Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

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Laysitter
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Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Laysitter » Thu Sep 06, 2018 6:29 pm

I'd appreciate any thoughts from teachers and I'm glad I can ask this anonymously. I attend a Soto sitting group, our leader is pushing Jukai fairly hard (I think wants to see a large group lay ordained maybe more to show numbers than anything) and I am frankly feeling indifferent. I've started sewing, have expressed hesitations about going forward (those were ignored and I was told to keep going) and now have stronger hesitation. I don't doubt the path but I do strongly doubt being driven to sew fast, with a goal date in mind, for something I'm iffy about completing at all. I think that my practice and life would be just fine if I didn't receive Jukai with my very own hand-sewn rakusu, and since I've practiced for years without doing this previously, I'm not sure if I ever "need" to do it. I may also be troubled by my strong sense that the push is to show a large Jukai group just for the sake of showing a large group (and that is also why my reluctance or indifference is not being heard). What do teachers say? For the record I've encountered two attitudes towards Soto Jukai in my practice - very strong pressure to do it on the one hand (everybody on board!) and so much reluctance to give it that students are repeatedly dissuaded on the other hand. But that is 3 people in total, maybe not representative.

Thank you.

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Meido
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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Meido » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:16 pm

Laysitter, you raised several points. Could you clarify your main concern a bit?

Are you having doubts RE jukai itself (i.e. whether or not it's something you want to do, are ready for, etc.), or,

Doubts about being required to sew your own rakusu (you don't want to do it, etc.), or,

Doubts about your teacher's intentions for pushing jukai?

Or all of the above?

If the first, no need to rush or allow yourself to be rushed. If not done willingly/sincerely and with knowledge, taking refuge and precepts is not useful in any way.

If the second, sewing and wearing a rakusu for jukai is not universal. It's a thing in some corners of the Zen world, but has no bearing on the essential meaning of taking refuge and receiving lay precepts. You could talk to your teacher about it without worry.

If the third, I would ask why study under a teacher whose sincerity and intentions you question in such a basic manner? Better to take refuge inwardly and form the intention to work with the precepts on your own, and then find a teacher with whom you have connection, communication, and trust. Then later you can receive the precepts from that person if you like.
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

Laysitter
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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Laysitter » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:57 pm

Thank you, Meido. My concerns are all of the above. Maybe first and foremost, is doing something like this while feeling indifferent (and feeling pressured) the right way to do it? I think "no," personally. And I thank you for confirming my questioning working with someone who I question (and who does not listen to me). This doesn't impact my personal practice but will change, a little, how involved I am with the sitting group. Which is fine.

Bowing.

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Laysitter » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:00 pm

If I may add something that may be controversial, though I don't intend to be offensive, I am personally finding the sewing practice a touch ridiculous. It's great for those who love to sew and craft, or find it meditative, but it isn't the only way to do this, and it's a massive time commitment (and at some centers a rushed, stress-filled marathon) for an outcome I also question. So I guess I should just continue to listen to myself....

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Meido
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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Meido » Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:16 pm

You're welcome. Apologies if I came across as terse...I notice that happens when I'm rushed for time and post.

I think it really an important thing to search patiently and carefully for one's teacher...perhaps the most important thing. In the meantime of course there are things one can do in practice on one's own. But there's no need, as you have felt, to be rushed or pushed into anything (remembering, of course, that one's life is running out). I would encourage you to discuss your concerns with your current teacher, though, if you haven't yet done so completely.

RE sewing, I don't have any experience with that practice. In our place laypersons don't wear rakusu; for jukai we give nenju/juzu (beads). Of course around a temple or center many things get made by the practitioners. But as far as I know, the movement stressing sewing of one's own rakusu or kesa is mostly found in some corners of the Soto Zen world. Some info on origins here if interested (one may skip to the paper's conclusion to get the gist): https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/2849
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by fuki » Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:33 am

Laysitter wrote:
Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:00 pm
If I may add something that may be controversial, though I don't intend to be offensive, I am personally finding the sewing practice a touch ridiculous. It's great for those who love to sew and craft, or find it meditative, but it isn't the only way to do this, and it's a massive time commitment (and at some centers a rushed, stress-filled marathon) for an outcome I also question. So I guess I should just continue to listen to myself....
I can relate, there are activities in the local group which aren't "my thingy" ofcourse I appeciate the symbolism and ofcourse every active is practise, but it makes no sense to copy a behaviour or practise which isn't "productive" for you/all. It may ofcourse be so later or not, wouldn't use any words like "ridiculous" myself since it's relative and it can mean a lot for others who do practise that. As the practise is non-abiding at the sangha it doesn't matter what form of practise it is, zazen, kinhin, bowing, tea ceremony, you name it, the form of the practise doesn't change practise for me, as of such everything (or life itself) is practise, but that doesn't mean I copy those forms at home. Nor do I walk around with an idea that I don't practise them lol ;)

Listening to yourself in the way that you shouldn't feel forced to practise that which in some way isn't natural or meaningful to you is good listening, but ofcourse it's also not needed for anyone to feel opposed to certain practises, since "anti and pro" is a self-narrative dis-ease, so I wouldn't dwell on it and do anything you're not 'comfortable' with. Although 24/7 whether at center or at home it's always good to notice that all thoughts/emotions/sensations arise due to conditions and there's "no one there" behind causes and conditions. For instance can't catch sleep tonight due to a throbbing infected tooth, pain and pleasure is there where consciousness arises, and it is the "I" or the grasping mind which constantly identifies with these experiences/sensations, but to realize there is "no one" in those experiences and one's true being/nature is uncaused/unconditioned and 'prior to consciousness' then nothing in the conditioned world obstructs or is an object worth grasping, so if you'd really enjoy and be attached to sewing practise I'd advice you to give it up too! :lol: Anyhow, there are uncountable daily activities you can do/practise for sentient beings, "looking into the heart" and do what occurs naturally (whatever it is) to me has always been common sense, instead of just blindly following (Buddhist) formal practises.
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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Laysitter » Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:47 pm

Thank you for the further thoughts, Meido. I didn't read you as "terse" in a bad way (no need to say more than is necessary).

It is difficult to find a teacher. Some of this may be me - I've seen people who heard one Zen teacher, became passionately attached to that person and have never looked or listened elsewhere. That's not my style, while I'm aware that time is passing I also want to make the best fit choice that I can. I may be too picky - I have really never felt the same about one teacher I know since I learned about his long-time devotion to astrology (this is not a Japanese teacher holding traditional beliefs, this is an American who got into things in the 1960s that I find irrational).

It would be interesting to understand more about the "push" to receive precepts. Some groups really want everyone to do this (I saw that previously in a Korean Zen center). Is it the desire to convert or evangelize? As Brad Warner suggested once, a desire to increase market share? I think it is like adult confirmation in the Christian churches - it should be a meaningful personal decision, or why do it at all?

Bowing again with thanks. You have very sensible advice - too bad I am not in Wisconsin!

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KeithA
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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by KeithA » Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:57 pm

Hi Laysitter,

I believe, quite strongly, that practitioners should never even be asked to take precepts, much less feeling pressure to do so. For the record, I have seen this in my own tradition, and I have been given some minor negative feedback for having that notion.

I have even talked a couple people out of it, because I didn't think their heart was in it. It needs to be a 100 percent commitment, not a wishy-washy thing to do to be part of the group.

_/|\_
Keith
You make, you get.

New Haven Zen Center

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Meido
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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Meido » Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:11 pm

I agree with Keith.

Refuge and precepts should be explained and offered. Nothing more. It should then be left to the potential recipient to make the request of the preceptor...not the other way around.

That's not to say that one need be 100% sure, or have complete grasp of their import, before requesting them. The profundity of refuge and precepts unfolds through engaging with them. But at the very least one should proactively choose to take that step for oneself, without coercion or manipulation. In that way one establishes a beneficial link not only with the teachings but with the preceptor, lineage, and so on.
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Anders » Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:55 am

In the vinaya tradition, it would break the precepts to even speak of the dharma without being requested to do so, let alone ask someone to adopt it.

A situation where people end up feeling pushed into it does not sound in accord with the spirit of the buddha-dharma to my ears.

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Laysitter » Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:42 pm

Thank you all for the additional responses, they are appreciated.

I'll be very honest again. I like the Soto group I'm attending, but I'm seeing a dynamic here that I saw in a prior non-Soto group (that is a turnoff to me) The group founder who becomes focused more on being a leader, with followers (as many as possible), and growing the group or center as quickly as possible, and starts to run over people or impose his/her will on them strongly in order to have the largest and most successful/highly attended center possible (with as much media coverage as possible). There is a line between wanting a new Zen group to succeed and losing focus of "why" we do this. Easy human mistake, but definitely tied up in delusion. In this case, like the prior case I'd seen, getting the largest precept group possible also seems to be part of forcing growth and the appearance of growth and success quickly.

Bowing.

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by lindama » Sat Sep 08, 2018 2:52 pm

Hi Laysitter,
My two cents, follow your heart. You know. I share the concerns you have mentioned.... agree with all above. Take your time, don't be pressured.

My experience. I belonged to a sangha for over ten years. Most people took refuge within a year of arriving. I didn't. I was not moved to do so. I looked at it every year and talked it over with my teacher. He was relaxed about it and told me that he never took Jukai until he became a teacher. Another piece, before I came to zen, I was sitting dzogchen, one day I realized what refuge was. Maybe that's why I never was moved, I dunno. Can't say. That was a Rinzai hybrid, but I've known ppl in Soto Sangha and sat with them for a while. Both sanghas have sewing practice and one who led the others thru the practice. Personally, I knew if I ever took Jukai, I would buy a rakasu. Some ppl in Rinzai did, but most sewed and found it a sort of rite of passage or bonding experience. The soto group, in general, seemed to be more focused on lay jukai and priest training for many. Not my focus. Also, I've seen empire building. Not my business, I sidestep as long as I can. In terms of my practice and relationship to the sangha, jukai yeh/neh was not a factor.

best wishes
linda

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by fuki » Sat Sep 08, 2018 4:49 pm

Laysitter wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:42 pm
Thank you all for the additional responses, they are appreciated.

I'll be very honest again. I like the Soto group I'm attending, but I'm seeing a dynamic here that I saw in a prior non-Soto group (that is a turnoff to me) The group founder who becomes focused more on being a leader, with followers (as many as possible), and growing the group or center as quickly as possible, and starts to run over people or impose his/her will on them strongly in order to have the largest and most successful/highly attended center possible (with as much media coverage as possible). There is a line between wanting a new Zen group to succeed and losing focus of "why" we do this. Easy human mistake, but definitely tied up in delusion. In this case, like the prior case I'd seen, getting the largest precept group possible also seems to be part of forcing growth and the appearance of growth and success quickly.

Bowing.
Good for you, sounds like you weren't born to follow, nor care for (religious) business models.
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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 7:07 pm

I looked at the sewing instructions on the links above, was most interesting. Being a fan of sewing and darning and home workshops of various kinds, I like the DIY approach. I am curious though how much latitude is available- or perhaps the variations that are seen in workmanship and tools; eg how is imprecision in the fitup handled, and are sewing machines ever accepted? wrt the latter I get that the hand stitching is a practice in itself but I'm uncomfortable saying the use of a machine is not, at least aside from a tradition argument.

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by desert_woodworker » Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:38 pm

I sewed a rakusu and took Jukai in Apr., 1999, in a Diamond Sangha affiliate sangha (neither Soto nor Rinzai; some say, "hybrid" sangha).

I did it only after a long period of association and connection in the sangha and with the Roshi, as I had already taken the Refuges and Precepts twenty years earlier with Ch'an Master Sheng Yen.

I wanted essentially to RENEW the precepts with my new sangha, and so I felt completely ready and enthusiastic to do all that was necessary, and felt no "pressure" at all.

(I think that a supposed feeling of "pressure" is highly subjective, and that it's worth looking quite objectively at whether pressure is indeed being exerted or not, and whether one may be -- for whatever reason(s) -- reading into a benign situation where the precepts and jukai are merely being offered).

In any case, if one does not wish to participate in a current or upcoming round of Jukai, then maybe the next one?, or the one after that? Life is short, and, in light of that, and in any case, you're the Boss.

It's a free country (in some countries). And, the Buddhaway is foremost a path of ...freedom.

best, All!,

--Joe

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Aka spike » Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:27 am

desert_woodworker wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:38 pm

(I think that a supposed feeling of "pressure" is highly subjective, and that it's worth looking quite objectively at whether pressure is indeed being exerted or not
No. Feelings should not be judged objectively for the purpose of lending supposed legitimacy.
In any case, if one does not wish to participate in a current or upcoming round of Jukai, then maybe the next one?, or the one after that? Life is short, and, in light of that, and in any case, you're the Boss.

It's a free country (in some countries). And, the Buddhaway is foremost a path of ...freedom.

best, All!,

--Joe
I call b.s. Totally superfluous. No external ceremonial needed.

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Laysitter » Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:40 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:38 pm

(I think that a supposed feeling of "pressure" is highly subjective, and that it's worth looking quite objectively at whether pressure is indeed being exerted or not, and whether one may be -- for whatever reason(s) -- reading into a benign situation where the precepts and jukai are merely being offered).
Oh no, there is definitely pressure being applied for everyone who was identified as being even minimally interested to stay in the group. One fellow who does not consider himself Buddhist and may not understand what all of this means is being pushed to stay in (I can't understand why...isn't this a Zen Buddhist activity?) and hesitation or indifference from others is being disregarded. Actually, thinking of the non-Buddhist reminds me that the 16 Precepts are actually the most disregarded part of this whole process (mentioned once briefly, never again, as though not relevant). The whole group dynamic is bizarre, the more that I think of it. But as is often the case I seem to be the only person questioning and questions are taken as challenges to authority (oh well!).

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Meido » Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:55 pm

Laysitter wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:40 pm
Actually, thinking of the non-Buddhist reminds me that the 16 Precepts are actually the most disregarded part of this whole process (mentioned once briefly, never again, as though not relevant).
FWIW, use of the "16 precepts" (3 refuges + 3 pure precepts + 10 grave precepts) for the lay refuge ceremony is a Soto-specific thing. Elsewhere, taking the 3 refuges and then the 5 lay precepts is the norm.

Back to topic: i appreciate places that offer some study, classes, or lecture regarding the precepts before they are given.
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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lindama
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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by lindama » Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:54 pm

Meido wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:55 pm
Laysitter wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:40 pm
Actually, thinking of the non-Buddhist reminds me that the 16 Precepts are actually the most disregarded part of this whole process (mentioned once briefly, never again, as though not relevant).
FWIW, use of the "16 precepts" (3 refuges + 3 pure precepts + 10 grave precepts) for the lay refuge ceremony is a Soto-specific thing. Elsewhere, taking refuge and then the 5 lay precepts is the norm.

I appreciate places that offer some study, classes, or lecture regarding the precepts before they are given.
Yes,study happened in my sangha. Even tho I wasn't taking the precepts, I always went to all the meetings. There was teaching sometimes and sometimes discussion offline among the participants. I think this is fairly common, I don't know. Precepts are not commandments, thus they are broken. It's an opportunity to practice, notice. They are guidelines for healthy living on the path that is no path.

A nice thing in my sangha.... the participants re-wrote and spoke the precepts in their own words as part of the ceremony. It was a personal and most intimate way of connecting to the precepts. I've never heard of this being done elsewhere, dunno.

Laysitter:

no worries about being the odd man/woman out.... I once stood out from a group hug. :lol: Fortunately, it was not done in a spirit of rebellion.

linda

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Re: Question on Jukai (Sewing pre-Soto Precepts)

Post by Meido » Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:01 pm

Nice that such meetings were offered, Linda.

And another point RE the usefulness of some explanation or class like that being offered: aside from the surface meaning of the precepts, many Buddhist schools have unique ways of using them to point out more profound aspects of the path. Zen also is like this. Lacking that knowledge, though, it is possible to misuse the precepts, or make them into another hindrance.
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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