Jukai is a personal and public commitment to aspire to lead your life in keeping with the sixteen precepts that form the basis of the Soto Zen practice tradition of which StoneWater Zen sangha is a part.
The Sixteen Precepts
Our tradition and lineage maintains a set of sixteen precepts for lay students. This format originates with the founder of Soto Zen, Dogen Zenji, though the precepts themselves are older, with the Ten Grave Precepts originally laid out in the Brahma Net Sutra.
Unlike some traditional religious contexts, these don't form a set of laws or commandments that you might be punished for breaking. They are more of collection of guidelines to living one's life as a follower of the dharma, as a Zen practitioner.
If you decide to do jukai, you will have a chance to study these precepts in greater detail and will be able to ask the teacher about any concerns you might have.
The 3 Refuges
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha
The Three Pure Precepts
Do not create evil
Actualize good for others
The Ten Grave Precepts
Affirm life – Do not kill
Be giving – Do not steal
Honor the body – Do not misuse sexuality
Manifest truth – Do not lie
Proceed clearly – Do not cloud the mind
See the perfection – Do not speak of others errors and faults
Realize self and other as one – Do not elevate the self and blame others
Give generously – Do not be withholding
Actualize harmony – Do not be angry
Experience the intimacy of things – Do not defile the Three Treasures
The precepts are usually taken at the end of a sesshin (traditional meditation retreat) in a ceremony attended by the sangha and any family and friends who you want to attend. The ceremony is a public declaration of your intention to follow the dharma and maintain the precepts. During the ceremony, the preceptor will ask you to repeat the 16 precepts, you will be handed your rakusu and you given your dharma name.
Eligibility for Jukai
Jukai is given to those who have shown a certain degree of commitment to the practice, for example by turning up regularly to sit with the sangha or, if you don't live near a group, by attending sesshins and zazenkai. If you would like to take jukai, you must discuss this with Sensei. Generally, you must also be able to attend a sesshin at which the jukai ceremony will take place.
Preparing for Jukai
Our sangha does not have a formal 'jukai curriculum' that needs to be studied, but you will be encouraged to read around the issues of precepts and commitment to zen practice (some materials are provided). If you have questions, the teacher is of course available in the usual ways (interviews etc.) to discuss any issues that you want clarified.
Sewing your rakusu
Our tradition, like many western schools, holds that students sew their own rakusus in preparation for their jukai ceremony. The rakusu looks sort of like a patchwork bib, which represents the original robe of the Buddha. The origins of the rakusu are not entirely clear (see this article for some interesting background, or check Wikipedia), and the tradition of sewing your own rakusu - rather than buying one - is far more common in the West than in Japan.
Here are some resources for sewing your rakusu:
Instructions for sewing the rakusu (PDF document). Download & print out!
A series of videos by Soto Zen priest Rev. Taigu of the Treeleaf Zendo on making a rakusu (note that he is making a slightly different version of the rakusu): Part one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
If you find other online resources, please let us know!
It is not necessary to purchase robes for your jukai ceremony, though it's certainly an option. Our sangha wear robes of the sort supplied by, among others, ZabuZabu.net, and most students will wear a kimono (both white and coloured versions acceptable) fastened with an obi, under a lay meditation robe fastened with a cloth belt or cord shiken. The rakusu goes over the top of everything else. (Monks, priests and teachers have slightly different robes: they will wear a looser, larger-sleeved koromo instead of the lay robe with a kesa over the left shoulder and around the body, rather than the rakusu.)
Some students may choose to take monastic vows in the shukke tokudo ceremony. This often includes spending a period of time resident in a monastery and an overt commitment to supporting the sangha. If you want to know more, speak with Sensei.