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I felt very surprised and honored when Roshi asked me to be shuso for this summer’s ango period. I feel humbled to be included in the group of Village Zendo Shusos – each of whom shows such exemplary practice.
I first encountered Buddhism when I was ten years old and read “Gleanings in Buddha-fields” by Lafcadio Hearn. I found the book misfiled in the library between two volumes of his Japanese fairy tales I planned to read but ended up checking out the book with the mysterious title instead. When I finished it I announced to my family that I was a Buddhist and was told I could decide about that when I went to college.
I majored in Buddhist Studies in college. For many years I practiced Ch’an with Master Sheng yen as did my husband and two children. After he died I searched for a new teacher and in 2009 I came to the Village Zendo. Moving from Ch’an to Zen was challenging for me. While meditation and retreats are part of Ch’an practice, participating in classes about the history of Buddhist teachings, comparative Buddhist philosophy, and scripture study were equally encouraged. My natural inclination to intellectualize things was reflected in my practice.
Coming to the Village Zendo shook me up. With the support and guidance of Roshi, the teachers and the sangha I experienced a burgeoning sense of intimacy and immediacy in practice that has changed my life. The study text for this summer’s ango will be Dogen’s Fascicle 64, Everyday Activity. We will be posting it on the web. It speaks directly to the exhilarating “right here and now” of practice. Summer ango at the Grail is the perfect time to explore the meaning of Everyday Activity in your life.
Please commit to intensifying your practice during ango either by coming to a retreat at the Grail or increasing your practice with the sangha in the City. I am providing a commitment form to help you articulate your practice goals. We only have right here! Right now! Make the most of it!
With three deep bows,
More info: the Summer Ango Retreat 2016 page.
“Kajo”, Translated By Kaz Tanahashi
In the domain of buddha ancestors, drinking tea and eating rice are everyday activity. Drinking tea and eating rice have been transmitted for a long time and are present right now. Thus, the buddha ancestors’ vital activity of drinking tea and eating rice comes to us.
Priest Daokai, who would later become abbot of Mt. Dayang, asked Touzi [Yiqing], “It is said that the thoughts and words of buddha ancestors are everyday tea and rice. Besides this, are there any words or phrases for teaching?”
Touzi said, “Tell me, when the emperor issues a decree in his territory, does he depend upon [ancient] Emperors Yu, Tang, Yao, or Shun?”
As Daokai was about to open his mouth, Touzi covered it with his whisk. “While you were thinking, you’ve already received thirty blows.”
Daokai was then awakened. He bowed deeply and began to leave.
Touzi said, “Wait, reverend.”
Daokai did not turn around, and Touzi said, “Have you reached the ground of no doubt?”
Daokai covered his ears with his hands and left.
From this, clearly understand that the thoughts and words of buddha ancestors are their everyday tea and rice. Ordinary coarse tea and plain rice are buddhas’ thoughts, ancestors’ phrases. Because buddha ancestors prepare tea and rice, tea and rice maintain buddha ancestors. Accordingly, they need no powers other than this tea and rice, and they have no need to use powers as buddha ancestors.
Investigate and study the expression Does he depend upon Emperors Yu, Tang, Yao, or Shun? Leap over the summit of the question Besides this are there any words or phrases for teaching? Try to see whether leaping is possible or not.
Shitou, Great Master Wuji, at the Shitou Hut on Mt. Nanyue, said:
I have built a grass hut where no coins are kept.
Having had rice, I am ready for a leisurely nap.
Having had rice—words come, words go, words come and go, filled with buddha ancestors’ thoughts and phrases. Not yet having rice means not yet being satisfied. However, the point of having had rice and a leisurely nap is actualized before having rice, while having rice, and after having rice. To assume that the experience of having rice lies only after having had rice is the mere study of four or five sho [small amount] of rice.
Rujing taught the assembly:
I heard that a monk asked Baizhang, “What is an extraordinary thing?” Baizhang said, “Sitting alone on Daxiong Peak. The assembly cannot move the person. For now, let the person totally sit.” Today if someone were to ask me, “What is an extraordinary thing?” I would say, “Is anything extraordinary? How was it? The bowl of Jingci has moved; I’m eating rice in Tiantong.”
In the domain of buddha ancestors there is always something extraordinary. This is sitting alone on Daxiong Peak. Being allowed to totally sit is itself an extraordinary thing. Even more extraordinary is The bowl of Jingci has moved; I’m eating rice in Tiantong.
Each and every extraordinary activity is simply eating rice. Thus, sitting alone on Daxiong Peak is just eating rice. The monk’s bowl is used for having rice, and what is used for having rice is the monk’s bowl. It is the bowl of Jingci and it is having rice in Tiantong. Being satisfied is to know rice. Eating rice is to be satisfied. To know is to be satisfied with rice. To be satisfied is to continue eating.
Now, what is the monk’s bowl? I say it is not wood and it is not black lacquer. Is it an immovable rock? Is it an iron person? It is bottomless. It has no nostrils. One mouthful swallows the open sky. The open sky is received with palms together.
Rujing once taught the assembly at the buddha hall of the Ruiyan Jingtu Monastery of Tai Region:
When hunger comes, have rice.
When fatigue comes, sleep.
Furnace and bellows, each covers the entire sky.
When hunger comes is the vital activity of a person who has had rice. A person who has not had rice has not had hunger. Since this is so, a person who gets hungry every day is someone who has had rice. Understand this completely. When fatigue comes means that there is fatigue in the midst of fatigue; it springs forth completely from the summit of fatigue. Accordingly, the entire body is completely turned right now by the activity of the entire body.
Sleep is to sleep using the buddha eye, dharma eye, wisdom eye, ancestor eye, and pillar‑and‑lantern eye.
Rujing once accepted an invitation and moved to the Jingci Monastery of Linan Prefecture from the Rulyan Monastery of Tai Region, ascended the seat and said:
Half a year, just having rice and sitting on Wan Peak.
This sitting cuts through thousands of layers of misty clouds.
One sudden clap of roaring thunder.
Spring in the mystic village—apricot blossoms are red.
The teaching of buddha ancestors who transmit the Buddha’s lifelong practice is entirely having rice and sitting on Wan Peak. To study and practice the inheritance of the Buddha’s ancestral wisdom is to bring forth the vital activity of having rice. Half a year, . . . sitting on Wan Peak is called having rice. You cannot tell how many layers of misty clouds this sitting cuts through. However sudden the roar of thunder may be, spring apricot blossoms are just red. Mystic village means red through and through right now. This is having rice. Wan Peak is the name of a peak that represents the Ruiyan Monastery.
Rujing once taught the assembly at the buddha hall of the Ruiyan Monastery, Qingyuan Prefecture, Ming Region:
Wonderous golden form
wears a robe and eats rice.
So I bow to you;
go to sleep early and wake up late. Hah!
Discuss the profound, expound the inconceivable—endless.
I avoid the self‑deception of holding up a flower.
Immediately penetrate this. Wonderous golden form means wearing a robe and eating rice. Wearing a robe and eating rice is wonderous golden form. Do not wonder who is wearing a robe and eating rice. Do not say whose wonderous golden form it is.
Speaking in this way is complete expression. This is the meaning of So I bow to you. Thus “I have already had rice. You have just bowed to the rice.” This is because “I completely avoid holding up a flower.”
Changqing, Priest Da’an, Zen Master Yuanzhi, of the Changqing Monastery, Fu Region, ascended the seat and taught the assembly:
I have been at Mt. Gui for thirty years and have been eating Mt. Gui’s rice and shitting Mt. Gui’s shit. I have not studied Guishan’s Zen but just see a single water buffalo. When it wanders off the road and begins grazing, I yank it back. When it trespasses onto other people’s rice fields, I whip it. In this way, I have been taming it for a long time. Such an adorable one! It understands human speech, and now has transformed into a white ox. All day long it walks round and round in front of us. Even if we try to drive it away, it does not leave.
Clearly accept this teaching. Thirty years of pursuit in the assembly of buddha ancestors is eating rice. There are no other pursuits. If you actualize this endeavor of eating rice, invariably you will see the buffalo.
Zhaozhou, Great Master Zhenji, asked a newly arrived monk, “Have you been here before?”
The monk said, “Yes, I have been here.”
Zhaozhou said, “Have some tea.”
Later, he asked another monk, “Have you been here before?”
The monk said, “No, I have not been here.”
Zhaozhou said, “Have some tea.”
The temple director then asked Zhaozhou, “Why do you say, ‘Have some tea,’ to someone who has been here, and ‘Have some tea,’ to someone who has not?”
Zhaozhou said, “Director.”
Zhaozhou said, “Have some tea.”
Zhaozhou’s word here does not mean the top of the head, the nostrils, or Zhaozhou. Since here leaps off here, a monk said, I have been here, and another said, I have not been here. It means: What is now? Whatever is here, just say, “I have been here” or “I have not been here.”
Regarding this, Rujing said:
Who in the picture of a wineshop
faces you and drinks Zhaozhou’s tea?
Thus, the everyday activity of buddha ancestors is nothing but having tea and eating rice.
Presented to the assembly at the foot of Yamashi Peak, Echizen Province on the seventeenth day, the twelfth month, the first year of the Kangen Era .
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, Shambhala Publications. Vol. 2, p612ff.
More info: the Summer Ango Retreat 2016 page.
It’s that time of year again, when our thoughts turn not only to summer’s pleasures, but also to the possibility of deepening our concentration, our compassion and wisdom, through our Zen practice. Summer ango is approaching! This year, as in the past thirty years, we’ll all take time to intensify and appreciate what our practice gives us. This year, our summer ango runs from July 22 to August 21. Whether you are in residence at the Grail or practicing at 588 Broadway, or in some other location, you have the opportunity to engage in vital Zen practice and study.
This is in accord with the traditional Zen seasonal retreat called “ango” or peaceful dwelling. Our Village Zendo Summer Ango is conducted both as a residential retreat at The Grail and also in the city, in the midst of our ordinary daily lives. For thirty-one days we personally commit to more zazen, study, and other practices such as clear awareness of our interaction with others and attentiveness to the precepts.
This year we are studying Dogen’s essay “Everyday Activity”: Kajo. I attach Kazuaki Tanahashi’s translation below. Dogen encourages us to drop our notions of separating the holy, the sublime, from the ordinary, the real. Instead, he teaches us to recognize our lives as extraordinary, and to express that realization in our every gesture.
One person is asked to serve as Shuso, or practice leader, someone to show up as our model of sincere practice. This year’s shuso is Ayn Yujin Steele, who has written a letter and a commitment form to help us articulate our aims for this period of time. It is very helpful to fill our your commitment form and share it with one of the teachers. Please join Yujin and the whole community in exploring this active way to energize our practice!
Also, it can be very helpful to share your commitment form with each other and one of the teachers. Please take this opportunity to invite rigor and joy into your summer practice period,
Thank you for your practice,
More info: the Summer Ango Retreat 2016 page.
Roshi gave this talk at our May 2016 Zazenkai retreat. She comments on a story from The Hidden Lamp called “Sonen’s Shadeless Tree” and talks about how we can connect our Dharma practice to our lives as they are right now. She talks about letting go of ideas of success and failure, quotes President Obama, George Carlin, Dogen Zenji and encourages us to dig deeply into the richness of our own lives. Recorded May 14, 2016
In her talk from Sunday, April 24th, Joshin Sensei talks about the challenges of allowing ourselves to be where we are in each moment without preferences.
In KaKu Hoshi’s talk during our April Zazenkai, he discusses his relationship to Dogen’s most well know work, the Genjokoan.
In this talk, Roshi encourages us to use our whole body and mind — not just our ideas.
Summer ango, meaning “peaceful dwelling”, at Grail House in Cornwall, NY is a unique opportunity to step off the habitual tracks of our busy lives, to slow down and breathe. It’s a chance to do an intensive retreat, live in community, and study closely with Roshi Enkyo O’Hara and the Village Zendo teachers, in the green surroundings of the Hudson Valley.
Registration is closed. To join the wait list, email email@example.com.
The month begins and ends with weeklong silent meditation retreats, each providing the rare gift of silence held in the container of traditional Zen form. Alongside the core activity of sitting and walking meditation, the days follow a schedule of body practice, work practice, Dharma talks, group meals taken in the oryoki ritual style of Japanese temples, and services with chanting. In the middle weeks we offer two interactive retreats. One is a week of deep personal study of the Zen precepts and the other is an arts week using pottery and poetry as means for investigation. Mornings and evenings we remain in silence, while we engage in group discussion and activity during the day. Yoga is offered throughout the month as one option for daily body ￼practice. You are welcome to join us for one, two, three or all four weeks. Any amount of time can offer a profound taste of peaceful dwelling.
- Advice for participants in summer ango
- Enkyo Roshi’s summer ango letter
- Shuso YuJin’s summer ango letter
- “Everyday Activity”: our study text
- Commitment Form for summer ango
- Questions?: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dai Sesshin Retreat, July 22–31
Dai Sesshin is a ten-day intensive retreat. The spacious schedule includes five hours of meditation with ample time for rest and exercise. There are chanting services, three oryoki meals in the meditation hall, and the opportunity to have individual meetings with seasoned Zen teachers. Please consider challenging yourself to participate in this deep practice.
Precepts Study Week, August 2–7
Precepts Study week culminates in jukai, a ceremony in which participants vow to follow the Zen precepts for ethical conduct. If you are interested in participating in jukai, please contact the Village Zendo for arrangements and details. If you are not taking jukai, you are welcome to join our study of the precepts and the selected ango text under the guidance of Sensei Ryotan Eiger. Study takes place during morning and afternoon sessions and provides a creative, challenging and supportive environment in which to experience the teachings. There will also be daily meditation, chanting services and oryoki meals served in an informal style. The week will end in a joyful community ceremony for those formally receiving the precepts.
Arts Retreat Week, August 9–14
The Arts Retreat has two parts and you may register for one or both. The first three days (8/9-8/12) approach the study of Zen through pottery. This is an exciting chance for both beginning and more experienced participants to work with clay under the guidance of Sensei Myoko Julie Terestman, Zen teacher and master potter. Over the weekend (8/12-8/14), Roshi Enkyo O’Hara will lead a writing workshop. We will read Zen poetry together and create our own. As in the other weeks, there will be chanting services and informal oryoki meals as well as meditation periods every day throughout the week.
Shuso Sesshin Retreat, August 16–21
￼Shuso Sesshin is an intensive five-day retreat with the same daily structure as Dai Sesshin. This sesshin culminates the month of ango practice and allows participants the opportunity for profound depth and insight. On the final day (8/21), the Shuso Hossen ceremony is a rite of passage in which the practice leader (shuso) becomes a senior student in the Village Zendo community. The shuso gives her or his first Dharma talk and is challenged by the group in a lively question-and-answer dialogue called “Dharma Combat.”