Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Big Do With Drums

Someone asked me after sesshin if there was now a lull for me, and I replied 'as if...' This morning, though, I can relax a little, as the next ceremony is not until Friday evening, so until then I just have meetings and zazen, oh, and the backlog of more than twenty dharma talks to put online - apologies if you have been feeling starved of podcasts recently, there has been a lot else keeping me busy.
Rohatsu sesshin is the time for Buddhists to commemorate Shakyamuni's great effort and achievement in sitting for seven days and eventually waking up. Today is the traditional date for Buddha's Enlightenment, and this morning's ceremony is usually done as the culmination of the Rohatsu sitting. I was glad that it wasn't this year, because although both ceremonies have a number of elements in common, today's involved more preparation than the one we did instead on the last morning of sesshin, the Annual Suzuki Roshi Memorial.
I seem to remember reading in 'Crooked Cucumber' that it was fitting that Suzuki Roshi died during Rohatsu, as he knew that all his students would be in the zendo sitting wholeheartedly. Certainly our seven days of sitting informed the statements of appreciation and gratitude that some of us got to make during the ceremony on Saturday morning. After all, without Shakyamuni, and without Suzuki Roshi, none of us would be practising here at Zen Center.
Today's ceremony had a very energetic feel, once we got into the circumambulation of the Buddha Hall, chanting the Maka Hannya Haramitta Shin Gyo to the accompaniment of two drummers. I have been one of the drummers on a number of occasions over the years, and the pattern, which has a number of variations, is deeply embedded in me. This year's drummers were both new, and not having got round to starting the training before sesshin, we only had two days of rehearsal to get it together. They did a great job, and at the moments where the drums faltered, the energy of the chanting was easily strong enough to carry us through. I even managed to enjoy myself as I was doing my laps of the Buddha Hall, which I hadn't been expecting to...
Another detail that had been causing me a little stress, as I hadn't been planning far enough ahead before sesshin, was using confetti rather than flower petals, to be strewn all over the Buddha Hall as we did our circumambulations. I certainly have received a lot of comments about this. The ino's notes mentioned that 500 heads of carnations was perfect, but 600 would be better...I could easily justify using paper instead, as usually happens at Tassajara, on environmental grounds, thinking of reducing, re-using and recycling (rather than having flowers which would have probably come hundreds if not thousands of miles from where they were grown, all the confetti was cut out of magazine pages from the student lounge, and it got swept up during soji right after the ceremony - as an addendum, our flower buyer told me that carnations would be being shipped from Colombia, which happens to be where she is from, although her durability is somewhat greater).
This morning is one of the times when it is usual for the ino to be the kokyo, so I got to do this dedication; this one always reminds me of Greg, as he had his own inimitably wholehearted way of doing this, which I did not try to emulate....

On this winter morning many centuries ago,
after long and patient struggle to find the truth,
a human being looked up and saw the morning star for the first time
and was set completely free, laying down his heavy burden once and for all,
realizing unsurpassable peace, heart opened wide as the sky.
And from his mouth came forth a great lion's roar:
I was, am, and will be fully awakened simultaneously with the entire universe.
Thus mountains, rivers, the great earth, and all living beings
are residing in the eye of Shakyamuni Buddha,
and Buddha's eye has become each of our bodies here and now,
dropped off, compassionate, and joyous beyond measure.

Today with deep gratitude
we celebrate this inconceivable liberation
Homage to Shakyamuni Buddha!
Homage to Shakyamuni Buddha!
Homage to Shakyamuni Buddha!

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