Tokudo is the ceremony that marks a practitioner’s ordination as a Zen priest. To enter the priesthood means to commit oneself forever to the service of others.
The Buddha ordained those who expressed a sincere commitment to the dharma. They chose to leave their homes to find a way out of suffering. At the Hazy Moon, priests do not renounce family, occupation, or residence—the home they leave is samsara, the house on fire. They vow to maintain the practice in the marketplace of everyday life.
The ordination ceremony is called Tokudo. There is no requirement or attainment necessary to become a priest. As with Jukai, the individual makes the choice to commit and take responsibility for all sentient beings. To enter the priesthood is to commit oneself forever to the service of others.
Tokudo marks the start of a new life and creates a formal bond between teacher and student. This new life begins with shaving the head and relinquishing attachments. The priest-to-be receives new robes and bowls.
When the Buddha first took followers, he instructed them to go to the village dump, find unwanted rags, and sew them together. When asked in what pattern to sew, he indicated the nearby rice patty, and bade them to cultivate their practice as they would a field. Each monk also sought out a begging bowl and vowed to take only what was given.
The robes and bowls are physical manifestations of the Buddha’s teaching. The outermost robe worn by a Hazy Moon priest, the Okesa, is the most significant, representative of this teaching. Beneath the Okesa is the koromo, which developed when Zen came to the colder climate of China, and beneath that, the kimono of the Japanese tradition.
Wearing the teaching of the Buddha, the priest-to-be renews the vows to keep the precepts and to serve the dharma forever. At the Hazy Moon, after the first sitting block each day, we renew our commitment with this verse:
Vast is the robe of liberation
A formless field of benefaction
I wear the Tathagata’s teaching
Saving all sentient beings