...I did not really know what jukai means in our tradition; I do now, thanks to an excellent talk by Kanja sensei about it. I also have some knots I need to untie specifically about the religious identity aspect of jukai—one facet of it is that it does, sort of, officially signify becoming a Buddhist. I need some time to get comfortable with that idea. Or perhaps I won't, in which case I won't. Just because it's on the menu doesn't mean you have to order it. So perhaps next time; or perhaps not. We will see...
There is a temptation to water things down. Zazen is great, and there's nothing in it that obviously requires religion or philosophy or ritual. So why not get rid of all that stuff that turns people off, and just do zazen?
Why not? I really don't have an answer. I do think, though, that I wouldn't have stuck with it even this far if Thursday zazen didn't have the big bell and the hân and the inkin bell, the incense and the fresh flowers on the altar; the vows and the bows. Why? Don't know. Don't really know. I just find I like dressing up as a Jedi and ringing bells.
I too, like the ritual. Yes, it does remind me of the episode of Seinfeld where George converts to the Latvian Orthodox Church to get a girl...his reason for conversion is "I like the hats."
But for me, at least, it goes beyond that. I can't see the point of a philosophical orientation that can't be put to use, and nothing can be put to use without cultivating a skill, and Buddhist practice in the Zen tradition is set up for that.
And also, I think it's important to be explicitly Buddhist if one is going to be serious about cultivating the skills for which Buddhism (otherwise you might come off like Edina Monsoon, practicing Buddhism "almost religiously.")
I do think it's important to integrate - that is, practice - Buddhism wherever you are whenever you are and, most importantly for me, to keep remembering to do that. Because like many folks, I often forget, with results ranging from disastrous to amusing.
I was watching the Michael Palin Himalayas show that's now being shown on our local Public Broadcasting station last night, and he was talking to some Bhutanese Buddhists in a Bar (ah... alliteration! ) They were not strict moralist vegetarian etc. etc. There's wiggle room in Buddhism, but if you wiggle to much you become a BS artist. Nobody wants to be full of crap. Then again, we're all kind of full of crap, aren't we? I'm by no means anywhere near an exemplary Buddhist...I'm just hoping to escape the Dunning-Kruger effect.