Ordination

2013 Summer Ordination Ceremony
In the Japanese Zen tradition, dedicated lay practitioners may decide to take bodhisattva vows through the lay ordination (jukai) ceremony. Jukai is appropriate for those who feel called to make a formal, outward commitment to their deepening Zen practice.

Those who are ordained affirm their commitment to the bodhisattva vows (or Four Great Vows).
The Four Great Vows
Beings are innumerable; I vow to save them all.
Delusions are interminable; I vow to drop them all.
Dharma gates are endless; I vow to pass through them all.
Buddha way, however long, I vow to follow through.
Broken pine needle design on the neck-piece of a rakusu.
These vows--clearly impossible to keep perfectly--blast any notion of attaining a spiritual future goal, of practicing to become something other than who we are or to create some circumstance other than the circumstance we have been given. Zen, after all, is practice without goal, and mushotoku (without notion of personal gain) is the heart of this practice.

Considering these vows not as goals but as pointers toward the present moment--toward the person or the delusion or the gate we are practicing with now--can lead to a humble, everyday, do-what-needs-to-be-done-at-this-moment attitude characteristic of the Zen path. 

In addition to affirming the Four Vows, ordainees further commit to the Ten Precepts of Buddhism:
The Ten Precepts
    1. Not to kill
    2. Not to steal
    3. Not to lead a lustful life
    4. Not to lie
    5. Not to abuse food or drink
    6. Not to criticize or gossip
    7. Not to deceive yourself with your speech
    8. Not to cling, be greedy, or desire too much
    9. Not to become angry
    10. Not to disparage the Three Treasures.
    These precepts, though at best expressed imperfectly in daily living (we harm creatures, for instance, every time we drive to the store or till our garden), are always expressed perfectly during zazen. We embody the precepts every time we sit.
      Crafting the Rakusu

      Linen rakusu.
      The rakusu, or mini-kesa, is a small garment worn around the neck by one who has taken vows. A sangha member who wishes to take lay ordination is encouraged to create a rakusu of his or her own.

      The method of creating this garment is rooted in the Buddhism of antiquity and has been handed down from master to master to the present day. Our sangha follows directions transmitted by Master Taisen Deshimaru (1914-1982) to his disciples and recorded in The Kesa Book:
      "I received the wonderful transmitted method of making the kesa from my Master Kodo Sawaki. ... I have trained my disciples and transmitted the kesa to them, ... and this transmission is perpetuated, unchanged." - Master Taisen Deshimaru
      For the bodhisattva who feels called to craft his or her own rakusu, the experience can become a meaningful part of daily practice. Every stitch becomes an opportunity to practice presence, every seam an expression of perfection in imperfection. Sangha members experienced in sewing the rakusu will be happy to offer assistance and advice at every stage of the process.

      Our practice of the precepts is perhaps well-represented by the stitch-work on the front panel of our rakusu: we try our best to sew our seams straight, to bring the needle up in line with the previous stitch, to space each point evenly with its neighbors, and yet our efforts are imperfect and variable: a stitch disappears or appears in an odd place, and we must make a decision then and there: to re-do or leave-off. Each step, each decision, becomes a part of the story of our journey to the present moment.
      Building a Rakusu: A Pictorial
      Pochette stitch-work.
      Though crafting a rakusu for ordination is encouraged, it is not a requirement; for those who wish to forgo the process, the fellowship can help procure a rakusu made by a member of the immediate or extended sangha.

      Once ordained, bodhisattvas are encouraged to wear their rakusus during group and individual practice. They will also join in the chanting of the Kesa Sutra (translated here) at the end of group zazen:
      Kesa Sutra
      How great the robe of liberation,
      A formless field of merit;
      Wrapping ourselves in Buddha's teaching,
      We free all beings.
      Testimonies
      Bodhi Ryoji