Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Week Of Goodbyes

I would say that things are fairly quiet at the moment, though if I list the ceremonies coming up in the next ten days - the Katagiri memorial, the Suzuki Roshi memorials, the Mahapajapati memorial, and the Full Moon Ceremony, oh, and a chosan - it might not seem like it. None of them are likely to cause much me stress, though, except perhaps the chosan.
What is most unusual is that we are also doing three departing ceremonies in the space of seven days, and for senior people in the community. Yesterday, it was the turn of Bernd, subject of one of Greg's first posts - and if there is a better picture of Bernd, I haven't seen it. I think I first met Bernd during a Tassajara practice led by Reb in 2003, and he has been around much of the time since then, with occasional returns to Europe, where he is now heading to teach at the forthcoming Akazienstrassen-Zendo in Berlin. We have spent a few years on senior staff together, and I appreciate his gentle but insistent spirit of enquiry in all matters.
The ceremony was most intimate, in a way that would be churlish to write about - just little moments of meeting, and exchanges that reveal the closeness of the sangha, and of teacher and student.
Today, Michael, who has been here even longer, but whose move is only across town. Michael co-led the first practice period I lived here for, back in 2000, and was full of helpful teachings and guidance. He has always had completely his own way of doing things - he could often be relied upon to punctuate a talk he was giving with a sudden shout, so it was no surprise to hear a fully-voiced one today, answering Paul's question almost before he had finished asking it.  This was a more emotional ceremony, reflecting his forty years of commitment and the long relationship with the many senior people in the zendo this morning. He has been a pillar of Zen Center in so many ways, while having a very clear and firmly articulated sense of what is most important.
On Monday, it will be Joan; this morning a stack of boxes appeared outside her room. Again, she is someone who was here when I arrived in 2000, though she went to Tassajara soon afterwards, and then we were there together for some time as well, so she has often been an older sister in the dharma for me. She is another one not afraid to speak her mind and to do things her own way, but strongly guided by wishing to share the dharma with all who need it.
All three of them are setting up and leading their own groups; knowing that they are doing this to help spread the teachings widely helps to soften the blow of their loss.

Michael playing harmonica during a wonderfully silly song at skit night a couple of years ago
Joan after her shuso ceremony, between Blanche and Darlene

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