post by Brian Pontolilo, MRO
On Sunday, April 17, four Mountains and Rivers Order students received The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts from Shugen Sensei. The Jukai Ceremony was the culmination of a week of precepts training for Christian Panas, Anna Shifton, James Mannion and Koren Malamed, as well as a fitting end to the weekend’s retreat on intent and commitment in spiritual practice.
Following the morning chanting service and a quiet period of zazen, the zendo was arranged for the ceremony and Shugen Sensei welcomed the sangha and in particular, family members of the Jukai students. By way of an introduction, Shugen Sensei explained that the Precepts—or moral teachings—along with the cultivation of wisdom and compassion, are three essential aspects of Buddhist practice dating back to the time of Shakyamuni Buddha himself. The Precepts are the first formal vows taken by MRO students.
The ceremony began with Christian, Anna, James and Koren making three sets of bows. They first bowed to the Buddha, then to their parents, and finally, to Shugen Sensei, the Preceptor. Shugen Sensei then chanted an invocation of the Three Treasures in both Japanese and English and led the Sangha in a call-and-response-style chant of the Gatha of Atonement.
The students then received the precepts. First, they vowed to take refuge in the Three Treasures. Here again, Shugen Sensei chanted in both Japanese and English and led a call-and-response chant with the Sangha. Next, Christian, Anna, James and Charla vowed to practice and maintain the Three Pure Precept and the Ten Grave Precepts.
The Three Pure Precepts are not creating evil, practicing good and actualizing good for others. Shugen Sensei spoke of an old master who said that the Pure Precepts are so simple a child can understand them, but that only after years of diligent practice can one actually live them. The Ten Grave Precepts explain how, more specifically, we live the Three Pure Precepts. Shugen Sensei said, “The Ten Grave Precepts address the heart of all of the suffering we see in the world.”
Shugen Sensei then presented the Jukai students with the Rakusu—“The Buddha’s Robe”—that they had each sewn throughout the week of training, the lineage chart of the ancestors, a certificate of fulfillment of the precept training and their Dharma names, drawn from Chinese characters and pronounced in Japanese:
Christian Panas received the Dharma name Kyoji, meaning “The Mirror of Compassion.” Anna Shifton received the Dharma name Myojo, meaning “Morning Star,” the star the Buddha saw upon his enlightenment. James Mannion received the Dharma name Busan, meaning “Dancing Mountain” or “The Mountain Dances.” And Charla Malamed, who you may already know as Koren, received the Dharma name Koren. Charla had been given the name Koren by another teacher, but Shugen Sensei explained that the meaning “To Refine the Great Peace,” was new and that now Koren could draw from the names and meanings given by both teachers, in her practice.
The morning had both a serious and a celebratory feeling. The serious tone was because, as Shugen Sensei said, freedom from suffering and enlightenment are not possible if we do not practice the moral teachings and manifest them in the world. That’s significant. The celebratory nature of the morning was because this day was the manifestation of many years of diligent practice and discernment on the part of the students. And the commitment to living a moral life is something worth rejoicing.
Congratulations to Kyoji, Myojo, Busan and Koren.