So the practice for laity in Shingon is pretty much similar to other sect? I see in other sect such as Pure Land, beside the focus on Amida Nyorai, all involve reciting mantras. Is there mudras that laity can do or does that need empowerment?
I'm the wrong person to answer your first question as I am not well enough versed in the other schools of Buddhism yet.
Laity as a rule are not taught mudras with the exception of the cosmic mudra for sitting meditation. However, I was never taught anything about it beyond that I should do it as part of proper sitting meditation. For all I know, I might have been taught to do that just so I know what to do with my hands. My teacher doesn't particularly care if it completely collapses as I stop paying attention to it.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Interesting, that looks like a great practice. So lay people do not get to do Sadhana etc. for specific Deities as in Tibetan Expression of Vajrayana? I.e., only the ordained get empowerment?
I don't know the details, but there lay people are permitted to initiated into the mandalas used in Shingon Buddhism as described in the Mahavairocana Sutra and establish a karmic connection. Following the MV Sutra's instructions, the deity on which a flower that they toss lands shoud be venerated by that initiate. I don't know of any "empowerment" for lay people beyond this ritual*. The mantras for these deities are not really held secret, so specifically instructed or not, there is nothing stopping a lay person from practicing veneration by reciting the deity's mantra. They would not be taught any mudra that I am aware of, and I don't know if a priest may or may not teach them visualization exercises.
Beyond that, participation by the lay people that I have been a part of involves reciting mantras and the Heart Sutra during public rituals. The Goma is particularly intense for me and leaves my mind particularly clear at its conclusion. It's a sensation that is difficult to describe.
*Actually the temple that I frequent offers "empowerment" blessings, but it has nothing to do with transmitting a practice.