EkiZen - Newsletter by the Sangha of Shinnyoji
Winter 2014 - n. 21 year V (PDF)
Statue of Ganjin Wajō on the base donated by Rev. Matsuura Shunkai Kanshu, Abbot of Mibudera Temple - Kyoto.
Centro Zen Firenze - Shinnyoji Temple
Best Wishes for a
Happy New Year 2015
The meaning does not reside in the words but a pivotal moment brings it forth
PILGRIMAGE TO CHINA
From October 26th to November 2nd, Rev. Shinnyo Marradi Roshi travelled to China on a pilgrimage retracing the footsteps of Ganjin Wajō. Of particular relevance was the visit to Tendōji Monastery where Dōgen Zenji met his Master. Rev. Shinnyo Marradi Roshi officiated the Hōyō Ceremony by the stele of Tettsu Gikai Zenji, founder of Tōkōzan Daijōji. The stele was donated, by Rev. Azuma Ryūshin Roshi, after a negotiation with the Cinese Authorities that lasted seven years.
ANNUAL SOKANBU SEMINAR
Rev. Shinnyo Roshi, together with Michele Novellini, traveled to Gendronniere Temple in France, to take part to the Annual Sokanbu Seminar and the Assembly of the European Sōtō Zen Association.
I arrived at the Gendronnière and soon after signing up in the reception, receiving bed sheets and having seen the bedroom, I and the Master go together inside the Dojo and we do Sanpai: just as if she could read my thoughts… Masters soon have the meeting, so I promptly start seting the tables and practicing zazen. The plan is dense, waking up at 6, the practice (Zazen and Sutras) till 7.40; little time for the bath, and then quickly breackfast. The seminar by professor Heine, from the Florida University starts, it is a report about his journey to China and it lasts all the three days of our stay. Lunch, le boulot à la vasseille, for which I offer after all of the meals, and the débrasser la table almost always, except for sunday, the day we left, soon after lunch.
All of that alterned to the seminar, to Zazen, that I looked forward doing, while Masters were in meeting… a bit of luck wouldn’t hurt! Just a beautiful sunny weekend with blue sky and 23° temperature: I couldn’t miss having a walk around wood and lake, feeling at ease, I couldn’t miss being there where I was being, with Master Jiso Forzani, who saturday, during the seminar broke the monotony of chronological order, asking the professor to explain the importance of Dogen, the founder of our school, about Lotus Sutra. The Master is right, “they dedicated it to me”, I have to be there, not in any other place in the world. The day after, during the practice of the morning (Zazen, Takkesa ge, Sutra) I realize I was sitting “by chance” just near by Forzani into the Dojo.
A GIFT TO SHINNYOJI
Rev. Matsuura Shunkai Kanshu, Abbot of Mibudera Temple in Kyoto, restored and donated to Shinnyoji an ancient base for the statue of Ganjin Wajō. The statue itself was donated by Toshodaiji Temple in Nara during the celebrations for the 1250th anniversary of Ganjin Wajō’s death. We wholeheartedly thank Rev. Matsuura Shunkai Kanshu for his generosity to Shinnyoji.
ORDINATION CEREMONY – 28 September 2014
Articles by Rev. Nakano Ryōkō Gōdō Roshi of Daijoji and Abbot of Tōzenji Temple in Tokyo, and Rev. Tamura Genryu of Beisenji Temple in Nigata on the Ordination Ceremony at Shinnyoji. They were published on the newsletter Daijōji Dayori.
Translation of the testimony by Rev. Nakano Ryōkō, Gōdō Roshi:
From September 25th to September 30th I visited Shinnyoji, in Florence, a city rich in culture and history, to attend at the Ceremony of Jukai and of Tokudo as a substitute of Azuma Sanshu, accompanied by his Dharma brother Genryū Tamura, a former practitioner of Daijoji .
Shinnyoji is the first Zen temple in Florence, founded as Daijoji Betsuin in 2004, the 16th year of Heisei, by Rev. Anna Maria Iten Shinnyo, student of Sanshu.
The Rev. Shinnyo prepared the Jukai ceremony very seriously, saying: "I would like to get as close as possible to the Traditional Rite without omitting details, in order not to lose the beauty and the strength that has kept the tradition alive."
At Shinnyoji, to those who aim to receive an ordination, are offered three different levels. First is Sanbōkie, after at least one year of practice, which consists of Zazen twice a week and Sesshin once a month. Second level is Zaike Tokudo, after having being ordered to Sanbōkie, with two years of practice. Third level is Shukke Tokudo, after the ordination to Zaike Tokudo, after two or three years of practice, and after learning the Rite.
Sanbōkie means "To declare to oneself and to others the entrance in the Way of Buddha," something like a Christian baptism. It is a form of acceptance of Buddhism and Zen by Italians, who live under a powerful influence, both historical and cultural, of Christianity. The Rev. Shinnyo says: "I order those students who are aware, as adults, to enter the Way of the Buddha, even without abandoning their faith in Christianity." Those who are willing to take the Monastic Order, carry on with very effort a commitment in Zazen, from the level of Zaike Tokudo to the one of Shukke Tokudo, going deep into the Practice, as belonging to the Community of the Temple. Their commitment is also at the service of the Italian society. I hope that their efforts and their practice be more and more fruitful
Translation of the testimony by Rev. Tamura Genryu:
After three years, I visited once again Shinnyoji.
At the Shinnyo-ji Temple, based on the life of Practice of Daijoji, every day people practice in a manner that is best suited to the Italian way of life, in a form which is as close as possible to the one of Daijoji.
The first aim of this visit was to attend at the ceremony of Jukai Tokudo at Shinnyoji. In the ceremony, four Italian practitioners have made a new step in the Way of the Buddha, in the sight of friends and family. It was a great joy to attend at this event. I sincerely thank Docho Roshi Azuma, who gave me the Butsu-en, the bond in the Buddha, who made possible for me to live this moment and I thank Nakano Gōdō Roshi, who took me with him. I also thank Iten Shinnyo Roshi and the Sangha of Shinnyoji, who warmly welcomed me.
Testimony by Ven. Maestro Aigo Seiga Castro, spiritual guide and Master of the Centro Zen Abhirati “Tradición Budadharma Zen Soto” in Valencia, Spain.
Opening to the Light
By Rev. Aigo Seiga Castro (Centro Zen Abhirati, Valencia, Spain)
Originally, Sakyamuni Buddha only used to transmit the Refuges and Precepts when he knew their disciples had got a deep experience of spiritual awakening after listening and practicing his teachings. These are the words usually spoken by the disciples to ask for Refuge, as they were recorded in the oldest teachings of the Pali Canon:
Magnificent, Master Gotama! Magnificent, Master Gotama! Master Gotama has made the Dharma clear in many ways, as though he were turning upright what had
been overthrown, revealing what was hidden, showing the way to one who was lost, or holding up a lamp in the dark for those with eyesight to see forms. I
go to Master Gotama for refuge and to the Dharma and to the Sangha of bhiksus. From today let Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone to
him for refuge for life
[and in the case of those who wanted to receive the monastic ordination, they said] I would receive the going forth under Master Gotama, I would receive the full admission (Majjhima Nikaya, 5.35 and 7.21).
I have the firm intuition that was precisely what happened the 28th September of 2014 to those persons who got into the ceremony of receiving
the precepts at Zen Temple Shinnyo-ji. Luigi Shinden Oldani who received Shukke Tokudo, Chiara Keishin Cetica who received Zaike Tokudo, Piergiorgio Masi
and Cecilia Norcini, who both received Sanbōkie, where all able to opening to the light of the Three Treasures only after listening and practicing the
enlightened words and practice of their Master, the Rev. Iten Shinnyo Roshi. From that very moment onwards, the best way those ordained persons have to
manifest their gratefulness for the incommensurable gift they received from her, is to study, to practice, and to accomplish this wonderful Dharma
transmitted by the Rev. Iten Shinnyo Roshi, until the end of their days.
I feel myself very elated for being a direct witness of this beautiful and uncommon event, and I deeply appreciate to the Rev. Iten Shinnyo Roshi for enjoy a warm and most generous welcome from her and, all the members of her attentive and kind Sangha.
Truly, in such auspicious day the flower of light of the Three Treasures flowered at the flowering Florence.
International Congress on Art, Culture and Bonsai, “SAKKA TEN – AUTUMN TREES” – held in Fiesole, 7-9 November 2014 – Conference by Prof. Aldo Tollini, Università Cà Foscari - Venice.
The conference by prof. Aldo Tollini was held on Saturday, November 8th, 2014 in Fiesole (Florence) during the "Sakka Ten" International Congress on Art, Culture and Bonsai with the participation of the Bonsai Master Isao Fukita.
The professor, in the presence of a very attentive audience that packed the hall and also of our Master Shinnyo Roshi accompanied by Rev. Shinden, started taking an interesting dissertation on the concept of nature in the Western and Eastern cultures.
The professor has given that if today modern Japan welcomes into its culture also part of the West, remains no doubt that it is still a country that has and maintains a deep Japanese culture. In the latter the nature and man are not two separate entities, the nature cannot be objectified, it is an entity "as is", is the way that leads to the awakening of the spirit. In fact, Japan "spirit" is the basis of the Japanese character, Shinto, major religion, is based on the spirits "Kami Sama," entities that can be plants, stones, objects, which contain a spirit, mostly benevolent , also deriving from ancestor worship. Also for Shinto we must ask with a pure heart in relating to nature, must be upheld nature 'emptying' of our being and thus allowing to enrich it with sensitivity or with what it gives us.
These being the terms of the relationship between man and nature is understood how different the Western conception where nature is part of a triad with God at the top and then the man, nature is separate from the man then as the case dominates or interprets it, but always as something distinctly separated. In the East the man and nature have a kind of active exchange, one can get the other, just think, as has been stated, that the spirit of an ancestor can contain him in a large tree, recognized by a Shinto Priest or still revered by the family itself. Man, then nature may ascend to the "world of the Gods."
Regarding Buddhism, the nature may be the place, the size of illumination. The professor points out that Dōgen Zenji, Zen Master, is in some of his important writings on the relationship with nature and states, among other things, that we must always listen with "pure heart and mind" the "silent language" of nature.
Professor Tollini then addressed the relationship between art and nature, obviously influenced by the concept of the latter, in fact, in Japan an artistry completely outside of nature is unthinkable and also the Bonsai is a kind of a long process of inner purification until it expresses the nature of art-that never will be perfect, however, because unlike in the West, the art-nature only imperfection reaches perfection.
Of course in the West prevails a vision of art as a mental elaboration where the man is at the center of the Universe. For example in "Italian gardens" of the Renaissance, the expressions of the artistic in gardening are often geometric figures it is clear where human intervention. What it unthinkable in the East where "the hand of man" cannot see and you should not see.
According to the Eastern conception in fact if there is "purity of heart and mind," will be felt more and the "footprints" of man. That asymmetry, naturalness, peace understood as expression and emanation of purity, non-attachment, are quality-values that express the Japanese idea that also makes use of a balance between space and emptiness, form and shape, where the lack of form allows the form to be realized, in fact, often the unspoken, the unseen can give rise to visions and landscapes of "the other", a not completely shown; if you offer and gives everything you "lose" everything.
Just think where visual art also some paintings do not show any topic but leave us "the field." In all this, as claimed by many Masters of Bonsai, is the high level of craftsmanship and Bonsai is also the great skill that must express those who "practice Bonsai" to stay in tune with the spirit of purity, such as to know understanding where a tree bonsai wants to "go" ...
Professor Tollini ends the conference by expressing the observation that in this context it may be, in its own right, in the presence of a Way of Bonsai.
Welcoming to the New Year of Practice 2015
Here we are at the beginning of a New Year of Practice: December 8th, the day in which Prince Siddhartha Shakyamuni was illuminated becoming the Buddha. On this day we celebrate the Ceremony called Jōdō-e, “e” meaning Ceremony, “Jō” Realization, “dō” on the Way: forming realizing the Buddha Way and attaining illumination. While Hanamatsuri celebrates the birthday of Shakyamuni on April 8th, the celebration of Shakyamuni who was reborn as a Buddha, Illuminated is celebrated on December 8th.
We could also say that Buddhism, the Way taught by the Buddha Shakyamuni, celebrates its anniversary/birthday on December 8th.
According to the Sōtō Zen Tradition, it was our Founders Dōgen Zenji who introduced the Jōdō-e Celebration from China. Previously only the Buddha’s birthday on April 8th and his entrance into Nirvana were celebrated in Japan.
We are gathered today to celebrated the Illumination of the Buddha, and following the tradition Shinnyoji, to mark the beginning of a New Year of Practice starting tomorrow at the Rohatsu Vigil.
New energies, new opportunities, new significant events and new exchanges characterized the year that finishes tonight. In the past two years, a large part of our Sangha and Temple’s structure has followed the transfer of my monastic title from the Daijōji Monastery to the Sokanbu Europe in accordance with my Master, Reverendo Ryūshin Azuma Dochoroshi. This transfer was very painful for me, but it was necessary so that we could register Shinnyoji monks into the Administrative Office of Sōtō Zen Shūmūchō roster in Tokyo, permitting the monks, if they choose, additional training according to the European Regulations rather than being obliged to follow Japanese practice which requires years of training in Japan.
From now on Shinnyoji is officially recognized as a Sōtō Zen Temple outside of Japan, appointing myself as a Kokusaifukyoshi, meaning Teacher authorized to spread Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Europe.
Another event in the history of Temple Shinnyoji that occurred this year was joining the Italian Buddhist Union, which gives us official recognition to the State of Italy and therefore, a strong possibility of recognition as a Ministry of Religion allowing us to practice as a religion in prisons and hospitals.
The new structure of our Temple is a part of the collection of events that in 2016 will be 20 years of uninterrupted Practice. Although these changes do not add anything to what we’ve always been, they create a more understandable welcome to those who practice with us for the first time, they also legitimatize our practice and presence in society. I am sure that our spirit of freedom and autonomy that has always distinguished our Practice and life as a Sangha will not be undermined in any way.
This year the Sangha registered Luigi Shinden as the second monk of Shinnyoji, Chiara Kei-shin as a new bodhisattva and two new Sanbo-kie: Piergiorgio and Cecilia.
Among the addition of arriving practitioners, every year there are new departures of practitioners and Ordained practitioners, this is natural, physiological, a non-detrimental process that helps reinforce and invigorate the supporting structure of our Temple.
Shinnyoji now has a solid, living nucleus that is compassionately dedicated to supporting and testifying our Lineage and our Tradition. It is a Sangha that fluidly moves forward, capable of energetically accepting the dynamics its members, a Sangha that nurtures Harmony and the Spirit of Service. This is the perception taken by anyone who approaches or interacts with the Practice in our Temple, and it is the testimony and gift of the protection from our Lineage and form all Ancient Patriarchs.
A humble and close Sangha that proceeds in dignity and strength, always ready to welcome whoever leaves, arrives, who returns without judging them, testimony of a lifestyle, of Being on the Way.
A Sangha that grows together, also testifying the lightness and the carefreeness of living, united by the effort, sometimes the exhaustion, of Practice.
Toward the end of this year, Shinnyoji welcomed Rev. Ryōkyō Nakano GodoRoshi from Daijōji and the third visit of Genryu Roshi for the Ordination Ceremony last September. We were honored to have also hosted Rev. Taigo Seiga Costro Roshi from Valencia, Kokusaifukyoshi Europa, along with Prof. Aldo Tollini, Prof. Hiroo Nakajima and Prof. Paolo Pagli who held conferences on Zen and the various forms of culture connected with it, contributing to the education of our practitioners.
This year we began a series of Calligraphy lessons with Teachers Nicola Piccioli and Paola Billi who next year plan to develop a Zen Calligraphy course exclusively for Italy from January to June.
We also held a Rakusu Sewing workshop with Rev. Emanuela Dōsan Losi and a gathering during a Sesshin with the Finnish Sangha from the School “Ordinary Mind” from Lammi.
For Practice Theme for the New Year, I will continue with Mushin: the originally Pure Heart-Mind. I am renewing the same Theme because I believe that it requires more in-depth analysis, reflection, study and internalization.
If one doesn’t open their heart to Original Purity, to the lightness and freedom of the Spirit that can permeate our entire daily lives, our Practice will remain virtuously technical, arid, self-referential, exclusively individual, which has little to do with become One, with Universality of Being. This kind of Practice agitates and does not compensate our tiredness and our efforts, denying of the path of Liberation from our fears, from our attachments, from our weaknesses, phobias, selfishness and illusions.
A Mushin mind, free from judgment, prejudice, calculations, finally allows us to take that jump that, clearing and cleansing our Ordinary Mind, lifts us from doubts and fears, from the stagnant swamps and opens us up to a new way of Living and Being. On the contrary, we will always be tied to our Karma, blind to Reality as it is and to our actual position in the Dharma, prisoners of our dual minds.
It is undeniable that Mushin is a part of the act of “Burning Belief”: “Daishin”, where “dai” means “ardent” and “shin” mean Belief. Belief meaning Faith in the Via left by the Buddha, the Awakened, whose Awakening we are celebrating tonight. Belief in our Practice, rather than faith belief in our analytical minds that all too often is fixed under the pressure of an enormous mass that is often illusionary, passing.
I will end with an immense and deep thought of thankfulness for my Teacher, Azuma DochoRoshi, who is also sitting at this time in Zazen in the Osesshin of Rōhatsu in the Daijōji Monastery, supportive thoughts to all of the monks around him. Lastly, in this Evening of Vigil for the Illumination of the Buddha, I tribute my recognition to the entire Sangha near and far of Shinnyoji, that together brings me forward in this great project of realizing an Italian Zen in the Light of Compassion and Awakening.
Rev. Iten Shinnyo
Zazenkai to prepare for Rohatsu – 22 November
CONTRIBUTIONS BY PRACTITIONERS
The Practice of Sārāngi and innocent mind – Testimony of Practice for Rohatsu 2014
“Mushin”, the innocent mind, is the renewed theme of practice for the past two years for the Sangha at Shinnyoji, and reconfirmed for the third year, in 2015. Observing myself along with this theme, I notice thousands of obstacles that the mind puts between myself and my actions, a tenuous but tenacious web of impulses, judgments, and contradictory motions that fatally generate counter-productive effects in a hurtful relationship with the flow of my life. In an illusion of controlling and governing situations I often distance myself from the spark of intuition, finding myself cut from myself and from the present moment, I see recurring obstacles and objective manifestations of my karma and of my tendencies. However, I also notice elevated progress of awareness… the fruit of a small first step, even if unbalanced: the chance to be able to see observe and train a more aware mind.
I learned about a certain meditation called “Sārāngi Meditation”, named after the Indian violin with a sensual and mournful tone, made to unwind the spirit by relaxing bodily tension, muscle by muscle, by visualizing them as if they were the single cords of the instrument: first by imagining them relax, one by one until they lay low to the ground, then re-tightening them into the correct strength, without forcing cords and the instrument beyond the correct note. The obvious conclusion, also in the Tradition in which this meditation belongs, is attaining awareness, fluidity and abandonment, enacting the right resonance and freshness of our bodies, therefore manifesting an atmosphere in which “letting your body and mind” go is possible.
Trying this myself, my awareness is raised through a continuous alternation of phases between mental perception and obstacles along with my sensitivity. The phases of awareness sometimes confess themselves by communicating and admitting my tension, and I notice that every time I can turn the key connected to the forgotten chord of my sārāngi, and give a name to my toneless sound, unharmonious, with less and less fatigue. This sound is already born, I cannot put it away or escape it, deny it, it is like a deep thought already flowing from its original image. I can say to the instrument, “I touched you and I am responsible for what you generate”, and I can say to the sound, “ I evoked you, I know you are a part of me, that you come from a deep part of me”. I can welcome the game of sound, exacerbating the maya, playing with the key, tuning and untuning them, intensifying its effects on me, from the heart rending ones to grotesque ones, from comfortable to unbearable ones, from the harmonious to the discord. At the end of the tension and confession phase, I can conclude, “you are sound, you are spirit, you will move in silence”, and without having denied anything from its manifestation, not even its emotional value, I can recognize the substantial nature of a mere game of perception, emptiness, and finally actively let go of the chord, bringing it back to its correct and respectful tension.
However to act with an innocent mind, to evoke and incarnate Mushin, I should be able to completely deconstruct my sārāngi, along with my hyperactive muscles and postulations from my undecided mind, or my tendency to give, please and collaborate too much, I don’t have notes for this, between my fingers, to move as I like. I have observed that I cannot actively look for this state of mental innocence: I can only be it; realizing that I was innocent through being it, not having an obstacle between the beginning of the action and its consequence, between the heart, technique, touch of the chord, and its sound.
It requires less of the mind: the more breath and direct action, founded upon calm and awareness; and also a bit of enthusiasm, intense with its etymology “with God inside”; a firm heart, but also open to the “Divine sharing” that it contains. Just as the empty mind in meditation is not generable, it happens, upon the posture and breath itself as an artifice, to evoke the spontaneous birth of Mushin, wherever its manifestation is necessary, it is not possible anywhere but through practicing Zazen: meditating as much as possible to demolish the tenacious pride of our egos: without thinking or individualizing it.
I feel that I’m not in Zazen long enough when compared to the tenacity of my character and deference. This year brought me great professional, relationship and practice opportunities at the Temples, along with good health, in which I can exercise the practice of awareness and softness, and not unhappy with some great works accomplished due to my sārāngi and its ancient chords. But my potential innocent mind needs a bigger Zazen voice, that I still cannot give myself.
Deep thanks to who is greater than us, Shinnyo Roshi, the Sangha of the Temple to which I belong, all of the opportunities to practice that I have received in my everyday life and those with whom I practice.
First of all I greet Master Shinnyo Roshi, thanking her for accepting my request for Vows to which I joined a few month ago after years of practice, sometimes intense, sometimes with periods of absence from the Temple, yet never failed my membership Shinnyoji and security to follow the Master who 'was for me'. Thank you for having accepted my nature secular-religious, and has thus enabled I could 'live' this path renewed.
Therefore only a few months have passed since the day of the ceremony and my peace of mind and happiness are never overshadowed by anxieties or ruminations of various types, this does not mean that I don’t have worries about the study of Form and Rite, I will be what I will be in compliance Way and Lineage- and the Master Shinnyo Roshi- to which I belong. And I have to say that is great protection, great is the welcome that I breath emanating even more from all that is 'generated' at the Temple, Zazen, the words of Roshi, the dresses, the sounds and that short Rite which refers to a past time and a source that still wants to keep and remember.
Being now a Zen Monk , Zen and I say, it is only with Zen and the Zen of Shinnyoji that I can be a Monk, here in this temple with and only with Master Shinnyo Roshi . For me to be Monk is also a deepening of the Bodhisattva path, a path that I have always found with infinite power and beauty.
My path is and remains secular- religious, two areas that I complete and that they are in continuous and deep amalgam, they are two part of me, Luigi-Shinden. Also I hope not to get any dogmatic, religious or intellectual affectation. For me the daily life even with its limitations and pain, but also with many joys is sap creating the religious path . There is a continuous and deep labor as a Service and as a study, on myself, on my becoming but with simplicity, understanding and acceptance of my nature that turns and especially to others, without which my Path wouldn’t make, which is certainly not a 'get to a golden tower where shut himself' in a sterile loneliness and arrogance. And so the search and dwell in a pure heart-mind is to make real our path Zen, the teaching of Zen Master Roshi Shinnyo that made real by Her words and Her life. Mu-Shin, therefore, a path to strive constantly, a dwelling.
Once again I thank the Master Roshi Shinnyo for her generosity, I would say complete generosity. Shinnyoji exists thanks to the fact that The Master Shinnyo Roshi have undertaken your path up to the highest levels and degrees of the Way of Zen, and now Roshi and Shinnyoji are known and recognized worldwide: Italy, Japan, Europe, China ... Shinnyo Roshi has made available the premises of this temple and supports many of the expense involved.
The Temple were welcomed many Zen masters, primarily the Rev. Azuma Docho Roshi. The Temple held conferences and courses with teachers and professors internationally famous. And also the annual program of Zazen and withdrawals of Practice ... and much more. On this night of Rohatsu, I would like - and I think we can all join in chorus and thank the founder of Shinnyoji: Rev. Shinnyo Roshi.
I’m here again, in a car full of boxes and furniture, once again in the midst of a moving. By now I’m used to it, this is either the sixth or seventh time, I don’t remember exactly. However this time is different, I have never gone so far astray from my habits, from my ordinary life… it has a particular effect. It has been an important year, full of changes, like the one ahead of me: new perspectives, new possibilities, new equilibriums to find.
Just in this moment, an image of my Zafu, the Teacher and Sangha appear to me.
IIn the past years, especially this past one, the silence of Zazen has become an lively and vital experience within myself. When sitting, I don’t feel as home our outside, there is no place to look for or place to go, only silence exists, which patiently embraces and supports me.
For this marvelous gift, made possible by the loving and unconditional dedication of our Teacher, I would like to deeply thank Rev. Iten Shinnyo Roshi and the Patriarchs, for the support and comfort that I always find here, I think all of the Sangha of Shinnyoji.
This year of practice felt more like an expansion than a step forward. My Path is often rocky and I often get tired, but with faith in the Buddha and in the Patriarchs, I keep going, and with the connection between myself, the Teacher and the Sangha of Shinnyoji, I keep balanced. Coming out of hard times has made me stronger and taught me to open up even more. Every judgment, every bad mood, every annoyance that I encounter in the outside world is an opportunity to open up, to welcome and accept. The moments of joy and gratefulness strengthen me and I appreciate them with all of my heart, and I remember them. I have received the vows of the Bodhisattva two years ago, and it is a responsibility that permeates my entire being in the sense that I don’t consider it as a duty, or something that I must remember, by now it is a part of my everyday life. I am very grateful, thank you Teacher for your teaching, thoughtfulness to me as I practice from abroad, thank you to the Sangha for supporting me. I love you all and hope to see you again soon. Thank you with all of my heart.
A year of practice and a revolution in my life. My Zazen practice isn’t as punctual as it could be, but my thoughts, feelings and life are all different from what they were before in my everyday life. I intuit something, a lot of things I don’t understand, byt I feel like that’s ok. This is new for me: not knowing how to explain something, not being able to find the words to retell, and always following more and more convince and feeling that something is growing within me. Everything is simple, obvious, natural and sometimes my difficulty is being able to trust myself with this simplicity and to live it profoundly and completely. My mind is always churning thoughts, it gets incredibly tired for nothing, but in Zazen, it tasks a rest for a moment and I am able to find it again and it is light, yet strong and powerful feeling. Our Teacher’s words are so powerful, also when she is silent, words that always touch with precision each one of us in the Sangha. Our Sangha is made up of diverse people with different but complementary aspect, together on the same path. A path that doesn’t have a destination, but that is only a path. And this can give us a sense of liberty and tranquility. Thank you Teacher, thank you to the Sangha and thank you to our Shinnyoji Temple.
With respect I say thanks to the whole Sangha for incitements to grow up I received during last year, I say thanks to All to be here, this new Rohatsu, looking for my own road in the Path.
It is not easy to concisely tell of one year practicing. The last one was for me a very hard year, even bathed in tears, with the renounce to the Ordination, in which only practicing with Mushin spirit came up, devoting oneself to service without expecting, or, what’s even worst, requiring, any advantages, but also the pratictioner with Henzan spirit came up, the exhaustion of one’s duty, under the guide of a Master without buiding up “one’s own little and lousy practice”; this year ends with the confirmation of what I have understood in my deep the last year yet. But so it is, I had and I have need for more time in order to do another step forward the Ordination. It was not a negative going backwards, on the contrary it was a step backwards that on closer inspection is a step forward.
The year of Practice that just finished has opened my heart and drove out the fear. Meditating sitting, simply sitting, I realized that one should not be afraid to talk, with an open mind and an open heart. One can talk about everything, with humbleness, staying in the dimension of the silent listening, and overcome fear.
The right speech and the right thinking, lack of judgment, discernment often came to me through the mind-heart. The Master, imperceptibly, tiptoes into my practice, broadens the mind-heart.
It is not an easy task to talk about one’s Practice experience at the end of a difficult period like the one that is now coming to an end. The year 2014 was a year of great change during which I took some far-reaching decisions and stepped on a new path. It was also a very difficult year that put me to the test, during which I witnessed how many people close to me were affected by great suffering. Stress, exhaustion and confusion easily overwhelmed me and my mind withered.
How can we find room for Practice when you are crushed by the weight of your responsibilities, when the simple task of writing these few lines requires so much effort? Sitting in Zazen, reading a Sutra, acting mindfully, all became so unattractive and tiring. Where was my Practice in the long, sleepless nights, in the turmoil of endless discussions and arguing?
Yet, in the apparent void that was created, my Practice did not fade away and disappear; it simply was transformed to adapt to the new circumstances.
Facing with an open heart and a peaceful mind a difficult and tense conversation, is Practice. Getting out of bed each morning, looking for the motivation to face a job that has lost most of its appeal, is Practice. Accompanying with a light heart a dying person, who is simply terrified by the unknown, is Practice. Comforting and supporting someone who cannot comprehend and accept difficult decisions taken, is Practice.
Over the last few months I have learned a lot on the actual value of my Practice. First and foremost I have realized how deeply rooted it is, then how it acts deep-down adapting to circumstances and guiding my thoughts and my actions. I felt its power and the wisdom within it as I was able to clearly comprehend what was happening and why. All of this allowed me to look at my practice from a different viewpoint. Many things have changed, but we cannot just turn a page on the calendar to start anew. This cycle of events is slowly coming to an end and the flowing of my Karma is relentlessly pushing me forward. Practice will once again manifest itself in all its aspects, including those that have been temporarily set aside. This Practice, my Practice, that has its foundations not only within my mind but also rests on the great Masters that have received it from Buddha, made it their own and then passed it down to us, to Shinnyoji who is Sangha, who is Iten Shinnyo, who is the Way.
First of all, I have to say thank you:
To Shinnyo Roshi, our Master, who never gives up,
To Shinden and to Yushin, who have been my guide,
To Daishin, who is always aware of himself, in order to helping others,
To Kei-shin, who learned to knock to the door,
To Tenshin, who knows what being close to means,
To Ei-shin, who assisted me patiently step by step in my first formal meal,
To Zenshin, who shows me the garden,
To Michele, who is capable of bringing out the best in all of us,
To Piergiorgio, to his thoughtfulness.
I also beg my pardon to all the people I don’t know yet, or I might have forgotten.
White wall. What’s wall? What if not a vertical ceiling? And what is ceiling if not the only portion of the sky we know we can touch? I close my eyes, just the time of one beating. The first time I was sitting, intolerable white: a page not to be written.
The page you don’t know, and you won’t turn it. My own handwriting dripped on the backpage. You discover the other people around you exist, and just when you can’t see them; their breath, harmonizing. One hundred and eighty degrees are the difference of this moment. The picture that was behind your shoulders and you didn’t shoot. To shoot. I think: instead of shooting, unplugging. Tearing off a face from the painting, ones own face from the painting of the daytime. A thin film between you and the sky: as children we paint it as a line in the top of the page with a felt-tip pen. Sometimes we scratch it when ink is too low, just in order to paint it somehow.
But all the white that left is the white that is in front of you now, while you are sitting. The wall too takes a seat. It is seated in front of you. It is good at giving you no answers, at pressing you not wit handholds and assurances. It leaves you, simply. It leaves you but it is always there, in front of you. Letting fall: you are already on the ground. Gravity doesn’t push you, the pillar are the vertebrae one by one. And the vertebra that is conventionally indicated as the first one, the one called atlas, now seems to me the last one. Atlas as like as the titan sentenced by Zeus to carry on his shoulders the whole weight of the celestial sphere. It seems to me to be the last one, I said, because it is the only one that in this moment has to believe: believe in the puppeteer’s strand that hangs it up. Do puppets have a soul? Probably they do. The puppets know in each of their own bows and joints, a breath would suffice, and for that reason they are the brothers of candles. We, on the contrary, don’t know that. We think we can bend over and we can decide, we invent umbrellas for the rain and for the wind. Not now, not here. There is the wall now, and just a strand not to be painted.
I met Zen during an exam. It was a bomb, a cry, an avalanche that shattered the prison in which I was locked up. The idea that one could grab the existing through the order of verbal thought, with its determinations and stiffness, broke into pieces and with it the means-purposes dichotomy on which I had based much of my life and the phobia of disease and death that, instead, entered insidious into my heart in recent times. The fluidity of real was beyond schemes, labels and the roles that we give to ourselves and to others during the life; it was attainable only through experience. Sit, breathe, live. I sat for hours every day. For years I had shed rivers of words on many fronts, in many ways. I ceased almost completely to write and also the talk was reduced to the essential. I lived in a place that was a clash of noise, smells, terrors, humanity, but silence had blossomed in me.
Things changed, my life changed, I came back into the world. Zen was with me, often only embers, sometimes fire.
Then, about two and a half years ago, I looked out here in the Temple, and I had my first conversation with our Master. Zen had since shaken off the ash; it became more alive but inside a conflict. Why all this? I wondered. Why traditions, hierarchies, the chanting of Sutras, the beliefs, the ancestry? I was attracted and not attracted. At the beginning, the powerful love for Zen was caused exactly by its anti-dogmatic energy. Hadn't it be announced rightly by Bodhidharma ?! "Outside of teaching / Independent of tradition"? On the other hand, if it were not for the temples, the Ancestries, Tradition, how could I have ever been able to meet Zen ?! To support the Temple means to return Zen what it gave to me and make it possible for other people the same meeting. Because, as I made more and more clear to me through the example of the Master and of the practitioners, the ordered and the monks: a content, in order to be handed down, needs a shape and a shape can be forgotten only if it exists.
Yet my conflicted relationship with the Temple was not only for what I just said. There was, and there is, more: the last great illusion: the ego. The first hint came when I thought an observation of our Master about a few lines I had written and in which I used a capital M to describe a hypothetical Master of ancient times and a lowercase m to talk about our Master. It was easy to bow to the far and intangible Master but it was difficult to do the same with the present Master, here and now. Another time Daishin was giving me a lesson of shape and, with great amazement, from my mouth it came a disarming "I know everything". Then, not infrequently, in the early days, when I was doing zazen in the Temple I was struck by all the thoughts that arose: the small self showed its whole personality; he knew a lot about Zen. How could they not know it ?! At these events I tried to respond with respectful dedication and perseverance. But then, I also asked myself whether in Buddhism in general and in the Way of Liberation isn't there an implicit strong individual dimension that tends to strengthen the ego.
My Zen, perhaps even for the conditions in which it grew up, was certainly individual. In one of the first conversations our Master asked me, "And the Sangha?" I met here the Zen of compassion and of the vocation of the Bodhisattva, thanks to the Master and to all of you.
Today I love to come to the temple, to sit in the Zendo, to do Samu. I love doing Gasshō and Sanpai; it makes me feel lighter. Actually my contribution to the life of the Temple is very small and it pales before what many of you do. Even more I feel how small my faith is, compared to yours.
Giada e Comandante.
Even if we are not so participating, with our hearth we are always and constantly close to Shinnyo and to the Temple.
So many years passed since we went with Shinnyo to the airport, as she was leaving for her first trip of study and research, I remember her with her backpack, that was really heavy and almost bigger than herself, on her shoulders.
Then, really heavy years followed, moments of smiles and moments of tears; sometimes we were tempted to give up, but Shinnyo is as like as reed, in negative moments she bend over, then she stand up again, stronger than ever.
Her continous searching, study, determination and a candle always lighted up, brought her to today’s reality.
Thank you for your presence and your constant working out, that spread assurances and reassure all of us.
For this Rohatsu night we cannot miss.
A very big embrace.
I don’t remember the first time I sat upon one of these pillows. Maybe it was three years ago, maybe two. Because inside here, it seems like the days don’t go by, time passes these walls from the outside without going through them. However, the people continuously change, I also change. I like to imagine that my life is evolving and that Shinnyoji is its testimony.
My practice has not been very consistent: made up of complete participation or long absences, without wanting to really leave. I am always struck by the joy that welcomes me, the grateful smiles that are always given to me when I’m here. I’m struck by the care that is given to this place, the attention to detail and to small gestures. I’m struck by the silence, so hard to find in our everyday lives, but at the same time full of communication, because we don’t need words.
In the beginning I made the mistake of practicing to attain something. To feel better, to relax, to escape from stressful things. I still am tempted by the idea of gaining something and I know that I must be careful not to fall into that trap again. I have to pay attention to my thoughts, always too many and too fast, at the beginning of a great chaos in my head.
I am happy to have met the Teacher, I feel that I can communicate with her from afar and to have met the other practitioners who make me feel at home. When someone asks me to prepare the tea, to carry the incense or simply open the door, I feel that I belong to a large body of practitioners. I will always keep this place in my heart.
I came this Temple three years ago but my spiritual journey started two years earlier and it took me here.
At first I was told that making friends was not the ultimate goal but over time, coming to the Temple, I learned that friendship is not getting along with someone but it is rather someone whom you can trust.
how are you?
I send you a warm greeting and my best wishes, to you and to the Sangha, for a joyous celebration of Rohatsu.
From the depth of my heart
I am writing a thought on the practice for December 8th, for you and for all the Sangha.
It's now a year that I am away from home and from the temple. Daily practice and weekly attendance of the Sangha were an anchor since many years, they were regular dates that marked my life. I would say that painting and practicing Zazen were and are the daily practices that make me feel close to myself. In the periods, even very short, when for some reasons I neglect one or the other, I feel far away from myself.
In this period that I am physically far from the temple, it's hard to find a balance between the two practices.
I miss the closeness to the Master and to the Sangha, the strength to sit with you and the regular attendance of the temple. Nevertheless daily Zazen and feeling the Master always close to me, helped me a lot in this time of changes. This is a strong feeling that I have been feeling since the beginning.
It often comes to my mind a sentence of the Master (the Master forgive me if I don't quote verbatim) that said "the universe makes gifts to the serious practitioners of Zazen." And this is also a feeling, an experience that I felt and experienced in the past year: in the meetings that I have done and in the situations that came to me, which then gave a direction to my new life. I can only thank the Master, for being always close, and all the Sangha who with great effort (and success!) makes possible for Shinnyoji to exist.
Festivities torn over time
Wedges of light on the pearl glasses
reflect fragments of stories
The vacuum in the sphere fills them
Vents of crystal
where the wind tinkles. and beats
The child cries
Curls vertebrae of memories
An hidden gnome welcomes him,
Dearest Maestro Dami,
still a warm thanks for the wonderful time that, through the gift of your improvisations on the cello, we experienced last night at the opening of the Eve to celebrate the lighting of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
Your music, at times melodious and almost sublime, at time pressing, put in notes our feeling and the joy and solemnity of the moment.
As always, through you instrument, you are able to infuse the air of feeling that moves our hearts and our practice.
With deep respect and gratitude for your uninterrupted gift to Shinnyoji, a respectful greeting.
Anna Maria Shinnyo
Dear Reverend, it is a joy for me to be with you.
I thank you for the invitation.
The other night I think I felt an extra force that helped me. It came and it went ...
Thanks again for the beautiful emotions.
IMAGES OF THE VIGIL
BEST WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR
Reply from Daijōji to the best wishes sent from Shinnyo Roshi for New Year 2015
To: Iten Shinnyo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 2014/12/25, Thu 23:05
Thank you for the card for best wishes. Everyone here at Daijoji hopes that the Sangha of Shinnyoji may practice the Way with more and more vigor and fruitful activity at your Temple. (attachment: postcard for best wishes from Azuma DochoRoshi)
Best Wishes card sent by Rev. Ryushin Azuma Docho Roshi, 72° Abbot of Daijōji Monastery in Kanazawa
Best Wishes for the New Year, 27th Year of Heisei, 2478th year after Shakyamuni Buddha
May my best wishes for the New Year reach you all. May it bring prosperity and good health.
Last year I started my activities within the Sekai Zen Senta outside of Japan, by delivering the conference “The Dharma of Zazen correctly passed on from China to Japan” at Jiunbutsu Gakuin University in China, a training facility for nuns of which Seishin Roshi, Abbot of Tendōji, is the Director. I was deeply touched when I saw the young nuns that were attentively listening in deep concentration.
In the upcoming new year I plan to continue to develop my projects.
Thanking you wholeheartedly for your kind support, I ask you to keep giving me your precious advice.
Zazenkai: 22 November
Rohatsu Vigil – 7-8 December
During each Retreat, Master Shinnyo Roshi conducts a Teisho on Precepts.
Photographs by Fabio Daishin
Editing by Ivano EiShin
Weekly practice schedule:
Zazen – every Monday evening from 20.00 to 22.00
Zazen – every Tuesday morning from 06.30 to 07.30.
Zazen – every Friday evening from 20.00 to 21.30.
Zazenkai – one Sunday each month from 9.00 to 18.00.
Sesshin – one weekend per month. Starting Friday at 20.00, ending Sunday at 14.00.