On Sunday, December 13, 2015 we held a day-long “Awakening Retreat” to commemorate the awakening of the historical Buddha about 2,600 years ago. After sitting in meditation for seven full days at the sight of the morning star at the dawn of the eighth day Siddhartha Gautama awakened and became the Buddha.
Eleven participants spent the day sharing the same space, chanting, sitting in meditation, walking meditatively, listening to a Dharma talk and engaging in individual meetings with the abbot, Dokuro. Since December 6 Dokuro is – besides having been an Rinzai-ji Osho for almost 12 years – also recognized as an authorized Dharma teacher in the Zen Studies Society and is now empowered by Shinge Roshi to offer formal dokusan/sanzen as part of the practice at Charles River Zen. It was heartening to welcome three new participants to the retreat and see how the presence of authentic Rinzai Zen in the Boston area enriches the local Buddhist offerings.
From December 1st through the 8th Dokuro Osho participated in the Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji Rohatsu Sesshin, led by Shinge Roshi. The weather was unseasonably warm, only a few days were below freezing, so were the nights.
The silence and stillness of nature in this part of the Catskill Mountains is astounding. Nowhere else have I ever heard in such vivid clarity the sounds of a paddling of ducks departing from the stillness of the lake, or heard the sound of an airplane passing over the area at 36,000 feet. The clarity of the air at night makes the sky brim with stars, shining their ancient light on the followers of the way sitting extra zazen on the deck around the Zendo.
For the last four days of the sesshin I sat next to Shihou Osho, who trained at Ryutaku-ji in Mishima – he came to spend some time with us in Rohatsu. Always sitting in full lotus posture he displayed how Japanese unsui in training monasteries sit, how they chant, eat, walk and so on. To the satisfaction of many of the Westerners participating it was nice to learn after the end of the seshin that he found it challenging.
I am now a member of both the Rinzai-ji family (as a Rinzai-ji Osho) and the Zen Studies Society as an authorized Dharma Teacher. Shinge Roshi was so kind to hold an acknowledgment ceremony on the sixth day of Rohatsu, on which I also delivered the Dharma talk. My deep gratitude to Shinge Roshi and all others in the Zen Studies Society, who so warmly welcomed me into their family. I hope that Rinzai-ji and the Zen Studies Society will find a way to work together and help Rinzai Zen in America flourish.