Call me "Jigen" or Ordination for Dummies

Preparing to Receive the Precepts

I just returned from the Five Mountain Spring 2009 retreat last night. As always, the three hour time difference to Ohio whooped me well and good but I and others managed to survive well enough.

While on the retreat, we did a bit of sitting and walking meditation and quite a bit of one on one interviewing with Rev. Paul Lynch or “Dochong, JDPSN,” who is a Zen teacher in the lineage of Sŭngsan (Seung Sahn) and the spiritual director of the Five Mountain Sangha. These interviews focused on any number of Dharma questions but mostly on koan practice. As I have mentioned previously here, I have no background in koan study, so this was a completely new practice for me. I found it both amazing interesting and engaging and also frustrating at the same time. All in all, I feel that I got more out of attending this very short retreat than I have on any number of other retreats, including much longer ones. Koans are very immediate and I feel that Dochong, JDPSN is an excellent teacher. I’d recommend studying with him to anyone interested in Buddhism, Zen, Koans or simply awakening. He’s also a fairly funny guy and I really appreciated his ability to laugh with and at us during the retreat. (Ask me sometime about the OTHER group of Zen practitioners that we shared a meal space with one day of the retreat. A more dour bunch of practitioners, I have never seen…).

While I was at the retreat, I was ordained and received the 16 precepts from Dochong, JDPSN. I had, in 2006, gone through a Jukai ceremony in a Japanese manner and received the five precepts as a lay householder but this was my confirmation as a Buddhist priest. Sŭngsan’s lineage of practice does things in a manner similar to most of the Japanese schools in that we receive precepts (including the Bodhisattva Precepts for some, such as my immediate teacher, Rev. Jiun Foster), rather than taking on the Vinaya for ordination. We are almost all householders as well as dedicated practitioners, living in the world as Mahayana practitioners.

My ordination name of use is the Japanese one, which is “Jigen,” meaning “Eye of Compassion.” In Korean, it is “Jăan” and is written in Chinese characters as “慈眼”. I am very happy to have gone through ordination and realize that it is the beginning of a long road, not the end. I was also happy to witness the ordination of my Dharma-brother, Peyton, as “Jiho” (慈法), and to see the confirmation of Rev. Jiun as a Bodhisattva Priest and a Senior Teacher within the Five Mountain Sangha.

Group Photo!

I did put up a number of photos taken with my camera during the retreat on Flickr. They are a mix of the mundane, silly, and serious. I expect that there will be more later as Rev. Jiun’s wife was nice enough to come out with her nice camera to take photos during the ordination.