May Virtual Sesshin: Orientation

May 12th-16th: Virtual Sesshin
Tahoma Zen Monastery

We are holding a five day sesshin at Tahoma Zen Monastery with four blocks broadcast online throughout the day. All are welcome to tune in the broadcasts (links below) as they are able. While we hope that some are able to adopt the Sesshin Spirit and participate as if they were here in person, we encourage everyone to use this time as best serves them. Anyone can join in for any of the periods on any of the days as they are able.

How to best take advantage of the Virtual Sesshin
Think of the sesshin just as you would one that you are attending in person. Leave behind non-essential activities. Maintain sesshin spirit throughout the day and avoid media, non-functional conversation, casual entertainments and other distractions. During the samu period engage mindfully, as you would at the monastery, in cleaning your residence, working in the garden, perhaps even into the community. Sesshin always comes down to ones aspiration, commitment and dedication. Fully throw yourself into the practice, vow to awaken during this sesshin, turn off your notifications and just sit.

Sesshin Approach
This sesshin’s theme is Empty Awareness and is oriented around solitary practice. In this time of quarantine, stay at home orders and lockdown we are not able to practice in person with the sangha and interact with the teacher. In Zen working with the teacher is essential, at the very least, as a check on where we are at. Other practices such as koan study depend completely on engagement with the teacher. But there are myriad practices that are very fruitful on ones own and can be consistently used in conjunction with working with a teacher. This has been the orientation of all of our recent instruction and we will continue and deepen our exploration of this approach in this sesshin.

Outside Practice
One of the essential approaches we will work with is Being Outside. In classical Ch’an there was little distinction made between landscape and practice and there were myriad practices to move beyond that sense of separateness we feel from the natural word. Some of these practices will be explored and there are times on the schedule for working with these practices. If you are able to walk around outside, in your neighborhood, or in a nearby woods, beach or field, we encourage you to take advantage of that and engage in these practices. During the outside seating, we encourage you to take your phone or other device and sit on a deck, porch or just in front of a window.

Adapt to these as you are able: use your windows, porches, decks, backyards as you have them. Put on a mask and walk around your neighborhood. Maintain Physical Distancing. Your safety is the upmost importance so do everything as it makes sense. We would encourage a physical practice that can be done inside, if there are no outside options available: Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, Stretching, etc.

Choka (Sutras)
We will chant a shortened version of the Tahoma Sutras. These are done in the order printed in the Tahoma Sutra book beginning with the Maha Prajna Parmita Sutra (Heart Sutra) through to the Four Great Vows, skipping the Enmei Jukko Kannon Gyo. After the Four Great Vows we will chant Dai Segaki for the victims of the virus pandemic. This can be found in our supplemental chant book. After this will be sampai (three prostrations), before we begin zazen.

Kinhin, (walking meditation), periods will be held every fifty minutes, except when a block ends. This practice is one of both mindfulness as well as its own empty awareness practice. Do this as you are able, walking around the room, or through your house, or outside even. Keep the volume up on your computer or device to be able to hear clappers and announcements. This is of course the time for bathroom breaks. As with all of these practices you will get out of this what you put into it.

Technical Considerations
We are using Zoom Meeting software for this Virtual Sesshin which is available for all devices and platforms. Zoom is meant for virtual meetings and we are pushing its limitations for these events. It manipulates audio when it gets too loud and tries to eliminate background sound. Look into your audio settings and turn on ‘Original Sound’ and turn off noise-cancelling options. Be sure to keep your microphone off at all times. You do not need to display your own video and it will help with bandwidth to keep it off. If you set a profile picture that image will be sent instead of video and is a nice, low bandwidth option.

The most important thing is to simply accept that there will be technical difficulties. Sometimes the sound will drop out or the app will crash. We must just roll with it and put our training to use in not being pushed around by it. We will do our utmost to keep things flowing and reset things as there are issues. But when in doubt, just keep sitting and mind the schedule. We can’t help with technical issues during broadcasts but do email with any questions.

Sesshin Schedule

5:00amChoka (Sutras); sampai
5:40amZazen [short period]Kinhin
7:00amBreakfast / samu / break
11:00amOutside Zazen  [on zendo deck, weather permitting]
12pmLunch / break
2:00pmDharma Talk; Zazen; Kinhin
3:00pmZazen; Zazen
4:00pmOutside Practice
5:00pmDinner / Break
6:00pmUninterrupted ZazenKinhin
7:00pmZazen; ZazenKinhin
8:00pmZazen; Zazen;
8:50pmClosing Sutra
9:00pmKaichin / Yaza
All times Pacific Standard Time.
Events in Bold will be streamed, events in Italics are self-directed.
Download the full schedule here: May Sesshin Schedule.

Zoom Meeting Link:[Event has concluded]

Before taking part in a Virtual Event at Tahoma please read this post:
Guidelines for Virtual Events

Download the sutra book here: Tahoma Sutra book
Dai Segaki can be found here:  Chant booklet

To receive the links for the Virtual Events by email:
Tahoma Virtual Events mailing list.

Thank your for your continuing support and please email us with any questions: Contact Information.

Notes and sources for the Dharma talks will be posted here, after the end of session.

Guidance in the time of Corona 19

Now slowly in everybody´s mind the settled mind has become most essential.

Many restrictions have been placed upon us. Now is the time to check on our actual essence. I am thankful for 27 people practicing daily in Sogenji, working on deepening, of course, I sit with them daily in the zendo. Everyone is aware of these challenging times, the air in the zendo is crisp, while the essence perceived in sanzen is deepening further. People are learning to live and express from this deep essence.

We start zazen by checking our posture, and this posture can be seen and corrected from the outside. Once the posture is settled, then we need to focus on our breathing. We start by breathing deeply with our lower abdomen. These aspects are just the entrance. If we do not develop our samadhi, we cannot experience the actual essence of zen.

Samadhi is not intoxication, of course. We can practice it even when at work, no extraneous thoughts distract us from what we are doing. We have become completely what we are doing, thus sharp functioning is possible. Samadhi needs to be practiced not only in the zendo, but during our daily life as well. We can then stay immovable during our daily life and work as well. This essence makes us able to sharply see what is right in front of us and be able to act accordingly. This is the meaning of samadhi.

Hakuin Zenji says during his Rohatsu exhortations, from the 1st until the 4th day he teaches breathing and guides the development of samadhi. On the 4th day he talks about the six different ways of breathing during zazen which he himself learned from Tendai Chisha Daishi, yet the base of teaching can be found with the Buddha. Not just sitting zazen with an empty mind, but to use the sussokan breathing, this teaching was also given by the Buddha.

Sussokan – counting the breaths – that is the beginning but the purpose can be found in zuisokkan – in following the breaths. When the samadhi is being developed, we naturally switch from sussokan to zuissokan. We do not need to actually practice zuisokkan, but by the development of breath and concentration, we enter it naturally. Thus there is no need to analyze the breathing.

The breathing changes according to the situation, to how we move our body. Our breathing matches the motion of the body, walking quickly, the breathing becomes faster. Yet during all actions we should feel some tension, some fullness in our tanden. If we center in this way, our breathing can stay deep also when our body is in motion.

It is our diaphragm which is central in strengthening and deepening the breathing, yet once we are used to breathe from our tanden, each motion is like a massage for the inner organs. The exhalation is strong, and the inhalations enters naturally. We do start off practicing with mental awareness, yet over time we do not need this awareness anymore. Simply following the flow since we are in samadhi. This is called zuisokkan.

Hakuin Zenji says that it is good enough to know these two types of breathing. There is nothing else complicated needed. We perceive this world as being real only because we do not see its true essence. We are being moved around by the situation of this world. When the essence is riper, we slowly can see that these are all just passing phenomena, constantly changing circumstances. Thus we are not thrown off center by the outside.

In the Diamond Sutra the Buddha said:
Thus shall ye think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.

This is obvious and this is how we see the world when our Zazen has ripened. This is not to be melancholic about the world, but to clearly see this world from an immovable place. This is the teaching of the Buddha and the actual experience when Zazen has ripened. We can take all back inside to our center.

The Sixth Patriarch taught about zazen, to not add any judgement of good or bad to the outside world, that is called to sit. And looking within to stay immovable, this is zen.
Inside we do not acknowledge the existence of a single shadow. All various emotions which pass through our mind, stop coming up the deeper we sit zazen. This is the important point. It does not mean that we are not aware, but try it out for yourself.

Many people have pain in the legs when they sit Zazen. When our concentration becomes stronger, the pain of the legs does not become overwhelming anymore. The best posture is to sit in full lotus, or even half lotus, so that the line from the tail bone can rise up to the top of the head. The head carries the heavens, the tanden is pulling us through all, being full and taught with energy. This vertical pull from the tail bone to the head is what erases the pain in the legs. It also helps relieve those places where the energy is stuck. When we sit for many hours zazen, easily we can get tense in the shoulders and neck, yet with this inner stretch, this tension disappears, and we can sit for hours. We can sit for 2,3,4 hours because of this inner working. For the beginners who do not know how to refresh from within, the sitting is hell. The more our essence is developed, the more we can feel how we can free ourselves from the inner tension.

In our mind, we do not think, we stay settled and quiet. If practice samadhi, not only when sitting, but also when in action. To actually taste this essence for oneself is most important. There is nothing that we can be more thankful for than zazen because zazen can free and refresh us, we benefit from this essence of samadhi.

April 25th, 2020 Virtual Day of Practice

April 25th, 2020 Virtual Day of Practice

Every month we try to offer a full day of practice, a one day retreat. In such times were we are not able to meet together in person, we will hold these events virtually utilizing the Zoom Platform. We will necessarily be modifying this event from our stand Day of Practice schedule as we all have to attend to our own meals, samu and breaks.

For this virtual Day of Practice we will offer periods of zazen throughout the day. The day will run from 5:00a.m. until 8:30p.m. with four main periods throughout the day. The Zoom link will allow you to join in for any of these events for as long as you are able. There will be periodic breaks and periods of walking meditation which will be announce and which you will undertake on your own.

We will follow the standard Tahoma Choka, with the omission of Enmei Jukko Kannon Gyo and after The Four Great Vows we will chant Dai Segaki for the dead and dying and then conclude with Sampai.

Download sutra book here: Tahoma Sutra book
Dai Segaki can be found here: Chant booklet

Click this link to Join the event: [Event has now passed]

The Schedule for this day will be

5:00am-6:00amChoka (Sutras); Zazen; Kinhin
6:00am to 6:55amZazen; Zazen
7:00am to 11:00amBreakfast / samu / break
11:00am-11:50amUninterrupted Zazen
12pm-1:30pmLunch / break
1:30pm-2:30pmDharma Talk; Zazen; Kinhin
2:30-3:30Zazen; Zazen
3:30pm-5:30pmIndividual Practice / dinner / Break
5:30pm-6:30pmUninterrupted Zazen; Kinhin
6:30pm-7:30pmZazen; Zazen; Kinhin
7:30pm-8:30pmZazen; Zazen
Events in Bold will be streamed, events in Italics are self-directed.

Before taking part in a Virtual Event at Tahoma please read this post:
Guidelines for Virtual Events

To receive the link for the Virtual even please join this mailing list:
Tahoma Virtual Events mailing list.

You can find an overview as well as an archive of the dharma talk from this event here:
The Practice of Questioning

Guidance in the time of Corona #16

Dear All,

Are you taking your daily zazen as most important?

In Sogenji there are now 27 people, doing daily zazen and continuing sesshin after sesshin. I wish for everyone that they may experience this kind of taut energy at one point in their life.

Many people are infected by the virus, many have died with the virus. Many countries have put restrictions onto the people of their country, not allowing them to move freely to prevent the spread of the virus.

People being stuck at home, anxiety, uncertainty and frustration must be on a high level. Especially now we need to sit and settle our mind.

In the 5th century in Japan, there was the emperor Tenmu Tenno and a fifth of the population had died. The emperor thought to himself: “This could only be happening because our mind is defiled. We need to purify our mind.” The emperor himself first of all entered the practice of purification, and his people followed along.

We see, hear, smell, taste and touch – these senses stop to function when our mind is not pure. Then many mistakes can follow. Thus we need to purify our mind. By reading the name of the Buddha our mouth is purified. By doing prostrations, our body is purified. Not speaking in an unclear way, not talking gossip about this and that, saying different things to different people. We need to purify our eyes and our ears, and again be open and simple in our mind. And only from there can a new way of life appear.

These days everyone is drowning in the corona virus news, which will come to an end for certain. But how shall we actually life? How shall we continue? That is of great importance to us. If we cannot put our focus onto those central questions, we ill simply be irritated. This experience right now gives us the chance to reflect upon how have we been living until now, it all becomes obvious during challenging times. And how should we continue? This is how challenges help us to bring forth wisdom.

Most people may be worried about their financial situation, but if we only look for a way of how we can be financially comfortable, then for what was this eye opening time all about?
What we have done in the past, we know this best for ourselves. What was right and what was wrong, if we are quiet in mind, we know this clearly for ourselves. This is where we need to purify our mind, our mouth, our body as well. We need to repent, over and over again.

During times of adversity, of sickness and natural disasters, as well as during the last month of the year, repentance is seen as most essential in Japan. During December, we reflect upon our deeds of the year and start again refreshed and purified into the new year. From there something new can start.

Nowadays this tradition has been lost, and the concern is more about one´s personal well being than that of the nation. Whatever happens in the world is not due to a God doing good or bad, but it is humanities creation. Humans have created many problems, and that is why we make efforts and repent. But not just the form of repentance, rather taking the most direct way to purify our mind and practicing zazen.

Zazen is not only about calming the mind, but when our mind is calm what then happens is, that our true wisdom arises. Feelings of greed, hate and delusion bring about confusion and an ego based life. If our mind is quiet, this original wisdom can shine forth. We do zazen and more and more this original mind, Buddha nature, starts to shine forth. Look at this reality in society with calm eyes. Yet do not get scared rather see this is what we have created, see this as your own responsibility, and reflect upon how will you live after corona times. This base is what you can work on now.

Doing zazen, cleaning up all delusions and dust, this is the important point of our practice now. Take this chance now, and practice alive zazen, this is my deepest wish.

Virtual Day of Practice

April 25th, 2020 Virtual Day of Practice

Every month we try to offer a full day of practice, a one day retreat. In such times were we are not able to meet together in person, we will hold these events virtually utilizing the Zoom Platform. We will necessarily be modifying this event from our stand Day of Practice schedule as we all have to attend to our own meals, samu and breaks. Please see the schedule below and read through our Guidelines for Virtual Events and join the Tahoma Virtual Events mailing list. The link for the Zoom meeting will only be sent out via the email list.

For this virtual Day of Practice we will offer periods of zazen throughout the day. The day will run from 5:00a.m. until 8:30p.m. with four main periods throughout the day. The Zoom link will allow you to join in for any of these events for as long as you are able. There will be periodic breaks and periods of walking meditation which will be announce and which you will undertake on your own.

The Schedule for this day will be

5:00am-7:00amChoka (Sutras); Zazen
7:00am to 11:00amBreakfast / samu / break
12pm-1:30pmLunch / break
1:30pm-3:30pmDharma Talk; Zazen
3:30pm-5:30pmBreak / dinner
5:30pm-6:30pmUninterrupted Zazen
Events in Bold will be streamed, events in Italics are self-directed.

Before taking part in a Virtual Event at Tahoma please read this post:
Guidelines for Virtual Events

To receive the link for the Virtual even please join this mailing list:
Tahoma Virtual Events mailing list.

Virtual Water Moon Dojo Visit

The second Monday of most months the head monk from Tahoma Zen Monastery visits Watermoon Dojo in Seattle, for an evening and morning service. As we are all in lockdown during this time we will observe these events virtually using Zoom. While we of course will miss our time at WMD, this does allow anyone to take part in this virtual visit. If interested in taking part, please read through our Virtual Practice Guidelines before joining the events.

Monday April 13th, from 7pm to 8:30pm
7:00pm: Chant Service (Heart Sutra, Song of Zazen, Dai Segaki)
7:15pm: Two periods of zazen
7:55pm: Han / Kinhin (or break)
8:00pm: Short talk and Q&A
8:25 Concluding zazen and chanting of the Four Great Vows

Download a PDF with all the chants here: Chant booklet

Tuesday April 14th, from 6:30am to 8:30am
6:30am Choka (chant service)
7:00am Zazen
7:20am Han / Kinhin (or break)
7:30am: Dharma talk
8:00am Zazen
8:30am Conclude with a few minutes for chatting

We will follow the Tahoma Choka, except for the Enmei Jukko Kannon Gyo and after the Four Great Vows we will chant Dai Segaki for the dead and dying and conclude with Sampai.

Download sutra book here: Tahoma Sutra book
Dai Segaki can be found here: Chant booklet

Join Zoom Meeting: (event has passed)

Guidance in the time of Corona #11

Dear All,

Every day doing zazen as an important part of your life?

zazen is not the form of sitting zazen, but all motions of the day are zazen. Since the time of the Buddha it is taught in this way. Sitting is zen, standing is zen, all five positions of the day are zazen.

After the awakening of the Buddha for 49 year without resting a single day, the Buddha taught his students. Bodhidharuma as well at the high age of 140 he travelled to China. Not being quiet for a single moment, the ancients passed on their experience to society. Not only sitting zazen when there was a need for it, but doing training all day long. Not losing the state of mind of Zazen in our daily life, that is not how Zen looks at it. Zen is taking every single moment of your day as being your zazen. For that we need to know our center well, then not losing that center, just like a top spinning. When the top is balanced well on its one point, then it can move freely in all directions.

The same is true for us. When we have many extraneous thoughts, we lose the natural flow of our mind. This is called confusion.

Sitting zazen, talking or being quiet – that is also zazen. We can do all types of work, we can stay centered in our mind from morning until night, not having lost our center we do not stop anywhere. Our body then responds and acts accordingly. That is called Zen. If we think, it is all about sitting, then as soon as we move, we lose our essence easily. We may be quiet when sitting but as soon as we move, we are pulled around by outer impressions. If we fall into inner noise, that is not zen.

We simply sit to experience the base of our mind.

“Daily work is worth 10000 times that of sitting zazen. “ Zazen is not only when sitting, but when we work, we can do not lose our center – that is zen. Not just in the zendo but in our daily life, not stuck on the form, when we are in society, we do not lose this central focus. Please see this as important. And check for yourself how alive your zazen is. In daily life staying centered is important.

How we sleep at night is how our day starts. How we sleep affects us is of great importance. When we go to sleep, we should be in a huge expansive state of mind, facing up, the legs a bit apart, and feeling as if this great universe is embracing us. Just when our mother held us in her arms when we were small, when we could completely entrust to being held, with this huge feeling we can fall asleep. Not forcing ourselves to sleep, but with a natural feeling, not pulling that along what happened during the day, neither being so exhausted that we simply fall asleep, but with a huge feeling, a huge state of mind, we can rest deeply. This is a habit of our daily life which we can practice. How we fall asleep, we know it best ourselves and need to look at this carefully. Huge and entrusting completely, that is how our state of mind should be. Do not be mean and critical with yourself, do not judge yourself, but simply entrust. There is no need to think about anything when falling asleep.

If we pull those many thoughts and emotions of the day into our sleep, we create a huge damage to our mind. This we should not do. If we were to do this, we do not wake up with a good feeling. We can check ourselves when we wake up. If we can wake up quickly, feeling light and bright, that shows us we we actually fell asleep. If you want to wake up refreshed, then to point is about how we fall asleep.

Do not carry those happenings of the day, those many thoughts and emotions into your sleep. That is the important point of zazen. If we wake up refreshed, our day will continue in this way and we can respond to encounters in a bright way. How we sleep at night shows us how we give life to our zazen.

Please look at this carefully. It is not about making efforts to sit only, we should not try to not think either, but this hugeness of mind is what we need to experience.
Please however the situation in society may be, do not let your state of mind get affected by it.

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
Sutra Chanting: Heart Sutra, Song of Zazen,
Zazen 25 minutes
10 minute break for Exercise, stretching, etc.
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.

A Message from Roshi – Guidance at the time of Corona

Photo by krsna das

Dear All,
Now in this world the scary Corona Virus has infected over 200,000 people world wide, 8800 have died from this. Today in Sogenji a sutra was read after Teisho for those who have died from this virus.

Now countries especially in Europe, do not allow people to move around freely anymore. People are staying at home, not meeting others yet the direction it is taking is that the gathering of people is being allowed anymore. These political decisions must create quite some uncertainty I believe.

This worry and uncertainty weaken our health. The energy gets stuck within and this accelerates the number of people becoming sick. Yet thinking about the situation, I would hope that it quietens down by mid April. Everyone needs to make efforts to stay healthy until this time. Thus I am sending my advice to everyone.

Continue reading “A Message from Roshi – Guidance at the time of Corona”

All March and April Events Canceled at Tahoma

As per Washington State and Federal guidance we are suspending all in-person events at Tahoma Zen Monastery for at least the next 6 weeks. This includes all events in March and in April. We will be continuously assessing the situation and will make determinations for events in May and beyond as the situation develops.

Maintaining our practice during this time is of utmost importance and I encourage everyone to keep sitting. Please read Roshi’s words on the importance of maintaining our practice during this crisis. As we are all seamless in the ground of being when we sit, wherever we are, we sit for all beings.  There is great power in sitting together in space and time. In this time when we must be separated in space, we can still sit together in time. In order to facilitate this we will be taking some of our activities virtual.

Zazenkai will be going virtual. By the end of this week we will be setup to broadcast this via the Zoom platform. There will be a post every Saturday with the link for this weeks Sunday 8am Broadcast. There will be more details in the initial post, but I encourage everyone to download the Zoom apps. It can be used on all the major phones, tablets and computers. Download here: Zoom Client Download Center

Selected other events will also go virtual. We will announce other events as they make sense for this format.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or if you are in need of any guidance for practicing in these troubled times: Contact Us.

As always check back frequently for updates and please join our mailing list for the most up to date information on sesshin and beyond: Mailing List