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Ryaku Fusatsu (Full Moon Ceremony)

The Urban Nun ZENDO performs the full moon ceremony every month, by offering light, incense, flowers, bows and chants.

The ceremony is called Ryaku Fusatsu ("Ryaku" means, "abbreviated," or "simple" , “Fusatsu” means, “to continue good practice.”or, "to stop unwholesome action (karma)). It is considered to be our Precept Ceremony, when we re-affirm our commitments to live according to the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts, our Ethical Guidelines for dailylife.

This is an ancient ceremony rooted in pre-Buddhist India, withVedic lunar sacrifices performed on the nights of the new and full moon. At the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, 2'600 years ago, these sacrifices were no longer carried out, but the new and full moon occurrences were still observed by the Hindus as holy days of purification and fasting.

According to legend, when Buddha sent the first monks and nuns to carry their practice into the world, he was aware of the lonely battles in front of them. In order to motivate them during time of struggles, and to ensure that they support and sustain each other’s practice, he instructed them to gather in groups once a month on the full moon and perform a simple ceremony of precepts’ renewal. This beganas a simple recitation of all therules of conduct that monks and nuns had to follow, and over time evolved into a confession and repentance ceremony, during which the monks and nuns would speak up if they had violated any of the rules and vow to do better in the future.

Since the time of the Buddha, this ceremony has been transmitted from India through China to Japan and eventually to other parts of the world, changing over time and developing many faces.

Ryaku Fusatsu today, as performed in Soto Zen temples, involves reading/transmission of Buddha's precepts, bowing and chanting.

Zen Buddhists around the world are renewing their vows to keep the bodhisattva practice. They vow to work for the enlightenment of all beings, no matter how hard it is, and no matter how long it takes. All our daily activities, every detail, is done in relationto this goal and in solidarity with all sentient beings.

The ceremony is conducted in several parts:

  • It begins with incense offering to all Buddhas throughout space and time.

  • Then we chant the Formless Repentance:

"All my past and harmful karma, born from beginning-less greed, hate and delusion,

Through body, speech, and mind, I now fully avow.”

  • After our repentance, we invoke the presence of all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Ancestors and call up their wisdom and compassion by chanting the names of a number of representatives, Shakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, Manjusri Bodhisattva, Zen Master Dogen, and others.

  • This is followed by chanting the Four Bodhisattva Vows:

"The Beings are innumerable; I vow to free them,

the Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them,

Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them,

Buddha's way is unsurpassable; I vow to realize it."

  • After the Four Vows, the room is purified by the Wisdom Water by sprinkling it around and the reading of the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts, one by one, starts. After each of them, the sangha if asked if they are willing “to receive and maintain this precept” and although it is expected to receive “Yes, I will” as an answer, it is more important to be honest and sincere when answering. These are the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts we use during the ceremony:

  • The Three Refuges:

  • I take refuge in Buddha ( in our fully awakened and compassionate nature ).

  • I take refuge in Dharma ( in the ultimate truth of the interdependence and selflessness ).

  • I take refuge in Sangha ( in the community of those who practice in order to awake own Buddha nature ).

  • The Three Collective Pure Precepts:

  • A follower of the Way does no harm.( I refrain from harming living beings ( ourselves, others, plants, animals ) and everything what surrounds me ( the Earth, the waters and to the air )).

  • A follower of the Way cultivates the good ( I act out of the loving kindness, compassion and equanimity of my awakened nature ).

  • A follower of the Way lives to benefit all beings( I act in benefit of others and offer everyone the opportunity to discover and express their awakened nature ).

  • The Ten Major Prohibitory Precepts:

  • not killing ( I am reverential and mindful with all life; I am not violent; I do not will-fully kill ).

  • not taking what is not given ( I respect the property of others; I do not steal ).

  • not misusing sexuality ( I am mindful in my relationships; I do not misuse sexuality ).

  • not speaking falsely ( I honour honesty and truth; I do not deceive ).

  • not clouding the mind ( I take care of my body/mind; I reject everything what can cloud my mind ).

  • not blaming others ( I recognise that words can hurt; I do not slander ).

  • not praising self at the expense of others,( I am humble; I do not praise myself or judge others ).

  • not being possessive ( I cultivate letting go; I do not attach to anything, even the teaching ).

  • not indulging anger ( I cultivate inner peace; I do not harbour ill-will ).

  • not devaluating the Three Treasures – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha ( I esteem the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; I do not defame them ).

These sixteen bodhisattva precepts are more than rules to live by. They go to the heart of our practice, which is to see things as they really are, and to act accordingly. That does not mean that we start living in a parallel reality, but rather it means to perceive everything onthe deeper level and without “dust on our mind mirror”.

Dogen said, “To study Buddhism is to study the self.” By practicing this, our perspective gets shifted as a result of deeper understanding, based on our own experience and not on others. Generally, all precepts are no more and no less than just expression of this practice that eventually leads us to recognition of our true nature. As such, it should be fully integrated in our daily life.

  • After precepts are renewed, we take refuge in the Three Treasures by reciting the following:

"I take refuge in Buddha. May all beings embody and resolve the great Way to awaken.

I take refuge in Dharma.

May all beings penetrate deeply into the wisdom of the sutras, as in the ocean.

I take refuge in Sangha. May all beings support harmony in the community, free from obstacles."

  • Ryaku Fusatsu ends with the recitation of an Eko (merit transfer):

“On this full moon night,

we offer the merit of the Bodhisattva's way and all chanted sutras

to the unconditioned nature of all beings.”

  • The Sangha then chants the concluding verse:

"All Buddhas, throughout space and time;

all honoured ones, bodhisattvas, mahasattvas [great beings];

wisdom beyond wisdom,

maha prajna paramita [great perfect wisdom].

Ryaku Fusatsu offers us an opportunity to acknowledge all past action (karma), receive the precepts, and re-dedicate ourselves to the practice of the Bodhisattva's Way. At the same time, it aims to synchronise our energies with the cosmos.

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