In what may have been the first ceremony of its kind in the Toledo area, two local Zen Buddhist teachers were ordained as priests, and 17 of their students took Buddhist vows in a Jukai service Sunday at Lourdes College.
The teachers, Jay “Rinsen” Weik and his wife, Karen “Do’on” Weik, were ordained by Sensei Melissa “Myozen” Blacker of Worchester, Mass. The Weiks are co-founders of the Toledo Zen Center, where they hold weekly Wednesday night zazen services.
The ordination was a “transmitting of the dharma” from teacher to student. It is often associated with the monastic tradition, but Mr. Weik said he and his wife are more comparable to priests than monks.
The couple shaved their heads for the ceremony, “symbolizing cutting off the root of desire, cutting off the root of delusion, of clinging, of grasping,” Mr. Weik said.
Mr. Weik, 41, who also teaches jazz guitar at the University of Toledo, said Zen Buddhism is “flowering” in America today, discerning dharma teaching from cultural carryovers from the East.
A Toledo native who became interested in Buddhism through the writings of Catholic monk Thomas Merton, Mr. Weik said he is pleased to see Zen Buddhism gaining in the Toledo area.
“This is a major shift,” he said. “I get excited about it. When I was young, there was nobody around here to do this with.”
After the ordination, 17 people received the Zen precepts, professing their Buddhist faith. The precepts include such vows as being satisfied with what one has, listening and speaking from the heart, speaking what one perceives to be the truth without blame or guilt, and unconditionally accepting what each moment has to offer.
For Janis Sankowski, 47, of Toledo, it was her second Jukai ceremony. She studied in Ann Arbor for 14 years, “then I ended up becoming a member of a local church.”
She missed the sitting and the quiet contemplation of Zen, however, and returned to Buddhism after meeting the Weiks.
“They are a gem in Toledo,” Ms. Sankowski said. “Jay is a man that not only cares about his beliefs and Buddhism, but he cares about everyone he comes in contact with. He really is a Buddha. And Karen is the same way.”
Chuck Greer, 57, of Toledo, said preparation for the Jukai was extensive and the three-hour ceremony was “icing on the cake.”
Each student hand-sewed their own Rakasu, for example, a garment worn around the neck after taking the precepts. Mr. Greer broke his left hand falling on the ice, it made the sewing even more difficult and the accomplishment that much more rewarding.
Erik Knapp, 40, said it was “a long journey” that led him to Buddhism, going back to grade school. “I was reading books about religion and trying to find what fits for me.”
After attending the Toledo Zen Center, he found “resonance” there, he said. “At this point in my life, this is something that is very clear and concise in my mind and I have the feeling that the time was right” to take the vows.
More information on the Toledo Zen Center is available online at toledozencenter.org or by calling 419-490-1500