Suzanne/Yangchen


On August 3rd, I witnessed my first ordination. Suzanne Marchand is from Quebec and 10 years ago, she read about Gampo Abbey and decided to come here someday. Today was the day. . . 

There is quite a build up to the hair cutting ceremony. We have a posted calendar on the bulletin board for the whole month and everyone knows when it’s happening. As you can imagine, there is a lot of conversation about life ‘post-hair’ in the days preceding the ceremony. Everyone goes into the shrine room, there is one chair right up front with a set of clippers and a smock on it. There is a bit of show of putting on the smock and making sure that it’s not choking the person and then there is the moment when the clippers get turned on. bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………..and we all laugh, or at least smile. Suzanne had prepared for it, she was ‘in the zone’ so definitely not shocked.  I was a bit shocked, I will not lie. You all know how unreasonably attached I am to my hair.

They leave one strand, a long one in this case, for cutting at the ordination the day after. The ordination the next morning is really special. The monastics spend a lot of time cleaning the shrine and polishing everything. It’s bright and everyone is dressed in their best monastic clothing with the bright yellow chugus. The ceremony is pretty short but Ani Migme, the senior monastic, throws rice on everyone and it’s really joyous.

Suzanne became Yangchen (it means Goddess of Learning and Art; an appropriate name for her). She took the monastic vows for one year. The vows are similar to the ones I took for household residents but she will have the duties of a monastic and have a much deeper and disciplined experience than I will. She was always very stylishly dressed before hand, with her hair up and a cute scarf wrapped around it. Now, she wears robes everyday, even on open days. She looks the same, just as radiant and lovely as ever.

After the hair cutting, all the hair is gathered up and tossed off the cliff. Two of the In House Residents took the hair out to where we offer the ‘compost’ to the birds. The wind was perfect, blowing out to the sea. The sun was just setting with plenty of clouds to catch the light and as the hair was let go, it floated out like birds across the sea.

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