Bernd was invited to be Shuso shortly after the beginning of the Practice Period by the co-leaders of the Practice Period, Gigen Victoria Austin and Dairyu Michael Wenger, in a moving ceremony usually referred to as the Shuso Entering Ceremony, wherein the Shuso-to-be always says, "This responsibility is too great for me!" and basically tries to get out of it, but in the end is always prevailed upon to accept the position and then takes a place in the Zendo facing outward next to the Practice Period leader for the remainder of the Practice Period.
Last Monday morning I was honored to share tea with the Shuso and my Dharma Sister Rev. Carol Benjamin, with whom I practiced at Tasssajara. Having tea with all of the students in the Practice Period is something the Shuso always does. Because space seems to be at a premium in City Center these days due to the vast smorgasbord of Dharma offerings available here, we wound up having tea in the Abbot's dokusan room, which made for an especially unique and intimate experience. The Shuso was a very gracious host, exemplifying what I believe is sometimes referred to as Old World charm. The conversation was civilized and stimulating. Bernd asked me about my experience as Shuso at Tassajara. I was Shuso at Tassajara Jan-April 2005 with my teacher Sojun Roshi leading that Practice Period. I told him it was one of the happiest times in my life! He asked me what I thought the most important job of the Shuso was, and I said, "Just to love everybody." When I said that he got a very cute smile on his face.
Our Shuso is also our Shissui, our Work Leader, another one of the six traditional administrative officers of a Zen temple mentioned in the beginning of Dogen's Tenzokyokun. Only around here we don't say Shissui we just say Work Leader. As Work Leader, Bernd runs our Guest Student program, gives out soji (temple cleaning) assignments in the morning, and leads our morning Work Circle each day. I truly appreciate that part of Bernd's Dharma name is Joyful Devotion, because more often than not, at the end of our Work Circle meeting, he wishes us all a "joyful day." We are very lucky to have a Shuso like Bernd.