Thursday, October 6, 2011

Living The Precepts

During last weekend's jukai, a line that stood out for me was right at the beginning, in the invocation: "In faith that we are Buddha, we enter Buddha's way". As someone asked me to write about what it meant to receive the precepts, I thought this might be a good place to start.
Any teacher will give you instruction in their understanding of how to approach the precepts, and there are usually classes here at Zen Center as well - Tova is teaching one this practice period. Of the books on the subject, the two most widely recommended here are Being Upright by Reb Anderson, and The Mind of Clover by Robert Aitken.
I was a bit of a late developer when it came to the precepts. I lived here at City Center for two years, with Paul as my teacher, and took classes studying them, but did not feel ready to ask to sew my rakusu. It was only when I went to Tassajara and met Gaelyn that I felt the urge to take that step; she said yes, but I still ended up waiting two years before I did the ceremony, mainly as she had not had dharma transmission when I asked, so she was not able to perform the ceremony herself.
When I did finally have my jukai, in the spring of 2004, coming at the end of four practice periods at Tassajara, I found that I was seriously thinking about becoming a priest, and I remember speaking about this with Gaelyn on the day of the ceremony. As it happened, with causes and conditions and dealing with things happening in my life rather unskillfully, that took another five years to come to fruition, and by then I had returned to being Paul's student.
In that sense, my notions of what it means to take the precepts and receive a lay ordination are a little coloured by my desire to be priest ordained, so that my blue rakusu seemed like a marker on the way somewhere else, though of course the precepts you receive at lay ordination and priest ordination are exactly the same.
I think when practice starts to make sense to us in a certain way, when it starts to integrate into our lives, and we want to articulate this in a committed way, it follows that we make the precepts a foundation of that, and our receiving the precepts a recognition of that. As I have heard many teachers say over the years, the undertaking is an intention to make this effort, and not just a rod to beat ourselves up with if we start to think we are not doing well enough; the precepts are guides more than rules. We are just saying that we care enough about how we live to explicitly make this our path. As a priest I am just taking this further by making practice the central element of my life, by vowing to uphold forms and ceremonies, as one version of one of the Pure Precepts has it, and by endeavouring to help others find their way.

Rain and blue sky after breakfast this morning


Renee said...

That photo beautifully captures working with the precepts.

Shundo said...

Entirely serendipitous.

Dennis said...

As someone looking forward to my Jukai in just three weeks, "We are just saying that we care enough about how we live to explicitly make this our path" - expresses it perfectly. Thank you.

Shundo said...

I'm looking forward to your jukai too Dennis.

Fanfan said...

Looks like someone's got a tripod.

Shundo said...

I was just leaning on the window.

Ruth said...

Don't lean too far.