Ceremonies and Vows
Like all other forms of dharma, also Open Heart has ceremonies and vows. These are simple in form yet have profound effect and meaning for the practitioners.
Usually on the final day of residential retreats, there will be a Refuge Ceremony, including Bodhisattva Vows. This is a profound spiritual ceremony, empowerment of sorts, where one commits to the path of dharma in general, and to Open Heart path in particular. This commitment should not be made too early. One needs to be reasonable (1), emotionally ready (2) as well as have first hand experience of the benefits of the method (3), to take refuge and vows of a bodhisattva. If you do not yet meet these three requirements, keep practicing and consider it later, refuge ceremonies are held a few times per year on residential retreats. If you do feel like taking refuge and Bodhisattva Vows, discuss it with your teacher before the event. If at a later stage you no longer feel attracted to Open Heart, you can and should stop doing the learned tantric practices and pursue your path elsewhere with confidence.
During the ceremony Five Refuges will be chanted together by all present. Depending how many join the ceremony, it typically lasts 30-60 minutes. Those taking refuge bow in front of the altar one by one. They pay respects to the guru, meditate and make prayers for about 1-2 minutes. After this, teacher cuts a bit of one's hair, as is commonly done, and says prayers on behalf of the refugees.
I take refuge in the Guru
I take refuge in His Pure Land
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha
I am the Guru
I'm in the Pure Land
I am the Buddha
I am the Dharma
I am the Sangha
Refuge Ceremony also includes Bodhisattva Vows. Bodhisattva Vows are taken by all mahayana buddhist practitioners whose primary motivation is to attain buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. This is the motivation of all mahayana and vajrayana practitioners. Taking this vow makes a strong impact on the subconscious mind. Setting one's motivation in this manner, makes one's path swift and direct.
I vow to liberate, all sentient beings.
I vow to end all, self-based confusion.
I vow to exercise, the dharma that frees.
I vow to attain, the complete perfection!
All who feel ready and meet the requirements, are welcome to take Refuge.
Lay Ordination Ceremony
After one has practiced Open Heart-teachings with a teacher for a period of time, has joined several courses and retreats, one may find her- or himself feeling committed to our lineage. At this point one may consider becoming an ordained lay student.
Someone who wants to become ordained needs to have established a long-term, personal and working relationship with a teacher. One will have developed a deep conviction that Open Heart is an effective and transformative practice that they want to do for the rest of their lives, and is a rich tradition worth preserving. One will have personally experienced the value of working with a teacher, which is an essential part of our tradition, and feel trust for, and connection to, the teacher with whom they want to become a student. One also will feel deep gratitude and responsibility for the sangha, or community of practitioners.
When someone undergoes the Lay Ordination Ceremony, they formalize the teacher-student relationship, their connection to the lineage, and their commitment to serve and support the sangha. It is understood that the commitments of a lay person will determine the form of this service and support, which may include volunteer time, regular participation in events, study, and taking on ceremonial or administrative roles (such as serving as a board member). It is also possible that a lay student will primarily support the sangha financially, because most of their time and energy is devoted to practice “in the world” with family, career, or other kinds of service. If ordained student’s life circumstances change and they have to move away from their teacher’s sangha, it is possible for them to start a new local group sharing the teachings and practices with others.
Lay ordination is not a required step for members of the sangha. In fact, you should only consider this step if it feels inspiring and right for you. You can participate fully in our practice without taking any vows, including working closely with a teacher.
In the ceremony, the disciple receives a simple buddhist robe, a shawl of dark red colour. The robe makes the ordained student visible in the sangha – not to indicate rank in any way, but to indicate a willingness to serve and to continually deepen his or her practice. Inevitably, a disciple becomes a representative of the lineage both in the sangha and in the wider world, so she or he has an added responsibility to act ethically and compassionately. This may sound like a tall order, but it is consistent with all Buddhist vows, including the precepts and the bodhisattva vows – we take the vows in order to give our lives context and structure.
Requirements for Lay Ordination
Preparing for Lay Ordination
The main way to prepare for ordination is one's study and practice over a lengthy period of time. One should also deeply reflect the Lay Ordination Ceremony and its vows beforehand.
Have the robe ready for the ceremony. Do not use the robe before the ceremony.