Saturday, April 20th, 2013, was a momentous day in the history of Buddhism in Tasmania. At 2.30 pm the first ordination in the Chinese Ch’an* tradition took place in the Gutteridge Gardens in Wynyard on the north west coast of Tasmania.
The afternoon was warm and sunny. The setting included the gardens receding into the coastline of the Bass Strait, lined by trees and sailing boats. About thirty friends of the Buddha-heart Fellowship, including four of us who had travelled up from Hobart, gathered at the sound shell in our beautiful, natural temple to attend the ordination of Alan Piercy – Sangye Dorje by Venerable Shih Ying-Fa, Abbot of Cloudwater Zendo, the Zen Centre of Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. Cloudwater Zendo is part of the Nien-Fo Ch’an Buddhist Order combining the practice of Ch’an and Pure Land Buddhism.
The ceremony included the taking of the ten Sramanera precepts and the clothing of the novice in his five piece robe and his Kesa. He then took the Ten Vows of Bodhisattva Kuan-Shih-Yin and the ten vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.
The verse of praise, “Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhasa”, along with the Vandana were chanted in Pali and in a traditional Thai tone by the three monks. This was done in memory of the Venerable Santidhammo Bhikkhu who had supported the ordination candidate in an earlier stage of his journey and who had died in Hobart some three weeks before the ordination.
The ordinand was invited to bow to the four directions: to the East he bowed to the Bodisattva of Wisdom, Manjusri. Then he bowed to the West before the seat of Amitabha Buddha and then to the Cloud Gathered Great Assembly. Perhaps most movingly he then faced south. He gave homage to his parents, bowing to his father, his one remaining parent.
(Venerable Shih Jingang, Venerable Shih Ying-Fa and Venerable Thích Thông Pháp)
The constant refrain during this ordination was that of “Child of a Good Family”, reminiscent of the Diamond Sutra and the experience of many of us, so blessed as to be ordained into the Buddha’s Sangha. I remembered back to the moment of my own sramanera ordination when I realised that this would not have been possible without having come from a good family. It was particularly poignant, therefore, as the ordinand bowed to his father who, with the ordinand’s mother, had supported their son’s journey into the Buddha Dharma from a very early age.
Then came the great moment when the new Sramanera stood before his abbot while the Precentor said “You will now be presented with your Dharma Name, a reminder of your responsibility to the Three Treasures and to all sentient beings.” We were then presented with Tasmania’s newest Buddhist monastic, Venerable Shih Jingang.
May his life be long and happy.
May he walk the Bodhisattva Path all of his days.
May his efforts bear much fruit.
- Thích Thông Pháp
* (Zen [Jp], Soen [Korean], Thien [VN])