“The preparation of a monastery for winter may seem unremarkable. Everything that needs to be attended to is done, yet no trace of effort is apparent. This expresses the spirit of my teacher, Gempo Yamamoto Roshi, who spent most of his time doing zazen, and who was often completely absorbed in studying the Diamond Sutra. He would say that you are not yet mature if you are seen as great or wise by others. It is not good to be absentminded, but you should be unpretentious while being aware of all necessary matters. This is important!”
As the activity from Rohatsu fades away and the solstice has marked the start of winter I often think of these words from Sōen Nakagawa. The days are surely getting longer but these are the cold, hard times. Especially right now where there is so much suffering that often has to be endured on ones own. It is vital to remember what is important. Today, December 24th, we held a memorial for Mumon Roshi and read these words from him:
All who promise to seek the wisdom of awakening and to serve all human beings are without exceptions Bodhisattvas. Those laymen and women who join our zazen are also Bodhisattvas–Bodhisattvas who study prajña-wisdom.
In the Buddha mind there are two aspects; wisdom and compassion, just as the sun shines making light and heat. To seek for wisdom or “Bodhi” is to train oneself in the practice of awareness. Compassion is the practical manifestation of wisdom. To attempt to save sentient beings is to practice Buddha’s wisdom, even if we are not awakened to it ourselves. “Compassion is not far from us. It is here in our hands whenever we practice.”
Mumon Yamada Roshi, from Lectures on the Zazen Gi in How to Practice Zazen, p. 6
In this time around the solstice people everywhere practice compassion through acts of charity, kindness, helping out others as they can. Likewise when we attend to that which needs attending, preparing the monastery, our homes, our lives for winter, we are manifesting this wisdom, this practice of compassion. At this time, when staying away from others is the most compassionate action we can take, prajna-wisdom is essential.
These times too will pass and we will again gather together to laugh, hug, share a meal, sit together. As the New Year dawns may we all deepen in our maturity, renewing our vows to practice for all beings and with no trace of effort manifest this wisdom.
On New Years Eve we will ring the Kansho Bell 108 times, dispelling all delusions for a moment. Join us if you will. There will be no formal activities beforehand but the zendo will be open for unstructured sitting throughout the evening. Masks and Social Distancing required.
Washington State is the US epicenter for the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Along with the rest of Western Washington Island County has formerly declared a State of Emergency. However as of March 7th there are no confirmed cases in Island County but King County (to the south) and Snohomish County (to the east) are experiencing increasing numbers of cases. Washington remains under a general State of Emergency and recommends those over 60 years of age avoid gatherings.
As of this posting there are no plans to cancel the May sesshin. We are constantly monitoring and assessing the situation as it develops. There will be updates here and through the mailing list if anything changes.
How does this affect us at Tahoma?
At this time we will continue with our regularly morning chant and meditation service as well as our regular evening meditation. These remain open to the public but please observe the following guidelines if you wish to attend.
DO NOT come if you are feeling sick.
If you start to feel sick, depart at a stretch break or during kinhin (walking meditation).
Thoroughly wash your hands before attending. We recommend that upon entering the zendo you proceed to the bathroom and wash your hands.
You should wash your hands for the length of time it takes to chant (to yourself!) the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo three (3) times.
Wash your hands THEN use the hand sanitizer that has been placed in both bathrooms and in the gaitan.
Do use the hand sanitizer whenever you feel you need to.
Cover your mouth/nose with your elbow or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
Do not shake hands or hug. We should all be comfortable with a gassho (bow).
Feel free to sit more widely separated. We have a lot of space, no reason not to use it.
We are still holding Zazenkai (community sitting) as usual at 8am on Sunday mornings.
We will NOT be having tea afterwards. We will resume tea after the crisis has passed.
Otherwise follow the guidance as above.
Upcoming events (the March All Day Sit, Buddha’s Birthday, etc.) are currently continuing as planned, but we will asses or modify these events as conditions evolve.. We will post updates here on the website if anything changes with regard to these events.
This January, 2020 we will hold a KoSesshin at Tahoma Zen Monastery in observance of the traditional Rohatsu sesshin. There will be three full days concluding with an early morning Bodhi Day Ceremony on Sunday the 19th. Attendance can be for the whole period or any fraction that works for you. We ask that those interested in attendance in any capacity please email us with your desired attendance. During these days drop-in attendance is available in the morning period before breakfast and the evening period after dinner.
The schedule for the first two days (January 16th and 17th) will follow our standard Day of Practice Schedule with an extended period of zazen into the late evening of the third day (January 18th). Sunday, January 19th, we will have Choka and zazen an hour earlier at 4am followed by a Bodhi Day Celebration and an informal breakfast. For those who wish to sit with the local sangha we will wrap everything up with Zazenkai at 8am.
For attendance of a day or more, we require registration. Part time attendance is allowed. Please email email@example.com to signup and let us know your attendance plans.
There is no fee for this sesshin but donations of food, funds or time are always welcome.
Drop in attendance
If you wish to drop in for a period of zazen, the following times are available: 4:50am to 7:55am: Choka and two periods of zazen 5:20pm to 8:30pm: Three blocks of two periods of zazen with kinhin in between.
You can sit for one hour in any of these blocks, please arrive during the kinhin, or before Gosei and leave during kinhin or at the end of the period. Sesshin attendees will be continuing directly to the next event and we ask that you directly leave and not interact with sesshin participants.
Call for Assistance
We could use your help for this sesshin. We would like to have prepared dishes: soups, salads, casseroles and other food that can be stored for a few days. We would also gratefully accept food donations of sweets for tea, coffee and snacks for breaks, fruit and vegetables that we can use at meals and really any other food items we could put to use for sesshin
Additionally if you are planning to attend we would like people to help with meal preparation, tea serving, chant services and the like. If you have taken part in any of these activities or would like to learn please let us know. Everyone will need to help in one way or another and we will do in situ training as needed.