Buddha’s Birthday Virtual Celebration

April 8th is the day where we traditionally celebrate the historical Buddha’s birthday. The legend is that the was a sweet rain of flowers when the Buddha was born. He immediately took seven steps representing the seven cardinal directions and pointing up to the sky and down toward the earth said “Above the heavens and below the earth I alone am the world honored one!”

We honor this event with a ceremony where we bath a statue of the baby Buddha with sweet tea and offer incense. In these times where we all must stay at home and such gatherings are discouraged we will observe this ceremony over the internet.

We will begin at 6am with a period of zazen, followed by a short chant service and then the ceremonial bathing of the baby buddha and offering of incense. We will conclude with chanting of the four great Bodhisattva vows and sampai (prostrations). You will need to have a copy of the Tahoma Sutra Book and the Ceremony Booklet which contains the Verse of Ambrosial Nectar.

Order of events
6:00am Zazen
6:30am Ceremony
Chanting:
Hannya Shingyo (page 5)
Sho Sai Shu Dharani (page 6)
Dai Hi Shu Dharani (page 9)
Eko (read by densu)
Verse of Ambrosial Nectar (pdf)
Bathing of the buddha and offering of incense
Chanting: Four Great Vows (page 16)
sampai

We will conclude with a few minutes of casual conversation where any participants are free to make comments and talk amongst the group. If you have some tea on hand, it would be an appropriate time to have a cup!

The Zoom Link for this event is:
https://zoom.us/j/539986749

Please follow these guidelines for taking part in this meeting:

  • If this is first time taking part in a Zoom meeting with your computer, Zoom will automatically install the needed software. For tablet or smart phone users, you will need to download “Zoom Cloud Meetings”.
  • Microphones will be muted for the sitting. During the informal discussion at the end, wear ear phones (if you have them) to help reduce feedback noise. Otherwise, unmute your mic only when speaking. Mute again when done. You can use the Tap to Speak option for this.
  • Turn up the volume on your speakers to clearly hear the bells and announcements.
  • Position your camera so we can see you sitting with us. Not directly in front, though; that will likely be too distracting.
  • If you have a poor internet connection, turn off your video.


Guidance in the Time of Corona #8

Dear All,

Settling you breath, settling your energy, are you protecting your own health? During these days extreme news are circulating and we need to deepen even more within. We are living in coexistence with the environment. The earth has the power of gravitation. Gravitation is protecting our health. All our actions of the day are based on this power of gravitation. When we are tired, we lie down. Still it is difficult to sleep more than 8 hours. That is because we are not absorbing enough gravity power when lying down. When we are sick and have to stay in bed for a long time, we need to have some rehab exercises to again feel well again. When we are in bed, the gravity affect the circulation of our blood flow. We have all types of paths to strengthen our health and support the blood circulation, like chikung, yoga etc.

The place on top of our head is called the fontanelle. We receive the energy of the heavens through this place (Hyakue). Below our feet there is a point (Yusen) from where we receive the energy of the earth, where we can feel gravity. The energy from the heavens and from the earth gathers in our tanden. During zazen we can use this energy and let it circulate freely. When this energy moves naturally through our body, at this point we can easily forget our body, feeling at one with this huge universe.

Hakuin Zenji taught that with each exhalation and with each inhalation we move the ki energy for 10 cm through our body. There are the capillaries in our body and parallel to them we have the meridians, the nervous system along which the energy flows. To say we move the energy for 10 cm means that these meridians are being stimulated. During one day the energy circulates 50 time throughout the whole body. Nowadays we do not count how many times we breathe each day, yet it is known from olden days. That we breathe about 13,500 times a day. This is the wisdom of Asian medicine. This flow of energy is what maintains our health.

Everyone has this energy flow, yet you might no be aware of it. It is expressed in the Chinese letter “Kan” which is part of the word “Kangoshi” – nurse. “Kan” is written as a “hand having eyes” and is read as “seeing”. A nurse can sense the sickness of a person, can feel the pulse – all done with one´s hands. The expression of the hands is happening because of the energy moving through our body. This Ki energy can be found in many Japanese words: Tenki (weather), byoki (sickness), Kuki (air), Genki (health), Kiryoku (willpower). … It is expressed in this way, because from the origin the energy of the heavens and of our body are one. The energy of the heavens being absorbed by our body is Genki, is being healthy. Simply being alive we are at one with the energy around us. Sickness, byoki, means the energy not working well. The heavens in small is our body, and our body in big are the heavens. This is how Asian medicine looks at it.

We feel separate, yet we are of the same energy which is the source of us being healthy. This is what we sense when we do Chikung, Yoga and Taichi. We absorb the energy and thus sustain our own health. Looking at it in this way, we feel taught and alive. Once we lose this, that is called death.

In our life we do face many different obstacles, and the energy flow does not happen in a healthy way. We cannot see this energy, but can feel it, especially when doing zazen we can let it settle in our lower abdomen. Zazen is a path for us to increase our energy and develop our wisdom. This is not our personal problem only, but we can receive this energy of the heavens, using our breathing, and protect our health, taking this full taught energy as most important. When we are healthy the energy is strong in the lower part of our body. When we get sick, the energy rises in our body, going against the natural flow. The energy gets stuck in our head, worry and fear create further thoughts and unsettledness. It can even get so intense that we cannot manage our daily livelihood, being emotional and not standing firmly on the ground, feeling dizzy with our head being hot. Clear decisions are difficult to make at this time.

Please see how important it is to bring the energy down and gather the energy in the tanden.

Guidance in the time of Corona #7

Dear All,

Even when we sleep at night, the inner organs work. Because of them working, that is why we are alive. Why is that so? It seems that we are one human being. We have the senses to see hear smell and taste – all of them are in the upper part of our body. When we were born, we receive a lot of data input. More and more our inner essence weakens and we desire even more information from the outside. Our thoughts increase and the essence is blocked and finally lost. We base our life upon the information from the outside. If we do not make efforts to replenish our essence, we become even more empty inside. This is our urgent need.

Our head and and arms show the part of our being which is facing towards the world outside. Then we have the belly, and we can perceive it as the head of our lower part of the body, with our legs and feet. The lower part is about our true essence and life force. It is important that we see both of these aspects.

Our organs working even while we are sleeping is due to the lower part of our body which produces the hormone of life energy. When we are born we are in inner harmony. Yet we use the upper part of our body more, receive information and start to think more. The more our essence becomes weak, the more we feel unsettled. This is the important point of our zazen: to place our focus in our tanden.

This is what the Buddha took as central, as well as the ancients before him, thus the teaching of the tanden breathing is over 4000 years old. This has been supporting our life energy all along. Yoga, Chikung, TaiChi – many different path support this inner balance. We bring the life energy back inside and raise our energy level. This is important. Keeping your awareness on your tanden, feeling the pressure there. Inhaling exhaling with the force of the tanden. Depending on our efforts, we stay with our awareness in our tanden, when standing, walking, lifting things, working and sitting. We move our body not from our head and ideas, but from our lower abdomen.

If you have some time, to sit zazen is fine. With each exhalation breathe down into your tanden. Exhale to the last point and the essence becomes stronger. Which again strengthens your tanden in return and reduces the habit to think about everything with your head.

Hakuun Shutan Zenji talks about it, how he would stay centered in his tanden, teaching is many students and doing his work from there. He would pass on this wisdom to others. We can strengthen our inner essence to the degree that our feet become warm. Hakuun Shutan Zenji would say that he felt filled with vibrant energy even at high age and could continue all of his activities.

All we need to do is to gather our energy in the tanden. If we try to do his from our head though, then we get tense in the diaphragm and cannot exhale further, not reaching the tanden. We need to make actual efforts, making our exhalation slowly longer, not getting stopped anywhere. And finally we have raise the energy level of our tanden.
Once the life energy gathers in the tanden, our blood circulation becomes more vibrant as well, the veins moving the blood back to the heart, our energy level rises even more. We can absorb more oxygen to vitalize ourselves.

There is no need for extraneous thoughts, but rather exhale one breath after the next. It is my great wish that you may continue with this inner practice, raising you level of energy so that you can stay settled and immovable within no matter what information and news may reach you from the outside.

Virtual Zazenkai April 5th, 2020

Every Sunday from 8am to around 9:30am we will hold a virtual community zazen, or Zazenkai service. It is a simply service with chanting, zazen, a short talk and chance at the end for casual discussion. Please join us online when you are able.

Zoom Meeting Link:
https://zoom.us/j/268558905

Download the Zoom Client for your computer or device. You can click on the Join Meeting Link below and it will walk you through installing the software. Do get yourself setup before the meeting. You can join the meeting early; you will simply wait until the host (Tahoma) starts the meeting.

For more details on the Virtual Zazenkai please see this post: Virtual Zazenkai

Guidance in the time of Corona #6

Dear All,

How are you doing? We have already April, there are so many different types of news around. It is a fact that the virus is still spreading. More than 47000 people have died with this disease. Soon there will be 1 million people who have been infected by the virus. There are these facts, and then there are all the emotional talks about the situation. Thus we need to make more efforts to stay quiet within.

The breathing method has a 4000 year long history. If there is only mental understanding without a deep breath, we cannot sustain ourselves. Someone who experienced this for himself, is Hakuin Zenji.

Hakuin is teaching the method of introspection. He himself was in a mental unstable place when he receive the guidance by Hakuyu Sennin. Using this name Hakuyu to teach the breathing method which he developed himself. We breathe with our lungs, bringing oxygen and nutrition to all 6 trillion cells of our body. Human beings have become used to sitting a lot and not moving our body enough thus our breathing becomes shallow. This is the reason that the disasters nowadays have become much more intense because our breathing is too weak.

Actually there is no need to learn how to breathe, we do this naturally, but we get too involved in the information from the outside and our inside becomes empty. That is where we get stuck, and only a master of zazen will be able to breathe strongly. Our usual breathing cannot withstand the pressure put on us from the outside.

Hakuin Zenji was a great zen student, yet became sick because of too much pressure during training. From this experience, Hakuin developed the tanden breathing. When practicing introspection, we look within and exhale strongly to invigorate the ki energy. You can read about these in detail in the Yasenkana and Orategama. Yet it depends on our own efforts whether we can actually feel the change.

Now we need this practice in order to respond well to the virus disaster. And that is not all. At the same time we are being faced with many other challenges and a lot of emotional talk all around. The many political and economic regulations become pressure upon us, and our freedom is limited. Living in these circumstances, our condition becomes worse. Thus we need to actually practice. There is no mental understanding needed.

Gathering the energy within, exhaling strongly. The energy in the tanden again strengthens the exhalation and supports the flow of the energy. If we are involved in outside data, this energy rises upwards in the body and we lose our balance. So we need to return to the practice of introspection and settle our energy. This needs to be developed and it needs to ripen. Mental understanding does not help us the slightest bit.

In our life we face many challenges, not only the corona virus but cancer, heart attack, stroke – there are many sicknesses and we need strong inner energy to face these. Please look at this carefully and keep working creatively. I am not saying that you should do zazen but you need to raise your level of energy.

Please each and everyone of you, strengthen your exhalation. Use your willpower to create physical power. Please see this as most important

-Shodo Harada Roshi

Dharma Relief

The Tallahassee Chan Center along with numerous other Buddhist groups are working to help bring much needed medical supplies to the many places in need. We at Tahoma wish to support their efforts and to spread the word. They need donations, help coordinating distribution and spreading the word amongst various sangha’s. Below is information on their goals and needs, please do what you can to support this effort.
-Tendo Zenji
head monk Tahoma Zen Monastery

In facing the COVID-19 pandemic, what can we do as Buddhists? We have resorted to our spiritual practice to help ourselves and others, to be calm in times of uncertainty. What can we do collectively, joining our forces as a Mahasangha to help others?

Compassionate action lies at the heart of Buddhist practice. Today, healthcare workers are the first response to those who are seriously ill with COVID-19. There is already a critical shortage of medical supplies in hospitals nationwide, and need increases every day, with lag of several weeks before US manufacturers can meet the demand. Through the networks of the Tallahassee Chan Center (part of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan), we are able to import FDA approved class-2 surgical masks manufactured in China. We invite you to join the international Buddhist sangha, the Mahasangha, to help us procure the resources to help our healthcare workers.

Please go to the Dharma Relief Project COVID-19 website (https://dharmarelief.org/), to donate or sign up to help coordinate the distribution of masks to hospitals in your area. For details, please contact the Tallahassee Chan Center (tallahassee.chan@gmail.com). please share this message widely.

Guidance in the time of Corona #5

Roshi and Chisan. Photo by Shuho Geit

Dear All,

Deepening your breathing, are you able to live your daily life in an expansive way?

During these many changes happening, it is crucial to use our body, breathing and mind well. I am sending out these messages, yet just reading them does not do the trick. You need to try it out and actually feel the change within. From the origin we do not need to practice breathing. Just like a baby naturally breathes with its whole body. We all still have this breathing in the background, living naturally connected, yet our lives become complicated, being pulled around by the media. Someone who easily feels anxiety, now is the time to take distance from the mass media.

This is what I noticed when we were in the middle of sesshin at 9/11, 52 people were sitting together, the happening was on the 6th day of the sesshin during morning break. We needed to inform everyone about this huge happening so that everyone could make their own decision on how to respond. Some people called home, yet not one person left the sesshin. After the sesshin people were deeply thankful that they could stay calm and settled during this anxiety created by the mass media. This was thanks to Zazen. If they had been at home, everyone would have seen the event over and over again, feeling that anxiety and panic created by these images. Everyone deeply thankful for having been in sesshin at that time. We may need some information, yet we need to stay solid within, only taking the information we really need.

We cannot calm our mind but we can use the medium of the breath to settle our mind. The quickly our mind becomes calm. I believe you can see the importance of the breath. Place awareness on our exhalation and making it long, while we do not place any attention or tension on our inhalation. To bring forth this breathing we sit zazen, we read the sutras.


There is also the practice of bowing. It is called Gotaitochi, or sampai, kyuhai. It means that the forehead, the two elbows and the two knees touch the ground at the same time. There are some traditions that lie flat on the ground as well. We bow in respect and in thankfulness to the Buddha. At the beginning there may be a thought added to this practice, but if we simply continue to bow over and over, we can do the bowing without thinking, the body moving by itself. The bowing does the bowing. To enter this state is important. Then the breathing can become wide and expansive. Try it out for yourself, then the mind becomes calm and soft. All extraneous thoughts beautifully disappear.

Anyone can practice this anywhere. It supports our breathing. When exhaling it is like squeezing a sponge and the water is being pressed out, letting go it again will absorb water by itself. It is said that the diaphragm moving the lungs is the second heart and the skeletal muscles are the third heart of the body. When we practice bowing, by moving our body up and down we can invigorate these three hearts, using a good rhythm of compression and letting lose again. Even someone who has difficulty practicing the breathing, when adding the motion of the body to it, it become easier to grasp. This is how we can practice in daily life.

Then there the reading of the sutras. Opening our throat wide, and in a huge voice we read the sutras. Our abs and spinal muscles need to work or else a huge voice does not come out. Matching the rest of the group, reading the sutras in a loud voice, we more and more become used to the expansive way of breathing.

When sweeping, when wiping the floor, when splitting wood, when digging in the garden use your whole body and the diaphragm becomes invigorated. Our concentration becomes stronger and our physical body refreshed.

When walking, with each step take a short breath putting some pressure on your lower abdomen. This is also how the Buddha practiced. We do not need to think about how a good breath would be, yet by moving the body, it naturally is being appears.

We live in a difficult word with a lot of information around. Especially in times like these, that which we have ignored and not applied, now is the time for us to check our essence and return to the basics of practice.

Even if we are in a small space, we can work creatively on how to practice with this. For example, if we go jogging and sweat, we feel refreshed and alive afterwards. This may not be possible now, so we can sit on a chair and practice marathon. Not moving the legs but only swinging our arms, exalting three short breaths, then taking a short inhalation. The same essence can be brought forth in this way. Doing this for 5-10 minutes a few times daily, since we do not use our legs, there is more tension and energy free to be used for the inner organs. This is how we can work on our inner essence creatively stay settled within.

I am sending you these few suggestions of how you can work on your inner energy. And from there this inner essence is brought forth in tea ceremony, flower arrangement, martial arts. We can thus continue to polish our mind and deepen within while bringing our awareness into each hand and foot motion. Which again in return also strengthens our breathing. Please use this chance now to deepen even further.

-Shodo Harada Roshi

Virtual Zazenkai

Every Sunday from 8am to around 9:30am we will hold a virtual community zazen, or Zazenkai service. It is a simply service with chanting, zazen, a short talk and chance at the end for casual discussion. Please join us online when you are able. There will be a post each Saturday before the Sunday Zazenkai with the Zoom Link. Alternatively you can be added too a mailing list that will send out the link every week. This is recommended as for security reasons we may have to only mail out the link.

Click to Join the Tahoma Virtual Events Mailing List

Download the Zoom Client for your computer or device. You can click on the Join Meeting Link and it will walk you through installing the software. Do get yourself setup before the meeting. You can join the meeting early; you will simply wait until the host (Tahoma) starts the meeting.

All microphones will be muted by default, please keep them muted during the meeting. Due to the limitations of the internet, different connections, computer speed, bandwidth etc we cannot keep everyone in sync for chanting if everyone is broadcasting. So chant along with the densu (chant leader) and then follow the prompts from the jikijitsu (time keeper) for the rest of the service. 

We have put together a PDF of the chants we are going to do at zazenkai if you would like to chant along. Download the pdf here: Virtual Chant Book.

The service will proceed as follows:
8am Offering of incense
Han
Sutra Chanting: Heart Sutra, Song of Zazen,
Zazen 25 minutes
10 minute break for Exercise, stretching, etc.
Reading/Talk
Zazen ~10 minutes
Chanting of the Four Great Vows

We will not be able to provide technical support during the service. Feel free to contact us afterwards if you’d like some help for the next weeks service.

Please read through these best practices for virtual gatherings:
Virtual Practice Guidelines.

Guidance in the Time of Corona #4

Dear All,

For us to be healthy, we need to use our body in the correct way. This is something everyone knows. It is our mind which uses this healthy body. When we feel unsettled, we get red in our face. When we feel scared, our face becomes white. The condition of our mind has a huge influence on our body. We use our awareness a lot for the outside, but what is important for us is this condition of our mind. Yet this mind has no form and receives much influence from the outside. Any change in the outside and our mind will react. According to the reaction we can become quiet or upset.

Trying to align this mind of no form is not easy. When our heart is beating fast, then we cannot calm it down by will. There is an easy way of going about it by calming our breathing. Yet it needs to be the correct breathing which can bring enough oxygen to all the 6 trillion cells we have in our body. Exhaling long and inhaling naturally. For this we need to use our skeletal muscle which are moving according to the command of the brain. The heart pumping the blood through our body which is enriched with oxygen in the lungs. When we are bed ridden, skeletal muscles are used a lot less, that is where we are not using the breathing in the best way. Thus it is good to move the body so that a strong blood flow can come about. A long exhalation will also invigorate the skeletal muscles and thus the capillaries are stimulated.

Different emotions and uncertainty as well as little physical motion weaken the blood flow. When we exhale long, we again invigorate the blood flow. The lungs do not move by themselves, but by the motion of the diaphragm. Our inhalation and exhalation move through the same one breathing pipe. If our exhalation is not deep enough, then the inner pressure of the lungs does not become less. Thus we cannot take in enough oxygen while being surrounded by it. That is our problem.

If we can exhale long, then we lower the pressure in our lungs and naturally the lungs when expanding will want to take oxygen in. Thus we do need to use our awareness to again lengthen our breathing which has become shallow and short because of the outer tensions which we absorb. This is the important breathing of zazen. If we do not take this as important, while we do have the ability, we cannot contain our emotional and psychological reactions. This is the place where we have to use our awareness well. Too much noise and weak concentration is why we need to make efforts.

Please do not stop at reading this only, but actually bring this breathing practice into your daily life. Please continue and become a master of your breathing

-Shodo Harada Roshi

May Practice Period Canceled

Dear One Drop Sangha and Friends, 

After further deliberation and consultation Harada Roshi has determined that it is no longer feasible to conduct our May practice period as planned.  The May 2020 practice period at Tahoma Zen Monastery is cancelled.   We look forward to training together again in September.  

Rozan Lenny Gerson
Registrar, Tahoma Zen Monastery