Tonight we had grief practice. There was no discussion, so I will simply relate the ceremony.
Before we sat, we were reminded that tonight was a special night to hold intimately our losses and hurts and grief. They didn't need to be losses we suffered ourselves, but someone we knew, for suffering in general, for loss in its course. We were invited to sit for our friends and sangha mates who had recently suffered losses.
On the altar a candle was lit for a sangha member who could not be there, but who we held in our hearts. Each member of the sangha took their cushion. Before them was an empty tea cup and unlit candle. I recited "the Five Remembrances", to begin the evening. Its not part of the PZI liturgy, and I am not sure its even credited to Zen, but it was something we recited at Boundless Way in Boston, and it has always stuck with me and tonight, it seemed appropriate:
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
I am the beneficiary of my deeds. My deeds are the ground on which I stand.
We passed a candle lit from the altar candle from one person to the next. Each person took the candle and lit the one before them. When the candles were all lit, the dark meditation hall glowed and the bell tolled four times to begin sitting. The wind howled outside, pulling at the rood and shaking the rafters a little from time to time. We kept the zendo lights off. As we sat, we, one at a time, stood, approached the altar and offered incense for the object of our practice tonight. Everyone lingered at the altar, so I suppose everyone had something personal and important for whom to light the incense and dedicate the merits of their practice.
We stood silently, and walked the hall in kinhin. Then we took our seats, tea was served and we drank in silence. When cups were empty, the bell rang again and we sat a second time. At the end of the sitting period, we dedicated our practice:
Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now. The wind blows, waves fall on the shore, and Guanyin finds us in the dark and broken roads. We give thanks to all the ancestors of meditation in the still halls, the unknown women, centuries of enlightened women, ants and sticks and grizzly bears. Let wisdom go to every corner of the house, let people have joy in each other’s joy. All (sung) All buddhas throughout space and time, all awakened beings, great beings, the Heart of Perfect Wisdom.
We closed with the four vows.
I vow to wake all the beings of the world,
I vow to set endless heartache to rest,
I vow to walk through every wisdom gate,
I vow to live the great Buddha way
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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