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Thread: Taking a Zen Name

  1. #1
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Taking a Zen Name

    So I have encountered the idea of taking a new Zen name when one takes the precepts. What is the actual tradition for it? Is it something another gives to you? Or something you choose for yourself?

    I know not everyone does it. But if I take the precepts I am strongly considering doing so. Is it also tradition to actually legally change your name? Or is that also a preferrence.

    Is it something people in general should know me as? Or other buddhists and/or specifically Zen practioners use with each other?

    _/_

  2. #2

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Hi Zendave,

    The name given represents two things: it stands for what kind of person the student is, represents an aspect or quality of her or his practice, it is also a name the student is invited to grow into, a potentiality she or he may display. The name is given by the teacher. For instance, i once gave the name getko, light of the moon, to one of my students. As we were walking back to the train station at night time, the moon came out and I suddenly realized how this person was moonlike herself. When I told her, she said that another teacher already told her her true name was moon. But sometimes teachers struggle to find a name too...

    You may keep your original name or choose to be called by your Dharma name, up to you. You call Jundo Jundo, Taigu Taigu. These two are also called James and Pierre. In fact I have many other names, my monk's names are Tetsu Ten Seki Ryu which means philosophy of Heaven, Stone Dragon :roll: . These names are too big for me. I prefer Taigu, a Zen Nickname that means big fool . For my boy, I am Kumasan :P . For my beloved, Pandachan. Eventually, we don't have any name, the nameless is the most wonderful name. A Zen name is a first step into this.

    that's what I would say...


    And yes, when Buddha used to accept a disciple, hair dropped, a kesa was given and a new name. We kind of keep the tradition for, in Jukai ,we also leave home. Jukai, we forget about it so often, means leaving family life. Leaving attachment to family life, to the karmic influences we did inherit. And names, in that respect, are sometimes big burdens...So we drop them.

    Gassho


    Taigu

  3. #3

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Quote Originally Posted by ZenDave
    Is it something people in general should know me as? Or other buddhists and/or specifically Zen practioners use with each other?
    Hi.

    It's more or less up to you.
    Depending on the forum/ sangha you're with there is different "rules" regarding this.
    As you can see on this forum, some use their names some don't.
    But some people might not know who James cohen is (not the singer http://www.james-cohen.com/), but a lot know who Jundo Cohen is...

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  4. #4

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Hi,

    I just exchanged messages with Taigu, and I want to clarify something he wrote ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu

    And yes, when Buddha used to accept a disciple, hair dropped, a kesa was given and a new name. We kind of keep the tradition for, in Jukai ,we also leave home. Jukai, we forget about it so often, means leaving family life. Leaving attachment to family life, to the karmic influences we did inherit. And names, in that respect, are sometimes big burdens...So we drop them.
    In fact, and although the ceremonies are very close in content, the "Jukai" (Undertaking the Precepts Ceremony, sometimes referred to as "Lay Ordination" or "Zaike Tokudo") is not considered "home leaving" ("Shukke Tokudo" ... the traditional "monk's ordination"). So, hair is not cut and one is not ordained by Jukai. One is not traditionally deemed to be leaving home and family life. I think that Taigu got his "Zaike Tokudos" momentarily confused with his "Shukke Tokudos"

    As well, it is not typical for someone to receive or sew a full Kesa (as opposed to a Rakusu) for "Jukai" ... but some Sangha do so, and we can too.

    The only reason I mention this is that, from time to time, I have had someone write to ask if Jukai means they are now a "Zen Monk". No, it is not that. Jukai has a beauty and meaning all its own.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    I often think of Jukai as very roughly equivalent to a Catholic's first Communion. It is one's entrance to the Sangha proper, not the ascendance to a leadership role.

    Correct me as I'm sure I've oversimplified - but I struggle to explain Jukai to my non-Buddhist friends.

    Chet

  6. #6

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    some people might not know who James cohen is (not the singer.....
    Oh I think we are all more than aware of Jundos singing abilities. :x :shock: :? 8)

    I often think of Jukai as very roughly equivalent to a Catholic's first Communion. It is one's entrance to the Sangha proper, not the ascendance to a leadership role.
    I'm not sure I would regard Jukai as an entrance to the Sangha. Every member of the Sangha is the Sangha with or without it.
    It certainly shouldn't hold any weight like a stripe, badge or hat.

  7. #7

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Thanks Jundo. yes I did! and i my wrong way rightly so because I made the decision a few years ago not to differenciate anymore between Shukke and Zaike based on the realization that these days monk and lay practice should merge. But of course it is my take and not Jundo's. So guys, as long as I am with you (and it is very cosy here so it is going to be for much longer) yes, Jukai is different from Shukke.

    Jundo is right, in the West it is not typical to teceive a kesa for Jukai but in Japan, in Nyoho-e circles, it is common practice. Some of the greatest teachers of the Nyoho-e are lay peple who just received Jukai. In official temples, the Nyoho-e kesa is forbidden. Only monks can wear kesa bought in monk's shop that have the monopole of the kesa trade.. The rules are very strict and cannot be bend in official temples of the Sotoshu. For the great Sawaki Kodo, and weak bastards and rebels like me, well, the only rule is the following: the kesa is the robe of zazen. Anybody sitting can wear it.

    gassho

    Taigu

  8. #8

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    hi:

    I am waiting Jundo sensei give me a nice zen name.hehehehe....

    gassho, tony yeung :wink:

  9. #9
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Quote Originally Posted by Undo
    some people might not know who James cohen is (not the singer.....
    Oh I think we are all more than aware of Jundos singing abilities. :x :shock: :? 8)

    I often think of Jukai as very roughly equivalent to a Catholic's first Communion. It is one's entrance to the Sangha proper, not the ascendance to a leadership role.
    I'm not sure I would regard Jukai as an entrance to the Sangha. Every member of the Sangha is the Sangha with or without it.
    It certainly shouldn't hold any weight like a stripe, badge or hat.
    Oh, but you do get a fancy Zen name and a bib!

    Chet

  10. #10

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    The important thing is that we bow. The Kesa, Rakusu, and so on can mean many things, but their base is in our practice of Shikantaza, Samu, chanting, cooking, reading, and so on.


    Gassho _/_

  11. #11

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    ....by any other name...

    my name was given to me by my root teacher, my first teacher, Zengaku Soyu Matsuoka Roshi--when I took refuge. I have the calligraphy he gave me on that occasion, the wagasa was stolen from my car with all my other belongings many years ago.

    I started to use my name here, at Treeleaf because it felt closer to 'anonymous' (I had never used any screen names or blogging names--when I can be 'anonymous' that is my preference.)

    Most groups I have sat with do use zen names and I have been glad to have a dharma name all handy for such situations, but the two groups I actively sit with now do not use such names at all; there is no jukai, there is very little chanting, it's all about the sitting.

    One group is led by an ordained zen priest (ordained by Matsuoka Roshi) and when someone asked recently "and what is your lineage?" he replied "you." This is, after all the crux of lineage: what each of us does in our daily practice.

    In short: when I am with a group who don't use 'zen' names, I don't, when I am with a group who do, I do.

  12. #12

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Will,

    Thank you to remind us of everyday life and practice. The kesa is exactly this. Everyday life and practice.

    I disagree with The Kesa, Rakusu, and so on can mean many things, but their base is in our practice(...).

    Study Shobogenzo, please. Why do you think Sawaki Roshi called his Zen the school of the kesa?

    Bowing is important, so much so that words become humble and express the whole activity of bowing.

    gassho


    Taigu

  13. #13

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Thanks Jundo. yes I did! and i my wrong way rightly so because I made the decision a few years ago not to differenciate anymore between Shukke and Zaike based on the realization that these days monk and lay practice should merge. But of course it is my take and not Jundo's. So guys, as long as I am with you (and it is very cosy here so it is going to be for much longer) yes, Jukai is different from Shukke.
    Hi,

    Tell ya why I favor keeping some distinction between Shukke (Homeleaving) and Zaike (Homestaying) ... takes a bit of explainin' (if you want to jump to the conclusion, and skip the lecture, see the bottom of this post) ...

    Most Japanese lineage Buddhist priests, Zen and other sects too, have spouses and families these days. Taigu and I are no exception. First, a bit of history:

    That is unlike the situation in most of the rest of Asia. The reasons why Buddhist practice was kept behind monastery walls (and emphasized celibacy and leaving family) for thousands of years are very many, long and complicated to discuss. There are some definite benefits to Practice on that path, but also many demerits (such as the fact that the path traditionally has emphasized leaving the world, and not merely "seeing through" the world as one is living right in it! Mahayana Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism in particular, came more and more to emphasize enlightened living in this complex world of 'Samsara'). To cut to the chase ... the reasons for the monastic path (including that it was the only or best way to access Buddhist teachers, teachings and training for thousands of years, that traditional feudal societies needed to keep everyone "in their place", and that the Buddhist clergy was a protected economic "guild" for most of that time) also kept the teachings isolated in the hand of the few.

    Most Japanese Priests, in all forms of Japanese Buddhism including Zen, are married with families. That has been the case for some sects for hundreds of years (for the Zen sects for the last century). So, Japanese priests somewhat resemble the Protestant Christian clergy in that regard. As Zen came to the west, to a degree unprecedented in history, practice has come to be directed at lay persons. That is a wonderful development, I believe. My own lineage, through Nishijima Roshi, is about knocking down the barrier further. We are about bringing the teachings out into the workaday world. In that case, the "ordained" teacher should be the man or woman who has sufficient training to get up in the pulpit and lead the congregation each week, and I believe we take as a model something like the Protestant Christian clergy in the West ... a person with family, and perhaps a weekday career, but with sufficient experience and training to step into the clerical role when needed.

    Especially here at Treeleaf, I emphasize that we can practice in our families, with spouse and children, and work and ordinary life. Life is our temple! The hard borders between "ordained" and "lay" are becoming very thin ... or tumbling down.

    HOWEVER, I also believe that the person who is supposed to be the "minister" should have sufficient years of experience, commitment, calling and training (especially training in our traditions) in order to function as clergy. Simply, the person who is in the role of "teacher" should have a deep familiarity with what they are supposed to be teaching ... no different for a Zen teacher than a high school history teacher. What's more, any clergy is actually in the position of dealing with people's lives.

    So, just as in the case of Jewish Rabbis and Protestant married clergy, the emphasis should be on the training that a person receives to lead and teach. The concept of "Shukke" (Home Leaver) vs. "Zaike" (Householder) has become a matter of the heart and calling. The priest can "leave home" without "leaving home" via the views of "absolute" and "relative", dropping attachments (even as we have attachments), and by realizing that there is no "home" to leave, all while we are never apart from "home". It is a matter of dedication to teaching and service, combined (of course) with having absorbed/been absorbed into the teachings and practices of Zen ... all through proper education and "seminary" training to be a teacher, minister and counselor (because, on a daily basis, a priest will find her/himself advising people during deaths, divorces, emotional crises and other sensitive times where people turn to clergy). Yes, "Dharma Transmission" is the later ceremony and demarcation of being an authorized teacher ... but "ordination" shows to commitment to train for that (in my view).

    Here at Treeleaf, I am working on ways to train teachers, and (if appropriate) allow Transmission to certify them as authorized teachers in the coming years. I am not quite sure how to do that as yet, but I know it can be done in an appropriate way. I believe that those persons should be ordained as "Shukke", and called ministers/priests/clergy/rabbis to distinguish (same but different) their functional role.

    The Soto Zen Buddhist Association (the union of Soto Zen Buddhist Clergy in North America) and the American Zen Teachers Association (the same for Zen clergy of all traditions in North America) are working to develop certain minimum training standards for new clergy ... and I support that and their reasons for doing so. There are too many folks who are running around, often simply having received "Jukai" and with no further training, who are messing with peoples' lives claiming to be "Zen Masters" or the like.

    CONCLUSION: Although the hard borders between priest and lay are becoming sometimes paper thin, or tumbling down ... and although that is a very good thing ... there still must be something to mark those persons who have committed to the calling and career of clergy, and who have commenced to walk the road to receive the required training and experience in order to properly fulfill that role. Thus, although the ceremonies of "Jukai" and "Shukke Tokudo" are very similar in content, and although the Precepts undertaken are the same in wording ... there is a need to make clear that not everyone who has received "Jukai" is clergy.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - If I have not bored folks enough on the minutia of this, it is actually a little more complicated. There are actually three different ceremonies ... Jukai (undertaking the Precepts) Shukke Tokudo (homeleaving ordination) and Zaike Tokudo (at home ordination) ... often confused and all mixed up in peoples' minds, and from Sangha to Sangha (more on that subject here, although the linked article no longer exists) ...

    viewtopic.php?p=8917#p8917

    PPS - To make it even more complicated, the SZBA and AZTA are making distinctions between "ordained Transmitted teachers" and "lay Transmitted teachers" ... and I don't buy the distinction (but I am talked out, so won't go into details why).

  14. #14

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Thank you for all these informations Jundo!
    But I still don't really understand the differences between Jukai (taking the precepts) and Zaike (home ordination) ... :?

    However, I never realize the Zen teachers in America were a so organize and regulating association... I don't think there is something specific for Zen Buddhism in France or Belgium...

    Gassho!

    Luis

  15. #15

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Quote Originally Posted by Luis
    Thank you for all these informations Jundo!
    But I still don't really understand the differences between Jukai (taking the precepts) and Zaike (home ordination) ... :?

    However, I never realize the Zen teachers in America were a so organize and regulating association... I don't think there is something specific for Zen Buddhism in France or Belgium...

    Gassho!

    Luis
    Hi Luis,

    The difference between "Jukai" (and Zaike Tokudo "home ordination") is now ambiguous and confused even by most Zen teachers, especially in the West, and both are all mixed up in most Western Sangha as one ceremony. So, it really does not matter!! However, the description in the longer quote is about the same as the philosophy of "Jukai" at Treeleaf ...

    viewtopic.php?p=8917#p8917

    For more information on our upcoming Jukai at Treeleaf ... and more descriptions of "Jukai" by a variety of teachers ... see here ...

    viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1826

    The Soto Zen Buddhist Association and American Zen Teachers Association are good organizations, established for many reasons ...

    The SZBA is here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soto_Zen_B ... ssociation

    http://www.szba.org/cgi/teachers.php

    and the AZTA here

    http://www.americanzenteachers.org/

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    I disagree with The Kesa, Rakusu, and so on can mean many things, but their base is in our practice
    Thank you Taigu. Yes. What I actually meant by that is: we can give these things all kinds of importance, but they are based in our practice. As you may note, I gave a few examples: Chanting, Samu, and so on. They can act as "some sort of symbol" (note the emphasis) or they can be an expression of our practice. When we experience the intimacy that is Zazen, then we can have an idea of the humility that these things express. They are a direction, not a fancy looking, self important wardrobe.

    Gassho _/_

  17. #17

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    I disagree with The Kesa, Rakusu, and so on can mean many things, but their base is in our practice
    Thank you Taigu. Yes. What I actually meant by that is: we can give these things all kinds of importance, but they are based in our practice.
    The four corners of the Kesa sweep in the eight directions of the whole crazy world

    Robe of liberation, sacred field of benefaction, both form and formlessness, the Buddha's teachings in each thread ...

    ... a robe to save all senient beings.

  18. #18

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Thank you Will, yes, kesa is the robe of sitting, sitting is the marrow of the kesa. Sitting and kesa cannot be separated. And; as Jundo says, it sweeps the whole world, beyond anyhing you and me can imagine. You see, I was reading a good old verse written by one of our Chinese ancestors in the Shodoka, and looking at a beautiful calligraphy of Kobun roshi at the back of a friend's rakusu:

    And my robe is the dew, the fog, the cloud, and the mist.
    gassho

    Taigu

  19. #19

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    I used to post as "ZenYen" on a multi-faith forum, where we had a very nice online community and I learned a lot of things. Once, the topic of dharma names came up, and people explained their dharma names and how they received them.

    I complained to my online friend Chiyo that I had no dharma name and that I belonged to no "official Zen sangha" where I could get one, and she quickly pointed out that ZenYen was a perfectly good dharma name.

    I have ceased to worry about it since.

  20. #20

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    Indeed, ZenYen, nothing stops you to pick up a name for yourself. Of course, in our tradition, the name is generally given by the teacher. Sometimes teachers do change their names, the names I was given were much too big, much too important so I picked up a name which is dear to my heart, for it is the Dharma name or Ryokan but at the same time it describes pretty well the stupid guy I can be. Big fool, Taigu. Of course, n what we call original mind, which is totally different from the Christian idea based on a linear time( original has nothing to do with something at the start, prior to, before), there isn't any name or, if you wish, as many as you can dream .

    gassho

    Taigu

  21. #21

    Re: Taking a Zen Name

    When it comes to " use" of the name; at least here I use it, as does my wife in a few ways.

    She often calls me Mue-chan, and I return with a jo-chan...a typical use of chan showing affection, We use Mue, and Joshin when doing anything through the Zendo we opened here, so those who sit with us refer to us by our dharma names. When painting scrolls, I use my Hanko ( name stamp) of Mue, and sometimes on other art almost like a pen name depending on the subject/style etc...

    So It really seems to be a preference on when it's used, but I accept it just as I do my nickname of aikokutora ( mourning tiger) or my given name Andrew; and should another prefer me to use their dharma name rather than a given, I will do so as well.



    and Jundo is good with names so don't worry about that :mrgreen:

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