Makura-kyo Death Guidance (Pillow Sutra) (枕経)

Makura-kyo (also referred to as makura-gyo) is one of the services held immediately after a person's death to offer sutra chanting to the dead person for the first time. The makura-kyo may be omitted depending on the Buddhist sect.

In recent years, many people die in the hospital, in which case the makura-kyo is recited after the body is returned home or taken to a funeral home.

The body is laid in a futon (Japanese bedding) prepared in a butsuma (room for a Buddha statue) or other tatami room. A table covered with a white cloth is placed by the pillow or along one side of the futon, and a simple set of butsugu ({Buddhist altar fittings} called Sangusoku and Rin) is set out.

Shingonshu sect

A temporary altar is placed in front of the deceased. The priest conducts the matsugo-no-mizu (water of the last moment) ritual, makes symbolic signs with his fingers, and recites sutras. Also, it is a general rule to hang up a picture (hanging scroll) by the pillow depicting Fudo Myoo (Acala, one of the Five Wisdom Kings) sitting on a shitsushitsuza pedestal.

The picture of Fudo Myoo is hung for both priests and secular people. However, because morticians usually prepare and set up the temporary altar and other fittings at actual funerals, a hanging scroll depicting Namu Daishi Henjo Kongo (Gohogo) is usually hung if the deceased is a secular individual. This happens due to a lack of knowledge as to the correct hanging scroll to be hung by the pillow on the part of the mortician.

When the deceased is a priest, the hanging scroll is usually prepared by the temple and as a result a picture hanging scroll of Fudo Myoo is usually hung.

Nichiren Shoshu sect

In the Nichiren Sho sect, a Doshi Honzon (a honzon, or principal image of Buddha, for Sokushin Jobutsu (attaining Buddhahood with the present body) for the deceased, is placed at the back of the altar during the tsuya (wake, all-night vigil over a body) and the funeral ceremony), is also placed by the pillow, and the priest, usually belonging to that temple, who is a doshi (officiating monk), conducts the makura-kyo, during which incense is burnt.

[Original Japanese]