This is a dharma glimpse that I originallyed presented on 5/24/2020 as a participant in the Lay Ministry Program of the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism.
This month marks two years since I participated in a Ti Sarana Confirmation Ceremony with a Bright Dawn Lay Minister, Levi Shinyo Sensei. I initially stumbled upon Sensei through Bright Dawn’s Lay Minister directory and found that at the time he and my wife were attending the same university. After a period of dialogue and my expressing the desire to participate in a Ti Sarana Ceremony, Levi, my wife and I gathered early on a Sunday morning in the meditation/holistic shop space owned by a friend of his who I later learned is also a Bright Dawn Lay Minister.
The Ceremony itself was quite simple. It involved a brief period of meditation, reciting refuges in the three treasures, five lay precepts, a short dharma talk, a symbolic hair cutting/shaving, the giving of my Dharma name, Manyo (Myriad Sun), along with a few other verses interspersed throughout the service. While the ceremony was wonderful and is among my favorite memories of my Buddhist practice thus far, I have come to recognize over time that my past participation in this ceremony, which is often equated to the baptism of Christianity, is not what “makes” me a Buddhist.
Who is a Buddhist? It is often said that a Buddhist is one who takes refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. How do we do this? Is it participation in a Refuge, Jukai, Ti Sarana, etc. Ceremony? While these ceremonies and other ritualistic practices are part of the lives of many Buddhists (including myself) I don’t think this is the exclusively the case. From my perspective, I feel that the first time we “take refuge” is when we begin to strive to integrate the teachings into our lives in some way which we find meaningful. Perhaps this means our adopting a meditation or chanting practice, gradually making a change in diet, studying the teachings through sutras or other books, among other different practices. To me, participation in a class or discussion like this one is another act of taking refuge.
As we go forward this week, let us each ponder what we feel “makes” each of us a Buddhist. Let us consider what practices or actions we feel are expressions of us seeking guidance in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.