Hoza, or Dharma circle, is the occasion when members gather together to share and solve the worries and sufferings of daily life in the light of the Buddha’s teachings. In other words, it is the place where we can be reborn as new people while still living in this world.
Place to resolve sufferings
As Buddhism sees it ‘all phenomena are characterised by suffering’ with many things in this world not working out as we expect. You may think that our nations have become affluent with people living their lives happily in contrast to the age of Shakyamuni Buddha, 2,500 years ago. However, universal issues of poverty, illness and conflict do of course still exist in many different and extreme forms.
You may see various forms of poverty in the UK today, as recession and debt hit the economy, leading to credit-card delinquency and social problems. Despite the swift progress of medicine and science, human beings are still incapable of getting away from illnesses due to incurable diseases, unknown infections and ageing and lifespan issues. Moreover, societies seem to be divided, making new flashpoints, which may cause friction and worries in schools and in homes. The modern world sees new warfare often taking the shape of terrorism.
We are unable to solve such social issues in a single step. However, Shakyamuni Buddha, talking of sufferings in real life, observed that every suffering has its causes, and people will be liberated by pinpointing and then extinguishing these causes, which come from attachment and desire.
In Hoza, participants frankly express their worries and joys, with a Hoza leader introducing and suggesting teachings and practices for their daily lives. Through the warm-hearted discussions and whole-hearted practices with Sangha members, we try to resolve sufferings in real lives.
However, this does not bring us to the true liberation taught in Buddhism. It is indispensable for people going through a trying period to make spiritual progress through talking to, and sympathising with others, with this process working mutually to improve and develop all involved.
As ordinary people, we tend to wander off the way of truth without even noticing. Despite this behaviour not being a crime from a legal and moral perspective, such conduct is wrong and becomes a route of evil from a religious perspective. When noticing this through the practice of Hoza, we perform acknowledgement and remorse and make vows to practise in the right way.
Additionally, other participants will listen as Dharma friends as if the problems are their own, and they will also perform acknowledgement and remorse with one another, thinking together of the ways to extinguish the worries in the light of teachings. And, wishing the true happiness for each other, we make a vow to walk the path together.
As such, Hoza is the occasion where people practise the bodhisattva way and become reborn day by day.
Significance of Hoza in terms of Buddhism
Why does Rissho Kosei-kai (RK) place emphasis on the group practice of Hoza rather than independently sitting and meditating alone? This is because it is in the workings of Hoza that ‘wisdom’ and ‘compassion’, which are major aspects of Buddhist teachings, can be attained.
‘Wisdom’ is related to the workings of intellect. But the wisdom in Buddhism is more profound than this usual definition and indicates the function of fathoming the ultimate truth of life and the universe.
Participating in Hoza allows us to attentively listen to other people’s experiences and worries and understand them as if these issues are our own in the light of Buddha Dharma. Considering and thinking together advances our wisdom. The more wisdom (in terms of Buddhism) we attain, the more naturally and smoothly the right way to a solution (what we call ‘Dharma insight’) can be found, helping us to face the various troubles in our lives. Contrary to secular truth, study and research alone is incapable of reaching such profound wisdom. Only thorough religious practice can achieve this.
‘Compassion’ is also an indispensable factor in Hoza. Contrary to wisdom, which is mainly related to intellect, compassion is related to sensitivity. Compassion, the ultimate workings of sentiment, makes Hoza a lively occasion where people inevitably receive results and are truly liberated.
In Hoza, we feel sadness together, worry together, rejoice together and are relieved together accordingly. Such sharing of sadness, worry, joy and relief plays a significant role in cleansing our heart, brushing and polishing our spirit and elevating ourselves. Sitting to think and meditate alone or being an independent practitioner does not produce such dynamics. That we say the life and soul of Hoza is ‘doing together’ indicates these workings of ‘sympathy’.
Lives in the raw are sometimes told in Hoza. The other participants should savour them as if such stories are their own and never disclose them like gossip. Members must be able to participate with ease. Of course, new members are also required to adhere to this rule.