Roxie and I were half way around the jundo for her leaving ceremony, and I realised I was going to have a protocol issue ahead. Richard Baker had arrived at Zen Center on Tuesday evening, and this morning he was sitting in the seido seat, the one designated for senior teachers or visiting dignitaries. I had noticed that he had chosen to sit facing the wall during zazen. I was debating the possibilities, and almost overshot Paul and Steve's empty seats, where we turn and bow; the form of the jundo is that for the Abbess, Abbot, tanto, and senior teachers like Blanche, who was there this morning, instead of passing them by in gassho with head bowed as we do for other members of the assembly, we turn and do a gassho bow with them; they are standing upright rather than with head bowed as you approach, which is your visual cue. As I rounded the last corner, I could see that Baker Roshi was standing, next to Robert, the doshi for the morning, with his head bowed. But it would have felt wrong just to pass him by, so I turned to bow to him before returning to the tsui-ching to make my announcement.
After we had left the zendo, and I had given her a hug, Roxie apologised for the slight mis-steps that she had made during the ceremony, and I said to her that the feeling is the important thing, and that the feeling had been good. I have often used this guideline as ino, where sometimes you have to improvise forms or create them, but equally when I see beginners making mistakes - apart from the mindfulness aspect, forms are about creating a particular feeling, of respect and intention, and if that is communicated, then being right or wrong can be secondary.
There is a nice feeling about Baker Roshi's presence here, ahead of the the 50th anniversary weekend. At work meeting yesterday, Christina acknowledged that without him, none of us would be standing in this beautiful building together. When we came out of senior staff meeting later, I saw him sitting behind the big bell in the Buddha Hall, trying out the sound. He then came to visit the ino's office as part of a little tour of the building with Reb.
The consensus seems to be that the last time Baker Roshi visited was for the celebrations for Suzuki Roshi's one-hundredth birthday in 2004. I was struggling to recall the occasion, but remember the day: there was a big crowd in the dining room, with most if not all of Suzuki Roshi's ordained disciples in attendance, and many statements. I was in charge of the sound, which meant I was in the Buddha Hall trying to ride the mic levels of people I couldn't see, in the sole company of Lou, who didn't care to be in with the crowd. I think I will be a little closer to the action on Saturday, and Monday, though somehow I am still in charge of the sound.