Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Report from the Eiheiji sesshin, Part 3. Oryoki.

After finding new zafu and placing them on the tan where we sat, we were given a few minutes break to go into our rooms and drink some tea. Soon afterwards, a young monk came and told us to return to the zendo for the evening meal.

I knew that eating in monasteries (oryoki) is not a straightforward affair, but I was unaware of just how complicated it actually is. Nishida-san and a host of young monks decended on the zendo and got about very busily and in great earnest. It was obvious from the very start that this was going to be a serious business. Before eating we were told to mount the tan and sit on our zafu facing out into the zendo, remaining silent at all times. Then we were given a small bundle of eating untensils, wrapped in two cloths and tied on top and then detailed instructions on how to unwrap the eating utensils from their cloth wrapping and lay them on the wooden edge of the tan. Every single movement during meals has been described by Dogen Zenji in the Shobogenzo and they are followed more or less to the letter in Eiheiji up to the present day. All communication is done by hand gestures as speaking is not allowed. Servers bring the rice first, soup next, then the pickles, and at evening meal, there are two extra bowls delivered on trays.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Report from the Eiheiji sesshin, Part 2.

Soon we were taken around and told the rules, manners and how tos of the toilet, washing area, zendo and hallway. In Soto Zen monasteries everyday tasks and choirs are considered sacred. Each time we passed the zendo we were to bow in gassho. We were to walk everywhere in shashu and greet everyone with gassho as we passed them or met them. Outside the toilet and senmenjo we were to bow in gassho to a statue of a bodhisattva (Baddabara I think). On entering the toilet we were to remove the lower part of our clothing, the hakama, fold it in a certain way and hang it over a wooden rail, then remove our slippers, place them in a certain way under our hakama and then enter the toilet, using the slippers provided.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Report from the Eiheiji sesshin, Part 1.

The sesshin in Eiheiji finished on Sunday, and my legs are still buggered. I meant to post a little earlier, but I kind of slumped this week after coming home. Certainly, Monday and Tuesday were recovery time, catching up on sleep and getting my body clock back on normal time. The rest of the week was a bit of a meander to be honest with not a lot constructive done. Anyroads, here's the beginning of a run-down on the sesshin. It'll have to come in installments as there is just so much to tell. It was truly an extraordinary experience, one I intend to make an annual event.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Eiheiji this week.

My sesshin is Eiheiji starts this week. I'll arrive there on Thursday morning and leave on Sunday morning. I have to say that I'm a little apprehensive as it looks like it will be a real test of endurance. I'm excited nonetheless. I don't have to bring much, just some clothes and washing stuff and a little money. Apparently I can rent the necessary robes there. I'd rather not use robes, just my own clothes, but when in Rome, as they say.

Initially I had intended to prepare a bit better. I had palnned to learn the Heart Sutra by rote and learn more about oryoki, the meal routine in temples, but I've done no more than read a bit about oryoki and watch one or two instructional videos on YouTube.
More than anything, I'm looking forward to being able to give my full attention to practice for three days, without worries about child-care or work, or shopping, or anything for that matter. Just practice in an environment designed for practice. I'm hoping I can learn a lot just through practice itself. I'm also hoping that I can find a teacher through it. Eiheiji has a satellite temple not far from my home and I'm hoping that I can get an introduction to it.

I'll post at length I suppose when I return. I might bring a camera too and take a few photos to publish.