Sanshin holds only a few ceremonies:
- weekday ryaku choka (abbreviated morning service)
- monthly ryaku fusatsu (renewing our aspiration to follow the precepts)
- monthly brief chanting service for world peace
- short chanting services for Nirvana Day, Buddha's Birthday and Buddha's Enlightenment Day
- annual zaike tokudo (receiving lay precepts)
- shukke tokudo as needed (ordination as a novice)
- annual honsoku gyocha and hossenshiki (ceremonies ending the term of the shuso, or head novice)
- dharma transmission as needed (authorization to function independently as clergy)
Likewise, our manners and customs are uncomplicated but we try to do them thoroughly and without separation into an "I" that's "performing" a "ritual." Without engaging in extras like using them to build our egos or compare ourselves to others, we just engage in forms and ceremonies and fold ourselves seamlessly into the activity of the community. They are done wholeheartedly and sincerely as a genuine expression of gratitude and respect, and thus they are alive as the complete functioning of practice-realization.
Our larger Soto Zen tradition includes a number of elaborate and decorative ceremonies and rituals, and in some times and places these are completely appropriate. Our particular aspiration at Sanshin is to keep the intention, meaning and spirit of our simple forms without letting them become empty gestures, done simply because custom dictates that they be done.
Sanshin inherits this simple style from Antaiji, the temple in which Okumura Roshi practiced with his teacher, Uchiyama Roshi. 'One of the unique aspects of Antaiji, compared to other Zen temples, was that we conducted almost no ceremonies," Okumura Roshi explained. Other than in special circumstances for visitors, there were no daily services and no chanting during the formal meals using oryoki. "We Antaiji monks had a bad reputation when we went to other monasteries for practice because we could not chant even the Heart Sutra without seeing a sutra book."
Because Antaiji was established in 1921 as a place for Komazawa University graduates who wanted to study Dogen's teachings, it didn't have a group of donor families providing financial support and expecting funeral and memorial services for its lay members. "Uchiyama Roshi decided not to have even daily morning, noon and evening services to make it clear that Antaiji focused on the practice of zazen alone." [Handbook of Zen, Mindfulness and Behavioral Health, p. 55]
Uchiyama Roshi himself warned that we can get caught up even in the forms related to shikantaza, "When [some] people practice zazen, they consider rituals such as turning clockwise or counter-clockwise essential. They make zazen a kind of ceremony. Ceremonies [can be] empty forms that have no real content. They simply become authority. Zazen shouldn't be [such] a ceremony, but we should live by zazen." [The Wholehearted Way, p. 148]