EkiZen - Newsletter by the Shinnyoji Sangha
Autumn 2015 - n. 24 year VI (PDF)
Returning to the article published in the Summer 2015 edition of Ekizen in which we featured our Teacher Rev. Iten Shinnyo Roshi’s trip to Taiwan following Her teacher, Rev. Ryushin Azuma Roshi, below is his salutation.
Farewell message from Rev. Shinnyo to her Teacher Rev. Azuma Roshi and travelling group in Taiwan.
Good evening everyone,
As the time has come for me to say goodbye, my thoughts about deep thankfulness to my Teacher Azuma DochoRoshi for the immense gift that he has always offered me.
Also, the joy of this experience with him.
I will now return to Italy, in Florence, to all the practitioners and students of Shinnyoji, the beauty found in this visit and most of all, the great Teaching that I receive from my Teacher every time that I have the possibility to be near Him. His every move, every word, although in a different language, is for me Ishin Den Shin, the source of Dharma.
Thanks to Kunii Roshi for coordinating our trip and to all of your for your kind presence, I apologize for any disturbance I may have caused not speaking your language.
Safe travels home to my Teacher and to each one of you.
Owakare no tokiga, chikazuite kimashita.
Azuma Docho Roshi no osobade sugoshi, takusan no keiken wo sasete itadaki, kokorokara, kansha siteimasu.
Italia ni kaerimashitara, Shinnyoji no deshi ya yūjin tachi ni, kono ryokō no subarashisa wo, tokuni Azuma Roshi no oshie no subarasisa wo, tsutaetai to omoimasu.
Azuma Roshi no osoba ni irudakede, Roshi no shosa, kotoba nado subetega, watashi ni totte taisetsuna oshie desu.
Hanasu kotoba wa chigaimasuga, Buppō no minamoto dearu, Ishin Denshin ni yori, tsutawatte kimasu.
Konkai no ryokō no junbi dewa, Kunii Roshi ni, taihen osewa ni narimashita. Arigatou gozaimashita.
Mata, hokano sankasha no minasama nimo, shinsetsuni shite itadaki, arigatou gozaimashita.
Nihongo ga hanasenakute moushiwake arimasendeshita.
Azuma Roshi to sankasha no minasama, dōzo ki wo tsukeke, Nihon ni okaeri kudasai.
CONFERENCE IN TAIWAN
On May 12th, 2015 the Rev. Ryushin Azuma Roshi held a Conference in Taipei as the Founder of the Sekai Zen Senta - WZC World Zen Center. The objective of this Association is to unite Zen teaching and Practice in a Universal Center, in which each person, regardless of religion, sex, age, political views can study and practice Zen.
Below are some related articles published in Japanese newspapers.
Article published on June 19th, 2015 in the Chūgai Nippō newspaper of Kyoto with a translation in English.
“Sekai Zen Senta (WZC World Zen Center), Conference by Reverend Azuma Roshi”
From May 11-15th, 2015 the second Conference of the Sekai Zen Senta (WZC, World Zen Center) was held in Taipei in foreign countries.
Twenty-five people attended the Conference, including the leader Rev. Azuma Ryūshin Roshi, President of the Sekai Zen Senta and Abbot of Daijoji, and the Rev. Suzuki Kesshū, vice-leader and Abbot of the Gokurinji. The Abbot of Shinnyoji and a follower came from Italy.
Il Rev. Azuma Roshi held the open conference in the main classroom in the “Kegon Senshū Gakuin” school in Taipei themed “The Search for the Fundamental Principles of Buddhism”.
During the conference, the Rev. Azuma Roshi said:
“Satori 悟り - Illumination – is the state in which the idea of relative values is transformed into absolute values. This Satori was transmitted from the Buddha Shakamuni through all of the historic Patriarchs to Dōgen Zenji, the 51st generation to me, the 83rd generation.
In his numerous texts, Dōgen Zenji tried to express the concept of Satori through various words but the term that explains it the best was the state of Jijuyō zanmai 自受用三昧.
Jijuyō zanmai 自受用三昧 is the life of shinjin datsuraku 身心脱落 - abandoning the body and mind – in other words, it is a very animated life in which someone sitting in Zazen becomes a Buddha and that the same time, is awakened to the Truth (Dharma) guiding other toward Awakening, until the time in which this Awakening is extended throughout the entire universe.”
After the speech from Rev. Azuma Roshi, Professor Kendo, Director of the Taiwanese School “Kegon Senshū Gakuin” presented on the Center of Research on the Kegon Sutra recently began at his School and expressed the desire to increase cultural exchange with people with different paths and deepen the study upon Zen.
Later that afternoon the second Conference was held in the Banqiao Cultural Center of the Ryūzanji, which is one of the most ancient temples in Taiwan. The photo shows Rev. Azuma Roshi receiving a calligraphy gift from Prof. Oh Kin Zan, Director of the Ryūzanji.
The Rev. Ohno Kyōji, Abbot of the Shinpukuji in Japan, who covered the official Dōshi role – in numerous ceremonies during the trip to Taiwan, commented upon the teachings of Rev. Azuma Roshi:
“He spoke about the essence of Zazen in simple terms. It was a very precious experience, I had the feeling as if its true meaning deeply struck me in the chest.”
On the 14th day, after having visited the General Governor of Taiwan from the former Empire of Japan, the group arrived in Bukkōzan, the largest temple in Taiwan. There they had the special occasion to share their thoughts and friendships with the Taiwanese Buddhists.
Article published on June 18th, 2015 in the The Bukkyo Times Weekly of Tokyo with the English translation.
Daijōji Sōtōshū School and the second foreign Conference of the Sekai Zen Senta
The Kendo Director of the Kegon Renja Foundation warmly welcomed the Japanese delegation by saying:
This School was established in 1962, about 50 years ago. We recently welcomed foreign students from Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. Also, the Center of Kegon Research was inaugurated in which a symposium was held and Buddhists from various counties exchanged their thoughts. I hope that Azuma Roshi returns here for future conferences.”
President Azuma’s answer to the Sekai Zen Senta:
“Dōgen Zenji was very interested in the Kegon Sutra and upon this theme he wrote the chapter “Sankai Yuishin” in the “Shō bōgenzō”. We too are interested in deepening our studious exchanges with you.”
The Director Kendo enthusiastically replied:
“In reality, those who established the Kegon Renja Foundation were monks from the Sōtōshū School, but unfortunately we don’t study Zen a lot here. I would like to graciously ask Roshi to come here to teach.”
Caption: Azuma Roshi explaining the fundamental principles of Buddhism.
During that afternoon, Azuma Roshi held a discussion themed “Upon researching the fundamental principles (the most important points) of Buddhism” in collaboration with the Rev. Zuibutsu Zenji from the Association of Original Buddhism in Taiwan, in Cultural Square at the Banqiao of the Ryūzanji. The room was full of people who followed Azuma Roshi’s lesson Shikan Taza – just sit with great interest. (The summary of the discussion will be in this article.)
In the Square, The Vice-president of the Ryūzanji first welcomed the delegation:
“Infinite thanks to Azuma Roshi for coming from Japan. We are very happy and honored by the fact that the great Japanese Teacher may share thoughts with Buddhists in Taiwan.”
The words of Azuma Roshi:
“I too thank you all for preparing this occasion for me to speak today. Buddhism was opened by the Buddha Shakyamuni 2,500 years ago and continued to spread around India for another 500 years. Gradually his teaching speak to Tibet in the north, Myanmar in the south, and in China and Japan in the east. And now I wanted to propose a question upon how the state of Buddhism in the west of India. After years of research, 13 years ago I published a book called “Buddhism and Islam”. I also spoke about his on the NHK channel – National Japanese TV.”
And so Azuma Roshi continued to explain the Dōgen Zenji by speaking of the international diffusion of Buddhism from vantage point of comparative theology. From the listeners interested in this lecture, there was a loud applause for this Japanese Master of great culture. Zuibutsu Zenji held a discussion on how to apply Zazen to our everyday lives.
Caption: The conference expected next year in Europe.
On the 14th, after having visited the National Museum of the Palace, the delegation moved on to Bukkōzanji in Kaohsiung, largest temple in Taiwan.
Welcoming words of the Vice-Abbott Rev. Keirin:
“I thank you all for having travelled such a long way from Japan. I have been to Eiheiji, one of the two principle temples of the Sōtōshū School and I met Japanese monks. Il Rev. Seiun Taishi, Founders and Abbot of this temple, frequently attends inter-religious meetings and also teaches Zazen. Bukkōzanji is the ideal place where people from modern times can study Buddhism.”
Today Bukkōzanji has around 1,300 monks and there are 300 headquarters open around the world. In Japan, there is one in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Gunma. As an act of gratitude, the Vice-Abbot Keirin gave a give toe Azuma Roshi and promised future heart-felt meetings.
The delegation came back to Taipei by high-speed train Shinkansen. On the last day of the trip they visited the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Afterwards, they attended the
Qigong lecture by Rev. Rin Tokumou who make made a great effort to create this Conference as the Taiwanese Director of the Sekai Zen Senta and also holding the title of Master of the Orthodox Qigong Association of Taiwan. After the Qigong lecture, the members of the delegation took of tour of downtown Taipei and left for the airport to return home.
The Vice-group leader Rev. Suzuki Kesshū spoke about his impressions:
“Following the first foreign Conference last year in Zhejiang, China was a great success, the second meeting was also successful thanks to your kind collaboration. We have already received requests to hold conferences from Holland and Spain, which we will do next May. We want to continue speaking about Zen abroad like this, with Azuma Roshi at the center.
Comments from the participants.
Rev. Ohno Kyōshi, Abbot of Shinpukuji in the prefecture of Yamaguchi, Japan:
“Although brief and simple, the discussion by Azuma Roshi had the core, the soul of Zazen. Even though they were the same words that I read every day in the texts, the true meaning deeply penetrated me as like a veil fell from my eyes. I am very satisfied and honored to have been a part of this precious experience.”
Mr. Fukushima Teizō, follower of Daijoji:
“I was struck my Roshi’s talk about how simply sitting in Zazen is an entire life and that we should continue Zazen with sincerity. During the discussion, I saw that the Buddhists from the two counties repeated Gasshō and Sanpai in silence. I have never been to such a solemn Conference in my life.”
Rev. Anna Maria Shinnyo Marradi of Shinnyoji in Italy:
“Being near Azuma Roshi, every movement and word of my Teacher is a precious Teaching for me. Even if we speak different languages, everything is transmitted through I Shin den Shin, the origin of the Dharma. Returning to Italy, I will speak about this marvelous trip to the followers and friends of Shinnyoji, particularly about the Teaching by Azuma Roshi.”
VISIT TO SHINNYOJI
The Mayor of the Japanese city of Kadokawa Sama and his official delegates visited Shinnyoji o celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Twin city agreement between Florence and Kyoto, Rev. Matsuura Kanshu, Abbot of the Mibudera Temple in Kyoto and the Abbot of the Zen Rinzai Temple Tōfukuji in Kyoto.
Thank you letter from the Mayor of Kyoto
Thank you note from Rev. Matsuura Shunkai, Abbot of the Mibudera
June 2015 (Years of the Heisei 27)
Dear friends who attended the Open Eyes Ceremony of the Yakata Jizō at Shinnyoji in Florence,
On June 12th, 2015 the Hōyō ceremony for the Yakata Jizō was celebrated between Italy and Japan alongside the presence of Mr. Kadokawa Daisaku, Mayor of Kyoto and Mr. Tsuda Daizō, President of the City Council of Kyoto. The Yakata Jizō was donated and shipped from the Mibudera to Shinnyoji and was respectfully received by Rev. Anna Maria Shinnyo Marradi, Abbot of the Shinnyoji Temple.
Last year the Jizō Bon was officially recognized as an immaterial cultural patrimony of the City of Kyoto. Later, the Yakata Jizō was added in alongside the Buddha in a temple in a European country. This is truly a great joy for me.
Attached are the photos taken the day of the Ceremony. I would be happy if you kept them for your memories.
The summer has begun in Kyoto and we are approaching the Jizō Bon held in August. I hope that many people celebrate this year so that those in every neighborhood of Kyoto are more connected.
Many thanks, Gasshō
Matsuura Shunkai, Abbot of the Mibudera
I saw the pictures from the inauguration of the 7 jizos on the Matsuura Syunsho site through Tsuji Hoshino, the secretary of the Fondazione Del Bianco.
I see your smile, I read many comments from other Japanese people. They gave you a precious gift (even if you had to give a lot too), and they made a kind and respectful offering.
Great compliments and wishes,
Prof. Hideyuki DOI
College of Letters - Ritsumeikan University
NEWS FROM DAIJOJI
Daijoji Dayori n.120, 15 August 2015
Daijoji Dayori A of the Daijoji Dayori n.120, 15 August 2015
Aida Kongō相田 金剛, practitioner at Daijoji, Kanazawa
I received Tokudo from Azuma Rōshi in October 2014 (26th year of Heisei).
Eight months have passed since this happened and I ask myself what has happened inside of myself. I live the same way everyday receiving the guidance from elderly monks, intensely dedicating myself to my tasks. According to me, Practice is never ascetic. It is important to walk together amongst others upon the path that you have chosen, that you believe in. I think that constantly going along this path is true Practice.
The second foreign conference of the Sekai Zen Senta (WZC World Zen Center)
On 14 May 2015, in the Bukkōji Temple, Taiwan
Title of the text;
The second foreign conference of the Sekai Zen Senta (WZC World Zen Center)
From the 11th to 15th May, 2015 Azuma Roshi, Abbot of our Temple and President of the Sekai Zen Senta held a Conference at the Kegon Senshū Gakuin Institute in the Cultural Plaza of Banqiao in the Ryūzanji Temple, both in Taipei and Taiwan. His discussion was welcomed with great enthusiasm and interest from the attendees. The delegation was made up of 25 monks and followers, including the Chinese monk Rengyoku, the Sri Lankan monk and practitioner Chaminda Ryūsei, and Anna Maria Shinnyo Marradi of Shinnyoji in Italy. Big thanks to Mr. Rin Tokumou, the Head Director of the Sekai Zen Senta in Taiwan for his precious contribution to make this event happen. The details about this trip are published in Bukkyo Times of June 18th, 2015.
The Hymn of Shinnyoji in Florence. フィレンツェ真如寺のうた
I received a gift from my follower Shinnyo san who came from Shinnyoji in Italy. It was a CD with the Hymn of Shinnyoji in Florence along with the text of the lyrics which is comprised of 4 verses written by Shinnyo san herself. The music of the Hymn was composed by Teacher Carlo Ippolito who is also a practitioner at Shinnyoji.
Here are the lyrics to the first verse.
Sanshu – Abbot of the Daijōji Temple Azuma Roshi
Sesshin 26-28 June 2015
Sesshin 11-13 September 2015
Teisho 12 September 2015
Tenshin listening to the Teisho connected by Skype in New York City (USA), where she lives and works.
Sign in sheet for the Sesshin 11-13 September 2015
Lunch together at the end of the Sesshin, 13 September 2015
The short life of Michelstaedter flows – as his Letters show - exhibiting a will to continuously live illuminated by the desire of a metaphysical something else or elsewhere created himself. As a young man, he was an impulsive and restless explorer of language and phrases. Michelstaedter was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Rožna dolina, which today is Nova Gorica, just a few meters from the Italian border.
Giaccio tra l’erbe
sulla schiena del monte, e beve il sole
il mio corpo che il vento m’accarezza
e sfiorano il mio capo i fiori e le’erbe
ch’agita il vento
e lo sciame ronzante degli insetti- -
Delle rondini il volo affaccendato
segna di curve rotte il cielo azzurro
e trae nell’alto vasti cerchi il largo
volo dei falchi…
Vita?! Vita?! qui l’erbe qui la terra,
qui il vento, qui gl’insetti, qui gli uccelli,
e pur tra questi sente vede gode
sta sotto il vento a farsi vellicare
sta sotto il sole a suggere il calore
sta sotto il cielo sulla buona terra
questo ch’io chiamo “io”, ma ch’io non sono.
No, non son questo corpo, queste membra
prostrate qui fra l’erbe sulla terra,
più ch’io non sia gli insetti o l’erbe o i fiori
o i falchi su nell’aria o il vento o il sole.
Io son solo, lontano io son diverso –
Altro sole, altro vento e più superbo
Volo per altri cieli è la mia vita…
Ma ora qui che aspetto, e la mia vita
perché non vive, perché non avviene?
Che è questa luce, che è questo calore,
questo ronzar confuso, questa terra,
questo cielo che incombe?M’è straniero
l’aspetto d’ogni cosa, m’è nemica
questa natura! Basta! Voglio uscire
da questa trama d’incubi! La vita!
la mia vita! Il mio sole!
Ma pel cielo
montan le nubi su dall’orizzonte,
già lambiscono il sole, già la terra
invidiano la luce ed il calore.
Un brivido percorre la natura
e rigido mi corre per le membra
al soffiare del vento. Ma che faccio
schiacciato sulla terra qui tra l’erbe?
Ora mi levo, chè ora ho un fine certo,
ora ho freddo, ora ho fame, ora m’affretto,
ora so la mia vita,
chè la stessa ignoranza m’è sapere –
la natura inimica ora m’è cara
che mi darà riparo e nutrimento,
ora vado a ronzar come gli’insetti. –
Sul S. Valentin, giugno 1910
Vacation in Montpellier, a small city near the sea in the south of France, with a downtown, many tree-lined streets and a modern neighborhood with an expanse and eclectic style... the nearby sea, the houses of the fishermen.. I returned after a few years, very important years, many things have changed in my life, and still found myself walking along familiar streets... I perhaps I was familiar to them...
Only a few years ago my emotional and spiritual life, my friends were completely different, maybe it was taking a daily path to somewhere I still don’t know where, but exists ‘definitely’? It was strange to see again the buildings that I love, go to the churches, visit the museums, it was like introducing myself again to the city. I was the same but a bit different with my friends in this city, they understood, they comprehended that there has been a change and they are happy, without too many words, they know me.
After nearly a year since the Shukke Tokudo, I recognize myself as what I am today, as do those who are close to me, they sense my walk... Walking... knowing my character, I have always been walking. I don’t like to fossilize myself into a role, embody something that I ‘am’ prisoner of an ‘outfit’ in a ‘belief’ to manage like a gained knowledge, a power to take care of, a hierarchical role that can produce pseudo-merits, a spiritual walk that becomes ‘marketing’ and relational diplomacy between ‘powers’.
I’ve had a doubt for a long time, it’s not a new thing, it revolves around my deep will-ability-inclination of completely adhering to a Japanese ‘cannon’ of Ritual, but this does not stop me at all from participating in it and from feeling its distance force, I say this for a certain reason- my western culture does not know or cannot be anything else, and so perhaps for these reasons I can’t make it mine, I can’t ‘wear it’ and be one with it. This is it. And I can’t be insincere with myself on my Path.
I still must interpret much of the path, I must understand and feel, a path somewhat quiet that cannot ‘say’ too much, to progress into something that is and will be ‘useful’ and help myself and others.
I want to grow in my understanding, in feeling and perceiving the World, let it enter inside, let me transform and finally not have fear of continuous change and of returning...
I feel my responsibility, in the same way that I feel that I live within a Lineage that protects me and that I respect. My Path, as I said, is evolving and I still don’t know how but I know to wait and receive, to comprehend. I have faith in Zen and in my Teacher Rev. Shinnyo Roshi. There are many thoughts and I move forward along the Way with Respect and recognition, gratitude and modesty. Maybe it’s the exact awareness of ‘catching the right bait’ and that I will never be able to betray myself or betray a faith that for me, even with all of the doubts and faults, it very solid.
A book of Sutras has always ‘kept me company’ on a table in my room and I saw it a lot during the day, I think that it, in a certain sense, ‘represents’ the Teacher and all of the Sangha...
Something beautiful happened to me every day, I was happy walking around the city, in the places that I love, the joy of visiting friends, because I am what I am, still the same and different, I feel ‘united’, never repressed or dishonest, never full of remorse. But I absolutely feel like I belong to a serious, True and honest Path at Shinnyoji with the great luck of having met the Rev. Shinnyo Roshi, my Teacher, thanks to whom I was able to know “the Zen that only She brings”.
The summer light is rough, at least it is for me. The shutters are closed, with peeling paint facing the street, and the darkness, literal and internal, falls upon the floor. Deserted places and populated places, are not actually different, concentric migrations of ants. I play with my camera in the daylight: I follow it, in a narrow space between the trees and walls, every embellishment is an impression of a moment, a farewell and welcome all at once, perhaps a welcome back. I sit in the evening and my breath is a table, always different, present without asking anything more; the dedications, names between my palms of my two hands.
In July, I asked the Teacher if I could receive the Vows of the Bodhisattva. The letter is long, consisting of two pages, wanting to explain and define. It is a brief step and in an instant, it will no longer be a step. When I went to school, a teacher Fiorello called me Our Poet, and ruffled my bangs. Now I the words that I hear fall to the ground and make the sound of a can shaking like in the Wizard of Oz. It is summer, and also this year, September will come.
I came to the Temple because I felt a bit confused, present tension towards the unconditional, the unbreakable force to build a metal cathedral around my soul. An expanse of hot coals and fire, blinding, they bothered me. I was attracted to what I told myself: discover and shape the superhuman present in every person. Unite and order, with collected intensity, the chaos present around me, in a solid nucleus, a new order. The uprightness against horizons, the marble against the swamp. All of this thanks to transfiguring experiences within Practice. I later developed, independently, through a personal path, mostly focused and anti-egalitarian, the same instances. However enhanced by dizziness, as ionic sacrifices: the archaic hoplite, that gift of self.
In the transmission of the universal teachings of the historic Buddha from Teacher Shinnyo to the Sangha, one clearly feels the awareness, and even more, our Teacher’s mature experience in the Dharma, a true union that transmits the life of the mind and heart to the practitioners, oriented beyond illusion toward the existential present.
My first thought of the morning.
Getting angry with loved ones in your life, “you’re bothering me...!”, only to realize later that they are irreplaceable, and you can’t tell them this. Discovering that taking care of your parents isn’t just a “job”, but a lucky occurrence, their unfortunate suffering, which you would never understand otherwise.
Your always present son, Michele.
Then, after all of the poetry
and no one
says anything anymore...
25 June - 2 July 2015
I had a lovely week at the Temple. Infinite thanks from my heart to the Teacher who welcomed me and hosted me in the Guest Room, thank you for her time and teaching. Thank you to the Sangha that demonstrated a lot of patience while I reviewed the Form. As the Teacher says: returning to you Temple and sitting with your Teacher after a physical absence is a great opportunity to reflect upon your Practice. As soon as I entered Shinnyoji, I felt a simple and natural presence of being there, as if I had never left. But at the same time, I felt very different, more relaxed, focused and firm, I feel closer to the Teacher and the Sangha, I felt their faith and commitment.
Like someone walking through the fog and returns home soaking wet, I came back to Shinnyoji wet. This “shower” rinsed away every doubt that I had about the Practice that I do alone in America. I thought that my Practiced was too “thrown together” or “done how it seems to me”, but I sat in Zazen everyday just the same. At Shinnyoji I felt a deep contact with the energy around me, the air and environment were always the same, but I felt them in a more nurturing and welcoming way than before.
While relearning the Form, I felt open and without a trace of perfectionism. Thanks again for your patience and repetition. I have learned that practicing Zen is also being compassionate to yourself, not only other people. I paid attention to my embarrassment due to clumsily ringing the bell, my strange pronunciation of the Eko, and when I went the wrong way or faced the wrong direction. I appreciate the Teisho given by the Teacher during this Sesshin, she spoke about the importance of forgiving ourselves during our Practice. A part of me wanted to feel stupid or in the way, but this is ego, I made the decision not to get discouraged and with deep breaths, I felt my heartbeat and I accepted myself as I am.
The Form is a mystical practice, it gives respect and harmony to the rituals, I haven’t found a Zen Temple in New York that practices Forms like at Shinnyoji, by at least I can practice Kyudo which teaches similar principles.
I feel the calling of the Buddha Way even stronger than before as well as gratefulness for the support from the Patriarchs, instruction and demonstration from the Teacher. I hope that I can return to Shinnyoji soon. Thanks again.
I prepare meals for the Sangha – reflections from a Tenzo apprentice.
In the Tenzo Kykōun, Dōgen often refers to an ancient Chinese text, the Chanyuan Qinggui (Rules for Zen Monasteries, written by Zongle on Mount Zanglu in 1102). Amongst the cited quotes are the following:
“The purpose of the Tenzo is to prepare meals for the monks” and
”Put your illuminated mind to work, constantly trying to serve diverse meals that are appropriate for the occasion, and that allow everyone to practice with the body and the mind without any obstacle”.
Put your illuminated mind to work, constantly trying to serve diverse meals that are appropriate for the occasion, and that allow everyone to practice with the body and the mind without any obstacle
Ok, this can be done. All you have to do is keep count of who will be present throughout the day, pay attention to the Teacher’s or another practitioner’s needs, pick out a menu, plan what you need in the kitchen – meaning make a grocery list – “figure out” the rice cooker, maintain a calm demeanor in the kitchen and everything is done.
Unfortunately it is not at all like this. The second passage cited by Dōgen breaks a dam that brings the Tenzo into a deep spiritual dimension where the simple affirmation “I prepare meals for the Sangha” becomes an intense form of Practice.
Just like sitting in Zazen – lowering yourself in Shikan-taza – becomes the only activity in the mind and body for the whole time that we spend on the Zafu, also planning meals, preparing, serving the food and tidying up the kitchen, represents the completeness of the reality being lived by the Tenzo for the entire day. The responsibility is huge – in fact, it is written: “if the Tenzo offers a meal without harmony of the six tastes and three qualities, it cannot be said that he serves the community”. From a simple meal depends the success of everyone’s Practice.
Being the Tenzo requires total concentration and abandonment. Each moment, each step, must be lived in full awareness because as Dōgen teaches, “you must manage even a small vegetable leaf so that it manifests the body of the Buddha. In return, this allows the Buddha to manifest itself through the leaf”.
I try, I attempt to be one with the ingredients that I prepare, the utensils that I work with and the decision I make. I try to offer the food with an open heart and complete abandonment. During the Sesshin, in the evenings before going to bed I ensure that everything is ready for the following morning – the table is set, the food is ready – and I wash the rice before the morning alarm sounds. This is my Practice. Unfortunately my concentration is often overwhelmed by the rush and unfolding of the events, the offering of the food with an open heart is overshadowed by the ego waiting for a recognition and the right choice of food sometimes is done a bit hastily.
Dōgen teaches that we should completely identify our Practice with the activities of the Tenzo and insists upon the fact that when we sit in Zazen, we must only sit, while we work as the Tenzo, we must only do that.
This is also very difficult for me. While sitting in Zazen my mind is already projected toward what will happen later: ingredients to prepare, the schedule to follow, the places to set at the table. A vortex that absorbs the concentration, decomposes the posture and makes the moment difficult as if it were a long and strenuous marathon that is not lived moment by moment but only focusing on the finish line. The “illuminated mind of the Tenzo” which Dōgen refers to, is not my mind.
There’s something that I must confess. The rice in broth in the morning, eaten with paprika and gomashio, isn’t as bad as we make it out to be... and every now and then, in the winter, I prepare a bowl for myself at home for breakfast...
The temple, the Sangha and Zen have been a part of me since the first day. Uncovering myself and those at Shinnyoji is one of the most beautiful and true gifts of my life!
“Everything is perfect as it is.” This is a thought that I think about often because it’s complete, it gives me serenity. I often worry, I fear tomorrow, but thinking that “everything is fine like this” gives me strength and faith. It’s not an inactive acceptance, but rather, life with a bit of curiosity. Pain is not an intruder, it is a part of this perfection, and it happens to be accompanied by unexpected and important events that later will be a support for the rest of this life.
Deep thanks to our Teacher and for all of the Sangha for having been close and supportive lately. I continuously felt Your presence next to me and this helped me greatly. Thank you.
Building a Mountain
One of the first things I ever read about Buddhism is the Three Marks of Existence. The first mark of existence is impermanence. Everything in life is impermanent. In a moment everything can change. We have many things but we possess nothing. Families, loved ones, homes, money, health, happiness, suffering, emotions, and thoughts are just feathers in the wind. It can be hard to find something to hold onto when that wind is always blowing. Really what do we have to hold onto? That is my hope for Zen, to show me peace. I believe that through Zazen and working at the temple I can build a sanctuary within myself. I know that I can never escape the impermanence of the world, but I wish to find Zen in my heart that is strong and still as a mountain.
I have finally reach a small goal in my life. Time and energy dragged me into the usual and daily flow of this life in which we are involved. Also, a great light from above (or better, from below) opened up to me during these times of great tiredness and concentration – sitting in Zazen, I felt my worldly breath upon my skin.
It is in this time, almost beyond the time that my attention noticed in the car while returning home from work (I usually meditate during at sunset, a time when the day seems most intimate to me and full of importance that I am not able to express with words). At that time I realized how truly difficult life must be for those who wake up at 6:30 a.m. for work then return home at 7:00 pm and you must still have the joyous strength needed from your family, children, tending to the house until it’s time to go to bed and start all over again the next day.
The strength of a mother who, beyond working, must also raise a child or two, take care of other tasks and after the years pass, also a grandchild, maybe two. And all of this for what? We ask ourselves. I strongly believe that the only thing strong enough to support all of this effort must be love and compassion for the family, children, for all of those who are around you. After this assurance, monastic life seems less distant, less external. It can’t be any more difficult than those who work 12 or 13 hours every day and then still have the strength, returning home, to smile at whoever opens the door, and have something thoughtful to say to someone at the supermarket or give your seat to someone on the bus who seem even more tired.
In this way there is no time for useless things, for the ego to enter. As the Teacher Dōgen says, the idea of Awareness is not Awareness, Awareness is Awareness, it is this way without going out to look for whatever ecstatic and extreme experiences, beyond writings and words, I believe that if you succeed in energetically living through this inextinguishable love for a positive life, I could say that I’m already happy living in the fluctuating world. Unfortunately Zazen eventually finishes, the world calls and this bolts of light luckily stay in our memory and guide our future actions hoping, that it fortifies the Way in a new experience.
RITIRI DI PRATICA
Sesshin: 26-28 June.
Sesshin: 11-12-13 September.
During each Retreat, our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi holds a Teisho.
Photos by Fabio Daishin,
Editing by Ivano EiShin
Translation into English by Lisa Tenshin
Calendar of events for Practice:
Zazen – every Monday from 8:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Zazen – every Friday from 8:00-9:30 p.m.
Zazenkai – One Sunday per month from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sesshin – One weekend per month from Friday at 8:00 p.m. to Sunday at 2:00 p.m.