Thursday, October 26, 2006

Last week I was doshi for morning service, carrying "the stick" or kotsu for the first time. Occasionally I've lead morning service at Tassajara when a desperate Ino would pull me from the rank and file, but last week was different, as this whole shuso experience has been different. It has something to do with being invited and empowered and energized by the sangha. (Also very important: this time I had been trained!)
It got me to thinking about ritual and how, after several years at Zen Center, I've come to take it for granted. In fact, I missed quite a few services and ceremonies last summer due to my job and it didn't bother me at all. But last week the power and magic was there--incense offerings and deep bells, fire captured in the kobaku, the mysterious dance of moving towards and away from the altar. Mostly I was aware of the steady, rhythmic chanting of the sangha. It's true that some were almost asleep or off in a dream, but others were completely present with the mind/belly practice of chanting. For me, when we do ritual as a sangha, we create the sacredness and integrity of ritual together and it is all the more powerful for it.
At the same time, it was also very routine, service as usual. Nine bows. It must be Wednesday because we're chanting the Sandokai. The sangha drawing out "All Buddhas" like it was a piece of salt water taffy.

Here's a glimpse at the roots of our ritual in Japan and in China and even right here in California (about two minutes into this clip in which Rabbi Alan Lew speaks about meditation and ritual from a Jewish perspective, you'll see a service at Tassajara.) And if you want to know another secret of the shuso's boundless energy, you might have to look for her here.

Thanks to Renshin for the kobaku photo above. Take a look at more of her lovely SFZC pictures on her flickr page .

PS Many people have said that they've wanted to post comments but didn't know how. Here's a hint from sangha member Jay Pinka: Click on the orange "comment" at the bottom of the post and type in your comment as "anonymous." You can identify yourself in your comment if you want; the anonymous title just simplifies the process.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, keep up the good work with the leading of the service and the carrying of the kotsu. I'll chant lound and energetically... even if no one else is!

Anonymous said...

Sitting here back in Ireland I miss the ritual and ceremony of Zen Centre so much. Thanks Dana for reminding me of the beauty and communion of sangha. Miss you all, much love and a deep bow, Garret.