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Public Ordination Ceremony

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by Sangharakshita

... impermanence is the first real step on the spiritual path.

And then of course the offering of the light, in this case the candle, representing the light of wisdom shining in the mid st of the d arkne ss of the w orld.

And finally the stick o f incense repre senting the fragra nce litera lly of the go od life a s it sprea ds in all direc tions influe ncing in a po sitive ma nner a ll of those with who m it com es into c ontac t.

And of course yo u notice the flow er is white, a s is the can dle, an d that ha s its own sig nificanc e, white representing purity.

There is a passage in one of the sutras where the Buddha says, Just as a perfectly clean white cloth takes the dye, you know, immediately, so in the case of someone of purified mind, he takes the dye so to speak of the teaching imme diately. In that way Insight arises.

So whenever one make s these three traditional offerings, whether today or on any other future occasion, one should reflect o n their sign ificance you kn ow in this m anne r. Th ey should ne ver b eco me m ere as it were form alities.

[bre ak!] No w follow some verse s which give ex press ion to th e gene ral significa nce o f the cere mon y, so I'm g oing to ask all those being ordained just to repeat these words after me.

Bo wing b efore the B udd ha, I pu rify my bo dy.

Chanting the sacred mantras, I purify my speech.

Silently meditating, I purify my mind.

So once again there's an emphasis on purification, because when body, speech and mind have been thorough ly purified, they becom e the bod y, speech and mind of the B uddha , you could say, the three ka yas.

Th en co mes the ordination p rop er, that is to sa y, the G oing F or R efuge, the Ta king o f the T en P recep ts.

But before that, as everybody is aware, there comes something which is also important, and that is the requ est. On e has to ask, be cause the go ing for re fuge is wh at you w ant to d o. So you ask in these P ali words, repeating altogether.

[tape 2 breaks here near the beginning of the following word] Aham Bhante, tisaranena, saha, dharmachari - samvara - silam dhammam yacami. Anugaham katva silam [tape 1 breaks here in the middle of the following word] detha me B hante W hich m eans, B hante, I w ish to take the T hree R efuges together with the Dha rmac hari or dinatio n vow s.

Kindly give them to me, Bhante.

Then I say Yamaham vadami tam vadetha.

W hich means, Repeat whatever I say. And they all say, Ama, Bhante Then follow the Refuges and Precepts preceded b y the Salutation to the Buddha. We salute the Buddha before taking the Refuges and Precepts as an expression of gratitude, inasmuch as it is from the Buddha that this who le traditio n of G oing F or R efuge, taking the Precep ts, prac tising the D harm a, com es do wn.

(Refuges) Th en at this p oint co mes a question. I say, Tisaranagamanam sampunnam? Which means, Are the Three Refuges complete? Have you gone for Refuge fully and sincerely? And you say, Ama Bhante.

The n follow the Pre cepts.

(Ten Precepts in Pali in negative form) Then come some verses which represent, not a literal translation of the Ten Precepts, but their inner mea ning, their spirit as it were, or w hat on e will be really trying to prac tise or o bserv e as an Ord er M emb er.

So just repeat these words also after me.

(Ten Precepts in English in positive form) Th en I say, Tissaranena saha dharmachari - samvara - silam dhammam sadhukam surakkhitam katva appamadena sampadetha.

W hich m eans, H aving w ell observed the T hree R efuges and th e Dharm acha ri ord ination v ows, w ith mind fulness, strive on. A ppa mad ena sa mpa detha . Acco rding to the P ali Can on, the Buddh a's last wo rds.

Ap pam ade na, with m indfulne ss, with awa reness, in the full sense of the te rm, Sa mpa detha , which litera lly means Strive Thou. Or, with mindfulness, strive. As if the Buddha, on the eve of his Parinirvana, wanted to summarise his whole teaching in just these two words. As if to say, if only you remain mindful all the time, mindful in body, speeech and mind, from minute to minute, which isn't easy as everybody knows, and if you co ntinue to make an effor t, even if you mak e a mista ke, nev er mind, co ntinue to make an effor t; if you fall down, pick yourself up, carry on, continue to make an effort, never give up, never give in, if you can ju st prac tise these tw o things , rema ining co nstantly aw are an d alwa ys mak ing an e ffort, then su ccess is assured, you'll get there in the end, perhaps sooner rather than later.

So that's the main part of the ordination, but there are still a few things left. And as you will have noticed there has been this emphasis on purification all the way through and it's even reflected in a sartorial manner to som e exten t one m ight say.

So what follows now continues the emphasis, because I'm going to ask each of the ordinees to come forward one by one and receive a few drops of water on the crown of the head, the symbol of which probably is obvious. In Indian tradition the crown of the head represents the highest part of one's being, not only literally but metaphorically. It's that highest part of one's being where one contacts the Dharma, where one, one might say literally, contacts the Dharma. And just as having contacted the Dharma that influence of the D harm a spre ads thr ough out o ne's who le bein g, in the sam e way having re ceived so to spea k the few drops of w ater o n the cro wn of o ne's hea d, the w hole b eing gra dually beco mes p urified.

So this is what it rep resents, what it symb olises. It's also reflected one m ight say in the Vajrasattva M ula Yoga, with which some of you must be familiar.

So I'll ask ...(?) to come forward one by one and receive the few drops of water.

All right, we still haven't finished because I believe there's something underneath here! And o nce again o f course the em phasis on p urity and purification. And on either side of the kesa of course you ca n see the emb lem o f the Order. I don 't know whethe r everybod y unde rstand s exac tly what it represents, but we have of course the Three Jewels. The yellow jewel is the Buddha, the blue jewel is the Dharma and the red jewel is the Sangha. And they rest on a pure white moon mat representing the purified mind, which in turn rests on a red lotus flower, the lotus flower of the heart, also the red lotus flower of Am itabha , the B udd ha of the W est. And the T hree J ewels e mit flame s. They're blazing, a s it were.

They're blazing and they're destroying the darkness of the world, not only destroying the darkness but burn ing up so to sp eak a ll the imp urities with w hich the y com e into contac t.

So I'm go ing to ask now the O rder M embe rs, as they are, to come fo rward o ne by one . And of co urse acco rding to trad ition, if one wants to be ve ry strict, then it's at the mom ent that the kesa is p ut roun d on e's neck or in the case o f bhikku ordination th e belt, tha t one b eco mes in a ll senses, in the full sense o f bod y, speech and mind, ordained.

And of course Ord er Mem bers wear their kesas on all suitable occasions, for puja, meditation, taking a class, giving a lecture, whenever it seems suitable.

At first O rder M emb ers, new Ord er M emb ers I mean, fee l a little self conscious for a few minute s, but I believe you very quickly get used to it and it's as though you've been wearing your kesa for hundreds of years.

Perhaps I should also explain that kesa is a Japanese corruption of the Sanskrit word Kashaya (?) which mea ns simp ly the rob e, it's a sort o f abb reviate d robe, o ne mig ht say.

Also perh aps I sh ould mentio n that I'm sure at this v ery mo men t Ord er M emb ers and mitras and frien ds all over the world are thinking of us. I believe the information about the ordinations, both private and public, was relayed to all the different Centres last week, so they all will have been mentally following events here at Il Convento with very keen interest, and will be I'm sure keenly awaiting certain information.

I'm afra id kesa s com e all in the sa me size! W e'll have to give so me tho ught to th at! W ell we haven't quite finished, there's still one or two items to be gone throu gh and first of all of course there's the question of the names. Each new O rder Mem ber of course received a name at the time of the private ordination and at this stage in the proceedings we usually announce the names and give a general idea a bou t its significance. So let me go throug h the list.

The former, or ex-Derek Goodman becomes Sasanaratna. Now Sasana's a new one. Sasana is a quite an important Buddhist term. I think I have spoken about it more than once in the course of seminars. Sasana mea ns the wh ole tea ching o f the B udd ha, the w hole m ovemen t if you like set in m otion by the B udd ha in its as it were m ore p ractica l even o rganisa tional as pec t. Tho ugh it isn't a litera l translation `mo vem ent' would actually be quite good. The Buddhasasana is the Buddha's movement, the Buddha's spiritual movement. Literally it comes from a root meaning to direct, or even to announce, or to lay down like laying down a law, but the literal meaning doesn't really help us very much here. It's what the Budd ha proclaims and it's the following of that proclamation, it's all those who follow it and every way in which they follow it, in other words as I've said the B uddha 's spiritual moveme nt. So Sasana ratna mean s not just that that movement itself is a ratna which of course it is, it's something infinitely precious, but that the person bearing that name is so to ...

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