Instead of rushing to my usual Sunday church service, I stay home in quiet. It is freeing to break habits and allow myself to just be. I am comfortable listening to birds, wind, the pulsing of my heart, and thoughts that rise and fall. I read Clark Strand’s delicious book, Seeds From a Birch Tree, a volume of teachings about writing haiku, and also of being still, returning to nature, and practicing knowing oneself. Strand quotes Basho, a famous haiku poet, “Do not seek after the sages of the past. Seek what they sought.” I think about the qualities I seek— inner wisdom, peace, clarity, and kindness.
It has been a hectic week, filled with meetings, commuting into the City, and not much quiet time. A close friend has invited me to her Jukai ceremony, a lay ordination marking three years she has studied Buddhist precepts and sewn a miniature Buddha’s robe, the Rakasu. She is my second friend to make this spiritual commitment, and because I missed the other ceremony, I am eager to attend this one.
I have not been to Green Gulch in many years, and I drive the curving road of Shoreline Highway to reach the humble buildings beneath groves of eucalyptus trees. I arrive, park, and walk down the one-lane asphalt road, following the sound of a gong echoing through the air. I slip off my sandals and carefully set them on a shelf, entering the zendo. People sit on black cotton mats, and in chairs. In the center, black-robed teachers and students, with heads closely shorn and solemn faces look towards a tall table with two Buddha statues, glowing lanterns, and a vase of bluebells, roses, and ferns.
We stand as the four initiates walk single file into the zendo, hands folded at their chests. Bowing before their teacher, ritual upon ritual unfolds and I close my eyes, becoming very present. A blessing is spoken, a confession, statements of purification, and then each student receives the rakasu. It is a marvel.
I inhale the first five precepts: “I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from harming living beings…from taking things not freely given…from sexual misconduct…from false speech…from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.”
I hear the word renunciation and it shakes within me as a reminder that I have all I need, and I can feel completely satisfied with releasing the temporal. I recognize that I have been clinging to the idea that I need something or someone more than me and the silence of peace. As the ceremony ends, I am full of compassion for life, and this journey of finding what I seek inside the love of my being.