Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lip Reading And Stepping Backwards

Monday did indeed turn out to be a very restful day, but it was back to business yesterday: there was a training that started at 8:30, after which I caught up with emails and events and tried to tidy up my office; in the afternoon, Practice Committee and more tidying - after sesshin the zendo was not left the way I like it to be, and having left it for several days, the more OCD side of me came to the fore to straighten things up a bit.
There was an unprecedented, to my knowledge at least, change of ceremonial form yesterday. Hoitsu Suzuki Roshi flew back in - he is on his way to Gaelyn's Mountain Seat in Houston - and I had assumed he would want to be a part of the monthly memorial services for his father. It turned out that he was already booked for last night, so we did the English version in the evening, and the Japanese one this morning - Konin was brave enough to volunteer to be kokyo this morning, but her Japanese is better than all but the native speakers around here anyway, and she even managed to get the words of the dedication changed to reflect the different offerings in the morning ceremony. Yesterday we were also struck with a severe jisha shortage, as Barbara is sick, and several of the usual replacements were away, so I had another reason to be grateful to Dennis who was on hand to fulfil the role admirably. He had even brought his own white socks.
One thing I always have to do as ino for these ceremonies, apart from being the first person in the food offering chain, is to try to keep the chanting synchronised between those inside the kaisando and those outside. Where I stand, it is particularly easy to look at the people on the stairs and lip read which words they are chanting and trim my speed - and hopefully the other priests' - accordingly. This usually, but not always works well, and it helps to have one strong chanter near the front of the assembly outside that I can trust to be imposing their speed up and down the stairs. This morning we had an all-star cast in the kaisando: I had Shungo Suzuki, Hoitsu's son, on my left, chanting the Sandokai in a wonderfully resonant deep voice, and across from us were Hoitsu, Blanche and Steve, with Christina as the doshi, so our chanting tempo prevailed over the small crowd outside.
Another little detail I always love about doing any ceremony in the kaisando is the exit, when pairs of priests walk to the entrance from each side, turn to do a gassho bow towards the altar from the threshold, and then step backwards into the hallway. The black lacquer kaisando floor is raised a few inches above the hallway, so you are stepping back and down, and I always like to do this while still looking straight ahead, just trusting the ground is indeed there. Yesterday Rosalie and I, who usually stand opposite each other in the kaisando as we do in the Buddha Hall (it was a nice suggestion from her that we do), managed what I thought was a most graceful synchronised exit, and indeed the kokyo commented favourably on it. Always nice to be scoring points for style.

What we might call an undated file photo of the kaisando after the evening service on the third

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