Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Year of the Dragon has Arrived

Last evening we had our annual Lunar New Year gala dinner, in celebration of the beginning of a new lunar-calendar year whose symbol is the dragon. It was a festive affair attended by more than 100 people and accompanied by delicious food.  In the Chinese culture dragon years are expected to be intense, involving big transitions and potential, and I was born a dragon, approximately 48 years ago.

In Zen we pay particular attention to the lunar calendar because of a practice called the Full Moon Ceremony, or Ryaku Fusatsu in Japanese. It is one of the oldest ceremonies we do, with long wailing chants and many prostrations. (listen here at  Services and Chants)  I really enjoy the sense of tradition about it, and I picture monks thousands of years ago traveling by foot to gather at night and renew the vows they took at ordination, the precepts. Here, at Zen Center, everyone is invited to chant the precepts each month. Our next Full Moon Ceremony will take place on the evening of February 8th.
The precepts can be viewed as guidelines for how to live in the world in a way that honors the fact that while we are not all one, we are also not at all separate. That is, rather than a set of mandates, the precepts are support for a life that meets each moment skillfully. So the ritual offers a time to reflect on how my life is an expression of the precepts, and on how I'm doing in responding to the events that arise in my life. It's a big job, particularly for someone like me who has made a promise to uphold a whole tradition and be a role model. Still, not one thing can be done alone, so I'm grateful to be part of a whole community of people with the same practice. Bring it on Dragon, we're ready for anything.

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