Before I was ordained, Greg asked me who I wanted to shave my head. Any of the Tassajara crowd, I replied. In the end I was happy that my older dharma brother Graham did the honours for me, and it was a beautiful occasion, in the dokusan room, as Koji and Jared took care of Steven and Trevor alongside me. We were given a verse to contemplate during the process, which underlined the ceremonial aspect:
Shaving off the hair,
Dedicated to all beings,
Dropping off all worldly desires,
Completely entering Nirvana.
It was the second line that most caught my attention - dedicated to all beings. That seemed like a tall order, and it still does, but that is the task we undertake when we devote ourselves to practice, whether as a priest or not.
It was a joke among my friends in England when I announced that I was going to study zen that I already had the haircut for it - I had been buzzing my hair very short for a number of years (having just looked at some childhood pictures, where I have seventies-style pudding bowl cuts, it really was from one extreme to the other). Shaving it altogether is a different feeling though. Afterwards I put the verse on my altar, and though I don't look at it when I shave my head in the bath, it does come to mind pretty much every time - I shave my head every four days, close to the traditional schedule of monks doing it on four-and-nine days, and each time it feels like a renewal of intention.
I was honoured to be present at Alison's head-shaving, with Colin as the hair-dresser, or hair-undresser as I thought of it. I hope Alison won't mind me sharing these pictures from the different stages of the event - she had much more hair to be rid of than I did...