EkiZen - Newsletter from the Sangha of Shinnyo-ji
Winter 2011 - n. 9 year II
Translation of the text by Tamura Genryu published on the previous page:
Return to Florence
Again this year I had the chance to return to Shinnyo-ji in Italy.
Honestly, after the great earthquake in Eastern Japan on March 11th, I had a moment of doubt on whether or not to go, but in order to keep the promise I made with Shinnyo Roshi last year, I decided to go.
The main event during my stay was the Jukai Ceremony and the Shukke Tokudō scheduled for June 16th. There were four practitioners taking Refuge in the Three Treasures, three that recieved Zaike Tokudō (The Bodhisattva Ceremony) and one who recieved Shukke Tokudō, as a student of Shinnyo Roshi.
The weather on the day of the Ceremony was lovely and many people came.
The Ritual followed a rigorous tone, as in Japan but mixed in the Florentine atmosphere, a city of great traditional culture. I felt something mysterious, that I would not have felt if I had only been in Japan.
Just like the previous year, I was struck by the practitioners' beautiful smiles at the end of the Ceremony. Last time I only attended the Ceremony as a guest, this time I was very pleased to be involved from the very beginning.
Even if we always stayed in touch between Italy and Japan, I had never felt such a close feeling as this.
During this visit, the practitioners' strong faith brought me to refresh my feelings: from now on I would like to more strongly support the activity at Shinnyo-ji and to move forward feeling the connection between our Temples, in the comunal Walk realizing the Buddha Way.
Lastly, I would like to give my most sincere thanks to Azuma Ryushin Roshi, Abbot at Daijō-ji for this precious occasion that was offered to me, to Shinnyo Roshi and all of the practitioners at Shinnyo-ji who warmly welcomed me and to many other people whom I encountered. Without you all, I would not have been able to take this trip to Italy. Infinite thanks.
Shinnyo-ji: Jukai Ceremony 26 June 2011
Taking Refuge in the Tree Treasures: Kie Sanbō (Giving the Rakusu)
Laura, woman; Leonardo, man; Nilo, man; Gregorio, man.
Zaike Tokudō : (Ceremony for the Bodhisattva)
Iten Shinnen Paolo, man; Iten Goshin Serena,woman; Iten Benshin, Beatrice, woman;
Shukke Tokudō : (Ceremony for Monk)
Iten Yūshin, Federico, man.
Tokubetsu Juyo: (Special giving of the Rakusu)
There were roughly fifty attendees at the Ceremony, it was followed by a buffet in the Temple garden.
Sokanbu Seminar 2011 at the Temple de La Gendronnière 13-17 October 2011
First of all, I would like to thank my life that has given me this opportunity, the Teacher who allowed me to realize it, all Beings that have made this travelling experience possible, and consciousness.
We leave Florence along with Gregorio who is carefully driving. His respect and thoughtfulness toward Shinnyo Roshi assures that his kindness brings us to the Pisa Airport.
The flight takes off with a slight delay, the Teacher is seated next to two nuns on the plane, you can see how religious people attract one another. We land at Paris Orly and take a shuttle to the Gare de Monparnasse and then the subway that takes us to rue de Tolbiac, where our hotel is located. We eat in a small Chinese restaurant, it is charming and not too crowded. We sit near an aquarium full of enormous goldfish. Our dinner is delicious and abundant.
The following morning we have dinner in a nearby boulangerie, we have a large pastry and caffellatte. We are near a church dedicated to Saint Anna, with its beautiful stain glass windows and scaffolding for restauration work. We leave a prayer to recite in a special book for the next mass.
Later in a subway train, we reach the Guimet Museum, entirely dedicated to oriental art. It is very beautiful and full of Buddha and Bodhisattva statues.
We admire a gorgeous Bodhisattva, full of golden arms like a shining sun, illuminating all Beings, a joyful statue of a dancing Shiva, marvellous Chinese statues of polo players on horses that seem to dance in a circle, a Cambodian trio for seraphin peace constituted by the Buddha, Tara and a Bodhisattva: an enormous head of the Buddha with small curls, large lips that almost seem African, the goddess KalÌ with her terrible gaze. We can't stop walking around the the museum in total awe. There was also a temporary show on C.G. Jung and The Red Book, magnificent and full of mandalas. There were three floors to visit and we stayed there until past 1:00 p.m. and of course, made a quick stop to the bookshop. By this time, we were running late and we had to hurry back to the hotel, after a quick peek at the nearby Eiffel Tower.
After a fast lunch, we get dressed into our Zen robes at the hotel, then we are ready by 3:00 p.m. to take a bus to La Gendronnière, a monastery near Blois. The ride is slowy and made us feel sleepy, it took three hours, then finally, the bus enters a park and we see a huge lawn and a small castle made of red bricks. We made it.
Our rooms are closeby in the quarters. The Teacher's room is on the second floor, at the end of a long hallway, I am on the first floor upon an external gallery. I take the Teacher after we are settled in, we go downstairs for dinner. The room is very big and there are three big tables made of unfinished wood, at the front of the room, there is a smaller table to accommodate the official representatives. The dinner is delicious, very buttery, and even with a dessert, it is filling, warm rice and milk. I volunteer to do some samu and dry many plates, silverware, bowls and glasses. When I finish it is already late night and I go upstairs to my room. Along with me in my room there are three other women. The alarm is set for 6:00 a.m. and I need to sleep.
In the morning, a monk sounds a bell running up and down like Genryu san did at Daijō-ji when he was young.
I go get the Teacher and in the dark humidity, careful not to fall, we quickly walk to the Zendo. The Zendo is very big, with robust wooden beams that support the ceiling and a light carpet on the floor. There is a large statue of the Buddha in the center, a big bell that rings strong and solemn tones. There is a very different atmosphere compared to our Zendo which is so intimate and familiar. Even the Sutras are strong and solemn since there are many of us reciting them together.
When we exit, we go toward the tomb of Teacher Deshimaru, the founder of La Gendronnière, it is a stone monument in the shade of a thick oak woods, we honor him with a greeting.
Lastly, it is time for a group photo and we gather on the stairs in front of the castle.
After breakfast, I help with samu in the kitchen by cleaning earthy carrots, then cutting big chard leaves. Upon finishing, I hurry to the hall where the conference is being held, it has already begun, just a few minutes ago. It is held in English, speaking is Prof. William Bodiford from UCLA, but there is also a simultaneous French translation. So at least I have the opportunity to understand a bit more, seeing how I can take something from what I hear from both languages. Unfortunately, I often don't understand the English then wait for the French translation and am disappointed, I didn't understand anything.
When we eat I am happy to see that we are served what I helped prepare. After lunch, I am once again helping out with washing dishes. There is a pleasant and happy atmosphere in the kitchen, we work with joy.
The conference continues after lunch. It is very interesting, the American professor is very cultured and knows many things about Buddhism and Zen. He tells stories about Medieval Japan and connects them to Buddhism, his theme is very detailed: beginning with Dogen Zenji and the Kamakura period when the religion was being born, then he goes on to Tokugawa Medieval period where both Buddhist religion and society are dominated by a feudal system, then to teh Meiji period in which the country is modernized and Buddhists are persecuted by drastic reductions of numerious temples. He finishes by illustrating the current situation, describing the traditions of the Soto Zen school. The professor speaks very clearly, his anectdotes make us laugh and we can easily follow his speech, but after awhile I begin to feel tired and burnt.
After the conference ends, I take a walk in the woods to purify myself of all of the talk. There are some enormous tress, gorgeous trees, full of vital force. The sun is still out and the air is fresh. I explore a bit and find a pond and a vegetable garden. The Teacher is still at the castle in a meeting. Who knows how tired and worn out she will feel. The air smells of tress and pure freshness, the sky is crystal blue, the leaves are golden and green. Autumn opens my heart and gives me fresh air to breath.
Saturday evening, after dinner, I have some free time to spend with the Teacher. We go to a boutique where there are many books about Zen, nearly all in French, various kinds of incense and clothes for samu. We speak walking beneath the dormitory. I wonder how the Sangha is doing. Yesterday evening they did Zazen alone, without the Teacher, how did it go? The walk and conversation was truly a good time, but the air is fresh and there is some humidity so it is better to go inside.
We have another Zazen sitting in the morning at 6:00, always followed by reciting the Sutra, this morning they are more difficult, I can barely pronounce something here and there. I am also a little confused, because I don't understand if I am on the wrong line, there are many monks, maybe I should just stay back seeing how I am only a Bodhisattva.
We once again go out to greet the tomb of Teacher Deshimaru. There is a strange procession in the morning fog all of these shaved heads and whishing black and ochre robes, I hear the stones crackling underneath my feet while I hurry to stay close to the Teacher.
There is another conference after breakfast, but only for the morning. The final events are quick. After lunch there is just enough time to quickly say goodbye to those we met. The bus is waiting for us and we leave to head back to Paris.
When we get to rue de Tolbiac we say more goodbyes then go back to the hotel where we change after taking a refreshing hot shower and taking a walk around the neighborhood, after all, I am in Paris and it's sunny.
When I come back, we look for a restaurant. We prefer a healthy dinner with lots of lovely vegetables, but the place that we were advised to eat at was closed. We end up eating at a disgusting Thai restaurant.
The following morning, I go to the Teacher's room for Zazen, we both sit on the bed. Time moves quickly and I feel protected by the Teacher sitting close behind me. It is like a wholesome protective presence behind my back. We have breakfast at our usual boulangerie, sitting in front of the window and people watching those who pass by.
It doesn't seem that there will be time to visit anything else and so we decide to go back to the airport. We were quicker than expected, easily finding the street and transport connections. There isn't any traffic and so we arrive much earlier than planned. So we can do everything calmly, I even have time to send a postcard. We eat in a small and pretty caffè, but the food was prepackaged and like rubber.
The flight back went well and I slept through it. when I opened my eyes I saw only clouds and spots of the sea, we are almost back to Pisa. I joyfully admire the slick surface of the sea and the golden reflection of the sun upon it.
Once we have arrived, we sit at the bar and wait for Yūshin to come and get us while sipping an orange juice and eating an ice cream. Yūshin finally finds us, he was very brave to come seeing how he has caught a cold and cough. The car ride back to Florence was sunny, I go to my usual bus stop and return home.
The experience is over but my mind is still full of the new faces and words of new things that I have learned. I was truly lucky to go and live these days with the Teacher. I have understood how we are luckky to have this Teacher, she is one of the few woman teachers. I realized, with all respect, that with other Teachers that I have seen, I would not have wanted to continue my practice. Our Temple is also very special, so tidy, bight and welcoming. We sometime take for granted what we have recieved, it is a great gift and can turn into other things.
A poem by Pablo Neruda (Chilean poet born in Parral on 12 June 1904, his real name was NeftalÌ Ricardo Reyes, but he chose the pen name Pablo), excerpt from the collection “Estravagario” written in 1958:
And How Long?
How long does man live, after all?
Does he live a thousand days, or one only?
A week, or several centuries?
How long does a man spend dying?
What does it mean to say 'forever'?
Lost in these preoccupation
I set myself to clear things up.
I sought out knowledgable priests,
I waited for them after their rituals,
I watched them when they went
their ways to visit God and the Devil.
They wearied of my questions.
They on their part knew very little;
they wre no more than administrators.
Medical men received me,
in between consultations,
a scalpel in each hand,
saturated in aureomycin,
busier each day.
As far as I could tell from their talk,
the problem was as follows:
it was not so much the death of a microbe,
they went down by the ton,
but the few which survived
showed signs of perversity.
They left me so startled
that I sought out the gravediffers.
I went to the rivers where they burn
enormous painted corpses,
tiny boney bodies,
emperors with an aura
of terrible curses,
women snuffed out at a stroke
by a wave of cholera.
There were whole beaches of dead
and ashy specialists.
When I got the chance
I asked them a a slew of questions.
They offered to burn me;
it was the only things they knew.
In my own country the undertakers
answered me, between drinks:
" Get yourself a good woman
and give up this nonsense!".
I never saw people so happy.
Raising their glasses they sang,
toasting health and death.
They were huge fornicators.
I returned home, much older
after crossing the world.
Now I question nobody.
But I know less every day.
23 October 2011
MORNING ZAZEN AT SHINNYO-JI
It was a little strange in the beginning, practicing without the Teacher. It was as if something was missing (but this isn't just for today's morning Zazen) I just now realized how much the presence of the Teacher gave. It was a feeling that honestly, I don't know how to easily explain with words, how I preceived her presence. The Sangha was united and in harmony, during the Sutra, I felt a good energy... bubbly could be the right word. Everyone had something to do during the samu, thanks to our cleaning, the whole Temple smelled clean adn it was nice to see the shiny wood floor. I believe that I am being objective by saying taht it was a fruitful day. It was a bit strange to hear Yū-shin (Federico) read the Teacher's speech! I took the opportunity to thiank each partecipant of the Zazenkai and the Monday and Friday Zazen meetings, it is a pleasure to practice with you.
Empty in the middle
On Sunday, 23 October 2011, I left my house to find my car unexpectedly and completely frozen. While the car defrosts, I feel a biting cold and I already feel that it will be a tiring day. I also have, more stongly, the certainty that the Teacher is with each one of us and feels our strength.
When we enter Zazen, the Zendo is warm, the heater is turned on, but I feel cold. A strange feeling void of warmth within stays with me and does not leave. Futhermore, I have backpain, in the back of my neck there is a string of muscles that knot up and ache. For a long time I didn't have body pain while sitting in Zazen, the painful experience is surprising and brings me down.
At the third Zazen sitting the Kusen that the Teacher had prepared for us is read. When I saw that there was a Kusen scheduled I was moved almost to tears, thinking that the Teacher never quits, not even for a day, not even for an instant in guiding and supporting us. I impatiently awaited the Kusen, during the long minutes of this painful sitting upon the meditation pillow. The Teacher's lesson is finally read: I recognize each one of her words, every expression, I feel her compassionate guidance, her presence, the only thing missing is the tone of her voice. This absence somehow breaks the entirety and I feel a great emptyness within.
When the bell is sounded to end the Zazen, I feel a light, my backpain has finally ended! I am assigned samu in the garden, I was hoping to go outdoors, in the warm autumn sun, and I am deeply happy.
We return to the Zendo to recite the Sutra. We quietly and orderly move, everything proceeds without hesitation, all in all, I once again feel the empty feeling within. This time it is not a cold nor painful feeling, but a clear sense of absence connected to hearing the Sangha's unision voice without the central note, the voice that I am used to hearing and try to follow. As for the Kusen, the presence of the Teacher is clear, but the sound is missing.
This is how I understand how sound is central for me, it is an importance that I have never realized before.
Kuhai to the Teacher and to the Ancient Patriarchs.
On Sunday 23rd October and the following Monday, we felt the Dharmic connection with our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi. As what often happens at Shinnyo-ji, difficulties become positive experiences. In fact, what happened after the Shinnyo physically left the Temple throughout the practice let the Sangha feel the I Shin den Shin between Teacher and Disciple... because the Teacher was with us, across the practice parallel to ours. And above all, we could verify the outcome of Jukai: I felt the " Oneness" of the Teacher and the Ordained followers, in particular, with " our" Monk who consciously maintained the responsability of the ritual.
The voice of the body
On Sunday October 23, 2011, for the first time, our little Community of meditators, our Sangha, was united at the Shinnyo-ji Temple for a day-long retreat, without our Teacher Iten Shinnyo Roshi, since she could not be there.
While reading the day's schedule I felt struck by a particular emotion by observing that, for the first time since its establishment, the Teacher had ordered that a Sutra, the Maha Hannya Haramitta Shingyo would be read without her presence.
Today a Monk is in charge of Shinnyo-ji.
Of course the duty of guiding the day-long pratice was soley assigned by the Teacher to Yū-shin, whom she recently ordained as monk during the Jukai ceremony last September.
An emotion, a thought: a little but significant piece of mind in advance for the Sangha, for our brother in practice, Yū-shin, and above all, I feel, for the Teacher Shinnyo Roshi.
But... beating how, beating what?
An immediate sense of great responability: almost a fear and embarassment: will be be ready for this event?
The answer in my mind and heart is: let's go, let's do it and let's see. Here we are!
So, we prepare the Temple and the Zendo for the routine yet special occasion, we musn't overlook the Form and therefore not at the substance of our practice, I help my self in this talk with close attention to details that could help the absent but present Teacher, the fresly ordained Yū-shin with today's duties, and protective relationship of the Lineage is within the Sangha, it moves every moment, in every step within the Temple, from the past to the future through our tiny actions today.
The minds and souls are light.
The morning of practice peacefully and solidly passes, I feel our group moving in harmony and awareness, and together we succeed in respecting the time and schedule.
Also the delicate moment of responsability given to reciting the Sutra and to the transmission of merit in our practice, I feel a close and strong flow in my senses.
Even through the clear perception of the absence of the Teacher's voice, during the Sutra recitation, I still felt a compact, strong, harmonious and calm determination in our voices. I was very moved during the vibration of the Heart Sutra.
I don't always realize this " abandoned awareness" that creates a unique voice from many different voices. As if no was overbear the others or was missing, today I feel the unleashed strength of sychronized and full syllables that flow giving shape and support to their place, to the present and absent.
And my body, finds itself, finds its shape, solidity, unity, sturdiness: all in all, pleasure.
The body, rather, " my body" all in one through the Zen of this special morning without the Teacher, is coming together in the Sutra recitation central to the Emptiness Doctrine, hit after hit of the mokugyo, syllable after syllable sang by the choir, in sound, with sound.
Recieving in giving. Giving in recieving.
In fact, it was scattered a little while ago, my body, in a diffused discomfot of its parts during Zazen, it was iritated and blamed for not finding peace in its breath, in the distant breath from the deep vertebre column, a flux obliged to follow alternative superficial routes, divided by scattered and twisted rivulets.
We became weary not having safe ground, having a continuous instability, a tameable parts and unable to be consolidated by gravity.
Stiffness and pain in my joints, cramps not only in contracted areas of my body, but also in relaxed areas.
I felt humbled and acknowledged by accepting what was, not able to find a posture that allows the mind to lose grasp of thoughts and lose consciousness of oneself.
Therefore... perhaps it is a body, here at the Temple, that is uncomfortable with the absence of the Teacher?
Beyond thoughts and mental construction, the answer within my heart is probably: " yes", given that this body return to its posture and breath when the "physical Teacher" will once again sit upon her pillow seven days from now.
I always try not to build mental schemes, although I am inclined to do so, I rather try to listen to what happens to me, mentally analyzing and judging less and staying in the present moment: in this "I feel" that some freedoms of Practice are still very immature compared to those of our Dharma Teacher, Shinnyo Roshi. Along my walk, that my body knows and can express all of this with its strong and clear language of innate and united wisdom.
Seeing how we know how to listen.
It is a training which we are not inclined to do.
Scared body. Temple of our energy, the Teacher is also this, often blamed and underestimated.
I am thankful for being assigned the duty of writing this testimony that allowed me to confront my emotions and physcial perceptions, not always listing to the rush of life: all of this in the spirit of knowing to add the collection of signs along the way, to be able to advance attention and practice.
As soon as I arrived on Sunday, around 8:10 a.m., I was happy to take on a task: helping out with the flower offering. Perhaps I shouldn't say it like this, I mean by saying that I was happy, but it's the truth.
The two Zazen that I sat in where silent and in those 80 minutes my mind was often occupied, although I'm not exactly sure on what.
The Samu was very busy and I/we felt as a part of a whole. I want to say that I felt whole and welcomed.
The part after the Samu was most difficult for me beacue I was very distracted and I felt doubtful. I must say that the second part was the hardest.
The presence of the Teacher is important, because she is encouraging and supports us.
Thanks to our Teacher.
On 14 December, the mother of our friend and practitioner PierPaolo Bon, Savina passed away. Our Teacher and the Shinnyo-ji Sangha are affectionately together with Pier Paolo, also with Zazen and Hōyō Ceremony dedication.
Dwelling in the Buddha
Dwelling in the Buddha
I have not dwelling,
my bones are made of fog
vapor without support
I am and I sit;
meditation is sweet
without an object.
I am and I have experience,
in thriving plentitude
that nothing is
within itself incumbent.
Zazenkai 30 October 2011 at Shinnyo-ji
I was lost and found myself in "Via di Mezzo" (the "Middle Road").
to find "Via di Mezzo" I must first lose myself.
Zazen in Blanes
in front of a white wall.
This is Zazen;
the body and heart are still,
time is still and silent.
I am already outside,
losing myself in the wind
with grayness of the clouds
full of rain,
in the white breeze of the seagulls
the last lights in the sunset.
in front of a white wall;
I am Zazen
and the world is with me.
THE ZEN OF THE BODHIDHARMA Chapter III – The Awakening Sermon
Where afflictions don't exist, bodhisattvas enter the place of enlightenment An uninhabited place is one without greed, anger, or delusion. Greed is the realm of desire, anger the realm of form, and delusion the formless realm. When a thought begins, you enter the three realms. When a thought ends, you leave the three realms. The beginning or end of the three realms, the existence or nonexistence of anything, depends on the mind. This applies to everything, even to such inanimate objects as rocks and sticks.
Whoever knows that the mind is a fiction and devoid of anything real knows that his own mind neither exists nor doesn't exist. Mortals keep creating the mind, claiming it exists. And Arhats keep negating the mind, claiming it doesn't exist. But bodhisattvas and Buddhas neither create nor negate the mind. This is what's meant by the mind that neither exists nor doesn't exist. The mind that neither exists nor doesn't exist is called the Middle Way.
If you use your mind to study reality, you won't understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you'll understand both. Those who don't understand don't understand understanding. And those who understand, understand not understanding. People capable of true vision know that the mind is empty. They transcend both understanding and not understanding.
The absence of both understanding and not understanding is true understanding Seen with true vision, form isn't simply form, because form depends on mind. And mind isn't simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and form create and negate each other. That which exists exists in relation to that which doesn't exist. And that which doesn't exist doesn't exist in relation to that which exists. This is true vision. By means of such vision nothing is seen and nothing is not seen. Such vision reaches throughout the ten directions without seeing: because nothing is seen; because not seeing is seen; because seeing isn't seeing. What mortals see are delusions. True vision is detached from seeing.
The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When your mind doesn't stir inside, the world doesn't arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding.
To see nothing is to perceive the Way, and to understand nothing is to know the Dharma, because seeing is neither seeing nor not seeing and because understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding. Seeing without seeing is true vision. Understanding without understanding is true understanding.
True vision isn't just seeing seeing. It's also seeing not seeing. And true understanding isn't just understanding understanding. It's also understanding not understanding. If you understand anything, you don't understand. Only when you understand nothing is it true understanding. Understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding.
The sutras say, "Not to let go of wisdom is stupidity." When the mind doesn't exist, understanding and not understanding are both true. When the mind exists, understanding and not understanding are both false.
When you understand, reality depends on you. When you don't understand, you depend on reality. When reality depends on you, that which isn't real becomes real. When you depend on reality, that which is real becomes false. When you depend on reality, everything is false. When reality depends on you, everything is true. Thus, the sage doesn't use his mind to look for reality, or reality to look for his mind, or his mind to look for his mind, or reality to look for reality. His mind doesn't give rise to reality. And reality doesn't give rise to his mind. And because both his mind and reality are still, he's always in samadhi.
When the mortal mind appears, buddhahood disappears. When the mortal mind disappears, buddhahood appears. When the mind appears, reality disappears. When the mind disappears, reality appears. Whoever knows that nothing depends on anything has found the Way. And whoever knows that the mind depends on nothing is always at the place of enlightenment.
Text from http://www2.fodian.net/world/dmnsl-e.html
Thanks to Ambra Balzani and Fabio Dai shin Portera for offering the photos.
We hope to see you at the next edition of EkiZen.
Calendar of meetings for Zen Practice at The Shinnyo-ji Soto Zen Tempie of FlorenceZazen - Three meetings per week: Monday evening from 8:00 to 10:00, Tuesday mornings from 6:30 to 7:30, Friday evening from 8:00 to 9:30.
Zazenkai - One Sunday per month from 9:00a.m. to 6:00p.m.
Sesshin - One weekend per month from Friday evening at 8:00 to 2:00 Sunday afternoon.
The program for Practice retreats can be found on our site www.zenfirenze.it