Thursday, March 23, 2006

The First Ceremony

In England and in North America the two monasteries, Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and Shasta Abbey are preparing for the week of ceremonies called in Japanese, Jukai. This term has been translated to describe what this week is all about, we call it 'The Ten Precepts Meeting'. It's the time when lay devotees who practice within our tradition come together to 'receive the Precepts' and commit themselves to following them. It's also a time when long time practitioners return to rededicate themselves to keeping the Precepts. I know of one man who has gone every year (except one) since his first Jukai, he's probably jumping in his car as I write!

Somebody once asked me at the end of a tour of Shasta Abbey, "how can I become a Buddhist"? My reply, "Say with all your heart, 'I take my Refuge in the Buddha, I take my Refuge in the Dharma, I take my Refuge in the Sangha', and say that regularly and practice it". Formally receiving the Precepts or as we also term it, receiving Lay Ordination, comes as a natural next step to the simple and tender internal dedication to daily practice. The author of Net of Indra, speaks of his 'Long Road to Jukai' and of following the inner voice, that never goes away. His story touches my heart, especially when he says, "...and even worse I also became convinced that being Gay made it impossible for me to be Buddhist." Nothing could be further from the truth. I will have to dig out an article written by one of our senior monks which was put in a Journal in...1997 was it? (Does anybody have a full set of our Journals on a shelf near them, and can find the article?)

If I had the time I'd jump on a plane and go down to Shasta for Jukai, it happens to be my favorite set of ceremonies. Perhaps I'll write about them here. There are five ceremonies in all, the first one is 'The Journey to the Monastery'. I'm glad my attention was drawn to the posting, have a wonderful retreat and I wish I could be there to give witness. My journey started when I was 16, triggered by seeing Rev. Master Jiyu on local TV in Sussex, she had just entered the monastery in Japan. There were many twists and turns in my life that eventually brought me to Throssel, 16 years latter and a few more twists before arriving at Shasta. In those twists and turns I can only see the working out of great Compassion and harbor no regrets. I hope you don't either Jack.

Thanks also to Jim who posted a long and affirming comment on this article.