Throwback Thursday: Tokudo Ordination Part One

To accompany the picture I found from when I received Tokudo ordination, here is a blog entry that I posted soon afterwards on my livejournal (now defunct). I will add the picture and some notes below.

February 29th, 2004

The Jodo Shinshu Honganji-ha 浄土真宗本願寺派 (1) ordination takes eleven days. During that time you attend lectures, practice performing the rituals, learn how to tie, wear, and fold the various clothing, clean the facility, and take tests. On the tenth day, the actual Tokudo 得度(ordination) Ceremony occurs at the head temple – the Nishi Honganji 西本願寺, also called Honzan 本山. On the morning of the eleventh day, you go back to Honzan for the morning service, then eat a traditional Buddhist vegetarian meal, called shojin ryori 精進料理.

The most difficult part of the training process is sitting seiza 正座. Unlike the lotus position, in seiza you fold your legs underneath you, without crossing them. It is EXTREMELY PAINFUL after about 20 or 30 minutes. During sutra chanting, we had to sit for 1 HOUR. I had trouble the first couple of days, but on the third or fourth day I actually did it! I could sit without squirming, and it didn’t even really hurt. Until lunch that is, when my right foot started swelling up (2). I actually had this problem while I was studying in Berkeley, when this would happen I couldn’t even put my shoes on. So after that, I sat in a chair the whole rest of the time! It was certainly easier on the legs, but the chairs were low so my lower back hurt instead.

I was actually really upset when my foot started to swell up. I couldn’t sit with my han (3) members any more, I had to sit in back. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to take part in the final ordination ceremony. But fortunately, the teachers knew that seiza is not normal for Americans, and they were all really supportive. I definitely felt separated from the group. I felt like a true “gaijin” – i.e., outsider 外人. But I was also able to watch from a more detached perspective, and watch the senseis as well as the students, and see their reactions and what they were doing while everyone was chanting.

To be continued…



1. Technically, this should be spelled Hongwanji, but the w is silent (like in the film Kwaidan which is pronounced “Kaidan” or Kwannon which is pronounced “Kannon”)

2. On re-reading this, I feel like my foot started swelling up at breakfast, not lunch.

3. “Han” means group – the expression “head honcho” comes from the term “hancho” which means group leader. This online reference claims that it was “picked up by U.S. servicemen in Japan and Korea, 1947-1953,” but I wonder if there wasn’t a Japanese-American connection too?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s