In South Korea, the lay Buddhist ordination is called sugye 수계. It is a public ceremony where the student affirms their Buddhist practice by accepting the Five Precepts (ogye오계).
The Five Precepts
I vow to abstain from taking life.
I vow to abstain from taking things not given.
I vow to abstain from misconduct done in lust.
I vow to abstain from lying.
I vow to abstain from intoxicants, taken to induce heedlessness.
The vows are not meant as absolute ethical standards of what is right and what is wrong. Instead, they help the student in their Zen practice by influencing the mind.
“In practicing the precepts, we will break them many times. It is important not to give up. Breaking the precepts is like falling down when you’re walking. The thing to do is to get up and start walking again, and if you fall again, get up again, keep on trying.
“The precepts are to help us cut off our attachments, and when that is done, then all the precepts are kept naturally.” – Dharma Teacher Jacob Perl (later Zen Master Wu Bong) at the Five Precepts Ceremony at the Providence Zen Center
During the ritual, the initiate is touched with a burning incense stick. This is to leave a permanent mark which serves to remind the initiate of their promise to uphold the five precepts. A person taking the 5 precepts wears a short grey bowing robe and receives a kasa 가사. During the ceremony, the initiate is given a Buddhist name.
“The Buddhist journey begins by your being able to accept yourself the way you are, both bad and good. When you are able to accept yourself, you can trust and believe in yourself as a Dharma agent for change. When you can trust yourself, then you can help yourself and wake yourself up. If you can wake yourself up then you can help and wake up others. In the process you discover your Buddha nature and the Buddha nature of others, and realize that we are an interdependent and interrelated whole.
Buddhists are happy people and peaceable beings because it is a joy to follow the path of non-violence and liberation. They are helpful and responsible because they practice Dharma and observe precepts. They are called bodhisattvas, wisdom beings, because they cultivate compassionate heart and serve people with wisdom eye. Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom