"The community of those who follow the teachings of the fully Awakened One."
This ceremony is called Sarana. It is a short form of tri-sarana as the participants take refuge in the three (tri-) gems of Buddhism; the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Buddha is the enlightened one. The Dharma are his teachings. The Sangha is his community.
The purpose of
the ceremony is to function as a personal expression of an individual's wish to
confirm and deepen his or her commitment to the Buddhist path. Individuals are
given special names for this occasion with everyone receiving the first name
Oct 14, 2012 - Sarana Participants
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The Meaning of the Ceremony by Shinmon Kojun Otani
This important Shin Buddhist ceremony is for the purpose of affirming one‘s reverence for the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha It is to show one‘s determination to tread the path to Buddhahood. The ceremony is performed before the altar of Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin.
The Affirmation Ceremony
The teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha are so extensive that they are said to number 84,000 paths to Enlightenment. It is no surprise, then, that after the Buddha‘s death, the emergence of various schools were based on the different aspects of his teachings. Shin Buddhism (Jodo Shinshu) is the Buddhist path of Great Compassion clarified by Shinran Shonin. Shinran taught that Sakyamuni appeared in this world in order to reveal the Vow of Amida Buddha to save all beings; it is the salvation of all people by Amida Buddha that is Sakyamuni‘s fundamental teaching.
The Affirmation Ceremony in Shin Buddhism, therefore, shares a common meaning with the precept of the three refuges administered in the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, but it also has a deeper meaning. In the Affirmation Ceremony, the Buddha of the three refuges is not simply in reference to Sakyamuni, but refers more importantly to Amida Buddha, who is the heart of Sakyamuni‘s teachings. Sakyamuni came into the world to teach the Vow of Amida Buddha, and our salvation is brought about by Amida. Thus, “Dharma” is the teaching of Amida‘s compassionate working to save all beings, and “Sangha” refers to people who have entrusted themselves to Amida.
Since there are no precepts in Shin Buddhism, instead of receiving the precept of the three treasures, one participates in the Affirmation Ceremony. Shin practitioners are not required to shave their heads, but rather, undergo a symbolic shaving of the head, which has a similar meaning.
By participating in the Affirmation Ceremony, one receives a Buddhist name (homyo). These names are in the form of Shaku 釈 and two Buddhist terms which follow. The word “Shaku” means “disciple of Sakyamuni” and signifies that the person has joined the followers of the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha, a community that transcends race or nationality.
Calgary Buddhist Temple