On Receiving Denkai

Rev. Tom Dharma-Joy Reichert

Receiving Denkai is, in one sense, an “accomplishment,” but as we know, this practice is not about attaining anything, and certainly not about completing anything.  Life is moment after moment. Practice is moment after moment, always making an effort to close the gap. But when I am consciously thinking, “Am I closing the gap?” we already know the answer. And so in looking at how this actualizes in my life, in the very process of considering the question, I am creating a gap between “me” and “my life.” It doesn’t mean that I should never reflect in this way on how things are going, but it does mean that I should understand that I am creating such a gap, and also that this type of refl ection can allow my inner critic, the small self, to take the reins if I am not deliberate and intentional in my process.

The life of a priest is to serve. Of course, for anyone who has taken the Bodhisattva vows, we have vowed to serve others – all beings everywhere. But for a priest, this is especially true, and service to our Sangha becomes a primary motivation for how I am living my life.  How does that manifest? Because we are all individuals, it manifests for each priest in its own unique way. But that spirit of service, that setting an intention to live life in that way, is the underlying commonality. Whether you have received Denkai or not, the intention and direction remain the same. But having received Denkai, it “ups the game” a bit in my mind in terms of the methods through which I can carry out this service, since it empowers me to give the precepts to others.

The Denkai process has certainly made me feel more connected to ZCLA, to the Sangha, and to my vows of service. This fall, I will be leading the Precepts/Jukai class series, and I am excited to explore the precepts with a new group of practitioners and to have the experience of having the precepts unfold within our lives together.


Rev. Jitsujo Tina Gauthier

Every day during Denkai week, we did a chanting service three times a day in our room at our personal altar, which included hundreds of bows to our Zen lineage and female ancestors. This was followed by jundo — making offerings, chants, and bows to all of the ZCLA altars. I say “we” because it was Dharma Joy and I, but it was also our jishas, tenzos, teachers, partners, fellow residents, and ZCLA sangha at large that went through this week.  The Dharma Transmission of the Precepts is a whole thing!

Denkai week started out as something that I, the little self, was going through. My mind had its usual complaints about how difficult bowing is: the heat, and the worry that the arising pain will last forever, fear that I cannot do this, that one of my knees will break off, or that my body will fail altogether. It was challenging doing some 90 bows in a row. It’s similar to riding a bike uphill—it’s best not to stop.  So I just kept going, and through the burning sensation, it occurred to me that I am doing one bow for one person’s entire life and devotion to Zen practice. All I had to offer in this moment was this bow. Syncing the breath with the bow, offering the posture with grace, and the mind with benevolence became my practice.

The whole experience created more intimacy with my entire environment. A manifestation of Dharma became mirrored in all of you. I am grateful to all of the plants that were clipped for altar offerings, for my jisha who accompanied me, for the tenzos who cooked the meals, some of which brought tears of gratitude to my eyes, for all who supported the silence, paid membership fees, sat zazen, tended the buildings and grounds, brought treats, and made vows. I especially appreciate Roshi Egyoku and Roshi Seisen Saunders, along with all my teachers in the six realms, and those who continue to actualize the precepts and transmit the value of living an ethical life. May we all have the courage to continue this practice!