Receiving Jukai

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On December 1st, 2019, I received Jukai from my Zen Teacher, Bobbi "Inryu" Ponce-Barger. What this means is that I have committed to following sixteen precepts (moral guidelines), and that I am now considered a lay monk in the Soto school of Zen. Below is a picture of me, my teacher, and my fellow student Robert. I'm the tall, skinny, bald white guy with glasses and beard stubble. We had another fellow student (Chris) who was supposed to receive Jukai with us. Unfortunately Chris was in the hospital that morning. Thankfully Chris is better now, and a few weeks after this picture was taken, Inryu held another ceremony for Chris.


The Precepts

The sixteen precepts I vowed to follow come in three groups: the Three Refuges, the Three Pure Precepts, and the Ten Grave Precepts.

The Three Refuges

The Three Refuges are:

  • I take refuge in the Buddha.
  • I take refuge in the Dharma.
  • I take refuge in the Sangha.

Dogen (the founder of the Japanese school of Soto Zen) describes taking refuge as submitting to and depending on. The Dharma is the teachings of the Buddha, and the Sangha is the Buddhist community.

The Three Pure Precepts

The Three Pure Precepts are:

  • I vow to refrain from harmful actions.
  • I vow to embrace and sustain right actions.
  • I vow to live and be lived for all beings.

These are sort of overview precepts, whereas the grave precepts get into more detail. The first two are often translated as "Don't do evil" and "Do good."

The Ten Grave Precepts

The Ten Grave Precepts are:

  • I vow not to kill.
  • I vow not to take what is not given.
  • I vow not to abuse sexuality.
  • I vow not to lie.
  • I vow not to intoxicate the body or mind of self or others.
  • I vow not to slander.
  • I vow not to praise myself above others.
  • I vow not to be spiritually or materially avaricious.
  • I vow not to harbor ill will.
  • I vow not to disparage the Three Treasures.

The Three Treasures are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (the three things I took refuge in).

Lay Monk

Traditionally, there's lay people and monks. Monks live in monasteries and meditate a lot, while lay people live out in the world and have jobs. A lay monk is kind of in between: a lay person who still lives out in the world, but has put more commitment into their practice.

Lay monk's also get dharma names, like my teacher Bobbi's dharma name of Inryu. Your dharma name is chosen by your teacher. My full dharma name is Kansenban Myogetsu, which means Ten-Thousand-Rivers Wondrous-Moon. The Ten-Thousand-Rivers part is because I am very analytical, and taken in ten thousand rivers worth of information and distill it to a useful cup of tea. I like this, because I used to have a program at work called Firehose, as in "drinking from the fire hose." The Wondrous-Moon part is for my creativity, as evidenced by my poetry. I haven't actually been writing poetry for a while, but I do hope to get the creative juices flowing again with drawing and photography in the near future.

Normally, you don't go by your full dharma name within the sangha. Inryu is just part of my teacher's full dharma name, ShinChi Inryu (Body Wisdom Hidden Dragon). I have decided to be called "Moon" as my short dharma name.

How I Got There

First you have to sew your own rakusu, which is the blue bib-like garment that Robert and I are wearing in the above picture (see Learn to Sew for more details). It took me about two years to sew mine, I think it took Robert three. We're both on the slow side, as Chris took about a year to sew his.

In addition to that, after each sewing practice at the zendo, there would be a short discussion about the precepts. These were mainly people bringing up moral quandaries in their lives, and the group discussing what we thought the precepts had to say about that situation.

The teacher also needed to feel that you had a commitment to the practice. This is not strictly defined. At one time she said she wanted at least a five day retreat with each person, but I never did a five day retreat with her (or anyone else so far). But through talking with me and practicing with me, she had confidence that I was committed to the practice.

Final Thoughts

Some people were really excited about receiving Jukai, or the ceremony, or something. I wasn't really excited. For me it is really about the precepts, and the commitment to following them. And ever since I started working on my rakusu, I've been doing my best to follow those precepts. I was already committed, I just hadn't formally said so. And it's not like I don't think the others people working on rakusus with me weren't committed to the precepts. It was clear from the discussions that we had about the sewing practice that they were. So when I got up before them and made the commitment, I think they knew I was already committed.

I don't know. Maybe I'm missing something. And this isn't the first time I've been in a group of very emotional people and not felt anything. So maybe it's just something about me. But here I am, trying to do good, trying not to do evil, for all of you.