At the community room altar

At the community room altar

Sunday January 18 started with clouds and rain but clear skies prevailed by midday, in time for the ceremony of homeleaving and receiving the precepts as a priest for Myokyo Zenki (Bright Mirror, Total Function), Kathleen Batson. This was the fourth time we had shukke tokudo at Red Cedar Mountain. Preparing for this ceremony involves much effort over many months, on the part of the person to be ordained (each, with help, sewing their own okesa or priest robe and other accessories), the ordination master, the sewing teacher and many others.

On the way to the final altar

On the way to the final altar

The ceremony begins with the ordainee offering incense at all the altars of the temple and then arriving in the zendo to begin the ceremony itself.

The official photo for the Japanese authorities of Soto Shu – yes, her head was shaved!

Head shaving during the ceremony

Head shaving during the ceremony

Putting on the koromo

Putting on the koromo

Bowing in the new clothes

Bowing in the new clothes

Zenki’s vows were witnessed by her family, including her husband and son, friends, and sangha, and followed by a lovely reception.

The okesa goes on

The okesa goes on

The new priest receives, in addition to her robes, the priest’s eating bowls and lineage papers.

Procession: Michael Emberson, Jakuko Mo Ferrell, Zenki, Josho, Robert Haake

Procession: Michael Emberson, Jakuko Mo Ferrell, Zenki, Josho, Robert Haake

Priests (including Kevin, now sewing)

Priests (including Kevin, now sewing)

Congratulations to Zenki!

Zenki. Present.

Zenki. Present.

 

On the Sunday after Rohatsu sesshin concluded, we celebrated Buddha’s Enlightenment with the sangha, and as is our custom, the kids played a major part. Josho gave a talk directed at them, they each lit a candle and offered it to the Buddha, and then we circumambulated the zendo chanting the Heart Sutra 3 times, while the kids threw flower petals in the air. Homage to Shakyamuni Buddha!

The pansies on the altar are gifts for the children.

The pansies on the altar are gifts for the children.

When the candles were all burning before the altar, one of the kids whispered, That’s a LOT of candles. And I thought of something: during Rohatsu, as part of our daily morning service we were reading Dogen’s fascicle “Only Buddha and Buddha” as the sutra. This includes the sentence (Kanahashi trans.): “When you realise the Buddha dharma, do not think: ‘This is realisation, just as I expected’. Even if you think so, realisation always differs from your expectation. Realisation is not like your conception of it. Accordingly, realisation cannot take place as previously conceived.” Though we had sat for a week, mostly silent and facing our walls, while walking and chanting with the entire community, treading on the flower petals of scores of arrangements from the previous year, is when those words appeared in my mind in a different way.

Always, the reception manifests, without fail.

Always, the reception manifests, without fail.

 

Sangha chats.

Sangha chats.

We used to use the term jukai for our lay precepts ceremony, but now we usually call it zaike tokudo, ‘staying home and accomplishing the way’. Jukai can refer to a ceremony in which one receives five precepts and a kind of stole called a wagesa, whereas zaike tokudo involves the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts, and sewing a rakusu by hand. Several of our ceremonies are a variation on this form  – marriage and death included – where giving and receiving the precepts is our response to many occasions.

On Sunday, September 28, two disciples, Elliot Shafer and Conal Ho, received buddha’s robe (rakusu) and lineage papers as well as their new names in this ceremony. Elliot is Myoshin Eido, ‘Clear Mind, Endless Path’; and Conal is Kanshin Jikishu, ‘Generous Heart, Direct Practice’.

Josho sensei told us that these were the 50th and 51st lay persons to whom she had given the precepts.

As usual, after the ceremony we had a wonderful potluck spread. Thanks to John Paredes for the photos.

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On Saturday evening, June 28, Head Monk or shuso, Jakuko “Mo” Ferrell, completed the Dharma Inquiry ceremony which is the culmination of a formal practice period in Soto Zen (ango). The ceremony includes all participants in the practice period, who each ask a question of the shuso in rapid succession and receive a direct answer, punctuated with a sharp strike of the shippei, a staff of bamboo. Thus the head monk directly meets everyone in the immediate moment. It is considered a kind of trial or test of a teacher in the making.

The ceremony began with a procession that includes clappers and a drum as well as the traditional hand-carried bells. After the usual three bows, we chanted the Heart Sutra very slowly to the beat of the wooden mokugyo while the Abbess incensed a copy of the Book of Serenity, which was carried in a slow circumambulation of the room by her attendant and given to the shuso. At the end of the chanting, the shuso read a case, the first one in the book, about Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu. She then returned the volume to the Abbess and after bowing to her and to the assembly on both sides, she received the shippei and returned to her seat. The benji, or shuso’s attendant, read a poem composed for the occasion, and after a formal statement, Jakuko called out, “bring me your questions!”.

The last question came from the former shuso, Kuden Paul Boyle (who returned from Canada for the occasion). Upon making a statement on the case she read earler and a ritual apology, Jakuko returned the staff and exchanged more bows with the Abbess and assembly, then resumed her seat for statements of congratulation. After the procession ending the ceremony and a round of photographs, we all enjoyed two kinds of cheesecake, the dessert requested by the shuso, and wonderful handmade chocolates provided by some of the participants.

Congratulations to Kengan Jakuko on this momentous occasion!

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On Sunday, May 18, Kengan Jakuko, Maureen “Mo” Ferrell, took her seat as shuso, or head monk, for the 2014 Practice Period at Red Cedar Mountain Temple. Carrying the inkin is her brother Peter (PJ) Mooney and Michael Emberson is jisha or attendant. The entering ceremony traditionally features a ritual invitation from the officers of the temple and a formal request from the teacher (Taitaku Josho, Pat Phelan, sensei) to the shuso, to share her responsibilities.

The photos below show the procession in the abbess’s room in the order in which it moved in and out of the meditation hall.

Congratulations to the shuso!

Procession

Procession

PJ, Josho sensei, Jakuko, and Michael Emberson

PJ, Josho sensei, Jakuko, and Michael Emberson

Spring is late to the Southland this year, and we have had long and tenacious winter (for Carolina, anyway). Buddha’s Birthday was celebrated earlier than in many years, on April 6, but was still a festival of flowers, bubbles, banners, and (potluck) food.

The altar, waiting for the sangha

The altar, waiting for the sangha

Jakuko helping us get into place

Jakuko helping us get into place

The event includes a short talk by Josho about the meaning of the Buddha’s birthday (how does a newborn take seven steps in each direction and make a declaration about who he is, anyway?). Then we move outdoors, the adults gather around a special altar in the backyard, and the kids parade around to join them on the wooded meditation path. Then, after an offering of sweet tea (regionally appropriate!), birthday cake and strawberries, everyone has a chance to offer incense and bathe the baby buddha in his flower pagoda with ladlesful of more tea.

The food offering

The food offering

After that we had a wonderful potluck lunch accompanied by music from Kathleen and Trey Batson.

Sweet tea!

Sweet tea!

Homage to Shaykamuni Buddha!

Homage to Shaykamuni Buddha!

Homage to Shaykamuni Buddha!

 

Three offerings are made

Three offerings are made

Cool outside but the sangha was not deterred.....

Cool outside but the sangha was not deterred…..

From Friday March 21 until Monday March 24 we were fortunate to have a visit from the Rev. Dai-En Bennage, Roshi, Abbess of Jihoji, Mt. Equity zendo, located in Pennsdale, PA. Rev. Dai-En led an all day sitting on Sunday which included a dharma talk and concluded with tea for participants. She also attended morning zazen and service on Monday before returning home. Click on the images to view them as a gallery.

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This has been an unusually cold winter for us in the Carolina Piedmont. We had measurable snow two weeks ago, when Atlanta was hit hard. This week we were caught up in a big storm that dropped 5+ inches on Chapel Hill. Schools and the universities are closed for two days – as was the zendo. Fortunately we did not get the ice we were warned about, so we are warm, lighted, online, and on the phone….

Here are some photos from yesterday; things are getting back to normal (and people are out retrieving abandoned cars, especially on the major roads which became impassible in a very short time).

Courtesy of Steve Schlosnagle

Courtesy of Steve Schlosnagle

Rt 86 looking south

Temple in the snow

Back deck (taken by Steve Schlosnagle)

Back deck (taken by Steve Schlosnagle)

On Friday November 2 we celebrated Sejiki, which we time to coincide, more or less, with Halloween. During this ceremony we chant the Kanromon, or Gate of Sweet Dew, after attracting the attention of spirits (ancestors, but not only – we include our own neglected states of bodymind) with three rounds of instrumental sound. While the chanting is going on, the officiant offers food to satisfy the hungry ghosts.

We create a special altar for this occasion

We create a special altar for this occasion

We create a special altar for this occasion

 

The ceremony includes reading the names of everyone we have done a memorial service for all year, and includes names of other persons and beings which we receive for the ceremony. This year’s list was long, a full page.

Come as you are, and in costume

Come as you are, and in costume

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Bryan Weiner for two of the photos here.

 

After the ceremony we have refreshments ….

Arriving Sunday, Sept. 30  from Ontario, Canada after an 800 mi. drive, Kuden Paul Boyle visited  and practiced back on Red Cedar Moutain and environs for a week. Kuden was in the first priest ordination at CHZC in 2003 (with Nyugen Liz Moore) and was shuso (head monk) in 2009. He left just over a year ago to live and work in London, Ontario, near where his daughter is in school. Before coming to North Carolina Kuden had lived in the same area. It was odd to see his familiar car in the parking lot sporting Ontario plates.

Kuden covered a lot of ground in the week he was here, visiting many friends in Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, visiting the state prison at Harnett where he helped support practice for many years, and also the state’s death row at Central Prison in Raleigh. He sat zazen with us every morning and on Sunday, Oct. 6 was back in a familiar seat, giving a dharma talk on practicing with the Six Perfections (paramitas). After the talk we had tea and cookies in the entryway and a chance to catch up.

We hope to see him again soon…..

Kuden and friends

Kuden and friends

Can't resist maple sandwich cookies!

Can’t resist maple sandwich cookies!