Membership is open to all interested. Please contact Tendai Buddhist Institute or a sangha near you to learn more.
Refuge is the ceremony where one formally becomes a Buddhist. Refuge is not the culmination of study or of a process; it is the beginning. It is not necessary to be Buddhist to be enlightened and moral. Nor is it necessary to take refuge to be Buddhist. Refuge is a private commitment to oneself and a public dedication to the path. By committing ourselves to Buddhism, through the words of refuge, we lay away our reservations regarding our own spirituality and enlightenment. The act of refuge is not a retreat away from daily life or a subordination of our will to another; it is a recognition that within us resides the Buddha. We belong to a Buddhist community. We should be directed by people who are dedicated to the Three Jewels and to the precepts that guide us. It is our fervent desire that all who wish to partake of our offerings should do so with no hesitation, or requirement. But, there is the recognition that we are a Buddhist community, following a root tradition, and we must in our own way adhere to the primacy of the Three Jewels and the Precepts we take to our hearts today. To receive refuge, please contact Tendai Buddhist Institute or a sangha near you.
Monshin and Shumon have also developed a plan for training advanced students who are contemplating ordination into the Tendai priesthood. While they were not the first Tendai priests to come and teach in this country, they were the first to set up a practice center in North America based on a village temple model and provide programs to meet the spiritual needs of a wide variety of practitioners, from the casually interested to the deeply committed. Previous Tendai teachers in America have taught (and continue to teach) individual students only. A central part of their vision was to provide the opportunity for Tendai Buddhism to be more widely disseminated. To extend the teachings beyond that which could be done by a single person, and to insure that they would continue to be taught and develop in his absence, it was necessary to institute a Doshu program, leading to tokudo (ordination) and continuation of the lineage, training others to take on leadership and development roles in the larger Sangha.
The history of Buddhism is a 2500-year story of transmission from teacher to student across generations. Although the idea of direct transmission taking place without an institutional structure may be appealing to contemporary Westerners who often look askance at ³institutions² and the abuses they have fostered, history has shown us that such lineages die out in a short period of time. A culture and group memory fostered in a Œschool¹ assists in maintaining the teachings. The training for Doshu is then, first of all, meant to provide the leadership framework and collective consciousness that will ensure the continuity of Tendai Buddhism in the West into the indefinite future, not dependant on any one person.
The term Doshu was appropriated from the term for a low ranking monk who originally functioned as a temple assistant on Mt. Hiei. This implied two things: first, that a person would through personal effort take on greater and greater levels of responsibility; second, the person would be of service to others. Doshu is explicitly a position of service to others, definitely not solely a way to deepen one¹s own spiritual practice. Early on, the Doshu candidate will give rise to bodhicitta‹the aspiration for enlightenment for the benefit of others. The Doshu takes as a role model all the bodhisattvas who have devoted their existence to freeing others from suffering. The spiritual effect this has on the individual is transforming (if the practice is carried out in this manner), but it is merely a secondary consequence. Since the Doshu is focused on service to others and not on her own attainment, she will cultivate humility. There is nothing in the work being done that will place her above another. Indeed, since the realization of the interpenetration and continuity of all phenomena, she recognizes that there is equality among all beings and what she does is "nothing special".
In the absence of an established tradition for training in this country, it has been necessary to start fresh, while looking back in history for inspiration and understanding of how training was undertaken in the past how it has developed down to the present day in Japan. In Saicho¹s time, trainees were monastics who left their worldly life and secluded themselves on Mt. Hiei for twelve years. Currently, most Japanese priests come from temple families and the position is inherited. Obviously, neither of these paradigms fit our situation in 21st century America. We live lay lives, though ordained, and we come to Buddhism by individual choice rather than through family connections. We do not have a cultural and institutional memory to draw upon for our personal practice and development. Therefore, while we can look back for inspiration, we must creatively interpret and develop the training method to meet our own very different situation.
Application to Doshu requires several steps. First, the applicant must have a master who will sponsor the person. Second, the applicant must fill out a basic informational form and write an essay explaining why she wishes to become a Doshu. Third the applicant must demonstrate, through letters of recommendation, health certificates or other means that he is capable of undertaking the physical and mental rigors of a formal gyo. Fourth the Doshu must be involved in some area of contributing to or building a sangha.
The master / disciple relationship is integral to a spiritual path. Without a master or teacher a Doshu does not have the appropriate grounding that is required of a Doshu. The Master must verify to the Gyo-in that her disciple is of proper character and has been involved on the Buddhist path for a sufficient period of time.
The informational form may be obtained from the Betsuin. The essay the applicant writes should provide basic information about the person¹s background and state, explicitly, why he would like to embark on the Doshu path. She should also provide some information on how she intends to fulfill her obligations as Doshu.
The formal gyo is a necessary part of the Doshu program. It is rigorous. There is a great deal of quick walking, exertion from 324 full prostrations each day, long days and limited amounts of sleep, as well as the shock of very chilling water as part of the purification in the mornings. This is a traditional gyo and the participant is challenged physically and mentally. If the person feels they are unable to meet these rigors they should not apply. Additionally, we require a statement from a physician or other practitioner as to the applicant¹s level of fitness before she attends the gyo.
Finally, this is not a set of practices intended for a person¹s individual attainment. The Betsuin operates on several levels. At the Doshu level the Betsuin is not a shugendo practice center, nor a private hermitage. This is a Hiei-zan authorized teaching institute. As such, only those who are willing to make a long-term commitment to the Dharma, it¹s practice and teaching, will be permitted to work toward Doshu status. The applicant must be involved in, or working to establish a sangha in order to receive permission to become a Doshu and attend gyo.
A minimum of three years of addtional study, training and practice is required for those who advance to Soryo ordination. Soryo are those who have been officially designated as 'lineage holders' and have proven their dedication to the bodhisattva vows through their practice, compassion and devotion to the Dharma by making it available to others.