Caitlin Fitch

Zen Priests Ordained

This past weekend, Santa Barbara County’s first Zen priest ordination took place at the Tecolote Canyon Community Center in a ceremony hosted by the Santa Barbara Zen Center. The quiet and meaningful ritual, performed by Sensei Gary Koan Janka (right), saw Shari Naismith (left) and Carol Lee Abrahamson (middle) officially devote their lives to the way of the Buddha in the presence of friends and family.

“I am feeling heartfelt emotion and a great spaciousness,” said Naismith before the ceremony began. “I’m getting calmer as the day goes on, which is surprising. I thought I’d be more anxious.”

Both Naismith, currently a Buddhist chaplain for the U.S. Navy and former deputy sheriff in San Diego’s gang unit, and Abrahamson, who works with patients of head trauma in Santa Ynez, began the momentous day by having their heads shaved. One tuft of hair was left to be removed during the ordination ceremony (pictured directional), symbolizing the renunciation of their current lives to the Buddha. The two newly ordained priests will receive many more years of training, become a more active presence in the Songha (Zen community), and, if chosen, ultimately become teachers of the Zen way.

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