Thursday, April 23, 2015
Formerly Known As
Seriously, Catholic priests believe in transmission. In fact, if you ask one, he will tell you that he was ordained by a guy that was ordained by a guy that was ordained by a guy that...all the way back to Saint Peter, the first Pope, who was of course ordained by Jesus Himself. Some of the nerdy types will even know what generation they're in as far as this getting-ordained-by-someone-who-was-ordained-by-someone-who-was... I'm just guessing, but maybe forty? forty-five? A lot, anyway. I mean, two thousand years is a long time. And that whole unbroken-chain-of-transmission thing all the way back to the beginning is pretty cool, when you think about it. Sort of like that time we all linked up in Hands Across America to fight homelessness. I think that's what that was about. I don't actually remember. I watched it on TV, though.
Anyway, Buddhists also believe in transmission. In fact, there is a thing called a transmission ceremony, in which a group of people, usually laypeople, get told the Five Precepts, or as they're called by my mentor, Thich Nhat Hanh, the "Five Mindfulness Trainings." The idea is that you get these instructions from a dharma teacher who got these instructions from a dharma teacher who...all the way back to Buddha Himself.
What are the Five Mindfulness Trainings, you are no doubt wondering. Well, Catholic priests have their Ten Commandments, and Buddhists have what I like to call the Five Really Excellent Suggestions. They're not commandments at all; they're advice on living a happy life by trying your best to do, or not to do, certain things. If you want to see the full text of them (and they do go on), you can click here. Essentially, though, they come down to, don't kill things, don't steal things, don't fool around, don't say nasty things to or about people, and don't use drugs or alcohol. Again, not mandates. Just really good suggestions. If you want to know the whys and wherefores, click on the link.
And there's a ceremony to transmit them from one generation to the next. The thing about Buddhist ceremonies is that they are so Buddhist-y. They're Serious but not Doctrinaire; every now and then something goes wrong, everybody laughs and there's a couple of seconds of levity before it goes back to being Serious again. There's a lot of bowing and plenty of touching the earth (that's getting down on the ground and splaying oneself all over a mat, if you're not familiar with the term). And of course plenty of chanting, in Sanskrit and English, and names that are about twenty-six letters long, none of them consonants.
And so it came to pass that, some 2500 years after Buddha, I, Jen, participated in a transmission ceremony Sunday evening. I became the 50th generation removed from Buddha to get this information. It involved a lot of sitting, a lot of standing, a lot of bowing, and--yeah. Chanting. But at the end of it I got a treat: A new name.
Deepening Mindfulness of the Source.
Yeah, I was hoping for Firebird or Starwind or something equally evocative that meant absolutely nothing. Instead, Deepening Mindfulness of the Source. Deep for short, I guess.
It's kinda Jedi, though, isn't it?