We are just back from our Rohatsu Sesshin where we spent a truly wonderful few days in Jampa Ling Buddhist Centre, in Co Cavan, where we were warmly received, as always. It was a Sesshin that culminated in Shoshin Kudo taking the Bodhisattva Vows, and that saw new faces welcomed by our growing Sangha.
We woke up on the first morning to snow covered fields, which offered a beautiful backdrop to our practice. The Han pounded out its rhythm in the frigid air of the early morning, calling us to Zazen, and each morning’s sitting ended with an Oryoki breakfast … the first time our Sangha members have practiced this beautiful ceremony together.
The first day of Sesshin ended with a magically transforming Kito Ceremony, dedicated to the suffering beings that we all know, and the memorable atmosphere that was in the Zendo is impossible to describe. It is beyond words. As the alter was lit only by the light of candles that individual Sangha members had offered during the ceremony, a truly moving and transient moment manifested, as the candle light flickered and the deep, snowy silence of the rural night unfolded outside. After the ceremony ended, many continued to sit on in the darkness of the Zendo, well after the hour for sleep had been announced.
The next morning at dawn, we had a procession out to the stupa at Jampa Ling, where we offered candles to mark the Buddha’s great awakening all those generations ago, and where each and every person received a blessing: to be free from suffering, and to live a life filled with joy and love. The stupa sat with great presence, illuminated by our candlelight, afterwards, as we went back into the warmth of the house for breakfast.
The final day ended with the Jukai Ceremony for Shoshin, who received lineage papers in our lineage, as well as in the lineage of Suzuki Roshi. It was a ceremony where, unusually, two teachers bestowed the Precepts together: Kiku Christina Lehnherr, former Abbess of San Francisco Zen Centre, and myself, in the lineage of Nishijima Roshi. Christina and I chose the Dharma Name together, and worked closely in preparing the ceremony together. The fact that we are both teachers for Shoshin was reflected in this unique Jukai Ceremony.
In all, it was a most memorable Sesshin. It was a Sesshin filled with joy and light, at this, the darkest time of year. The next time we will visit Jampa Ling, the forests there will be carpeted in bluebells and the fresh light of warm spring will light everything with great clarity.
In the meantime, our practice in Dublin will continue every Monday night. However, we will take a short break for the holidays, with sittings returning at the Lantern Centre on January 11th.
Until then, on behalf of the Sangha, I wish you a restful Christmas period and a Happy New Year. New beginnings are on their way…