"Hello, my name is Suiko," said the artist formerly known as Betsy.

On the eve of the August 2019 full moon, I had a Jukai ceremony at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Carmel, California and received the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts. 

(What is a Jukai and the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts, you ask? Pop down to the bottom of this post for more info.)

In the nearly two years preceding this ceremony, I sewed a rakusu, also known as a patch robe. With each teeny tiny stitch I said, aloud or silently, “Namu kie butsu” which means “I take refuge in Buddha”. The process of sewing was really wonderful (appealing to my detail-oriented & repetitive markmaking-inclined nature). I wound up applying the same process to embroidering my beloved Qayyum’s shirt for our wedding—with each stitch I recited our marriage vows.

Close up of Namu Kie Butsu stitches on rakusu

On the part of the rakusu that hangs closest to my heart, I sewed a white piece of silk. Before the ceremony, my teacher, Fu, Abbess of Green Gulch Farm & Green Dragon Zen Temple, wrote my dharma name in Japanese calligraphy. I learned my dharma name for the first time in the ceremony. The first part of the name is where I am now and the second part could be seen as the source of my awakening or as a kind of assignment.


The name Fu gave me is: Suiko Ikusei.

Suiko translates to “light on water” and Ikusei translates to “nourishing life.

When Fu said “Suiko Ikusei: Light on Water, Nourishing Life” in the ceremony, tears immediately welled up in my eyes. This name is more meaningful to me than she ever could have known.

Light on water!

What does light on water mean to me?

For me, it conjures images of Lake Michigan, where I spent my childhood summers with my grandparents and family. In those days, I thought God lived in Lake Michigan.

Years ago, I went to a clairvoyant in Berkeley. During the session, she told me that my spirit guides would make themselves known to me by twinkling and sparkling at me through the physical realm. In the car on the way home, as I drove over the Bay Bridge, sunlight caught on what must have been a droplet of water on my windshield. Never mind that it hadn’t been raining and there was no reason for water to be on the glass—the light danced and shone. I noticed it and my eyebrows shot up, “My spirit guides?” I thought. And then the light flared through the water and for a moment I was blasted with light. “Okay, okay! Careful, guys, I’m driving!” I called aloud.

Ever since then, when I see light shining on wateron droplets of water on windshields, on bits of dew on the grass, on the surface of the Connecticut River in the backyard of Art Monastery Vermont—I think of spirit. I think of divine energy. I think of a little tear in the fabric of conventional reality, through which is winking wisdom and compassion beyond all human understanding.

For some of you, spirit guides aren’t part of your world view. That’s totally fine. This is what light on or through water has meant to me. I don’t expect it to mean this for anyone else.

I went on to make abstract video pieces filmed from the bottom of a pool looking up into sunlight. In fact, following an intuition to film light passing through water led me to a breakthrough in my creative process.

And that is why when Fu gave me this name that acknowledges the quality of my being that is like light on water, I was deeply touched. To me it seems larger than she could have known, larger than she could have gathered from any of my friends & family who offered their reflections on my positive qualities. It is larger than the Buddhist context through which I received it, encompassing my unique conglomeration of spiritual influences, my most tender beliefs, my creative process, and my great love of life. It's seems to me that the name itself is a kind of numinous call that came through Fu.

Before the ceremony, I did not expect to use this dharma name in my every day life. Not knowing what the name would be and no longer living at the temple, it seemed lovely, but abstract. Now that I have received this name and it has touched me so deeply, I want to embody it. I want to be reminded, again and again, of what this name calls forth in me.

So I invite you all to call me Suiko (soo-EE-koh).

(Maybe it helps to remember it as "Sue Eco"?)

Every time someone calls me Suiko I get a little jolt of joy.

I’m not eschewing Betsy. I’ve always liked that name and I have no problem with the person that name represents to me.

And I am excited by the idea of fully stepping into Suiko.

And so I let go of Betsy.

I will be transitioning BetsyMcCallArt.com to Suiko.art in the coming days.

And now, please do your best to call me Suiko.

To call me in as Suiko.



JUKAI a Buddhist initiation, a ceremony in which one receives the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts. For me, it was an acknowledgment that I have been practicing these principles and a public, heartfelt commitment to continue to practice them. It’s making official that these vows are my ongoing path.

Here’s how Diane Eshin Rizzetto, Abbess of Bay Zen Center in Oakland defined it in Lion’s Roar:

Jukai is made up of ju, “receiving/granting,” and kai, “precepts.” At a deeper level, ju means to open a space within the core of our being to what is natural and true. It is, perhaps, more like “making” a space in which the precepts can manifest as what is natural. So in this sense, ju opens to what is.

At a deeper level, kai refers to the precepts not merely as rules that keep us straight on the path, but as signposts that point us toward naturally acting for the benefit of all beings. The way of the precepts is the path of going beyond the dream of self. It is the path that reveals the truth that our own happiness and well-being is intricately connected to the happiness and well-being of others.



The 16 BODHISATTVA PRECEPTS include the three Refuges, the three Pure Precepts, and the ten Clear Mind Precepts.

Three Refuges

  1. I take refuge in Buddha (Awakening. My true nature as vast, awake, and full of potential.)
  2. I take refuge in Dharma (Truth that is ever-present, open, and changing; the teachings that return me to the freedom of the present moment, the teachings that liberate me from a small-minded self that thinks it is separate from everything else; the path of awakening.)
  3. I take refuge in Sangha (the community of teachers and fellow practitioners, everyone who helps me on the path, all living beings).

Three Pure Precepts

  1. I vow to refrain from any action that causes harm.
  2. I vow to make every effort to live in awakening.
  3. I vow to live and be lived for the benefit of all beings.

Ten Clear Mind Precepts

  1. Not Killing: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to make every effort to cause no harm & protect life.
  2. Not Stealing: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to receive only what is freely offered.
  3. Not Misusing Sexuality: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to honor open & honest intimacy.
  4. Not Lying: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to carefully speak the truth.
  5. Not Intoxicating: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to practice intentionality and care with intoxicants.
  6. Not Slandering: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to dwell on the mistakes of others.
  7. Not Praising Self at the Expense of Others: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to practice humility.
  8. Not Being Possessive of Anything: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to practice generosity & renunciation.
  9. Not Harboring Ill Will: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to practice forgiveness.
  10. Not Disparaging the Triple Treasure: Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to practice the Way of Awakening, Truth, and Community.