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Entries in EHZC (27)


Zen Priests

Deb Wood (right) helps Beth Goldring (see Beth Goldring) clip on a lavalier microphone to record her dharma talk while Susan Postal (see 49 Day Memorial Service) looks on. [NOTE: So how many Zen priests does it take to clip on a lapel mic? Two, I guess. One to clip it on and one to not clip it on. Old joke].  


Jion Susan Postal

My dear teacher Jion Susan Postal, resident priest and founder of the Empty Hand Zen Center, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She is currently under palliative care in her apartment at the zen center and may soon move to a hospice facility. Here is the official announcement from the EHZC Board about Susan's health. Words fail me at this point.

"A buddha is someone who sees the way things really are. When we see the way things really are, we see that we're all in this together, that we are all interdependent. A great surpassing love arises from that wisdom, and that love leads a buddha to wish that all beings would open to this wisdom and be free of the misery that arises from ignoring the way things are. Buddhas appear in the world because they want us to have buddha's wisdom, so that we will love every single being completely and protect every single being without exception and without limit - just as all the buddhas do."

-Reb Anderson
The Third Turning of the Wheel: Wisdom from the Samdhinirmocana Sutra

Thank you, Susan. Bows and bows of gratitide.


Altar Buddha

Statue of Buddha on the main altar at the Empty Hand Zen Center. There is a garland of dogwood flowers around the statue to commemorate Buddha's birthday (see Bathing the Buddha).  Something very comforting and calming about this statue, and it has played a major role in my practice over the last 8 years. It sits, abiding calmly, as I squirm.

To fully actualize the Buddha's golden body with the golden body - to arouse the way-seeking mind, practice, attain enlightenment, and enter nirvana - is nothing but being, nothing but time. 

Eihei Dogen
Uji: The Time Being
Kosho Monastery Period, 1233-1243 
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobo Genzo)



Doan's corner at the Empty Hand Zen Center. The doan is the one who rings the bells during service and before and after zazen, or seated meditation. The big bell to the left is called a "keisu"; the smaller one to the right is a "shokei". Each bell has its own striker. To the far right is the "inkin", or small, handheld bell. The wooden clappers shown to the right of the inkin are used during kinhin, or walking meditation. And then there's the clock. Used to time periods of zazen. Tells the doan when to hit the shokei. At times, this clock can move very, very slowly.  


Dharma Week: Day 1

Original Post: Life Slips Quickly By
Date: May 7, 2010 at 10:23 AM

[NOTE: This is week three of the thus i have seen retrospective (see Retrospective). The category this week is Dharma. For the benefit of all beings].

The sound of the han opens the period of seated meditation, or zazen, in a zendo. The slow, methodical cadence gets progressively faster and faster and faster. And then stops. A forceful reminder that the clock is ticking and that there is work to be done. The inscription on the han reads:

Great is the matter of birth and death
Life slips quickly by
Time waits for no one
Wake up, wake up
Don't waste a moment

[NOTE: The han shown in the clip is in the Empty Hand Zen Center (EHZC); the hand on the striker is that of Susan Jion Postal, main teacher and founder of the EHZC (gassho)].


Shukke Tokudo

I enjoyed the Super Bowl, but for me the most powerful and moving event last Sunday was Catherine's (see Catherine's Hands) priest ordination ceremony (shukke tokudo). Image above shows Susan Jion Postal and Dennis Myozan Keegan cutting the last strand of hair (shura) from Catherine's head. As the ceremony continued, she received inner and outer robes, a bowing cloth (zagu), an okesa, rakusu, kechimyaku (lineage papers), and a set of oryoki bowls (see Just Enough). She also received two new names, Chikudo and Shuho. It was a joyful day.

[NOTE: Catherine was a member of my jukai class at EHZC several years ago. I am grateful to and deeply proud of my jukai sister for taking this step. For the benefit of all beings. Gassho]. 


Garden Buddha

The small Buddha statue
rained on for the sake of all beings

-Santōka Taneda (1882-1940)

[NOTES: Buddha statue in the garden at the Empty Hand Zen Center (check out the new website). Haiku from Mountain Tasting: Zen Haiku by Santoka Taneda, trans. John Stevens. Interesting biography of Santōka (with images) here].


Dokusan Bell

Dokusan is a Japanese word that means "going alone to a respected one". In the Rinzai school, and, to a lesser extent in the Sōtō school, dokusan is a private meeting between Zen student and teacher. A chance for the student to present his/her understanding, ask questions about practice, discuss difficulties, or reveal who they are at that moment. A powerful, transformative, at times uncomfortable, space.

Image above is from the dokusan room in the Empty Hand Zen Center. Lower left is the little bell used to call the student to dokusan - or to signal that the interview is over. Sometimes the space between these two rings can be quite brief. [NOTE: The wooden stick, or kotsu, with the inscription "May All Beings Awake" was given to Susan Postal by her teacher, Darlene Cohen, as part of her dharma transmission in the Sōtō lineage of Shunryu Suzuki].


Fall Practice Period 2012

Main altar at the EHZC (see EHZC Still Life) showing commitment pledges (tied with red ribbon) from Fall Practice Period participants. The Practice period has its roots in the "rains retreat" during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha in India, when monks gathered together to intensify their meditation and study under the guidance of their teacher. The commitment pledges spell out the degree to which the student will intensify his/her meditation practice at home and at the zendo and increase the frequency of meetings (dokusan) with the teacher. My pledge paper is somewhere in that stack.

I was given the responsibility of shuso, or head student, during this practice period, and, as a result, I have been sitting a lot during the last three weeks. As shuso, my meditation cushion has been moved to the front of the zendo next to the altar and I look out on all the sangha members - as they do at me. The view from my cushion, which I have spent many hours appreciating, is shown below. Dharma gate of joy and ease (go here for a translation of Dogen's Fukanzazengi, or Rules of Zazen). [NOTE: Small red circle indicates the spot where my soft gaze invariably lands].  


EHZC Still Life

The main altar at the Empty Hand Zen Center during a jukai ceremony (see Jukai 2011). Lot of wonderful stuff here. From left to right: little bowl of water and pine sprig for sprinkling water over people's heads, two brass vases with lovely flowers from the EHZC garden (thx, Susan), tray with chip incense and charcoal, brass incense bowl, small brass container with water offering for the Buddha, white candle, wooden stand with Practice Period pledges tied with a red string, and, in the middle, sitting above all of these things, the ever-present, calmly-abiding, beautiful EHZC statue of the Buddha. May all beings be happy. Off to California this afternoon for a few days.