The Anatomy of an Online Jukai Ceremony

Jukai just got digital. Jundo Cohen of Treeleaf Zendo is trailblazing in the art of online Dharma.

What is Jukai? This is an ancient Zen ceremony where a Buddhist student receives the precepts and takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. It usually involves sewing a rakusu, a traditional Zen garment that my non-Buddhist friends have lovingly taken to calling a “Buddha bib,” and getting a Buddhist name from the teacher. It has that satisfying gravitas we’re all looking for in a religious ceremony.

Jundo Cohen, ordained in the Soto Zen tradition under Zen Master Gudo Wafu Nishijima, created Treeleaf Zendo over 2 years ago and brought interested practitioners a serious online sangha experience. Complete with samu (work practice), sanzen (video chat meetings with the teacher) and a forum for communication among members, the sangha has grown steadily. Now, a small group of us have joined Jundo in his latest experiment of an online Jukai ceremony.

Not that calling it an “experiment” should in any way imply that Jundo or his students aren’t taking the requirements seriously. Over several months, Jukai hopefuls are studying a wide selection of readings, primarily guided by Robert Aiken’s The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics and also including essays from many other Zen teachers. Participants are even sewing the rakusu, guided by a very detailed set of instructional sewing videos with Rev. Taigu created especially for this unique online ceremony.

So how exactly did Jundo do it?

Skype for direct video communication
Treeleaf video zendo for group meditation and retreats
Google Video for the rakusu sewing instructions
Treeleaf forums for precepts study

Other materials:
– Various sewing materials (fabric, thread, etc.)
– Robert Aiken’s The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics
– Various online readings
– The good ol’ meditation cushion

Loose schedule:
– Prep period of gathering materials, ordering the book
– General discussion of Jukai and the Three Refuges
– Week by week study of the 10 precepts (not to kill, lie, steal, self-aggrandize, defame others, misuse sex, misuse intoxicants, become wrongfully angered, to be generous, and to honor awareness, learning and community) with metta “intermission” week
– Simultaneous sewing of the rakusu while studying the precepts
– Weekend Rohatsu retreat (Dec. 6-7)
– Online Jukai with Jundo

We’re still not sure how the live online Jukai is going to work out, but that’s part of the beauty of it. The expansion of online Dharma proves again and again that you can seek out and learn from the teaching that best benefits you, not just the teaching next door.

5 Responses to “The Anatomy of an Online Jukai Ceremony”

  1. […] Check out the full blog post with more details on this via this link. […]

  2. Interesting post. This digital Jukai- thing feels a little bit of strange. How can a teacher give the Precepts via internet? Hmm…

    Great blog!

    Thank you.

    With palms together,

  3. […] Dharmacore discusses the online jukai of Treeleaf Zendo, and the irrepressible Danny Fisher reports on the Dalai Lama: His Holiness will step down if Tibet is granted autonomy. […]

  4. One small correction: Jukai is found in many sects of Japanese Buddhism, and elsewhere in Chinese Buddhism. It’s just the 10 Bodhisattva Precepts from the Brahma Net Sutra, which are common throughout East Asia, so various groups observe them in some ceremony or another. 😉

    Even the term ‘jukai’ is found in Shingon Buddhism, Tendai Buddhism, Jodo Shu Buddhism and other such. Zen is an offshoot of Tendai in its organization, hence it inherited the terms and ceremony.

    Too much info, apologies, but just wanted to clarify that.


  5. Ju – to receive Kai – the precepts.

    Technically, any precept ceremony can be called a “Jukai” in Japanese. While it’s become standard to use the term Jukai for householder precepts in Western Zen, it might be more technically correct to use the term Zaike Tokudo (householder ordination), to differentiate from the clerical Shukke Tokudo (home-leaving ordination).

    In any case, I think this is a fabulous idea! I’ve been a fan of Jundo’s for some time now, and what makes this really groundbreaking is that it’s being done by a serious teacher, and not frivolously. Jundo’s pulling the dharma into the 21st century, kicking and screaming (the Dharma, or Jundo? You decide!).

    Wonderful, wonderful!

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