I'm sitting with a bunch of people (and have been for quite a while now), and I want to deepen my practice. I want to make a commitment, primary to myself, to stay on track and want to take Jukai (refuge).


Our group is quite heterogeneous and a mere "sitting group". Our common denominator is Soto-Style Zen, but we are lay, lay-ordained people, and monks. Some style themselves Buddhist, other Christian.

We have no common teacher, head temple, center or any authority on site. That leaves me with a few options, all a few hours driving away from here, to commit to a master.

  • First there is the teacher of most/all of our lay-ordained members. Naturally, that would be the prominent choice, but that would be logistically the most challenging one.

  • Then there is a temple, which is nearer, but not so closely coupled to our group. That would be a more convenient choice.

  • Last there would be a main temple of the all over arcing organisation, the both former options are incorporated. But that one is a longer drive, again, and it is the most "unpersonal" option, since it is an higher organisation.

Personal Consideration:

I want to make the commitment more for my self. From my point of view, my shanga is my local group. I would want to get to know a teacher quite well, before I would choose him for a monk ordination. But with Jukai, as a first step, I won't consider it that important.


  • Who can actually gives Jukai? Who's entitled to?
  • What is the dogmatic consequence, exactly (link is sufficient)?
  • How deep are the bonds between the one giving Jukai and the one receiving it?
  • How to ask for Jukai?
  • How to prepare for that event?
  • Any other points, I may miss and should think about?

Edit 2015/10/30, after Andreis Answer:

His answer moves into the direction of "taking refuge in the three nobles truths". I realize, that I'm already taking refuge on a regular basis by chanting the Shigu seigan mon (The Four Bodhisattva Vows).

Therefore I changed title and tag back to Jukai. I want to focus the question on Soto-Style Jukai as a lay-ordination with committing to the 10 precepts to reinforce my practice.

PS: I want to thank Chris for the proof-reading. English is not my first tongue and I am constantly make mistakes while writing, unable to see them myself.

2 Answers 2


Who can actually give Jukai? Who is entitled to?

Anyone can give, but you will receive more benefit if you get it from a realized master you have a feeling of connection with / admiration for. Realized masters transmit Sat-Dharma in their every move and having a sense of connection and admiration makes you more receptive to that subtle teaching.

What is the dogmatic consequence, exactly (link is sufficient)?

To quote Chogyam Trungpa:

By taking refuge, in some sense we become homeless refugees. The point of becoming a refugee is to give up our attachment to basic security. We have to give up our sense of home ground, which is illusory anyway. We are suspended in a no-man's land in which the only thing to do is to relate with the teachings and with ourselves.

The refuge ceremony represents a final decision. The ceremony cuts the line that connects the ship to the anchor; it marks the beginning of an odyssey of loneliness. Still, it also includes the inspiration of the preceptor and the lineage. Acknowledging that the only real working basis is oneself and that there is no way around that, one takes refuge in the Buddha as an example, in the dharma as the path, and in the sangha as companionship.

At that particular point, the energy, the power, and the blessing of basic sanity that has existed in the lineage for twenty-five hundred years, in an unbroken tradition and discipline from the time of Buddha, enters your system, and you finally become a full-fledged follower of buddhadharma. You are a living future buddha at that point.

How deep are the bonds between the one giving Jukai and the one receiving it?

It is not like that, it is between you and Dharma:

The refuge ceremony is a formal acknowledgement that you have become a Buddhist. This is not a matter of institutional affiliation, or of belonging to a group. Refuge means that you have recognized the fundamental principles of Buddhism as an accurate reflection of reality and that you intend to live according to them. Refuge is only meaningful if you understand those principles and have experienced their application in your life.

One takes refuge in Buddhism, not in a particular school, lineage, or teacher. Taking refuge at [particular temple/school/teacher] does not imply any continuing commitment to [that temple/school/teacher], only to Dharma at large.

  • IIRC other answers on this site have implied that "taking refuge" is a decision which someone (anyone) can make by themselves (without a formal ceremony and so without a preceptor). Is "Jukai" more formal than that, involving someone (perhaps a preceptor) who "gives" it, and 10 precepts rather than 5?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 18:42
  • 1
    hmm... I didn't realize there was such implication... The way I see it, if you feel in your heart that you'll benefit from the empowerment value of the ceremony - then have a ceremony. If you have enough faith/determination that you don't need empowerment, then why the formality of taking refuge in the first place? For people with strong determination knowing inside their heart is enough, without any such "refuge-taking". In other words, either ceremony and preceptor, or nothing at all - why the half-measures? :)
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 20:27
  • For example, this document (Ways to deepen householder practice) which you mentioned in another answer suggests, "Take the refuges before beginning each meal." Whereas this Wikipedia article for Jokai according to the Sōtō school says, "Students must undergo a period of study for their Jukai ceremony, which in most Sōtō Zen traditions is at least two years" which is formal and ceremonial. The OP wrote "Jukai" and tagged the topic soto.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 23:27
  • The before meal, or every morning refuge, or every midnight - is a re-taking, like the renewal of vows. The Jokai Wikipedia's two years requirement is inline with my quote that says "Refuge is only meaningful if you understand those principles and have experienced their application in your life."
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 0:20
  • Jukai is a complicated ceremony, and as far as I'm aware can only be performed by an osho (a Soto priestly rank). And it's 16 'precepts': the 10 precepts, the 3 pure precepts and the triple gem.
    – user10515
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 20:39

Jukai doesn't create any commitments between you and the preceptor (unlike monastic ordination which initiates a master/disciple relationship).

Anyone's entitled to it, only an osho (I think) can perform the ceremony.

The main preparation is to sew a rakusu.

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