Author Topic: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools  (Read 753 times)

Offline Empty13

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Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« on: July 15, 2018, 03:37:29 pm »
Greetings!

I have had a connection with Buddhism for quite some time, around 13 years, since I was about 16. I have wanted to take refuge vows formally though for the past year since my practice has picked up substantially since I got sober. I now practice with basically two and a half different Sanghas now, and do so daily. This is where my question comes in.

So I first started practicing about a year ago with the local Zen center, which is Soto and under Dainin Katagiri's lineage, affiliated with a monastery and very prominent Zen centers in the Midwest US. The monk who I has considered my informal teacher recommended I take a while to explore the other schools before I formally take refuge in Soto Zen, which after a while of deeply exploring the other traditions, I am half glad and half stressed out due to said exploration. XD

I have practiced pretty extensively with the local Tibetan center, and even practiced with a traveling lama which was a fantastic experience. I thought of going to them for refuge, but after exploring some of the subtlties within the Tibetan schools, I decided it wouldn't be a good fit. I also have explored teachers of the Therevadan school quite extensively, listening to over 100 hours worth of dhamma talks from the likes of Bhikku Bodhi, Ajahn Sumedo, and my favorite, Thanissaro Bhikku. I also have tailored my zazen practice with teachings by these wonderful vipassana teachers and have benefited highly by exploring their teachings. I live about 4-5 hours away from any vipassana centers though, so I have only really explored this remotely, aside from the local Thich Nhat Hahn school, which is the school a close dharma brother of mine is in. I enjoy Thich Naht Hahn quite a lot, as he is one of the few Mahayana teachers I have heard that deeply explore the Pali canon and other sutras, as opposed to the Soto Zen style of Dogen and wordless transmission.

So, basically I love practicing with my friends in the Soto school, and even lead a meditation and sutra study at the local Zen center once a week. But, I deeply identify with the Thai practices and such, even though I haven't had a chance to practice with any in this lineage! I do plan on going to a meditation retreat soon, but I don't know if I will be able to get away for a ten day retreat any time soon, especially as far away as a lot of the centers are.

So, any input? I chant Pali homage mantras daily, have a daily meditation practice, and am heavily involved in the Buddhist community, but haven't even taken vows formally!! I really want to, but am worried if I "settle" for the Soto school, I won't be as satisfied with the practice, and if I try to go more with the Therevada school I don't have anything nearby and would have to practice essentially remotely. I do really enjoy the Thich Nhat Hahn school, but feel like his students are either a bit more casual than I generally prefer/benefit from.

I don't think any of the schools are objectively better than the other, only that I could benefit from one more than the others. If distance was not an issue, I would more than likely just go to the Thai or Sir Lankan or Burmese teachers. But it is an issue, and the Soto monk who I practice with does work with more than just Dogen's material, which is my main issue with Soto other than the zazen practice.

I apologize how scattered this is and hard to read. My thoughts on this are a bit hard to organize. My other question would be if anyone knows of somewhere online that does remote teaching/refuge/precepts. I haven't looked hard on that, so apologies if that info is somewhere on this site. Any and all input is welcome, and thanks in advance!

With metta!  :dharma:  :namaste:

Offline Chaz

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2018, 05:09:55 pm »
Greetings!

I have had a connection with Buddhism for quite some time, around 13 years, since I was about 16. I have wanted to take refuge vows formally though for the past year since my practice has picked up substantially since I got sober. I now practice with basically two and a half different Sanghas now, and do so daily. This is where my question comes in.

So I first started practicing about a year ago with the local Zen center, which is Soto and under Dainin Katagiri's lineage, affiliated with a monastery and very prominent Zen centers in the Midwest US. The monk who I has considered my informal teacher recommended I take a while to explore the other schools before I formally take refuge in Soto Zen, which after a while of deeply exploring the other traditions, I am half glad and half stressed out due to said exploration. XD

I have practiced pretty extensively with the local Tibetan center, and even practiced with a traveling lama which was a fantastic experience. I thought of going to them for refuge, but after exploring some of the subtlties within the Tibetan schools, I decided it wouldn't be a good fit. I also have explored teachers of the Therevadan school quite extensively, listening to over 100 hours worth of dhamma talks from the likes of Bhikku Bodhi, Ajahn Sumedo, and my favorite, Thanissaro Bhikku. I also have tailored my zazen practice with teachings by these wonderful vipassana teachers and have benefited highly by exploring their teachings. I live about 4-5 hours away from any vipassana centers though, so I have only really explored this remotely, aside from the local Thich Nhat Hahn school, which is the school a close dharma brother of mine is in. I enjoy Thich Naht Hahn quite a lot, as he is one of the few Mahayana teachers I have heard that deeply explore the Pali canon and other sutras, as opposed to the Soto Zen style of Dogen and wordless transmission.

So, basically I love practicing with my friends in the Soto school, and even lead a meditation and sutra study at the local Zen center once a week. But, I deeply identify with the Thai practices and such, even though I haven't had a chance to practice with any in this lineage! I do plan on going to a meditation retreat soon, but I don't know if I will be able to get away for a ten day retreat any time soon, especially as far away as a lot of the centers are.

So, any input? I chant Pali homage mantras daily, have a daily meditation practice, and am heavily involved in the Buddhist community, but haven't even taken vows formally!! I really want to, but am worried if I "settle" for the Soto school, I won't be as satisfied with the practice, and if I try to go more with the Therevada school I don't have anything nearby and would have to practice essentially remotely. I do really enjoy the Thich Nhat Hahn school, but feel like his students are either a bit more casual than I generally prefer/benefit from.

I don't think any of the schools are objectively better than the other, only that I could benefit from one more than the others. If distance was not an issue, I would more than likely just go to the Thai or Sir Lankan or Burmese teachers. But it is an issue, and the Soto monk who I practice with does work with more than just Dogen's material, which is my main issue with Soto other than the zazen practice.

I apologize how scattered this is and hard to read. My thoughts on this are a bit hard to organize. My other question would be if anyone knows of somewhere online that does remote teaching/refuge/precepts. I haven't looked hard on that, so apologies if that info is somewhere on this site. Any and all input is welcome, and thanks in advance!

With metta!  :dharma:  :namaste:

Interesting read.

Based on what you wrote I see no compelling reason for you to be considering reguge at this time.  Refuge is important, but a ceremony isn't.  Your practice is far more important. 

Offline Dairy Lama

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2018, 06:27:00 am »
I apologize how scattered this is and hard to read. My thoughts on this are a bit hard to organize. My other question would be if anyone knows of somewhere online that does remote teaching/refuge/precepts. I haven't looked hard on that, so apologies if that info is somewhere on this site. Any and all input is welcome, and thanks in advance!

I used to chant the refuges daily, see here for example: https://thebuddhistcentre.com/system/files/groups/files/Refuges%20and%20Precepts.pdf

There is no need to do a formal ceremony, particularly if you're involved in several Buddhist schools. 
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream"

Offline Empty13

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2018, 04:07:05 pm »
Thanks for the responses!

I have been reassured both by students and by my Zen monk friend that the refuge ceremony is not as important as my actual practice, which is daily and I also do use Pali homage chants and refuge prayers daily with my meditation practice, and have set up a small altar also. I have a very low income as I am in the process of going back to school so I hodge-podged one together, but it ended up quite nice!! :)

I don't know exactly why I feel like I need to take the vows formally; maybe it's a psychological thing, or it's simply my pride in my spirituality or some other hang up, which I would be better to do away with either way... I guess I will continue to take things as they come. Right now I am more worried about being able to go on retreat soon, as I definitely could use it!

Thanks again, and any input is always appreciated!

:dharma:

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2018, 08:40:44 am »
Hello Empty13,
 
You said
Quote
I don't know exactly why I feel like I need to take the vows formally; maybe it's a psychological thing, or it's simply my pride in my spirituality or some other hang up, which I would be better to do away with either way
There are a some of us zen types who eschew ceremonial taking of vows, devotion, altars and such, but if you have sincere feeling for that direction please don't let other people's opinions get in the way of what is a beautiful and valid path. That might be why your Soto teacher suggested you investigate different ways. Soto is into repetition and ritual, but is otherwise pretty stripped down to just sitting zazen.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Gibbon

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2018, 12:41:50 pm »
It is nice to have a formal refuge ceremony once you are sure you are going to be following the Buddhist path.  Because it is all the same refuge (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), I don't think it matters much which school you take it with initially.  In any case, you take refuge every day as you practice, and your understanding of it deepens as more time passes. 

Offline Pixie

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2018, 04:25:06 am »
It is nice to have a formal refuge ceremony once you are sure you are going to be following the Buddhist path.  Because it is all the same refuge (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), I don't think it matters much which school you take it with initially.  In any case, you take refuge every day as you practice, and your understanding of it deepens as more time passes.


It isn't all the same refuge. In Tibetan Buddhism one takes refuge in the Lama, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Lama comes first.

This is an excellent article "Buddha, Dharma, Sangha" by Ajahn Sumedho of the Theravada Thai Forest Tradition:

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma2/bds.html


_/|\_
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline Pixie

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2018, 04:35:00 am »
Deleted. (double post)
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline Gibbon

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2018, 08:56:40 am »
It is nice to have a formal refuge ceremony once you are sure you are going to be following the Buddhist path.  Because it is all the same refuge (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), I don't think it matters much which school you take it with initially.  In any case, you take refuge every day as you practice, and your understanding of it deepens as more time passes.


It isn't all the same refuge. In Tibetan Buddhism one takes refuge in the Lama, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Lama comes first.



If one continues on the Tibetan Buddhist path, eventually one will take refuge in the Lama, too.  But the initial refuge ceremony (outer refuge) does not include that.

Here are some articles on refuge from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective:

http://www.fpmt-ldc.org/pdf/refuge.pdf

https://fpmt.org/mandala/archives/mandala-issues-for-2006/june/which-vows-are-which-a-beginners-guide/


Offline Pixie

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2018, 12:17:04 pm »
Quote from: Gibbon
If one continues on the Tibetan Buddhist path, eventually one will take refuge in the Lama, too.  But the initial refuge ceremony (outer refuge) does not include that.

No, that isn't correct in my own experience. In the Vajrayana Refuge ceremony I took part in years ago, I was a beginner, together with some other students who were also beginners.  A Tibetan tulku directed the proceedings and the main part of the liturgy we repeated after the lama was :

LAMA LA CHAB SU CHIO (I take refuge in the Lama),

SAN JAY LA CHAB SU CHIO (I take refuge in the Buddha),

CHU LA CHAB SU CHIO (I take refuge in the Dharma)

GEN DUN LA CHAB SU CHIO. (I take refuge in the Sangha).


Vajrayana practitioners also take refuge in all the gurus, yidams and protectors of their lineage.


_/|\_

« Last Edit: July 19, 2018, 12:18:56 am by Pixie »
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline Gibbon

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2018, 09:06:13 am »
Hi Pixie,

That's interesting, I took refuge formally two times (when first becoming a Buddhist and later when I felt it was a good time to renew my vows).  The preceptor was, in each case, a fully ordained monk and the ceremony just had the usual refuge in the Triple Gem and the five lay vows.  It was the ceremony described on the Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron website:

https://thubtenchodron.org/2007/08/spiritual-practice-for-life/

and the text of the actual refuge is:

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains the five precepts.

However, when I took it the first time the monk recited the Heart Sutra, which is a Mahayana text.  It's probably good to find out exactly what the ceremony is before going through with it.

To go back to the original question, I think that an official ceremony to mark becoming a Buddhist is really beneficial.  It is usually taken from an ordained person who has dedicated his/her life to the path, and indicates the level of our commitment to it.  Don't see it at all as a pride or ego thing, provided one is ready to commit to Buddhist practice.

I really think that it doesn't matter which school you take it with, people switch all the time and do they really take refuge over again as their old one was not valid?!  Either you are a Buddhist (someone who has taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) or you are not.

Namaste,

Gibbon

Offline Empty13

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2018, 11:48:47 am »
Yes I have spoken to my Tibetan friends about their refuge and precept ceremony and they take refuge in 9 things, including the sambogakaya, dharmakaya, and nirmanakya. It is very different. Also, in Zen or at least the Soto Zen here in my area, they take the Bodhisattva precepts, which are 16 in number, and include things like not slandering etc. Honestly what it comes down to is simply which path I feel is best for me personally, which as I explore Vipassana meditation more and more, I feel it to be more free form than zazen and actually a bit deeper.

I practice Buddhism because I feel it allows me to dis-identify with the skandhas and in turn relieve myself from suffering, and also allows me to help others with decreasing their suffering. So, I do think some more discussion with my Zen teacher once she gets back will be in order, and also to reach out to the Vipassana teachers in the Midwest, which are few and far between, sadly. Maybe I'll make a post in the Theravada forum asking about teachers and stuff; too bad I can't just go to Thailand or Sri Lanka for a few years :P

Thank you guys much for this discussion!! I greatly appreciate the input. Zafrogzen, I do notice more reitual with the Soto people, but without said ritual there is almost laser focus on zazen, with some philisophical discussion to round it out, though even that is very loose and free form, almost without a lot of grounding in the sutras. I know Dogen said that zazen is the total dharma gate "to repose and bliss" but it seems like it is very hit and miss with how much Zen practitioners are into the actual teachings of the Buddha. One woman even told me after going over the Kamma-vibhanga Sutta that she got into Zen to get away from things like right and wrong or being told what to do. 0.0 I mentioned that the teachings gave me concrete reasons to act in virtue etc. but I don't think she saw my point lol.

Gibbon, it sounds like you took refuge without the precepts, which seems to be common. I think some preceptors do them separately and some put them as one lay-ordination in some or all cases. And yes, I agree that the formality is almost just for either others sake, or to make one feel "official." I take refuge and pay homage on a daily basis, but formally I simply never have. I think also it matters in regards to linage and teacher, at least to some teachers. If they are going to take you on as a student formally, they want you to take things seriously, so have you go through the formal process. It is what it is I suppose. :)

Pixie, thank you for your input from the Tibetan tradition! I always enjoy doing mantra practice with the local Tibetan sangha. As you have stated though, they are very particular with the way they go about things, and I just haven't felt that taking them as my formal teachers is a great fit for me personally.

Again thanks for the input, and great discussion! Always enjoy inter-tradition discussion on topics such as this!

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2018, 02:16:01 pm »
Zafrogzen, I do notice more reitual with the Soto people, but without said ritual there is almost laser focus on zazen, with some philisophical discussion to round it out, though even that is very loose and free form, almost without a lot of grounding in the sutras. I know Dogen said that zazen is the total dharma gate "to repose and bliss" but it seems like it is very hit and miss with how much Zen practitioners are into the actual teachings of the Buddha. One woman even told me after going over the Kamma-vibhanga Sutta that she got into Zen to get away from things like right and wrong or being told what to do. 0.0 I mentioned that the teachings gave me concrete reasons to act in virtue etc. but I don't think she saw my point lol.

Yes, zen is not into reading about practice so much as doing it. There’s very little direction in Soto Zen, other than how to sit zazen, which can leave some folks feeling adrift. The words ascribed to Bodhidharma, the semi-mythical founder, pretty much sum it up.

A special transmission outside the scriptures
Not founded upon words and letters;
Pointing directly to the Mind,
Seeing its true nature and attaining Buddhahood.

That said, I see nothing wrong with reading the Sutras. When I started out there wasn’t much available. Now there’s such a plethora of different books and teachings that I imagine it must be difficult to settle on one practice. If nothing else, your experience with Soto Zen will have shown you the correct meditation posture and given you a taste of "just sitting." Whatever path you choose, you should find that invaluable later on.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2018, 02:18:16 pm by zafrogzen »
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Chaz

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Re: Looking for input on refuge and precepts between schools
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2018, 04:21:27 pm »
I practice in the Kagyu lineage.  I wasn't introduced to what we call the 5-Fold Refuge (Guru/Lineage Teachers, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, Yidams, Protectors), until I begn my Ngondro practice.

When I took Refuge it was in the Three Gems (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha).  There was no additional refuge for my Bodhisattva Vows.

 


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