Ordination Day

From left to right: Rev. Sam Haycraft, director of the International Order of Buddhist Ministers; Bhante Chao Chu, president of the Los Angeles Buddhist Union; and the author. Photo by Nanyu Chen.

[This post was updated at 5:54 p.m. EST on 8.19.08.]

I’m very happy to share with you that this past Saturday, August 16th, upon nomination by the Venerable Chao Chu (primary teacher) and the Venerable Walpola Piyananda Nayaka Thero (preceptor), I was ordained as a lay Buddhist minister by the ecumenical Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California along with four friends from the University of the West.

The International Order of Buddhist Ministers that I joined has its roots in an observation that Bhante Chao Chu (a Sri Lankan monastic ordained in both the Theravāda tradition of his country and the Mahāyāna tradition of China) made while serving as a chaplain at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics along with Bhante Piyananda: that “the needs of various temples and organizations within the Buddhist community [required] more accredited lay representatives and qualified teachers to spread the Dharma and to assist the Sangha in other related activities.” In 1994, he proposed the idea of a lay Buddhist ministry to the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California. It was suggested that lay Buddhist ministers would participate in such things as Dharma teaching and temple management, as well as fulfill duties perhaps more appropriate for lay persons (such as counseling and chaplaincy). Bhante Chao Chu’s proposal was accepted, and the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California proceeded with the sanctioning, sponsoring, and ordaining of lay Buddhist ministers.

“[Our Buddhist ministers] are not renunciates and cannot represent themselves as members of the monastic sangha,” the I.O.B.M. states. “They equate in some respects to historic anagarikas.” Ministers observe the ten precepts and rules of conduct devised by the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California. They are expected to practice diligently in their own traditions of Buddhism, but also to serve the Buddhist community at large, extending support and help to any school or tradition that may need it. Ministers are registered through the Los Angeles Buddhist Union and conferred the title of “Reverend.”

The achievements of current ministers are quite impressive. Five preside over active Buddhist centers throughout the U.S. Two have gone on to become ordained monastics. One is my friend and past interviewee Somya Malasri, who is currently the first Buddhist chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army. Another, our mutual friend Aroon Seeda, is set to become the second Buddhist chaplain in the U.S. Navy. And a mutual friend of all of ours, Daphna McKnight, who I was ordained with, is one of the organizers of this year’s Buddhist Spiritual Care Symposium.

My ordination was held at the Rosemead Buddhist Monastery, the headquarters of the I.O.B.M., in Rosemead, CA. The Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California decided long ago that a minimum of three preceptor monastics would be required to ordain new ministers. My friends and I were lucky to have six preceptor monastics: two nuns, and four monks (including Bhante Chao Chu and Bhante Piyananda). It was a sweltering Los Angeles day, but it couldn’t have been a lovelier ceremony. Very auspicious too, I thought, since all of the new ministers are working as chaplains/interested in chaplaincy, and Bhante Chao Chu and Bhante Piyananda have both long been active as chaplains in Los Angeles County.

I was given the ordination name Dhammayasa (Pali), which translates “Gains Fame Through the Dharma.”

I’m very pleased and honored indeed by my ordination as a Buddhist minister. Though my ordination name means “Gains Fame Through the Dharma,” it is my sincerest wish that through my ministry I can bring fame to the Dharma.

    By this merit may all obtain omniscience.
    May it defeat the enemy, wrongdoing.
    From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death
    From the ocean of samsara, may I free all beings.

My pictures from the ceremony and some little explanations/stories are below. Click on any image to enlarge it.

The Rosemead Buddhist Monastery, Rosemead, CA.

The courtyard inside the Rosemead Buddhist Monastery.

A Chinese visitor offers incense to a statue of Guan Yin, while another burns paper money. The ordination happened to fall on the same day as Ullambana, or “Ancestors Memorial Day.”

The shrine in the “Gratitude Hall.”

One of the shrine guardians in the Gratitude Hall.

Ullambana visitors make offerings in honor of their ancestors at the Gratitude Hall. Bhante Chao Chu can be seen to the right of center in the bright yellow robe.

The new ministers pose with Bhante Chao Chu and Rev. Sam Haycraft, director of the I.O.B.M. From left to right: Nathan, Nate, Rev. Sam Haycraft, Bhante Chao Chu, Ed, Daphna, and me. Photo by Nanyu Chen.

Ministers new and old pose with this year’s monastic preceptors. (Bhante Piyananda stands to the right of Bhante Chao Chu.) Photo by Nanyu Chen.

Bhante Piyananda and I. Some readers may know Bhante Piyananda, who is the Chief Sanghanayake of the U.S.A., as the author of the absolutely wonderful memoir Saffron Days in L.A. as well as this summer’s The Bodhi Tree Grows in L.A. Photo by Nanyu Chen.

Somya and I. Without Somya, I probably wouldn’t have met the Bhantes or gotten involved with the I.O.B.M. My ordination is yet another reason for me to be eternally grateful for his friendship. I was very happy that he was there to be part of the ceremony. Photo by Nanyu Chen.

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29 thoughts on “Ordination Day

  1. congratulations! i’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, and i always find something worthwhile here. you are inspiring. : )

  2. I was also glad to see you this weeked, congratulation! It’s a pity that I cann’t come. I and kit were waiting for his friends in the airport for more than four hours for the delay of the plane and he still got lost with GPS.(I think he will not mind I told you here):P

  3. Yo, Rev D!

    You look marvelous. It’s good to see pics of y’all all gussied up in your Reverend Robes.

    Best Wishes to you and I can’t wait to hear about the next chapter of your life in Chaplaincy.

  4. Dear beloved Rev. Danny,

    It is a pleasure to hear that you had an intention to seek the truth through this Noble Practice.

    Life by life maturity has encouraged you to continue this journey to reach Ultimate Freedom.

    May your confidence and wisdom grow and experience contentment!

    Seelagawesi Thero

  5. congratulations, Rev Danny!!!
    You did a great work before your ordination and I am sure you’ll do the same after ordination.
    With all my respect,

  6. Congratulations! May your ordination be the next step towards what you wish to achieve, for yourself and for others.

  7. Looks like a beautiful ceremony. Did you see my pics on facebook of temples in Europe?
    I hope to catch you at AAR. I see you are on the program!
    Melissa Conroy

  8. Congratulations. I wish something more probing, pithy, and permanent came to mind, but it does not.

    You are, as a friend of mine would put it, good people.

    In the dark times, please remember that this over-idealistic, egotistical and demanding jerk told you that.

  9. Hello my Dhamma brother,

    You are the great asset of American Buddhism.
    A big bow !!!!!!!!
    May you prosper in Buddha Dhamma.

    May the Triple gems be with you.
    Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu,

  10. Jinpa, Chuck, Franko, JingJing, Joseph, G, Bhante, Josho, Jemma, Steve, Dylan, Melissa, Mumon, Erik, James, Darcie, Tom P., Leamur, Tom A., Nate, and Anonymous:

    Thank you all very much for your comments. It means a lot to me that you left such warm and kind notes.

    Bows in all of your directions,

  11. Congratulations Danny! Thanks so much for sharing this. I am so happy for you. Love, Jenna

  12. This is truly wonderful–I know you will continue to serve in all kinds of ways. It is great to have you on this planet.


  13. Hello Dharma brother,

    I know it’s been severeal months since your ordination but hey, it’s always a reason to congratulate so

    my deepest congratulations, Danny! Great! Your kind of human beings are truly inspiring us all.


    Yours in Dharma,

  14. Pingback: A Very Belated Post about My Pal Sumi Loundon Kim’s Visit to L.A. « Rev. Danny Fisher

  15. Pingback: A Very Special Buddhist Bloggers Meet-Up « Rev. Danny Fisher

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