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Commitment to the Path…

Photo courtesy of Taso Papadakis –

A personal day to share. Last Sunday at Blue Heron Zen Center in Seattle, myself and 5 other Zen practitioners took what are called the Five Precepts. They are five foundational vows of not only Zen, but life in general – in a nutshell… to not take life, to not steal, to not lie, to not abuse intoxicants, to not give in to lust. Taking the Five Precepts in ceremony shows one’s dedication to the training, to your teachers, to your sangha (community). It acknowledges a desire to deepen one’s experience of awakening, and to relieve my own suffering and that of all beings. Finally, its a formal step in teaching… and there are fewer things I enjoy more than sharing meditation and the dharma with others.

The ceremony was led by Zen Master Ji Bong and Ji-Do-Poep-Sa-Nim Tim Colohan the morning after a 2-day retreat. We were surrounded by friends (including six of my closest) and family of those taking Precepts that day, as well as other teachers and members of the zen community. The main meditation hall more warm and brilliant than usual that day. All were sitting on zafus (cushions) and offering their support to the six of us. We bowed, chanted, and lit incense… A LOT of incense. Then we were called up individually to receive our certificate, kasa (additional layer to our robes), and buddhist name. I received the name Won Shim, meaning Original Mind… denoting the mind before our busy thinking, that which is still and clear, before the water is muddied. It reminds me of one of my favorite Taoist concepts… the Uncarved Block, like Winnie the Pooh (for those of you who have read The Tao of Pooh). In other words, simply, the mind that of a newborn baby. Attaining this name, this mind, is a moment-to-moment journey…

At the end, JDPSN Tim and Zen Master Ji Bong each gave heartfelt dharma talks recounting their early-on experiences discovering zen, taking precepts, and walking the path of teaching. It occurred to me just how filled up I have felt by only 7 years of Zen training, let alone Tim’s 25 years or Zen Master Ji Bong’s 40 years. Of course, I know it will unfold in its own unique way for me, as it already has… I just have to continue to show up!

Even though I took my first step along the Zen path seven years ago, this was something else… something more intentional… more reciprocal. I have been given so much, this was a formal gesture of giving back in gratitude. This one ordinary morning, was a small token of thanks to those who first put me along the Zen path years ago – Justin and Tara (who were also there this morning), Reb and Marcia. Thank you. And to my incredible teachers currently – Zen Master Seung Sahn, Zen Master Ji Bong, JDPSN Tim, Eric, Anita, Greg, JDPSN Jeff (we missed you) and the entire Blue Heron Zen Community, thank you.

In the end, even with a certificate, fancy new robe/kasa, and new name… nothing special, nothing extraordinary. I still get up at 5:50am to meditate, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, practice acupuncture, bow, chant, sleep – in the hopes of liberating myself and all beings from suffering for all eternity… which actually only exists right here, right now! I find that somewhat comforting, don’t you?!

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