The Ritual of Penance                                  
by Alicia Romero



            Sunday, June 24 2012, marked a day of celebration. It was the Ritual of Penance here at the I- Kuan Tao Temple in El Monte, CA. On this bright and sunny day, Tao cultivators, who enthusiastically congregated to what was an infrequent event of the Ritual of Penance. There were Masters who spoke and inspired us through their teachings that day. One of the themes I learned about was the importance of right mindedness. This is where it all begins! The Master spoke with such simplicity and joy. I was moved to tears. My tears felt like raindrops coming from the heavens. I could and couldn't understand it at the same time. This was not a moment of false sentimentality. It felt like true essence of being.

I was quite mystified as to his words of wisdom that were in reality just reminders of what is beautiful in the world. One can easily forget simple things like kindness and goodness. But it starts with intention. In order to see what is beautiful, right and sacred in this world, one must rid oneself of wrongs, of regrets and of the past. This is Penance: to pray and to recall our wrongdoings with sincerity and learning. This was the ultimate event of the day. After the Ritual of Penance, one lady member of the temple said to me "You have no idea how lucky you are". I responded to her “You’re probably right". I could read in her words her meaning. As I recall having remembered receiving the Tao years prior and it having been a very life-transforming event, I knew exactly what she meant. This was evident immediately days after in my activities of everyday daily life. I walked away with a clearer mind and a more aware mind and a more conscientious mind. I, in turn, resolved a couple of conflicts that were perturbing me. I was just not in the right mind or had the right perception to see how I needed to be a better participant and not a judge.

I was fortunate enough to have received the Tao April 11, 2004. Then on Saturday, June 23rd, 2012, Master Chen and Master Cheri conducted the Vegetarian Vow Ritual. This was the prerequisite for the Penance Ritual. Being vegetarian, now makes me think truly about what I eat and why. I never before connected what I ate, was any way associated with spirituality. But, what we do to our bodies reflects our spirituality, health, emotions, behavior and actions.

I felt at one with the group of Tao cultivators participating in the day's activities. It was comforting to be in community of people who come to learn, understand and live by these concepts. Many people helped put this event together, to which I'm grateful. Every detail in planning from the coordination of uniforms and the much needed translation to the many other details made this event seamless.  And these same people care and support others in this spiritual journey realized.