the dead to return to this defiled world),' and refers to a wish of the dead in the Pure Land to return to life again to save mankind. This altruistic attainment is also done by eko with Amida Buddha's honganriki (power of original vow).

The Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) sect follows Buddhism and tries to attain the power of Buddhism by self-questioning; "mankind at the end of the world cannot accomplish good deeds for eko" preached by Shinran.

Going to the Pure Land is also done by Amida Buddha's honganriki, and myogo (name of the Buddha) will have eko by the attainment of Namu Amidabutsu (a single, sincere call upon the name of Amida) fulfilling all the virtues, completed by Amida Buddha.

Therefore, both oso and genso have eko, transmitting merit from the Buddha to mankind by Amida Buddha's honganriki. This is called "tariki eko (eko with Other-Power)."

Specifically, during the Edo period in Sanuki Province, a pious Jodo Shinshu sect believer named Shoma said; 'There are those that are happy to make use of the Buddha I have discarded.'
As such, this indicates the condition when one hear the sound of chants being intoned one sense that those in Paradise are working on our behalf which is why it is said we respond by chanting.


"Ekobun," which is also called "ekoge," refers to gemon (metrical style of teachings) chanted at the end of a devotion or a memorial service. It is recited to provide eko for widely involved people, not only to give the merit of a Buddhist rite to those who hold it. In this sense, a Buddhist rite held in a temple or each household has eko not only for the deceased, but for all the people involved. Gebun varies among religious doctrines.

"Hope this merit influences widely to mankind to attain Buddhism together"

- "The Lotus Sutra," the third volume 'Kejoyuhon number seven' translated by Kumaraju ("Taisho Shinshu Daizo-kyo Sutra" the ninth volume p24.)

"Hope this merit equally gives the aspiration for Buddhahood and leads to heaven"

- "Kammuryojukyosho," 'Kangyogengibun the first volume' written by Shandao ("Taisho Shinshu Daizo-kyo Sutra" the thirty-seventh volume P246.)

Since the schools of the Jodo (Pure Land) sect have the Jodo Sanbu-kyo (the three main sutras of the Pure Land sect) as the main scripture, the latter is used. And the Jodo Shinshu sect take "this merit" as the merit of Amida Buddha.

[Original Japanese]