Not a week into the new year, an interesting group of people gathered at the Vancouver Buddhist Temple. We gathered at VBT from across Canada and
points in California to focus on the process of Tokudo Ordination. Tokudo Ordination is a ceremony that takes place at our Head Temple, Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto, Japan. When one has performed the rights, one is considered a formal student of the Nembutsu Teachings. It is also considered to be the first formal
step of training to become a minister in the Jodo Shinshu tradition. But before one is allowed to participate in this ceremony, one must endure an 11 day training (I have also heard it referred to as a "testing") period that takes place in another "training temple". From January 5 to 8, 2012, Vancouver Buddhist Temple was a place that facilitated the giving and receiving of instruction regarding the Tokudo.
As I understand it, there had not been an occasion in the history of our organization for a group of Tokudo aspirants to gather. But currently in the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada, there are six of us working towards the opportunity of receiving the Tokudo Ordination. We aspirants could not have asked for better instructors than the Senseis who were recruited that weekend. Under the leadership of Socho Grant Ikuta, and Rev. Tatsuya Aoki, a programme was created to bring us together to learn many of the spects of what we‘ll experience in Japan. Of course,
Socho Ikuta and Rev. Aoki, as Kaikyoshi (Over-seas Resident Ministers), instructed us in the technical details of the things we need to know for the ordination process. As Minister‘s Assistants here in the temples in the Lower Mainland, Senseis Roy Akune and Bob Akune were unmatched sources of information on the practical aspects of ordination and being Minister‘s Assistants. For Sensei Bob, who was the instructor who had most recently been through the ordination process, just over a year ago, the memories must have been still fresh in his mind. Everything was covered, from how to wear the robes, what things we must memorize, to how
many pairs of tabi (traditional Japanese socks) and hakue (white under-robes) we should pack for the 11 days.
One of the most surprising things for me, was that we were to be wearing the fuho (Black Robe) and hakue, for the weekend. Wearing the robe and underlying layers affected how I sat during a lesson, how I breathed during chanting, and even how I took fluids for the weekend. When one is instructed to take the layers off whenever we make a trip to the washroom, it makes one really consider, "Do I really need this second cup of coffee…?"
Another instructor for the weekend was Rev. Peter Inokoji-Kim from the Sacramento Betsuin. His wealth of information was only surpassed by his exuberant enthusiasm for sharing with us aspirants the things he had learned and experienced during his ordination. I will take away from his lessons, his suggestions on getting through the rigorous 11 days of training in Japan: teamwork and mindfulness. Pay attention to what‘s going on around you, and help each other out! His words certainly made an impact on everyone; from getting to the temple on time every morning, to the Ho-onko Service we led at Fraser Valley Buddhist Temple, and participating in the
VBT Ho-onko Service, we tried to help each other as best we could.
An interesting aspect of the weekend was that everyone, teachers and aspirants alike, was given the opportunity to share our relationship with Jodo Shinshu. Most of us talked about how we encountered Jodo Shinshu, why we are working towards Tokudo, and our future paths within the organization. Just as we are all unique individuals, we all have very different relationships with Jodo Shinshu. Some of us grew up in the tradition, some of us encountered it only a few years ago. While all of us had different stories to tell, the one thing that was common to each of our stories was our encounters with each of our Sanghas. We come from temples across Canada and the US, and we all described our sangha members as warm, friendly, and welcoming. What a wonderful testament to Jodo Shinshu and its followers. For each of us, being able to go through the Tokudo Ordination will mark the first of a varying number of steps towards Jodo Shinshu Ministry.
No matter where our paths started, nor what our end-goals might be, we are grateful for the conditions that allowed all of our paths to merge for one weekend at the Vancouver Buddhist Temple and experience the care and generosity of the Senseis and the Sangha. Namo Amida Butsu. ~ J.Y.