Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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Hair On, Hair Off

September 18, 2010 by Yugen

Jim Lakey Rev. Jim Yugen Lakey
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Tomorrow is a pretty big day for me. There are only so many milestones in a Zen career, or at least ones that are visible on the horizon from where I stand, and tomorrow I will reach a pretty hefty one - taking my monastic vows. The ceremony is called tokudo, and the handy Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions has this to say about it:

Tokudo (Jap., ‘attainment of going beyond’). The ceremony in Zen Buddhism through which a layperson is initiated into Buddhism, or a monk is ordained.

So as of tomorrow at 1:30pm, I will be entering in to the ceremonial rites from which I will emerge an ordained Zen monk. I'm excited about it. In some ways it won't make any difference to my daily life here at the Center. I get new robes, new oryoki bowls, a zagu (bowing mat) and a kesa which is the Buddhist robe that is worn across the shoulder. So I have to figure all that out. Dressing will no longer be the familiar routine that I mastered as a youngster - one leg at a time, underwear before outerwear and so on. I will now be trailing sleeves that touch the floor (although I'm pretty sure I'm meant to prevent them from doing so with clever monk tricks of some sort) and carrying a bowing mat somewhere in the volumes of cloth on my left arm. The kesa looks like the trickiest part, both the wearing of and taking on and off. Oh yeah, and I will have my head shaved. For those of you who don't know me, I am generally a fairly hirsute person, favoring the long hair and beard look over the clean cut. So if you don't recognize me any more, I will be the short fellow with the shiny head and new robes that you haven't seen around the Center before.

Externals aside, it means a lot to me to take this step. Service, sincerity and simplicity are in short the vows I will be making, and for me, these resonate within my heart.

Today is Daniel's 30th birthday. Jishin and I made him a gluten free vegan carrot cake. Welcome to California! I am vegan, and we have a few gluten free folk, so cooking for Jishin, the tenzo, is becoming increasingly difficult as every one these days seems to have allergies, or in my case, preferences. The cake was actually really good though. We adapted it from a vegan carrot cake recipe that I made Frankenstein-style from a bunch of different recipes for carrot cake in order to veganize it. Then we switched the flour for Bob's Red Mill gluten free mix and the result was better than expected. The recipe may appear in the Community Journal, a publication which goes out quarterly to Yokoji members. If that's not an incentive to become a member of the Center, I don't know what is.


  • Alasdair GF:

    18 Sep 2010 23:30:23

    All the best, Jim… Remember, photos needed of you sans hair!

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