As vaccinations for Covid-19 became more readily available last spring, the Monastery was able to resume offering on-site Jukai, the moral and ethical teachings represented in the Sixteen Precepts of the Buddha Way, welcoming six new Jukai students, six new MRO students, one new postulant monastic, and two fully ordained monastics. Just before Covid hit in 2020, Jukai was also given to three students at the Brooklyn Temple by Hojin Sensei.
This week-long immersion begins early in the week, gathering together to begin to measure out pieces of black cloth which will be wrought into the black rakusu, held together with a wooden ring, signifying the Buddha’s robe in miniature.
The group gathers with their teacher in study during the week, while sewing becomes the focus of the daily activity while living with the residential community. For what can be a challenging concentration practice, the sewers are assisted by another long-time student of the Monastery, Kaishin Jamieson, an expert seamstress.
This important step on the bodhisattva path of Zen Buddhist practice, but not every student chooses to formally take Buddhist vows. The process is initiated by an MRO training student after at least two years of working with their teacher, during which time they clarify their motivation and commitment in considering the taking of life-time vows as a lay student.
Precepts retreats are offered throughout the year and are open to everyone, helping to more deeply explore how these vows take shape in one’s life, whether you have formal Zen training or not. They can help clarify and enrich our lives in all areas, particularly in working with the challenges of daily living.
Jukai students receive the a certificate, the lineage charts of ancestors, and the rakusu they have sewed which now has calligraphy added by their teacher along with and a new Dharma name, pointing to some aspect of their practice.
In Spring 2021, the sangha welcomed Scrap Kyuko (“Enduring Peace”) Wrenn and Pat Shosen (“Sacred River”) Carnahan.
In October 2021, six more students received Jukai—Jessica Shokei Ludwig (“sacred jewel”), Joanne Jishin Dearcopp (“compassionate faith”), Jimmie Seikaku Stone (“vow of awakening”), Jack Kanro Hennesey (“barrier of openness”), Diane Ansen Strablow (“peaceful waters / peaceful spring”).
But it all begins with taking up the path of practice as one’s own. Those entering as formal training students has been continuous during the pandemic (see this story). Since April 2021, new MRO students have included Maureen Kemeza and Sharon Kelly, in July Jacob McGlaun, in September Ian Proctor and John Baugher and in October Brodie Boland.
On the monastic path, 2021 brought further commitments to serve the three treasures. Taking on a postulant monastic robe was Simon Sekku Harrison in August, a student of Hojin Sensei. Sekku lives at the Monastery with his partner, Manwai Ng.
Sekku, whose Dharma name means “Touching Sky-like Nature,” had taken Jukai in January 2020 along with other students of Hojin Sensei’s: Jean Ann Oji Wertz (“Compassionate, Loving Response”) and David Genwa Nelson (“Eye of Harmony”).
And, full monastic ordination Tokudo ceremony was held in June for Jusen Hokyu Aronson (on leave) and Yusen Taikyo Gilman.
NOTE: To read more about what it means to become a formal training student or monastic in the Mountains and Rivers Order, click here.