Report - 2018 Reflections on Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremony
May 20, 2018
Reflections on Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremony
by Ian Urquhart

I had no preconceptions entering into this experience. I have attended many retreats at DDRC, but this was the first ritual function I participated in. I had heard that this ceremony was only conducted every few years, so when I saw it listed on the website I had to go for the opportunity.

The first impression that landed had to do with its size. It was easily more than twice the size of any DDRC retreat I had attended in the past. The whole hall was filled with participants and volunteers.

Many things were similar to previous experiences. The food was still some of the best in the whole wide world. The volunteers and monastics brimming with compassion, always on hand to be of assistance whenever it was required.

Report - 2018 Reflections on Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremony

The main difference was its ritual aspect. At first, I couldn't help but smirking at all the funny little things we were being instructed to do perfectly. Put on the robe just like this. Fold it like that. Kneel, prostrate, bow in this specific manner. Face this way. Face that way. It was definitely more complicated than the other events I had been on.

After a few days I started to view it differently. It was all about respect, all about mindfulness in every little act. It was about flowing in the stream of tradition. Honoring it, being guided by it. When I thought of it from this perspective I began to take it very seriously and respectfully.

I had never thought much about the precepts before this experience. All I wanted was the wisdom and concentration of Chan. After listening to the talks and reflecting on my experiences, I began to realize that the precepts are an integral part of both wisdom and concentration. Not only are they a stabilizing influence that allows the mind to concentrate and wisdom be realized, they are interdependent. Wisdom and concentration both demand that the precepts be followed.

Report - 2018 Reflections on Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremony

In terms of practice, repentance prostrations were very powerful. I have not cried in the last four years as much as I have in the past four days. Without addressing all of my shortcomings I was not rid of them even a little bit. Even without consciously bringing them to mind, they were still there, hidden underneath the rug, mouldering. Bringing these misdeeds to full awareness, to admit that they did indeed happen, that I am responsible for them, and to genuinely accept the consequences was very powerful. I feel refreshed and cleansed after having aired my dirty laundry in front of the Buddha. I dare say that I also experienced a drop in the ocean of compassion he bears for poor deluded fools such as myself.

Not only do I feel refreshed and unburdened from my experience, but I also feel empowered. Not in the egotistical way that I would once have, but in a very grounded way. I feel affirmed in my wish to be of benefit to other sentient beings, to fulfill my vows. I will be able to use these precepts, particularly the Three Cumulative Precepts, to guide my volition, to stay on the Path and not stray. I am very grateful to all of the monastics involved, all of the volunteers, and all of my fellow participants.

Report - 2018 Reflections on Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremony