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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
SPRING 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 19 SEND YOUR QUESTIONS BY MAIL OR TO TEACHERS@THEBUDDHADHARMA.COM ZENKEI BLANCHE HARTMAN: Early in my practice I surely thought that being ordained was more special than being an ordinary layperson, but as I look back, I think that I was projecting that specialness onto the ordained practitio- ners. Certainly, Suzuki Roshi never made me feel that there was something essential missing from my lay practice. He encouraged us to see buddha in everyone, and I felt that he even saw buddha in me. And in the Zen tradition there are several very famous lay practitioners in the literature, for example Vimalakirti and Layman Pang and his daughter. My immediate and simple answer to your question is, “No, there is not an impenetrable ceiling over laypeople with regard to libera- tion.” That said, receiving the monastic pre- cepts in a solemn ceremony in the presence of your sangha and family members is certainly a great support for committed practice. You are taking vows in their presence, much as we do in weddings, saying, “This is how I want to live my life. Please help and support me to keep these vows.” In our tradition we may receive the sixteen bodhisattva precepts as a layperson in a cer- emony called jukai (literally “receiving pre- cepts”) or zaike tokudo, which translates as “remaining at home and attaining the Way.” The ceremony (with the same sixteen pre- cepts) for monastics is called shukke tokudo, which means “leaving home and attaining the Way.” For home-leavers there is the addi- tion of shaving the head, which is symbolic of renunciation, and receiving priest’s robes and bowls. Lay practitioners receive a smaller version of the robe, called a rakusu. For some years now in our tradition, a number of the fully ordained priests (those who have completed their formal training and ZENKEI BLANCHE HARTMAN is former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center GESHE TENZIN WANGYAL RINPOCHE is a lineage holder of the Bön Dzogchen tradition of Tibet NARAYAN LIEBENSON GRADY is a guiding teacher at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center There seems to exist an unstated, though powerful, suggestion that one must become a monk or nun to attain enlightenment. I sense this especially in the Theravada tradition, and have seen it in this magazine and elsewhere roughly stated by various monastics who maintain that the whole point of monasticism is to display and preserve the human ideal that all practitioners should strive toward. They seem to imply that while meditation and other practices can help a layperson suffer less, a layperson is inherently spiritually inferior because his or her life cannot be free of attachment. So my question is this: Is there truly an impenetrable ceiling over laypeople with regard to liberation? Must you necessarily abandon your familial obligations to find complete liberation? (LEFT-RIGHT):BARBARAWENGER,JANINEGULDENER,MARYLANG ASK THE TEACHERS Q