TAKING THE PRECEPTS: JUKAI AT SHASTA ABBEY
The fundamentals of Buddhist practice are meditation and keeping to the Buddhist Precepts. To have a regular meditation practice, and to do our best to follow the Precepts in everyday life, helps us to stop creating suffering for ourselves and others by being willing to change ourselves. This in turn helps us to find true compassion and wisdom, and to live in harmony with our True Nature. To do this is to live the Buddhist life.
From these Precepts come forth such a wind and fire
that all are driven into enlightenment
when the flames are fanned by the Buddha’s influence.
from Great Master Dogen’s Shushogi
If one wishes to deepen one’s commitment to the path of Buddhism, one may formally take the Precepts and thereby become a Buddhist. Here at Shasta Abbey we hold a week-long Precepts Retreat (Jukai) each year, during which those who attend take the Precepts. Very few temples in the West give the Precepts in this ancient, traditional way (sometimes called “Dai Jukai,” or “Great Precepts Retreat”), in which participants stay in the temple and focus on the Precepts for a whole week, and attend the five beautiful, profound ceremonies of Jukai, each of which shows different aspects of our training within the Precepts. There are Dharma talks and discussions on the Precepts and how to apply them to our daily life, as well as meditation and work periods, and times to rest, read and reflect on the Precepts. One can attend Jukai more than once; some people come every year in order to participate in this special retreat and renew their commitment to the Precepts.
If someone truly wishes to take the Precepts and is unable to come for the Precepts Retreat, they may ask to receive them individually at another time. It is still recommended, however, that they attend Jukai when they can in order to study the Precepts deeply, participate in the Jukai ceremonies, and experience the fullness of this retreat.
WEARING A WAGESA
When one takes Lay Ordination at Shasta Abbey one receives a Wagesa, a token kesa, symbolizing one’s commitment to the Precepts and to Buddhist practice. It is quite appropriate to wear the Wagesa when one is at the Abbey for ceremonies, during a retreat, or even when coming to do working meditation. When not wearing it, many place it in a respectful place, often on one’s altar. Instructions for Wearing and Caring for the Wagesa are given here.