Vows

Greetings!

First, I’d like to comfort you and address your concerns about Jukai and the timing thereof. I sincerely regret if I have created a feeling of anxiety in anyone by my incomplete communications. Zenho and I are planning to do a Jukai Ceremony, hopefully for a few folks together, whomever feels ready, in January 2024. If anyone feels ready and wishes to have ceremony before then, please talk to us to make arrangements. There’s no hurry! If January is not a good time for you, that’s OK! We are committed to having this be a deeply meaningful experience for you, whenever you and your teacher decide to take this step. Take your time, understand what you’re taking-up, sew your rakusu carefully and beautifully. Enjoy the ride!

Taking the vows of jukai are about becoming a Buddhist, officially. We take the vows of Refuge; in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha which we’ve discussed in an earlier post.

What does it mean to make vows? “Ordinary people are those who live by being pulled by their karma (gosshō no bonpu): bodhisattvas are those who live led by their vows (gannshō no bostsu)”, according to author of “Living by Vow“, Shohaku Okumura.

We also vow to uphold the precepts.

The Three Pure Precepts, which are principles prescribing a particular course of action or conduct, are thus:

1.Do not commit evil.

2. Do good.

3. Do good for others.

The Ten Grave Precepts are:

  1. Do not kill
  2. Do not steal.
  3. Do not be greedy.
  4. Do not tell a lie.
  5. Do not be ignorant.
  6. Do not talk about others errors and faults.
  7. Do not elevate yourself to put others down.
  8. Do not be stingy.
  9. Do not be angry.
  10. Do not speak ill of the three treasures.

Although these are phrased as absolutes, who could possibly embody all of these at any given time?! As Susan Murphy, Roshi suggests, (in my new favorite book, “Red Thread Zen“); “You have to hold yourself toward your precepts. All appropriate and fit responses flow naturally from that.” The vows make sure.

Life/practice are inseparable. Embracing and embodying “The Four Vows” that we say each evening; desires as inherent purity, and boundless dharma gates, we are affirming our practice of holding living lightly, open-handedly but with awareness and reverence.

Roshi Murphy again; “A vow asks that I hold myself toward life with awareness and respect, and in this way moves life in more intent direction that’s subtly but remarkably different from “just coping”. Not only each of your immediate relationships and actions but the wider, larger fate of humanity and the life of the world begins to live in you and to ask searching questions, beginning with Who is this? And what is it to become like this?”

How should we uphold the vows we make? “When Zhaozhou ws asked; “What is the fact for which we must bear responsibility? He replied, “Though you search to the end of time you’ll never single it out”.

And this; When a Chinese nun of great enlightenment was asked by a novice; “How do you keep all these precepts” (there are 311 for Chinese nuns), She replied; “I only keep one. I just watch my mind”.

In spite of our refinement, enlightenment, grace and radiance, we are still messy, muddy, flesh bags, foibles of humanity stumbling about doing the best we can. Knowing that, those of us with this beautiful and amazing powerful practice in our lives are moving into, not towards, but into our awareness of our already awakened buddha nature. Each action we take such as Jukai, each vow we make, each precept we embody in the way of the dharma enriches our experience.

Deep peace and great love,

Issan & Zenho

Other stuff: I will be heading to New Hampshire (the homeland of the most supreme maple syrup) for my 31st year at the Craftsmen’s Fair, August 2-16. I am grateful to Zenho for taking over this blog for the next couple weeks!

Zenho Sensei will be out of town, 8/3-8/13.

Don’t forget Zenkai Weekend August 27-28.

Schedule, 7/31-8/6

Tuesday: 7 PM, Dream Koan, at the Tea House zoom ONLY

Wednesday: 6:30 AM, Zazen at the Tea House with Mugen opening

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