Buddha Bows to Buddha

I just don’t seem to be able to get into the swing of writing about the individual ceremonies which happen during the Ten Precepts Meeting and for good reason I’m realizing. The retreat is about participation, about being there and being there wholeheartedly. Knowing about something in advance can take away from the open, child like, mind which is simply there innocently following the schedule with soft-openness. I don’t want to rob you of that.

What people are doing during the week is living the practice and the ceremonies illustrate specific inner movements necessary for treading the Path. The ceremonies are the movement, or can help bring them about. Recognizing and relinquishing past harmful acts; vowing to live Preceptually and not intentionally cause suffering; committing to following where the Teaching leads; being willing to recognize Buddha and to bow to Buddha; these are what I’m speaking of. The week is really remarkable and for those who are fortunate enough to be able to attend this retreat, I’d not want to take away the freshness by talking about it in more detail than I already have.

Right Here

If you can’t find the Truth
Right where you are.
Where do you expect to find it?
Dogen Zenji

I travel, in my mind, to the people who are attending the retreat at Shasta Abbey. The ceremonies continue and memories of my first Jukai at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey arise and fall as I go about my day in Edmonton. We have been auditing the accounts and then a few people came for the evening meeting. A long phone call in the morning.

This mug was given to me almost exactly four years ago while on retreat in France.

The Human Voice

A large part of the teaching behind the Ceremony of Reading the Ten Precepts is listening. So I decided to experiment with Audioblogger and read something for you to listen to. Not the Precepts though.

I found a Journal from 1975 and some text written by Koho Zenji, Rev. Master Jiyu’s Transmission Master, for people attending Jukai. The message was printed as an introduction to the Kyojukaimon (Giving and Receiving of the Teachings of the Precepts). It starts thus: “The universe is one and undivided, yet seeming different in all its appearances. You who read this are of a different race and language to me yet we are one with all in the Buddha Mind…”

this is an audio post - click to play

The Journey

After morning service, and before breakfast, I change from robes into warmer outdoor gear and take off for a walk in the neighbourhood. Mostly I’d prefer to stay in the warm and have a cup of tea however I go out anyway, it seems good to do. I travel the same route more or less, so no surprises. At the moment we are in a ‘melt’. Last weeks heavy snow is still about on trees, roofs and gardens and the occasional snowman mounds sadly, dissolving slowly. The roads are clear except for slush and huge puddles at the curb and crossing places. It’s quite a project to cross without getting shoes and socks soaked.

No surprises. Fellow travelers do, or do not, meet. Some smile broadly others are otherwise preoccupied. High schools students, in no hurry, crowd the sidewalk in straggling two’s and three’s. The lonely elderly are the most friendly. Then there are the ‘bottle pickers’. I met one the other morning with a supermarket cart filled to overflowing; drinks cartons, cans and bottles on their way to be exchanged for cash. He was mid-puddle and I jumped in to help the cart wheels over an invisible obstacle. “No madam, no, please don’t madam”! I pulled, he shoved and he and the cart were on their way. But not before he took the opportunity to tell me about the anti christ and how the major powers were taking over the world and it wouldn’t be long now…. I listened on, wished him well, and made a parting remark about what a nice lot of bottles he had and to “take care now”. “Thanks madam” he replied.

The good thing about morning walks is that I am not going anywhere. It’s just an ‘out for a walk’ time. No goals, no purpose save an interest in getting air into the lungs and stiffness out of the limbs. At other times of the day I’ll have a purpose; the bank, the library, the supermarket, it’s the same walking though. And so it is with practice, every day it’s the same walking. So it’s apt that the first ceremony of the Ten Precepts Meeting (Jukai) would be the Journey to the Monastery. Each day, each step, each breath one can choose to return and remain within the ‘monastery’, within ones own body and mind.

There is a line in one of our scriptures which goes, “May we within the temple of our own hearts dwell, amidst the myriad mountains”. Oh, and the refrain at the end is Hail! Hail! Hail! That’s an expression of the joy of simply walking, seeing, thinking, smelling… Don’t get me wrong, some mornings it’s hard, very hard. And some mornings I stay in and have that cup of tea, and go out latter.

At Shasta Abbey this evening, The Ceremonies for the Opening of the Gate of the Ten Precepts retreat started with a Dharma Talk for monks and guests. Tomorrow evening it will be The Ceremony of the Reading of the Ten Precepts.

Fluttering from the Guttering

These flags are invaluable when guiding new people coming for the orientation and meditation instruction session on Saturday mornings. This particular flag has been adopted as a symbol of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, one of the largest international Buddhist organizations which aims to draw the Sangha together world wide. Two of our monks went to their last meeting in Malaysia in 2002.

From time to time I will mention this kind of organization, ones that nurture harmony and cooperation between Buddhist groups, nationally and locally. We have one such organization in Edmonton. Each year, in May, we come together to celebrate the Buddha’s Birth and Enlightenment (Wesak) in the huge hall at Truc Lam the Vietnamese Temple in North Edmonton.

The colours and design of this Buddhist flag have symbolic meaning.