BECOMING A MEMBER – DISCIPLESHIP
Becoming a member of a sangha is an incredibly important, not to mention beneficial, event. Important for both the new member and the sangha as a whole. After some time with us, you may feel you’d like to solidify your relationship with us and your practice. The way to do this is by taking/receiving of vows, traditionally known as a refuge ceremony, as you formally take refuge in the Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. It also connects you to our lineage and teachers, and so, is not something to be taken lightly or done on a whim, it is an important step that needs a lot of thought and discussion with your teacher.
Taking vows is an important feature of any Buddhist school as the practice of Sila (ethics) is one of the sections of the ‘Eight Fold Path’ as laid out by the historical Shakyamuni Buddha and one of the Mahayana ‘Perfections’ of a Bodhisattva. The founder of Japanese Tendai further expounded the importance of the Buddhist precepts as a means to enlightenment. Of course, taking precepts doesn’t automatically make us better people, and it doesn’t mean that those who haven’t taken them aren’t ethical people. Instead, it is a recognition that we are not perfect, that we have faults, that we aspire to be better people and we believe the Buddhist path will help us accomplish this.
JUKAI – Zaike-kai 在家戒 – Upāsaka/Upāsikā Vows
Those who decide to take the lay vows in Tendai go through a ceremony called ‘Jukai’. Jukai means “to receive/give precepts” (JU = give/receive, KAI = precepts), and can refer to any ceremony in which one gives or receives the precepts, however, in this regard it is specific to the receiving of the lay vows. KAI also means to stop or give up, as the precepts are primarily concerned with giving up unwholesome activities so that we may advance quickly on the Buddhist path. In the Tendai tradition, we also take the Four Bodhisattva Vows, which are mainly concerned with helping others. In taking the Bodhisattva vows, we are generating Bodhichitta (bodaishin 菩提心) that is, raising the mind of Enlightenment for the sake of all others. In essence, we aspire to emulate these great beings, and ‘lighting up a corner of our world’.
This ceremony is not a qualification (there are no exams), it is not a recognition of any kind of attainment, and it is not a title. Instead, it is a formal and external recognition of your
internal desire to be a better person and to belong to the Buddhist path. In the Tendai school, it also forms a formless connection (‘form is emptiness, emptiness if form’) with an official Tendai Lineage and a Teacher.
Those who take the lay precepts will receive a lay kesa (hangesa 半袈裟) and a Dharma-name. If you are interesting in taking the lay precepts please speak to your sensei.
SHUKKE TOKUDO 出家得度 – Ordination
‘Shukke Tokudo’ means ‘leaving home to attain the way’. Traditionally, this is an ordination ceremony in which one becomes a monk. However, since the Meiji reformation, Japanese ‘monks’ typically live at home, have wives, a family, and a full time job. So essentially, they appear no different to lay people. Those who go through shukke tokudo become Sōryo 僧侶, which is usually translated as ‘monk’, however as Japanese monks aren’t required to be celibate or live in a monastery, we prefer to translate ‘Sōryo’ as ‘priest’ or ‘fully ordained priest’ to save confusion.
Those who take Shukke Tokudo receive the 10 Major and 48 Minor Bodhisattva precepts, will go through training (gyo) with a teacher in which they will be taught the exoteric and esoteric manners of the Tendai School and will wear the priests kesa and jikitotsu robe.
Currently, the UK Sangha is unable to confer ‘Shukke Tokudo’. If you are interested in becoming fully ordained Sōryo you are advised to either attend the New York Tendai Betsuin http://www.tendai.org/ (for English speakers) or the Hawaii Tendai Betsuin http://www.tendaihawaiibetsuin.org/ (for Japanese speakers). Alternatively, if you have a Shisho 師匠, you may be accepted on Mt Hiei to attend the 60 day ascetic Gyo.