Song of Enlightenment Winter Sesshin

December 26 - January 1

Image by Rodney Musho Greenblat

Please join us for the Village Zendo’s annual Winter Retreat, which will be held online from Sunday, December 26 to Saturday, January 1. The retreat includes zazen, dharma talks, body practice, practice circles and interview with the VZ teachers.

You are welcome to participate in all of it or part of it – but please participate!

Our study text for the retreat, and for the ango period of intensive practice that follows, is Shodoka, “Song of Enlightenment.” Shodoka is a collection of 64 verses attributed to the T’ang dynasty master Yongjia Xuanjue.

How do we understand “enlightenment?” Are there multiple understandings? Shodoka presents the perspective of one of the great teachers of Zen’s “golden age.”

Come and join the Village Zendo community as we reflect on the changes of 2021 and prepare to greet the new year with clear minds and open hearts.

The daily schedule and a “Frequently Asked Questions” section is available at the bottom of this page, and you may also address inquiries to registrar@villagezendo.org.

Registration

Suggested Fees:
All fees are suggested, and if you can’t give the full recommended amount, we hope that you’ll give what you can afford. Your participation is important to us. Also, please note that our teachers generously donate their time and teachings. If you wish to contribute to the teachers, you may make a separate donation and put “teacher dana” in the “other reason” box. For questions, please contact our registrar at registrar@villagezendo.org.

  • Members
    • $600 for full sesshin
    • $120 per day
  • Non-Members
    • $750 for full sesshin
    • $150 per day
  • Full Winter Ango – Includes Winter Sesshin (Dec 26-31), Urban Sesshin (Mar 16-19), and Zazenkais between December 26 and March 16
    • Members: $1080
    • Non-Members: $1300

Daily Schedule

December 26

5:00 pm Orientation and Q&A
6:00 Zazen
6:25 Stretch
6:30 Ango Entry Ceremony
7:00 Zazen and precautions
7:25 Four Vows

December 27 – December 30

Morning zazen between 7:30 – 9:00 is open to the whole sangha and will take place at our regular online zendo link. The remainder of the day will only be available to registered participants.

7:30 am Zazen (Gatha of Atonement ~7:35)
7:55 Stretch
8:00 Zazen
8:25 Verse of the Kesa, stretch
8:30 Zazen
9:00 Work Gatha, Shuso words

Breakfast & Work Practice

10:30 Zazen
10:55 Stretch
11:00 Zazen
11:25 Extended stretch & movement practice
11:45 Zazen
11:50 Morning Service (Heart Sutra, Sho Sai Myo, Ennmei Jukku) followed by announcements

Lunch & Exercise (Cardio, yoga, outdoor kinhin)

2:00 pm Zazen
2:25 Stretch
2:30 Dharma Talk
2:55 Stretch
3:00 Zazen
3:25 Stretch
3:30 Practice Circles (Dec 28 & 30) or Zazen
4:05 Evening service (Daihishin Dharani, New Year’s Dharani, Jizo Shingon Dharani)

Dinner

6:00 Zazen
6:25 Stretch
6:30 Zazen
6:55 Stretch
7:00 Zazen
7:25 4 Vows

December 31

Morning zazen between 7:30 – 9:00 is open to the whole sangha and will take place at our regular online zendo link. The remainder of the day will only be available to registered participants.

7:30 am Zazen (Gatha of Atonement ~7:35)
7:55 Stretch
8:00 Zazen
8:25 Verse of the Kesa, stretch
8:30 Zazen
9:00 Work Gatha, Shuso words

Breakfast & Work Practice

10:30 Zazen
10:55 Stretch
11:00 Zazen
11:25 Extended stretch & movement practice
11:45 Zazen
11:50 Morning Service (Heart Sutra, Sho Sai Myo, Ennmei Jukku) followed by announcements

Lunch & Exercise (Cardio, yoga, outdoor kinhin)

2:00 pm Zazen
2:25 Stretch
2:30 Dharma Talk
2:55 Stretch
3:00 Zazen
3:25 Stretch
3:30 Practice Circles or Zazen
4:05 Evening service (Daihishin Dharani, New Year’s Dharani, Jizo Shingon Dharani)

Dinner

6:00 pm Zazen
6:25 Stretch
6:30 Open Sozan
7:15 Stretch
7:20 108 Bells Ceremony
7:45 4 Vows, Nenju, announcements

9:00 Party!

11:00 Zazen (optional)
11:25 Stretch
11:30 Zazen (optional)
12:00 Fin

January 1

Optional and open to the whole sangha.

7:30 am Zazen
7:55 Verse of the Kesa, stretch
8:00 Zazen
8:25 4 Vows

Winter Sesshin FAQs

Orientation and Q&A

This orientation offers you an opportunity to start to become more familiar with different aspects of Zen practice and the time-honored tradition of sesshin. Recommendations will be given for creating a strong practice container at home, we will review activities outlined within the retreat schedule, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Whether you are new to Zen practice and the Village Zendo community, or a seasoned practitioner, we strongly encourage you to join us so that together we can create a supportive container for all practitioners. A video recording will be made available for those that aren’t able to attend orientation.

Ango Entry Ceremony

This is a traditional ceremony in which we set our intention for intensified practice during Ango. Traditionally, we do this together as we enter the Zendo, say our name and make an offering of incense. This year, we will hold a modified version of this ceremony online. Please note that even if you aren’t registered to attend, you can still ask to be included on our Ango Participants Scroll. An email will be sent to the community for those that aren’t able to attend sesshin, yet wish to be included within our Ango Participants Scroll.

Services & Chanting

Chanting serves many purposes. We chant sutras and verses that have been handed down because of their wisdom value. And we chant seed syllables that are valued for the quality of their sound. Blending all voices into one sound, harmonizing, and joining together are vital aspects of community practice. During our virtual retreat, you will hear both live and pre-recorded chanting, and you are encouraged to chant along with the chant leader (the “Ino”). Click here to view or download our sutras and chants.

Work Gatha

The work gatha is a short service to gather our minds and energy, and set our intention as we prepare for work practice.

Work Practice

Work practice, or samu, is an integral part of the sesshin schedule and our Zen training. It is an opportunity for us to bring our concentration and awareness off our cushions and apply our practice to everyday activity. Prior to the start of sesshin, we encourage you to designate some home activities as your ‘formal’ work practice—such as cleaning, dishes, knitting, sewing, artistic expression—so that you can enter into these activities with strong intention.

Dharma Talk

A talk on Buddhist and Zen philosophy from a Zen teacher or senior student.

Interview with Village Zendo teachers

Interview at the Village Zendo is a short meeting between a practitioner and a Village Zendo Teacher. It is an old tradition, a time that provides space for questions, expressions, and intimate personal communications. Often a student of Zen will have a question or a response about a koan, or about a reading, or something that has come to mind during retreat. Every meeting is different, private and confidential. In some ways, the Village Zendo interviews follow the old tradition of brisk exchange, and they rarely extend over ten minutes. Nevertheless, it is a supportive aspect of retreat practice.

Practice Circles

Practice Circles consist of groups of 10-12 practitioners plus a teacher in a break-out room.

Our lives typically involve exchanges with other people. Likewise, in Zen, side by side with silence, there is an appreciation of dialogue. When we formulate a question, we allow ourselves to not know — a favorable position that disposes us to be open to fresh experience. In interview, the exchange is private, whereas with Practice Circle, it is a shared group experience: the question and answer are witnessed. When we recall that the original meaning of koan is ‘public case’ — that is, an exchange witnessed by others, we remember that our practice is not a private affair but one of interpenetration with others. In this retreat, the Practice Circle will take place after the Dharma Talk.

108 Bells Ceremony

This is a traditional New Year’s ceremony in which Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells a total of 108 times. In our tradition, we sit zazen in the zendo while the doan strikes the large kesu. This year we will hold a modified form of this ceremony online. We hope you’ll be able to join us for this special, meaningful ceremony!

Open Sozan

Open sozan is the practice of listening and speaking from the heart. This is one of the ways we traditionally close sesshin, sharing our experience and insight with the community.

Gathas & Chants:

Verse of Atonement

All evil karma ever committed by me since of old,
On account of my beginningless greed, anger and ignorance,
Born of my body, mouth and thought,
Now I atone for it all.

Verse of the Kesa

Vast is the robe of liberation.
A formless field of benefaction.
I wear the Tathagatha teaching,
Saving all sentient beings.

Work Gatha

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha (chanted 7x)

Customary Refrain

All Buddhas throughout space and time
All Bodhisattva Mahasattvas
Maha Prajna Paramita

Gatha on Opening the Sutra

The Dharma, incomparably profound and infinitely subtle,
Is rarely encountered, even in millions of ages.
Now we see it, hear it, receive and maintain it.
May we completely realize the Tathagata’s true meaning.

The Four Great Vows

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.
The dharmas are boundless, I vow to master them.
The Buddha way is unattainable, I vow to attain it.

To view the sutras that will be chanted during morning and afternoon service, and to download our sutra book, please visit https://villagezendo.org/practice/sutras-and-gathas/

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