Monday, August 13, 2007
Chelsea, August 2007
As I’ve said before, it’s very hard to type with a cat lying on your chest.
Yesterday I went back up to Cornwall-on-Hudson, site of my recent Buddhist retreat, to participate in another ceremony with the folks from my Zen center. (They’re all still up there, in revolving groups, through the end of the month.) On Sunday they held a ceremony called Jukai, which is when a person officially takes the vows to uphold Buddhism’s central “precepts,” or guidelines for living. (Some people characterize the ceremony as the point at which one “becomes a Buddhist,” though that seems a little trite!)
I took Jukai two years ago. It’s a fascinating experience. We studied the precepts for several months prior, and we also sewed a ceremonial garment called a rakusu, which we hang around our necks when we wear robes. The rakusu is a representation of Buddha’s robe. It is jokingly known as the “lobster bib.”
These are the guidelines we vow to uphold:
1. Not killing
2. Not stealing
3. Not misusing sex
4. Not lying
5. Not giving or taking drugs
6. Not discussing faults of others
7. Not praising yourself while abusing others
8. Not sparing the Dharma assets (being generous)
9. Not indulging in anger
10. Not defaming the three treasures (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha)
These are guidelines, as opposed to rules like the Ten Commandments, and people’s adherence varies. For example, I drink coffee and the occasional glass of wine, both actions that could be said to violate #5. I’ve been known to kill a mosquito. And these seemingly simple ideas can be amazingly complex -- is there a metaphorical way to “kill” someone, for example? By not listening, by disregarding their needs? Inherent in the precepts is an appreciation of their fluidity, and the fluidity of life and circumstance.
Anyway, back to the jukai ceremony: The best part is when those taking vows stand up above the rest of the group and the sangha walks around them, bowing. It’s very moving. This is also the day on which those taking the vow get a “Dharma name,” presented by Roshi and based on some aspect of their personality. (Mine is “Junryu,” which means “flow with the river.”)
And now I have to flow to work because I am late!