Thursday, July 28, 2011

Evening Assembly, Morning Assembly

It was decided that instead of the usual Wednesday evening lecture we would meet in small groups to have a chance to express how we were doing - just residents, the intensive participants, some close friends, and David's two brothers, who arrived yesterday. Seeing them and talking with them earlier allowed for uncanny flashes of resemblance with David, in their features, mannerisms, ways of speaking and the same quick dry humour, even in this situation where propriety counsels staidness.
Michael, the older brother, ended up with the group I was in with the Abbot in the dokusan room, eight of us all together, in a circle on the tatamis, a formal and sombre setting. Of the other residents, I will name Gretchen mainly to have a reason to point people who might not have come across it to her post from a few days ago. We had an hour, which allowed everyone to say what they felt they needed to say. As with last Friday's meeting, many different moods were expressed; apart from the grief and sense of loss, Michael cracked us all up with a story from their childhood. I talked about how I felt I had little space for a personal reaction with all that was going on, and also remembered a Saturday morning when we were having breakfast in the zendo a year or more ago: the server brought the pot with the miso soup, and I was waiting for them to stir it up with the ladle, to see the cloud of miso once again rise from the bottom. Only, when the soup was stirred, it remained clear. I went up afterwards and asked David, who had cooked the breakfast, about this phenomenon, and he slapped his forehead with the flustered realisation that he had made miso soup without miso, which, we both knew, was going to become one of those stories that would get told around Zen Center for years to come.
Afterwards all the groups came together in the grey light of the courtyard, a typical summer evening cool breeze blowing, to fill the space with the chanting of the Refuges.

This morning we had the first of what will be seven memorial services, to take us through the traditional forty-nine day period. During the Dai Hi Shin Dharani, everyone stood up and took a turn to offer incense as we chanted. I am not sure where we got the dedications for these services from; each makes an appeal to a different buddha or bodhisattva, and the phrasing is unlike anything else we use. I was moved by these lines this morning:
Kindly we pray that in the realm of life and death this one person Seizan Yushin, like the precious Dragon Jewel, will shine as the emerald sea, clear and complete, as the clear blue sky, in the Dharma everywhere, and will serve as a guide for the world in ascending the path to enlightenment.
Afterwards, at breakfast, the almonds in our third bowls were still crackling as they cooled.


Renshin Judy Bunce said...

I wish I could have been with you for the memorial. Thank you for bringing it to those of us who are removed by distance but not by heart.

Marianne J-B said...

With you all in heart too

Shundo said...

We shall be doing this each Thursday until the 49th day if anyone else would like to attend a future one.

Catherine Gammon said...

Dear Shundo,
Thank you for posting, from so far away it is good to know how deeply the community continue to help one another through trauma and grieving. I would love to have a copy of those dedications if it is possible to share them. Thank you for taking such good care.

Shundo said...

Thank you Catherine. If you email me at, I can send them over to you. I hope you are doing well.

cohahn said...

Dear Shundo,

I remain grateful for your thoughtfulness in this blog. Michael and I were overwhelmed by the compassion and support we received at City Center and Tassajara and I / we will never forget it. Recounting it all to my parents comforted them. Please extend my and my family's sincere appreciation and love to all. David will be cremated Tuesday morning. Mark L and others will be going to attend. We arranged for a small(7) group indoors if needed and as many as want to can be outdoors during the cremation. This is just to let you know - we certainly do not expect anything. We are planning on a service here in the Soto tradition in October since we are a scattered family and David has many old friends here. David's Rakuso and legacy papers will be cremated with him as per his teacher's wishes. It is our wish too to respect tradition - very comforting in fact. We delivered his robe to Tassajara. We spoke to people at T about returning next summer to scatter ashes or bury an urn. A marker may be possible but they are working out details for such things. I will bring his oriyoki bowls for another person's use when all of that happens. Be well.


Shundo said...

Stephen, thank you for sharing these details. I heard that you had quite an epic trip home, and I hope you have recovered and are doing well.