Lay Ordination Ceremony
===== Awakening the Archive - Tape #25, by Shundo David Haye =====
This tape, which is unfortunately very poorly recorded, gives us a sense of the lay ordination ceremony that took place at City Center in August 1970. During the re-mastering of the archive in the 1990s, this short recording was placed between two other recorded priest ordination ceremonies from the same year, and so was overlooked.There was also some confusion over the date: the tape had been dated 7/23, and the photographs of the day labeled as 8/25, but the actual date was apparently included on the back of the ordinands' rakusus.
This was the first lay ordination that Suzuki Roshi had conducted since 1962 – although he had ordained a number of his senior disciples as priests over the years -- and there was one further lay ordination the following summer, before his death that December.
As he said in the first talk from the sesshin which preceded the ceremony by a few weeks, he was ordaining students who had been practicing for three years. And he says during this tape, "we have so many students here, inside and outside of Zen Center, we need more help." (7:12)
Suzuki Roshi was due to leave for Japan a couple of days after this talk, on what turned out to be his final visit to his home country. On the 25th he gave another talk, in which he outlined how he would give dharma transmission while he was there to Richard Baker, his designated successor, also as part of helping Zen Center be established as an American Zen practice place.
A part of this talk was transcribed for the next issue of the Wind Bell (p9), an issue which described many aspects of life at the new Page Street building; much of the rest of what he said is hard to make out. As he had spoken about during the sesshin talks on the precepts, the important thing is for the students to say "Hai!" or "Yes, I will!" In this way they can help others, as he needed them to, and ideally without having any ideas about helping: "Just to be with people will be enough." (13:14)
He speaks of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, who appears in whatever form is needed, and gives some concrete examples for the practitioners of Zen Center, which had just moved into a neighborhood that had a significant African-American population:
"When people are like snow, we should be like snow. When people become black, we should be black. And being always with them, without any idea of discrimination, and we can help others in its true sense, without giving anything-- any special teaching or material. This is actually bodhisattva way." (09:30)
Sunday, August 23, 1970
[Zen Center records indicate that this lay ordination was performed on August 23, 1970. Among the 36 ordainees were Carl Bielefeldt, DC, Katherine Thanas, Jerome Peterson, and Yvonne Rand. The original tape was labeled 7/23/70, but August is correct, confirmed on the back of DC's rakusu in SR's own hand.]
[Sound Problem: Tape operator (possibly Yvonne Rand): First part of Suzuki's address here is inaudible on the original tape.]
David Chadwick's notes
Source: Original tape transcribed by Bill Redican (28 June 2000). The second part of this lecture was printed in an edited form in Wind Bell, Fall-Winter 1970-71, Vol. IX, No. 3-4, p. 9-11.
Tape operator (possibly Yvonne Rand): First part of Suzuki's address here is inaudible on the original tape.
-- and obtain (?) similar to usual [1 word unclear] according to [1 word unclear] like all of the usual bodhisattva vows (?). All of the usual (?) bodhisattva spirit. [3-4 words unclear] of our practice. And how you, you know, actually practice may be [1-2]. You say “Hai!” That is the point of practice. When you say “Hai,” you are one with your “Hai.” One with your Zen. One with your teacher (?). And one with your spirit (?).
So when you say "Hai!", or when you say “Yes, I will!”, then there is true mind of helping, you know. And if you cannot say “Hai!” from the bottom of heart, with all of your strength, that practice doesn't work.
[1-2 words unclear] because of your various (?) [1-2 words unclear], when we start with true practice of “Yes, I will!”, that is the fundamental practice of bodhisattva. And to have complete, perfect understanding of how important it is to say “Hai” is your whole life's practice.
[Inkin bell rings twice. Tape recorder is stopped and restarted after an unknown period. Then kaishaku clappers are struck three times.]
SR: If you want to be [1-2] and practicing our  precepts, you should start with pure practice of confession. There are two ways and two meanings in the Buddhist way of confession. However, you have the way for confession transmitted from the Buddha through the patriarchs to you. Reciting after my words:
[Clappers struck once.]
Suzuki (chanting): All the karma ever created by me--
All ordainees (chanting): -- since of old, on account of greed, anger, and self-delusion, which has no beginning, born of my body, speech, and thought -- [Tape recorder was stopped and restarted after an unknown interval.]
SR: -- and pure intellect and -- and pure heart (?). This ordination ceremony is new and old (?). This is actually the second time -- second ordination ceremony for Zen Center, because while we didn't have lay ordination ceremony [2-3] because I didn't want to give you some special idea of lay Buddhist (?). Bodhisattva way -- according to bodhisattva teaching, every-- actually every sentient being is bodhisattva. Whether or not they are aware of it, they are actually disciples of the Buddha. As this is our conviction, we didn't -- I didn't want to give you some special idea of lay Buddhist. But time has come for us to strive for more sincerely to help others.
As we have so many students here, inside and outside of Zen Center, we need more help. And I decided to have lay ordination for you just to help others, but not to give you some special idea of lay Buddhist, because all of us are Buddhists actually. This is not some different (?) idea. This is the idea or spirit for [2-3 words] Buddha's way.
Accordingly, our way is like Avalokitesvara Buddha -- Bodhisattva. When he want to save ladies, he take -- he will take the form of lady. For boys, he will take form of boy. For fishermen, he will be a fisherman. More sophisticated Chinese expression is “to be like white bird in the snow.” White bird in the snow. When people are like snow, we should be like snow. When people become black, we should be black. And being always with them, without any idea of discrimination, and we can help others in its true sense, without giving anything-- any special teaching or material. This is actually bodhisattva way.
We are -- how we actually -- this kind of freedom from everything and this kind of attitude (?) -- this kind of soft-minded -- this is true practice already. You may think we are forcing you to some form -- forcing some rituals on you, or forcing some special teaching on you, and forcing you that you will say, “Yes, I will!” But those things are provided for you just to be like a white bird in the snow.
When you go through your practice, you will -- practice zazen in every day(?), you have point of zazen, the point of practice and point of helping others. This is why we had ordination ceremony today.
For all of us, included -- including various great teachers, it is not at all easy to be like white bird in the snow. Somehow, anyway, we should make best effort to be like a white bird. No matter if previous teacher passed (?).
In this way, if you help yourself through practice, you -- you can help others without anything. Just to be with people will be enough.
So I am so grateful to have this kind of very, very formal ordination ceremony. Without the guidance of Yoshimura (?), who came to visit Zen Center -- and who came just to visit Zen Center -- just to help -- help our practice. This is -- this kind of very formal ordination ceremony here at Zen Center.
After sewing your robe, in spite of busy everyday life you live, I think this is also good example of the Buddha. So even [though] we are busy, there is a way to practice the most formal practice. Even though humans-- all human being in the city are busy, there is no reason why they cannot practice our way to be like bodhisattvas in the city (?). If all of us practice pure way and good example (?) and practice our way and doing our practice of bodhisattva, the result will be great.
Thank you very much.