The Shuso (head student) for our Spring 2013 practice period was officially installed today. For the next six weeks, he will share the Abbot’s seat (figuratively – they still get their own cushions). Literally, they share responsibility for leading the practice period, nourishing and teaching the participants and the sangha with their decades of dharmic experience and wisdom. Between them, they have over a century of commitment to Buddha’s way.
It’s interesting that where we sit looms so large in our conceptions of status. This first week of the practice period has seen the usual handful of seat-change requests, some for physical reasons, but several for perceived status slights: upper platform, “senior” platform, the dreaded floor cushions, and the usual complaint about practice period participants getting all the good seats.
Even as a culture, we can’t decide on the best place to sit. The expensively remote sky box– all the way up in the back, farthest from the field of play – or the theater box, hovering above the stage. No wonder we have trouble finding a seat that matches our self-image.
Dogen reminds us that realization “has nothing to do with sitting or lying down.” And the Lovingkindness Meditation gently chides us to remember that there’s something more important to do than worry about our seat: “Standing or walking sitting or lying down, during all one’s waking hours, let one practice the way with gratitude.”