Sangha News for November and December, 2022
Speaking of Not Speaking
100th anniversary of Soto Zen in North America
Members of the Sanshin community filled key roles in this national and international anniversary celebration and jukai-e in November in Los Angeles. Okumura Roshi served as a sekkaishi, or teacher of the precepts; Hoko, Shoryu and Hosshin made up the ino ryo, responsible for leading chanting and shomyo; Eido Reinhart was a member of the ryoban ryo, the group of clergy on the platform during ceremonies; board member Zuiko Redding served as a gosendoshi (main officiant's escort) and Mark Fraley, Gene Elias and Mark Ahlstrom were kaitei, or precepts recipients. The week-long event was in preparation for several years and became a valuable opportunity for continued transmission of the dharma to the West. Additional images are available on our Facebook page.
Three novices take vows: Immediately following the close of the Rohatsu sesshin on December 8, Misaki Kido from California and Sanshin residential practitioner Kikuko Morimoto completed shukke tokudo ceremonies, taking their vows with Okumura Roshi and becoming novices. Each received the traditional robes, bowls, lineage paper and dharma name, as well as the precepts. Misaki is now known as Jikei and Kiku is now Esho.
Two days later, Stefanie Wachowitz from Germany completed the same ceremony with Hoko and is now known as Jinryu. She practices with Kyoku Lutz at Fruhlingsmond Zendo in Hannover but will be returning to Sanshin in April for a term of residential practice. The addition of these three new members of the Sanshin Network brings the family to nearly three dozen ordained sangha worldwide.
Board President Mark Fraley says: As our sangha looks to welcome a new head dharma teacher in June of 2023, Sanshin’s board of directors is preparing to ensure our community’s continued capacity to cultivate Zen practice in the Midwest. We are currently in the process of revising the mission statement, preparing for 20th anniversary events, and nurturing an inclusive and ecologically sustainable sangha. We are also planning to raise funds so that we can renovate our facilities, expand programming, support the Dogen Institute, and ensure the Okumura family has a safe and stable living environment. If you have an interest in supporting our sangha to meet these goals, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Podia site offers genzo-e content and e-books: Dōgen Institute has launched a subscription site for access to audio and video content related to our mission. With a monthly subscription, you will receive access to a collection of Okumura Roshi’s genzo-e lectures. We are offering a variety of audio and video recordings of various genzo-e given over the years. These genzo-e focus on the study of Dōgen Zenji’s Shobogenzo. Each genzo-e generally consists of 9 or more individual lectures. When available, a printed translation of the text being studied is also provided. The subscription is $10 per month, or $100 for a full year, and you will receive a free, 5-day trial with your subscription. For more information, please see this page.
Two e-books are also available on the Podia site. One is Okumura Roshi's e-book, The Structure of the Self in Mahayana Buddhism. Okumura Roshi writes: “In my original dharma talks on Opening the Hand of Thought, I mentioned no-self, but the relation among these three perspectives of the self (conditioned self, no-self and universal self) was not clearly explained. That relation, within the context of Mahāyāna Buddhism, became the focus of this article.” Also available for download is Hoko's Understanding Sanshin Style.
Virtual genzo-e: Okumura Roshi's penultimate genzo-e at Sanshin covered part two of Dogen's Bussho fascicle. Eighty practitioners attended the five days of lectures, with most listening remotely and a small group of residents and workers took part in person. The final genzo-e at Sanshin will take place in May.
Rohatsu sesshin: Twelve practitioners gathered for the annual observance of Buddha's awakening. The weeklong sesshin is the longest on Sanshin's annual calendar, and on the final evening participants sat until midnight and ended with a brief chanting service. The service was held again on the following Sunday so that more of the sangha could participate in the observance, one of the traditional sanbuki (Three Buddha Days).
Sesshin and Genzō-e: Continuities and Communities
Sawyer Jisho Hitchcock
A few days into the recent November genzō-e on Shōbōgenzō Busshō, Okumura Rōshi introduced the story of Nagarjuna’s “manifesting the form of the round moon,” sitting zazen before an assembly of eager seekers. Nagarjuna’s first quoted words to his soon-to-be fellow practitioners are, simply:
“If you want to see buddha-nature, you should first eliminate self-clinging.”
As Okumura Rōshi went on to say, in his humble and amused way, many of us Buddhists tend to view this “elimination of self-clinging” as, in a sense, a kind of endpoint of Buddhist practice – so that to call this our first task towards “seeing buddha-nature” seems like a bit much to ask! Nevertheless, in Dōgen’s slightly altered retelling of this story for his fascicle Busshō, it appears
that all those assembled are soon sitting perfect shikantaza together with Nagarjuna. Dōgen has the assembly intone in unison:
“At this moment, we are not seeing anything with our eyes; we are not hearing anything with our ears; we are not discerning anything with our minds; we are not experiencing anything with our bodies.”
In other words, the community has dropped off body and mind, so that separation between “sense-organs” and their “objects” – and between individual practitioners clinging to their own selves – in some sense falls away.
In a related story, during the informal teatime following September sesshin, Dōju asked Owen and me that mischievously innocent question, “How was your sesshin?” I gave him a kind of sour look and shook my head to convey a tired (and achey...) body and mind, and then something like the following exchange ensued:
Dōju (still grinning mischievously): Do you feel your ‘beginner’s mind’ refreshed? Okumura Roshi always used to say there’s nothing like sesshin to remind us we’re all still beginners...
Me: It’s kinda funny... just before this sesshin I was thinking, ‘Ah, I think I’m starting to understand sesshin...’
Dōju (smiling still): Sesshin can never be the object of our understanding.
Right away, I felt a kind of raw disappointment in the plain, quick truth of what Dōju said. Now, connecting this small post-sesshin exchange to Dōgen’s take on Nagarjuna’s sitting assembly reminds me of the liberating aspect of that truth. For the duration of our temporary assembly as a ‘loose-knit’ yet intimate sesshin community, our shared activity is not something to be put to later use, in some way we can definitely “understand.” Though reflection on what transpires can be helpful, Hōkō reminded us at our breakfast gathering following this past Rohatsu sesshin that “Doing sesshin is studying sesshin.” After just a few days, this particular
practice structure dissolves, and each of us continues along some trajectory, having, very simply, lived together – each of us having fully occupied a space.
On many occasions over the past eight months living and practicing in residence here at Sanshin, I’ve been reminded of my own beginner’s mind in this world of practice, inclusive of life in general. Being closely involved in the uncertain work of co-creating a new and unique residential practice structure here, I’ve had the feeling of being in over my head more than once.
There has also been a durable awareness throughout of the good fortune to be continuously present here during this time. When awake, I feel I’ve been able to draw certain lines of continuity, through my own body and mind, somewhat unique to a life of practice here – like those between sesshin-without-toys and genzō-e; evening zazen, sleep, and morning zazen and service; the bamboo thicket, the wildflower meadow, the paw paw patch; vegetables grown very near or very far away; solitary Eihei Shingi study and Friday sangha breakfast with oryoki; Kiku (now Eshō) and me, and the rotating array of sincere practitioners and teachers here in the dorm and the broader sangha.
And there has been something profoundly compelling, here at Sanshinji so near to Okumura Rōshi’s retirement and Hōkō’s stepping up, in setting some groundwork for others to take a turn at refining this life – and carrying it onward and outward beyond their own
I find one more contemporary reflection of Nagarjuna’s matter-of-fact advice to his assembly, in Hōkō’s recent e-book Understanding Sanshin Style, “Figuring out what community really is means studying what selflessness really is.”
Looking towards the end of my own time in the temporary assembly living and practicing here twenty-four hours a day, knowing that my relation to this and other communities will shift in some fundamental ways, I can only say that, of course, I haven’t figured it out. May present and future Sanshinji residents, practitioners, and widening circles of assemblies of beings continue to work together to deepen and clarify this study endlessly.
Please note holiday closures: Sanshin will be closed for the holidays on the following days;
regular practice will not be held and administrative work will be paused.
December 24 - 26 (Saturday- Monday)
December 31 - January 2 (Saturday - Monday)
Sesshin begins on January 3; regular activities will resume with Sunday morning practice on the 8th.
Shodo Spring of Mountains and Waters Alliance in Minnesota is offering an online class studying Uji through Dainin Katagiri's book Each Moment is the Universe. The class begins January 4, 6:30-8 pm Central Time, with optional zazen at 6 pm, and runs through March 15 on the first three Wednesdays of each month. Donations are requested but not required; registration is required. On December 15 registration will be opened to the public through Facebook and other publicity methods. More information and registration is available here,
Gyotesu Epifania of Centro Zen Anshin in Rome was interviewed by Radio One. Listen here; the interview begins at 4:30. She and Doryu Cappelli have been busy working with various faith and educational groups, making presentations and performing chants and music in the community.
For complete information about Sanshin and our style of practice, visit our homepage.
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