Shedding my hair completely, I vow to transform all my afflictions

2017 December 14, Novice Ordination

On December 14 at 9:30 in the morning, nine young men and women entered the community of monks and nuns at Plum Village France, receiving the Ten Novice Precepts. At the same time in Thailand, 22 novices were also “born” at the Thai International Practice Centre.

The ceremony was peaceful, harmonious, and joyful. Over 400 people, including monastics, families and friends gathered at the Still Water Meditation Hall of Upper Hamlet to witness the novices’ vow to walk a path of simplicity, love, and understanding. Everyone chanted the name of the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion while the novices were shaved by elder sisters, brothers and their family as a symbol of letting go of afflictions:

Shedding my hair completely
I make the great vow today
To transform all my afflictions
And to bring happiness to all beings.

After the ordination ceremony, the whole community gathered again to meet the newest members of the “brown family”. There they sat in the midst of their spiritual and blood family, glowing heads, shy smiles, crisp robes, and an abundance of gifts.But it is they, who are the most beautiful gifts to the community.

Brother Pháp Lai represented the sangha to welcome family members and introduced the “Poplar Tree” novices (each ordination “family” is usually represented by a tree or flower). He first introduced Brother Chân Trời Khiết Minh (“True Sky of Pure Brightness”), whose parent had travelled 27 hours from Australia to be at the ceremony.

Br. Khiết Minh’s father shared: This is a good Way, especially for a young man. It is not easy to find a good Way today. My son did not choose to be born at his first birth. But today, he had chosen to be reborn. Now he can share with me the noble teachings of the Buddha. It is worth all the gallons of milk we fed him 34 years ago.

Br. Khiết Minh’s mother said she didn’t cry, because now her son is following a life that is everything as described in the “Discourse on Happiness” – a true path of happiness.

The sharing continued with Sister Chân Trăng Giác Hòa (“True Moon of Awakened Harmony”) from France. She loves her Dharma name because it contains the names of two elder French sisters: Sister Giác Nghiêm (“Adornment of Awakening”) and sister Hài Nghiêm (“Adornment of Harmony).

“It is amazing to feel the vibration of love today. My parents and brother are here today. They have always been by my side, supporting me from the moment I was born.” She called out “We love you” to her mentor, Sister Tông Nghiêm, who had guided her and Sister Chân Trăng Giác Minh since the beginning of their aspirant journey. She also expressed her gratitude to all the sisters of New Hamlet where she lived as an aspirant and now resides.

As Sister Chân Trăng Giác Minh (“True Moon of Awakened Brightness”) received the microphone, her elder Indonesian monastic brothers and sisters waved tiny Indonesian paper flags and sang an Indonesian song for her. “My blood sister (Sr. Chân Trăng Tĩnh Mặc, who ordained two years earlier and is also at New Hamlet) has supported me a lot. Though our parents are far away (in Indonesia) today, I feel their presence here. I see their faces in the faces of our brothers and sisters. I don’t miss Indonesian food at all because our brothers here are ‘professional’ cooks!”

Sister Chân Trăng Giác Hiếu’s (“True Moon of Awakened Filial Piety”) Dharma name connects her to the root temple where Thầy ordained as a novice: Từ Hiếu – “Loving Kindness and Filial Piety” temple. “I recently read Sister Chân Không’s book ‘52 years following the footsteps of Thầy’ in Vietnamese. Today during the ordination ceremony, I realised how Thầy, Sister Chân Không, and all our elder brothers and sisters had gone through so much to create the conditions for us to ordain today. I feel so much love for the Buddha, the ancestral teachers, Thầy, and all our elders who’ve carved the path for us.”

Brother Chân Trời Khiết Lâm (“True Sky of Pure Forest”) was very happy, though his parents could not be at the ordination. “My parents cannot be here today, but I do not feel sad, because they are always in my heart. I left home to take refuge in a spiritual family. Today, I have come home to my spiritual family! I have received so much love from the community since I was a long-term lay friend, then as an aspirant. I came to understand myself and others more and more thanks to the teachings of Thầy.” He thanked his “Poplar Tree” brothers: “We were a lovely aspirant family. We respected and supported each other.”

Brother Chân Trời Khiết Hỷ (“True Sky of Pure Joy”) was happy beyond words.

Sister Chân Trăng Giác Ân (“True Moon of Awakened Gratitude”) was grateful that three close friends came on this momentous day. Her friends said that they had always trusted her choices. One even said that after spending one day with the sangha, she saw Sr. Trăng Giác Ân’s wisdom in choosing the monastic life.

Brother Chân Trời Khiết Anh (“True Sky of Pure Excellence”) was moved during the ceremony when Brother Pháp Ứng placed drops of “nectar” on his head. His mother said, “As I was shaving his head, it brought back memory of the first time I cut his hair”. She sang a lullaby as a gift to her son.

Brother Chân Trời Khiết Tâm (“True Sky of Pure Heart”) said, “I feel free. The path of happiness has opened wider.” He introduced his father who is “new to Plum Village”, and felt “peaceful, calm, and respected” during his time here.

The new novices are enjoying learning to pronounce their Dharma names, moving into the monastic residence, mindfully buttoning the 15 buttons on their novice robe, and rubbing their bald heads first thing in the morning.

We wish them true peace, happiness, and freedom.


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