Three Jewels Order

About the Three Jewels Order

Includes excerpts from the talk given at Kathryn Argetsinger's lay ordination ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2018.

The Three Jewels Order was established by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede about 20 years ago. He was already ordaining priests at that time, but he felt it was also important to offer laypeople a way to formalise their commitment to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and so at this time he began to accept senior Centre members into a novitiate programme of practice, sutra study and service, alongside novice priests. The first two people to become lay members of the order were Victoria Korth and Richard von Sturmer. Lay novices must have practiced in the Sangha for at least seven years. In Rochester priests must have been in residential training for at least five years before starting as a novice (which usually lasts for 1-2 years before full ordinaton). Here in Auckland the requirements have been a bit more flexible as we have limited places for people to train full time and the Centre is a lot younger and so has had fewer senior members. In fact so far I have only ordained one priest, Hanya, and until my ordaining Kathryn, the only lay member of the Order at the AZC was Richard.

While priests make a vocational commitment to full-time work and practice in a Dharma Centre, and take on more overt signs of their calling (such as short hair, blue, grey or black simple clothing, and black or blue robes), lay order members engage in the life of the Sangha alongside involvements in the wider community such as significant family responsibilities and/or dedication to a career or other vocational commitment, and do not display external signs of their membership of the order besides the black rakusu they receive as part of the ceremony. In both paths there is a recognised calling to manifest the life of the Sangha not just through attending to one's own practice, but also by taking on responsibility for one's community -- helping in different ways to make things happen.

While being either a lay or priest member of the Three Jewels Order formalizes a call to leadership in some form, it is not the same as being sanctioned as a teacher (i.e. being given permission to assign koans to students and teach all the aspects of the zen curriculum). Both lay order members and priests may be sanctioned as teachers -- for example Roshi Kjolhede has sanctioned six of his disciples, two of whom are lay order members and four of whom are priests, but there are many other Three Jewels Order members, both lay members and priests, who are not sanctioned. However this is not to say that order members don't engage in some forms of teaching. They may be authorised to give instruction on posture, breathing,  zendo conduct or work practice, give Dharma talks or offer private instruction (daisan). Often these functions will be backed up by supervision or mentoring by the person's teacher or by other members of the Order -- that is what being part of an "order " is all about. And of course one of the main ways that Order members teach is by example. 

AW 7/12/2018

For more information contact Sensei Amala Wrightson.