A BUDDHIST WEDDING Celebrated Within the Western Tradition

A Real Spiritual Practice
A BUDDHIST WEDDING
Celebrated Within the Western Tradition

A Service
Compiled and Edited from diverse sources by
James Ishmael Ford
With the assistance of Tetsugan Zummach & Dosho Port

(Some years ago I composed a Wedding Service for Buddhists in the West. The following service includes a number of corrections and expansions from that earlier document suggested by the Zen priests Tetsugan Zummach & Dosho Port, and used in their 2015 wedding. While “bride” and “groom” are used in the text, this service is easily adaptable to same gender weddings. It is my sincere hope that this service be of use both to the Western Buddhist convert community seeking ways to honor their Buddhism, and for Buddhist immigrants looking for ways to adapt the traditions of the West to our shared faith. JIF)

Processional

Address to the Congregation

Minister: We are here gathered to witness the joining of _____ and _____ in marriage; which is an honorable estate, instituted in the necessities of our being, and dedicated to the happiness of people and the welfare and continuance of humanity; an estate not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in all sincerity.

To be true, this outward form must be a symbol of that which is inner and real; a sacred personal union, which love only can create, and mutual loyalty fulfill.

To endure, the marriage of these two people must be a consecration of each to the other, and of both to the wider community of which their lives are a part.

Interrogation

Minister to Bride and Groom:

Recognizing that the external conditions in life will not always be smooth and that internally your own minds and emotions will sometimes get stuck in negativity. Do you pledge to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help you grow, to open your hearts, to accept yourselves, and each other; and to generate compassion for others who are suffering? Do you pledge to avoid becoming narrow, closed or opinionated, and to help each other to see various sides of situations?

Answer: “We do”

Minister: Understanding that just as we are a mystery to ourselves, each other person is also a mystery to us. Do you pledge to seek to understand yourselves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy?

Answer: “We do”

Minister: Do you pledge to preserve and enrich your affection for each other, and to share it with all beings? To take the loving feelings you have for one another and your vision of each other’s potential and inner beauty as an example, and rather than spiraling inwards and becoming self absorbed, to radiate this love outwards to all beings?

Answer: “We do”

Minister to the congregation: Hearing all this, will you who witness these pledges do your utmost to support this marriage?

Congregation We will.

Presentations

Minister: Who presents the bride in marriage?

Bride’s family: We do.

Minister: Who presents the groom in marriage?

Groom’s family: We do.

Or

Minister: Who presents the bride in marriage?

Bride’s family: She gives herself, and we share in her giving, joyfully.

Minister: Who presents the groom in marriage?

Groom’s family: He gives himself, and we share in his giving, joyfully.

Renewing the Precepts

Minister to the congregation: Within the Buddhist tradition we are bound to our path by the way of precepts. In our various traditions we count them differently. But, there are five precepts shared by all monastics, priests, and lay practitioners. I ask the bride and the groom to renew those precepts as part of this wonderful and difficult step they are taking. I will speak the precept, and I ask you _____ and _____ to repeat them together. Those here who wish to, may also repeat these vows. After each precept I will share a paraphrase of brief comments on these precepts by the great teachers Bodhidharma and Dogen.

Minister: I take up the way of not killing. (bride & groom repeat)

Life is not killed. The Buddha Seed grows in accordance with not taking life. Transmit the life of Buddha’s wisdom and do not kill.

Minister: I take up the way of not taking that which is not given. (bride and groom repeat)

The self and things of the world are just as they are. The gate of emancipation is open.

Minister: I take up the way of not misusing my sexuality. (bride & groom repeat)

The three wheels are pure and clear. Grasping things too tightly, you kill them; holding with open hands you follow the way of all Buddhas.

Minister: I take up the way of not speaking falsely. (bride & groom repeat)

The Dharma wheel turns and turns and there is neither surplus nor lack. Sweet dew permeates the universe, and the truth is ready to harvest.

Minister: I take up the way of not giving or taking intoxicants. (bride & groom repeat)

Where nothing can be brought in, that is where everything is inviolable. This is exactly the great brightness.

The body is manifested. The Dharma is unfolded and there is a bridge in the world for crossing over. The virtue returns to the ocean of all-knowing wisdom. This is unfathomable. Please accept it with respect and gratitude.

Pledges

The couple face each other. The groom takes the bride’s hand in his and prompted by the minister, the groom speaks his pledge.

Groom I _____, take you _____, to be my wife, (to be the mother of my children), to be the companion of my heart, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘till death do us part.

The bride and groom loosen their hands. The bride then takes the groom’s hands in hers. Then, prompted by the minister, the bride speaks her pledge.

Bride: I _____ take you _____, to be my husband, (to be the father of my children), to be the companion of my heart, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘till death do us part.

Readings

Minister It is appropriate to read from scriptures and other inspired writings, (or, listen to inspired music) at this time. These readings (and music) from our common heritage give a special blessing to a wedding.

First, Dharma Blossoms Turning Dharma Blossoms (an excerpt by Zenji Eihei Dogen)
That another person is intimate with you is that you are intimate with the person. To express respect is to give a gift like a pearl hidden in the hair or sewn into the robe. Thoroughly examine such moments [as dharma blossoms turning]. There is the turning of the dharma blossoms actualizing bodhisattvas emerging from the ground and abiding in the air, when the heart is without hindrance and form is without hindrance. There is the turning of the dharma blossoms actualizing bodhisattvas emerging from the sky and abiding in the ground, while immersed in the eye and immersed in the body. There is Vulture Peak in the tower, and a jeweled tower in Vulture Peak. The jeweled tower stands in the air. Rejoice! From eon to eon there have been dharma blossoms. From day to night there have been dharma blossoms. As dharma blossoms have been active from eon to eon, from day to night, whether your body and mind are strong or weak, they are dharma blossoms. Such blossoms are a rare treasure, a radiant light, a practice place, broad and vast, great and timeless. When the heart is deluded, you are turned by the dharma blossoms. When the heart is enlightened, you turn the dharma blossoms. Indeed, this is dharma blossoms turning dharma blossoms. When the heart is deluded, you are turned by the dharma blossoms.When the heart is enlightened, you turn the dharma blossoms. When you thoroughly experience this, it is dharma blossoms turning dharma blossoms. To honor and dedicate yourselves to this teaching is no other than dharma blossoms.

And, second, A Blessing for The Journey (by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao)

Let us vow to bear witness to the wholeness of life,
realizing the completeness of each and every thing.
Embracing our differences,
I shall know myself as you,
and you as myself.
May we serve each other
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to open ourselves to the abundance of life.
Freely giving and receiving, I shall care for you,
for the trees and stars,
as treasures of my very own.
May we be grateful
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to forgive all hurt,
caused by ourselves and others,
and to never condone hurtful ways.
Being responsible for my actions,
I shall free myself and you.
Will you free me, too?
May we be kind
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to remember that all that appears will disappear.
In the midst of uncertainty,
I shall sow love.
Here! Now! I call to you:
Let us together live
The Great Peace that we are.
May we give no fear
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.

Rings

The bride and groom loose hands again, and continue to face each other. The minister receives the rings. Holding the rings, the minister pronounces a sentence of dedication.

Minister: Rings are an ancient symbol, blessed and simple. Round like the sun, like the eye, like arms that embrace. Rings are circles reminding us of the endless cycles of life and love. And so, may these symbols remind you always that your love, like the sun, illumines; that your love, like the eye, must see clearly; and that your love, like arms that embrace, truly is a blessing upon this world.

The minister returns the bride’s ring to the groom, who places it on the fourth finger of the bride’s left hand. The groom, prompted by the minister says:

Groom: _____, with this ring, I thee wed.

The minister then gives the groom’s ring to the bride, who places it on the fourth finger of the groom’s left hand. The bride, prompted by the minister, says:

Bride: _____, with this ring, I thee wed.

A Blessing

Minister: _____ and _____, may the vows for your life together include the intention to continually break through those pre-conceived views of each other, which arise so naturally, but are so damaging to the way of clarity and love. May your vows include seeing through those feelings that arise from selfish desires, attachments, and fears. May your vows include compassion for each other and for all beings. May you refrain from speaking harshly or deceptively, to others, or to yourselves. May you live peacefully in this world, supporting each other in a manner that is in harmony with the great Way. And at all times may you be mindful of each other and hold lightly ideas and beliefs, remaining open to the possible. And may your path together be the manifestation of the bodhisattva vows you have taken.

Conclusion of Service

The minister, causing the bride and groom to join their hands, and with the minister’s hand placed on theirs, pronounces the admonition and declaration.

Minister: _____ and _____ have declared their love and purpose before this gathering, and have made their pledges each to the other symbolized by the holding of hands and the giving and receiving of rings. Therefore, I declare that they are husband and wife. May they find here the good beginning for the spending and the fruitfulness of many years. Svaha!

The Wedding Kiss

Recessional