The Buddha Dharma Group of San Quentin held its fifth ordination ceremony April 15. Preceptor and volunteer Zen Priest Jiryu (Mark Byler Rutschman) conducted ceremonies inducting eight new Bodhisattvas.
The Zen Buddhist Lay Ordination Ceremony derives from an ancient ceremony that marked a person’s entry into monastic life. For laypeople today, the ceremony represents a way to publicly affirm a commitment to centering one’s life around benefiting others instead of pursuing self-centered desires.
“Om Homage Shakymuni Buddha” (an invocation for Buddha’s presence) was chanted by the group of inductees, consisting of seven state prisoners and one female volunteer.
“We become family today; we have become brothers and sister. It was the right time for me,” Susan Terris said.
When asked about her choice to take precepts in a men’s prison. “As we say, due to many causes and conditions, this is the right place with the right people.”
With a traditional call-and-response of bells, Jiryu led the ordination procession of new adherents to an altar adorned with statues of the Buddha and Bodhisattva Maitrea. Jiryu then symbolically cleansed the altar and chapel with a sprinkling of water.
Priestess Kanshin (Erica Grevemeyer) led the inductees into the chapel chanting “Om Homage Sakymuni Buddha.” Jiryu then welcomed celebrants to the Jukai ceremony at San Quentin.
After a ritual of purification, the inductees were given the ordination of the compassionate path of five precepts.
“We never practice alone,” Jiryu reminded the candidates seated before him and the altar. Candidates repented past karma by adhering to the three Refuges of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The group paid homage to ancestors, to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the past, present and future.
Afterwards, inductees chanted the confession “All my ancient tangled karma from beginning-less greed, hate and delusion, born through body, speech and mind, I now fully avow.”
Among the vows were promises to continue the Buddhist practice to: not kill, not take what is not given, not speak untruthfully, not misuse sexuality and not consume intoxicants.
Inductees were given Wagesa robes ( a garment worn around the neck ) along with new names. The new Bodhisattvas placed their robes on their heads and the robe chant was recited by all.
Newly ordained Bodhisattva Jeffrey McCormick has been participating in the Buddhist lifestyle for two years. He decided ordination would provide a base “to make myself a better person and to better understand the Buddhist way of life.”
Ino (assistant to the head priest) Ronnie Cooper, who is the senior student, congratulated the new Bodhisattvas.
“When Bodhisattvas are born, Buddhists all over the universe rejoice,” said visiting Priestess Furyu of Green Gulch Buddhist community.
The new Bodhisattvas are:
Wayne De France — “Leaping Beyond”
Walter Johnson — “Joyous Lamp, Living Oneness”
Susan Taret — “Luminous Effort, Mutual Liberation”
Jeff McCormick — “Gliding Phoenix, Nourishing Path”
Hung Vu — “Wisdom Peak, Boundless Refuge”
Steven Charra — “Dharma Eye, Heart Treasury”
Jesse Spinner Pi — “Wisdom Storm, Authentic Awakening”
Bruce Bowman — “Pure Vow, Dawn Liberation”