Taking Precepts

Jukai / Taking the Precepts in the ceremony of Jukai (Refuge)

Words from Roshi Susan regarding Jukai.


Jukai is a kind of marriage of your own heart to the Way of waking up.  The Precepts are a bit like koans – they accompany you a way that is intimate and not always comfortable, but even the discomfort brings life much more alive.  They prompt us to keep our hearts more open and honest, to notice what we do and how it ripples out into others, to keep our own inventory (rather than the more usual move of keeping everyone else’s), and to discover the moral and ethical call on ourselves that comes with becoming a little more awake.

Wake up to yourself!’ was an old disgruntled piece of excellent advice that parents used to hurl at their teenage children (usually missing them by a mile). Worth seriously exploring, now that it’s safe to do so!

With Jukai, we agree to take that offer seriously, and let it shape how we might live more aware of the way we place our feet with care in this tender world.

We also agree to make this commitment publicly, to hear ourselves speaking aloud our own distinctive way of taking up each precept in the company of friends and companions of the Way. Your path is your own to find, but you are not making a secret of it, and you take refuge in an ancient tradition that upholds and supports you as much as you uphold it.

Jukai usually takes place in the context of sesshin. Spring Sesshin 2016 or Autumn Sesshin 2017 are possible times for a Jukai ceremony to be held.

The Jukai process involves:

  • clearly letting me know of your interest;
  • beginning a three month on-line discussion process that gradually moves through each of the vows as you find your way to make them your own;
  • sewing your own rakasu (you will be given the pattern and instructions);
  • and finally, together with me, divining what will become your Dharma name, a name worn quietly on the inside of the rakasu, next to your heart when you practice. A dharma name is something to grow into.

A koan we all work with in the Miscellaneous Collection says that if you are a person who has started to genuinely awaken, then ‘such a person is sitting on top of a needle’.  We discover a lot about that koan, and the point of a needle, in the process of discovery that is preparation for Jukai – and I don’t mean just the close encounters of the needle kind that may (and will) happen in the making of the rakasu!

It is a fascinating process – one of bringing your own most intimate contract with yourself gradually out into the open:  firstly in terms of your own self-scrutiny and discovery; and then before the people in the ceremony itself, friends and relatives, who all go through the process with you, and receive you proudly at the end.  As with a marriage ceremony, the ceremony itself enlarges everybody present.

Let me know if this seems to be calling you. The jukai preparation process would begin in July and conclude in October with Spring Sesshin, or else in late January, 2016, working towards Autumn Sesshin.



Roshi Susan

Please use the form below to Roshi Susan regarding Jukai. This form is confidential and the message will only be seen by Roshi and you.

Jukai Application

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