I believe in the power of balance between man and nature based on our accountability to the world we live in. My focus on ancient paths of Zen and Tao combined with my business knowledge brings old and new wisdom together for desired harmony.

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Shukke Tokudo: The Ceremony to Become a Zen Monk
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Explained: Shukke Tokudo

The term “Shukke Tokudo” translates to “Homeleaving Ordination”. It is the name for the ceremony to become a Zen monk. In our Zen lineage, living in a monastery is not mandatory. It is about living your life in the spirit of a Zen monk. We view the entire world as our monastery. When I became a Zen monk, it wasn’t just I who entered; rather, everyone else entered ‘my monastery’.

The decision to become a Zen monk is not a lightly matter. It involves contemplating on e.g. why one would like to become a monk and how that would work out in daily life, a deep exploration of the soul. As Zen master Dōgen Zenji wisely stated, “To study the way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self.” By embracing this path, one emphasizes the art of letting go, the essence of homelessness in the truest sense.

Don’t sell your house

For me, becoming a Zen monk isn’t about becoming homeless by selling your house or leaving your partner or family. It’s a profound journey that invites you to abandon the mental dwelling place we often call the ego. Imagine your ego as a home, a construct of ideas, illusions, attachments, and convictions. When life feels tough, we tend to retreat into this inner house, closing our metaphorical windows and doors. Shukke Tokudo is an invitation to take a courageous step: leave that mental house behind. It’s not so much about homelessness in the material sense, but rather homelessness of the spirit.

Okesa

During the ceremony, one receives a monastic outfit, including inner and outer robes (Kuromo), a belt (Shiken), a Buddhist robe (Okesa), a bowing cloth (Zagu), and eating bowls (Oryoki). For me, sewing my own Okesa was a significant part of becoming a Zen monk. It was a journey that took many hours of sewing, sitting at the kitchen table. It taught me soft and gentle discipline and revealed how much I truly desired this path. It’s about embracing both the beautiful and imperfect aspects, accepting the whole.

A mirror of life

During the creation of my Okesa, I encountered moments of grace, where my stitches flowed smoothly, resulting in beautiful work. Yet, there were also challenging times when my efforts appeared messy and less than ideal. The decision to keep or undo became a familiar dilemma. After investing significant time, attachment inevitably crept in. Much like life, this process mirrors the delicate balance of finding a middle way.

I recall sitting at the table, immersed in my ‘state of sewing.’ Afternoons were my refuge from daily work, and during those hours, my children returned from school, and my partner arrived home. Initially, it felt awkward for my kids to bring friends over, but gradually, they grew accustomed to it. We’d sit together, sipping tea, sharing our day’s experiences. A cherished memory.

Unsui

I also delved into the history of the Okesa and connected with others who had taken the same step. Their perspectives enriched my understanding of its meaning, and their way of being an “Unsui”. After the Shukke Tokudo, one becomes an “Unsui,” which translates to “cloud-water”. A very beautiful name to emphasize the transformation away from the ego, emphasizing responsiveness to the situation. The term embodies the free-floating spirit of clouds and the fluidity of water in their practice.