A bit over 3 years or so ago, I first came upon the works of a number of Lay Ministers that were inducted into Buddhist ministry by the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism. After some time, I connected with a then-local Lay Minister and participated in a Ti Sarana Confirmation, a Refuge ceremony, receiving the three refuges, five precepts and the dharma name Manyo or “Myriad Sun”, a reference that I recall was offered due to my appreciation for and practice of multiple spiritual traditions. Since this time, I have continued to study with Bright Dawn, first participating in a study over a few months which delved into three of the main texts studied by the organization: Everyday Suchness and The Center Within by Rev. Gyomay Kubose and Bright Dawn: Discovering Your Everyday Spirituality by Rev. Koyo Kubose. This past Sunday, I officially completed Bright Dawn’s “flagship” program, the Lay Ministry program and was inducted as a Lay Minister.
My entry into Bright Dawn’s Lay Ministry program was not fueled by a desire to become a Buddhist teacher or clergy person, especially since I am already ordained in a Christian tradition. Instead, I wanted to continue cultivating my knowledge of Buddhism and mindfulness practice. Bright Dawn welcomes all to study within it’s Lay Ministry program. The goal of the LM program is not to elevate individuals as ministers; it is to develop the individual spiritual life of practitioners, in turn sending them into the world as autonomous student-teachers, being available to others in diverse ways. Following it’s roots in Shin Buddhism, Bright Dawn blurs the divisive lines of minister-lay person or clergy-lay with it’s Lay Ministry program, a practice that was displayed in Shinran Shonin’s famous description of being “neither monk nor lay”. While some Lay Ministers go on to act as traditional clergy, others simply continue their spiritual practices unchanged.
Much has changed in my life since I first came into contact with Bright Dawn. My spiritual practice has evolved as I have developed a great appreciation for Pure Land Buddhism with a perspective fueled by contemporary ministers, scholars and other figures. My perspective towards other forms of spirituality has also taken new shape with support from teachings that I received while studying with Bright Dawn. I feel that I have also become much more self-aware, something which I thought I was already as much as I possibly could be. As I go forth in my spiritual life, I intend to be available to others howver I may be, recognizing first and foremost my role as student-teacher; while I may act as a teacher for one, I am also simultaneously learning as a student.
Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu