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In August 2019, I received the name Suiko as from my buddhist teacher. Suiko (pronounced soo-EE-koh) means light on water in Japanese. Light on water means more to me than my teacher could possibly have known. For me it encompasses my current practice of Buddhism certainly, but also my childhood summers at Lake Michigan; my matrilineal line of Christian Science; my own unique relationship to Spirit; the veil between worlds; my history as a competitive synchronized swimmer; and even my creative process. I spent a couple of weeks stunned by the power of receiving this name. I started asking my family and close friends to call me Suiko, to call me in as Suiko.
And now, after some months of sinking into it, I am shifting my public-facing profile to align with this numinous call.
In the next days, I will be shifting this website and my social media profiles to Suiko.art.
If you'd like to read more about the ceremony in which I received the name and what it means to me, take a look at my previous blog post or scroll down for my post on the Art Monastery blog.
On a sweltering eve of the August full moon, I knelt before my Buddhist teacher in a beautifully-crafted Japanese-style Zendo at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Carmel, California, surrounded by 70-some monks and visitors and received my dharma name.
I had been preparing for the ceremony for nearly two years, sewing a rakusu (patch robe), reciting buddhist prayers with each tiny stitch. I had offered incense to every altar at the center and done many full prostrations. I had (mostly) memorized the parts I needed to speak in the ceremony.
Before my teacher, Fu (Abbess of Green Gulch Farm & Green Dragon Zen Temple) spoke, she looked into my eyes. In the silence between us I felt her ask, "Are you here?" It took some minutes to hear her question through all my nervousness. Suddenly my awareness came to my body and with a rush of relief, I realized that was, indeed, present. She continued to hold my gaze in silence and then the next message came through: "I am here with you."
It was a moment of gorgeous intimacy. Receiving the bodhisattva precepts isn't something you do alone. It's something you do in concert with your teacher, your fellow practitioners, and, well, all beings.
When Abbess Fu said my dharma name for the first time, something shifted in me. She said, "Suiko Ikusei: light on water, nourishing life." Tears immediately welled up in my eyes. I felt the space around me expand. Images flooded my mind:
This name was so much bigger than the Buddhist context in which I received it.
I feel like the name did not come from my teacher so much as through her.
For days afterward, I walked around in a stupor.
For weeks I considered what it would mean to take on this name.
And now, I've made my choice. Not because I dislike the name Betsy or who Betsy has been. Not at all. But because of what I want to step into and the call to which I want to respond.
I invite you to call me Suiko (soo-EE-koh).
I want to be called Suiko.
To be called in as Suiko.
To learn more about the ceremony, the precepts, and to see photos of the rakusu and more, pop over to the blog post on my portfolio site: suiko.art.
I deeply appreciate the efforts of people who have known me as Betsy for more than 40 years (ahem!) to make the switch. It means the world to me.
With humble gratitude,
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