Thursday, February 17, 2011

Standard Observances

I have been distracted from Dogen by delving into the 'Gyoji Kihan' again. This started when Blanche was trying to remember if the shuso should be doing her morning jundo with her hands in gassho or whether she just does a gassho bow at the beginning of each tan. Now, to many of you, this may seem both esoteric and trite, but we take these things kind of seriously, and of course, when we don't know what to do, we have two options: we ask other people who might know such a thing what their opinion is, or we go and look at the definitive Japanese version.
It was easy to find the right section, in fact it was right up there on page five: 'Head Seat Tours Hall' (you have to read the Gyoji Kihan with your mental thesaurus open - the 'head seat' here means the shuso, whom I have also seen referred to as the 'chief junior'). Unfortunately, the eleven lines of text which outline the form for the head seat touring the hall do not include any mention of whether her hands are in gassho or not.
Still, I enjoyed reading other little snippets while I had the book down off the shelf. Just above that paragraph, in the section called 'Sequence for Entering Hall', I read "Coming early is acceptable, but coming late is especially admonished", which I shall certainly be using in some of my upcoming pep talks...

I also discovered that our form of hitting the densho eighteen times during the first period of zazen is actually an abbreviated version of a pattern of 108 hits that should be done, in three rounds of 36. What is more useful to me is the instruction that the shoten, or 'bell manager' as they are referred to here, "mentally recites Verse for Bell Ringing while striking bell. Verse for Bell Ringing is as follows:

May living beings of the dharma realms,
Stifled and mired in bitterness
In the three painful destinies and eight hardships
Hear the sound and awaken to the way".

We have this verse on the densho in kanji, and a translation of it hanging on the wall, so I have added this to the shoten instructions.

Finally on this trawl, instructions for the meal drum, which we do at breakfast as we offer food to Manjushri: "Using drumsticks in tandem, three sequences of great pounding. For opening beats, progress from light pounding to great pounding".
On the current instructions we call it a crescendo. When I first lived here, and was the fukudo, repsonsible for playing the drum, I definitely gave it a great pounding, as I enjoyed hearing the drum reverberate around the corridors. At Tassajara, where the drum is outside, you don't get that same resonance. I was determined to hit it just as hard though, the problem being that the drum is directly outside the zendo windows, just a shoji screen away from some people's ears. Having received a bit of feedback, I went to ask Blanche if she thought my drumming had been too loud. "Well, the important thing is the crescendo" she replied, which I understood as her polite way of telling me, yes, it was way too loud.

1 comment:

Shundo said...

As a postscript, I was somewhat remiss in stating that we have that verse on the densho here. What we have engraved in kanji, with a translation on the wall is "Speech can move the heaven and earth / Cry can silence the whole mountain and town".
Also on the wall is the following:
Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness
I send my heart along with the sound of the bell
May the hearers awaken from forgetfulness
And transcend all anxiety and sorrow.
Which is a little more mellow that the 'Gyoji Kihan' version.