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Choka

The service begins after the Roshi (or Osho) arrives and offered incense at the main altar. During the service the Inosu will start the Sutras by chanting out their names, they will also chant the Eko for the dedication of the Sutras.

Sutras

Chant the Sutras with your ears, not your mouth, this way you can unite with the rhythm of the Mokugyo to give your life energy as an offering to all people in society.

When we read the sutras whole-heartedly with a loud Tanden voice our true nature will be bright and no unnecessary thoughts will arise as we cut off dualistic thinking and concentrate our pure, quiet mind in the Sutra Samadhi. We recite in thankfulness and give our practice as an offering to all the teachers who came before us.

Entering and leaving the Zendo

The Zendo is the hall where Zazen is being practiced; it is a place of utmost concentration and as such is only being used for three activities: Zazen, Kinhin and Sarei (tea).

The Jikijitsu leads the sitting and it is their responsibility to keep the spirit of harmony and concentration within the Zendo. Orders of the Jikijitsu are to be followed at all times. In our Soto Zen tradition, inside the Zendo, only the Roshi (Osho), the Jikijitsu and the Jisharyoare are permitted to speak.

Please don't bring any personal items to the Zendo eg: books, pens, purses, jewellery or watches. Only the Sutra Book is to be used in the zendo. Do not wear clothes that are bright or tight. Sleeves should at least cover the elbows.

When entering the Zendo; step inside and do a deep bow with the hands in Gassho before moving to your assigned place. At your cushion again bow deeply, this time facing the inside of the zendo, before sitting on your tanbuton.

When leaving the zendo individually; stand, again bow facing the zendo and then, keeping your hands in Shasshu, walk to the door of the zendo. Here once again turns around to facing the Zendo doing a deep bow before stepping out.

When entering and leaving the Zendo as part of a group activity such as Kinhin, Sanzen or Teisho there is no need to bow at the door neither when leaving nor when entering. Your hands should always be in Gassho when entering the Zendo until arriving at your place and in Shasshu when leaving the Zendo.

Please do not enter or leave the Zendo during Zazen unless it is for Sanzen. Do not move during a Zazen period and avoid making noise. During the break between Zazen and during Kinhin, the Zendo may be entered or left but do not talk or do exercises at this time. If your legs hurt you may stand at this time to stretch your legs.

Keisaku (kyosaku)- stick of compassion

Before and after receiving the "blow of compassion" stick, the Keisaku, both the giver and recipient bow to each other in Gassho. If someone is wearing a Rakusu it is to be taken off whilst being hit and replaced before again bowing to the person with the Keisaku.

To request the Keisaku as it passes by make Gassho and wait until the Keisaku stands before you. One is hit twice on each shoulder in summer and four times in winter. The Keisaku is always received with respect and gratitude. The Keisaku is always given responsibly and with humility

Kinhin- walking meditation

About every full hour, the Jikijitsu ends the Zazen period and announces Kinhin. It is important for all practitioners to bow in Gassho and get up right away. Once everyone in the Zendo is standing, following the Jikijitsu's lead, everyone bows together. During Kinhin please keep your hands in Shasshu. Do not leave a gap between you and the person in front of you. If you need to use the toilet, right away leave the Kinhin line and go to the toilet. After finishing quickly, join the Kinhin line again.

At the end of Kinhin walk to your cushion with the hands in Gassho, then wait at your cushion with the hands in Shasshu. Once everyone is back in the Zendo, everyone bows together and sits down.

Gassho- bowing

Means "holding the palms together"; it is an expression of respectfully receiving.

Shasshu

Hold the left hand over the right hand in front of the chest. It is an expression of inner concentration.

Sarei (chanoyu)- tea

When the Jikijitsu announces Sarei, get your cup and sit in seiza. Watching the Jikijitsu, place your cup in front of you. When being served tea, the first person of a Tan is served separately otherwise it is always two people placing their cups together and receiving tea at the same time.

When the people next to you are being served, take your cup onto your palm and wait to be served. When you have received enough tea, lift one hand to signal this to the Jisharyo.

The first and last person on the Tan (sitting mat) will bow ingratitude for the whole Tan.

San-pai, three prostrations

Three prostrations are usually practiced at the end of both morning sutras and evening meditation. It symbolises the lifting of the Buddha's feet above one's own head, yet is actually a prostration before one's own Buddha Nature.

  • Stand in Gassho
  • Make one deep bow
  • Straighten the body before kneeling down
  • Bow your head to the floor, hands stretched out above the head
  • Raise the hands above the ears as though lifting the Buddha's feet above your head
  • Place your hands flat on the ground again
  • Stand up straight with hands in Gassho.
  • This is performed three times and is finished off with a deep bow in Gassho.
  • Entering and Leaving the Sanzen Room

Sampai is also practiced in the sanzen room but it is split up into three sections.

  1. When level with the person leaving the sanzen room perform a standing bow in Gassho to each other.
  2. Enter the sanzen room and perform a single bow as through you were performing Sampai
  3. Walk toward the Roshi and make another single Sampai bow on the cushion, instead of standing up again remain kneeling and place your hands in your lap.

At the conclusion of sanzen, after the Roshi rings the bell, bow your head to the floor, but place the hands, palm down, under your forehead before standing up.Make another deep bow in Gassho. Walk backwards to the rooms exit and perform the 3rd of the single Sampais. Turn and leave the room.
As the next person comes to do Sanzen you will stand and bow to each other when you pass.

Meals

Take your eating bowls when the Sangha goes to the eating room. We always move and act as a group.

Sit at the table in the same order as in the zendo and at the Jikijitsu's command start reading the Heart Sutra. During the Heart Sutra we unpack our bowls; the big bowl is to the left, the middle one in the middle and the small one on the right side, all in one straight line. The chopsticks are placed on the right side of the smallest bowl, with the tips sticking out over the table.

The food is passed down from the top of the table to the bottom. When you would like to take some, make Gassho. If you do not want any, bow to the bowl and help pass it down the table. If there are two serving spoons in one bowl, place the bowl between two people so the food can be moved quickly and efficiently.

A plate Saba will be passed down. Please place 3-7 grains of your food onto it as an offering to the hungry ghosts and will be given to the birds or fish later.

When eating bring the bowl to your mouth so that you can sit up straight and stay concentrated. Sitting with an erect spine allows you to maintain meditative awareness even when eating.

The food is passed down the table three times alltogether. When the food is being passed, please stop eating, put your bowls down and help move the bowl. Do not take food at other times but only when the food is being passed. Remember to take one pickle slice and keep it until later for washing the bowls.

At the end of the meal, hot water will be passed down the table; pour some into your large bowl so you can use it to wash all your bowls after the taku sound. The other bowls can be washed, dried and stacked, but leave some cleaning water in the large bowl. Put the chopsticks away. When a container is passed down pour some of the water from your bowl into it as an offering that will be poured upon the trees and flowers and drink the rest. Dry the large bowl, stack it with the rest and put them all away.

At the end of the sutras a cloth will be pushed down the table so that we can all take responsibility for cleaning upafter ourselves.

Take your bowls with you when you return to the zendo.

What is the meaning of our practice?

Our practice is to offer the pure, clear and original mind to society. In order to clarify that clear mind, we do practice. We cut our dualistic thoughts and all egoistic feelings in order to release their energy for realising our true nature. We don't cut our thoughts and feelings because they are bad, or in order to become better people, or to solve all our problems. We just swallow them down completely without judgement, so that little by little we may realise that clear, pure mind's source which is the only thing we can really offer to others.

This practice is very mysterious: in shifting the focus from trying to solve one's own problems, to just swallowing them down in order to offer a clear mind to everyone we meet, then little by little those very problems fade away. This swallowing down is not a denial; it is a recognition and absorption of them on a totally different level.

In gratitude to all teachers and patriarchs who have gone before us to show us the way, we offer today's life energy for this practice.

Everything Is My Responsibility

Moment by moment compassion is being aware in each mind-moment of what's going on right in front of you, and taking joyfully responsibility for everything.

  • Turning off unnecessary lights.
  • Returning clean tools to the place from which you took them.
  • Finding a tool which someone else forgot-to clean and returning it.
  • Washing a cup and putting it away after you use or if you find one that someone has neglected then wash it too.
  • Placing your shoes in the shoe-box.
  • Keeping the bathroom clean for the next person.
  • Closing or opening doors completely.
  • Filling up the hot pot.

Everything is my responsibility. Each moment's awareness connects me with everyone and all things.

From the Rules read before Sesshin: "Tools of the administration area, kitchen and samu,all tools of training, including the buildings and tatamis, should be treated with great care and after each use returned to their original place. People of old taught us, that tools and other things of the group should be protected as our own eyes."

Sogen Itteki Sui: Sogen's One Drop

There is a famous story behind this name of "One Drop". Tekisui Giboku, later,abbot of Tenryuji Zen Temple, is known to the West through the story of "Sogen's One Drop of Water". As the story goes, one day Gisan Zenrai Zenji was about to take a bath, Gisan Zenji called his attendant and ordered him to go and get some cold water from the well by the back gate of Sogenji. From that well his disciple brought the water, to put in the bath, and after many trips back and forth with the water, Gisan Zenji, his teacher, finally said that it was enough, that the temperature was just right and stopped him from bringing more. Having been told this, the monk took the little bit of water left in the bottom of the bucket, threw it away nearby and placed the bucket upside down.

Seeing him do this Gisan Zenji yelled, "You idiot!" You just threw away that little bit of water on the floor and turned over the bucket!" Gisan Zenji continued, "At the moment you did that you were only thinking of that as just a little bit of water and were therefore carelessly throwing it away, weren't you? Why didn't you go just one step further, especially knowing that this is the time of the year when there's never enough rain? Why didn't you put it on the garden's trees or flowers? If you had put it on the tree it would have become the very- life of that tree! If you had put it on the flowers it would have become the very life of the flowers and lived on. Why do you begrudge such a small effort as that?"

With these scathing words he severely reprimanded his disciple. Continuing, he said, "In even one drop of water, no matter how tiny a drop, the water's great value doesn't change at all! If you can't understand this value of one single drop of water, no matter how hard you train you'll never become someone who can give life to that training."

The monk received his teacher's admonition. For him, this was a most moving lesson which struck him deeply and echoed within. He changed his name to Tekisui, which means "one drop of water" and went on to complete his training.

At Sogenji, Tekisui was taught the value of one drop of water and although he used its teaching throughout his life of 74 four years, it was never exhausted. This teaching, as insignificant as it might seem, has great meaning when expressed with one's whole total energy to liberate all people in society and all those who feel Buddhism is so necessary. For these people he had used this and worked il fully expressing this meaning in his last poem:

Sogen's one drop of water

For seventy four years

Used fully never depleted

Traversing heavens

Earth and all ten directions.

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