Recharging the Batteries

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend yet another wonderful teaching with Chas Dicapua, resident teacher at IMS in Barre, MA. Chas has come to Brewster, here on Cape Cod, every 1st Friday of the month, for the past few months. We’ve gone over the 4 Noble Truths and are working our way down the line on the Eightfold Path.

Last night’s teaching was part of a multi-talk on Right Speech. I had missed last months teaching since I was in the Bahamas but a task was given out for students . We were given a task last night, that for a minimum of 3 days and a maximum of 1 week we try not to talk about anyone who is not in our presence. Some people balked at the idea, but I think it could be an interesting one.

Not that I talk about people often, I don’t see the need, but while talking with my wife we of course go over our day with one another. She may talk about her day and how this person may have affected the way her day when. Unskillfully, I may feed into it with my own opinions. So I think Chas’ task will help in getting rid of this type of unskillful speech.

On top of the talk though, at the end we were invited to stay behind and join in on a refuge ceremony and to take the 5 precepts. I have done this twice before in different traditions, once way back with the Kadampa’s and more recently with Lama Migmar Tseten of the Sakya lineage. Chas, as mentioned before, is from IMS which leans more toward Theravada with a Vipassana twist, hence the “insight” part in Insight Meditation Society. Anyway…

Before taking part in the ceremony I was curious whether or not having just taken refuge and the precepts with Lama Migmar it might “interfere” in some way. Yeah, I’m still a Buddhist noob so these things get confusing sometimes, four years of practice is barely a drop in the bucket folks, geez. I asked my broham Joe Evans if there would be any sort of “conflict” and he assured me there, of course, would not be. As a matter of fact, he told me how beneficial doing the ceremony again can be. Everytime we take refuge and the precepts the idea is a good amount of merit is accumulated, and after taking the precepts that merit is than dispersed into the universe. So I went for it again, and again, the ceremony was a bit different.

All in all it was the same, but the ritual was a bit different. We were all asked to bring something of meaning and share that on a communal altar we put together. I brought a mala that I got when I saw the Dalai Lama speak at Gillette Stadium this past June. This was something I had not done yet, but was moved by the things people brought. Each person explained the significance to the object and some of them were real tear jerkers, although I was able to contain myself. Paper was passed out with Pali verses we were going to recite as well as the English translation. The bowing was a bit different, not as involved as the prostrations involved in Tibetan Buddhism but still as effective.

At the end of the ceremony, Chas handed out small red cords to be tied around our wrists. We were to turn to the person on our right side and not only help them tie it but have them tie ours. The cord was blessed with 108 verses of a heart chant, not exactly sure what one he said it was though.

All in all the class was wonderful and after the ceremony I felt grounded again, recharged. Tonight I applied for a scholarship to a retreat Chas is running at IMS. I have done a one day retreat before, but this is two full days and I could really use the time to learn a more “proper” practice. Hopefully my application goes through, Chas is a wonderful teacher, I have much to learn from him.


  1. Hi Nate, I often wondered if I was a bit of a “refuge” junkie – or more correctly a “dharma name” junkie. My first ceremony was after a retreat in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition; the way the 5 precepts are formulated by Thay seemed very grounded in practice. They are more behaviours I could work with than vows I had to keep. When I was at a retreat with Bhante Gunaratana, I fell in love with the way he spoke of the 5 precepts plus three more – these three focused on mindful speech. There I was, front and center for the 8 precepts. Somewhere in all these refuge takings and aspiration commitments, I think I’ve contracted to a total of 44 of these suckers! I figure it qualifies me to found Refuge Taking Anonymous!

    Each year, my partner and I used to renew the ordination precepts we received in Thay’s tradition. It was a moving and powerful ceremony – not so different from renewing our commitment to each other. And each time I renewed my aspirations, something different would come into the foreground of my practice.

    I hope you get to go to the retreat. To find a good teacher is so rare.

    Lynette Genju

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