Incense/Ceremony

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  • Shugen
    Treeleaf Unsui
    • Nov 2007
    • 4535

    Incense/Ceremony

    Hello,

    I was wondering if there is a particular way or set of movements (Bows, hand placement etc.) involved in lighting incense before zazen?

    Thank You,

    Ron
    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼
  • Myozan Kodo
    Friend of Treeleaf
    • May 2010
    • 1901

    #2
    Re: Incense/Ceremony

    Hi Ron,
    This is the way I do it (in the San Fancisco Zen Centre style, as copyied from SFZC's Abbot ... The way he lit incense on Sesshin):
    First bow
    then light incense
    Touch incense to forehead (the lower end of the lit stick touches head; left hand is held aloft in a kind of one handed gassho)
    Then place incense on incense stand
    now step back and gassho once
    another step back & gassho again
    final step back and final gassho

    that's how I do it anyhow Ron. Hope this is of some help. Jundo or Taigu might have other directions. Whatever way you do it, it certainly creates a frame of mind ready for zazen.
    Gassho,
    Soen

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39078

      #3
      Re: Incense/Ceremony

      Hi,

      That is basically how I go about it, although I do not have much room in our little Zendo for that "step back". I was looking for a clear video to show you, and this is the best I found. Look at about the first 90 seconds of this ceremony with Norman Fischer. He is holding a Hossu (a traditional Fly Whisk), so he is not really offering Gassho while lighting the incense.

      http://vimeo.com/12960581

      If you look about 1 minute 15 seconds into this other video, you can see the priest light incense. However, he is burning powdered incense, not the stick incense.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwb5lOOBCMk[/video]]

      But in these matters, for folks at home, I often say to follow your own heart and "make your own ceremony" (which can follow tradition as you wish). It is the sincerity that is most important.

      Gassho, J

      Originally posted by soendoshin
      Hi Ron,
      This is the way I do it (in the San Fancisco Zen Centre style, as copyied from SFZC's Abbot ... The way he lit incense on Sesshin):
      First bow
      then light incense
      Touch incense to forehead (the lower end of the lit stick touches head; left hand is held aloft in a kind of one handed gassho)
      Then place incense on incense stand
      now step back and gassho once
      another step back & gassho again
      final step back and final gassho

      that's how I do it anyhow Ron. Hope this is of some help. Jundo or Taigu might have other directions. Whatever way you do it, it certainly creates a frame of mind ready for zazen.
      Gassho,
      Soen
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Seishin the Elder
        Member
        • Oct 2009
        • 521

        #4
        Re: Incense/Ceremony

        Nice bonus of the Shukke Tokudo ceremony. Who are these guys? Where is Samish Island...must be somewhere in the States or Canada (by the accent). Very nicely done though.

        Gassho,

        Seishin Kyrill

        Comment

        • Shugen
          Treeleaf Unsui
          • Nov 2007
          • 4535

          #5
          Re: Incense/Ceremony

          Thank you all for the replies.

          Ron
          Meido Shugen
          明道 修眼

          Comment

          • Taigu
            Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
            • Aug 2008
            • 2710

            #6
            Re: Incense/Ceremony

            Hi Ron,

            This is my take on it, very traditional and not necessarily what you should adopt ( by the way, Fisher's way is so untraditional but very beautiful and natural):

            go at the head of the bowing mat with encens lit. Put it to your forhead. Do gassho. Hold encens in gassho. three lateral steps to the left, go to the altar, three lateral steps to the right, don't face the Buddha but stand slightly to the left and do gassho and plant the stick in the encens bowl, right at the center of the bowl and straight. Do gassho again, three lateral steps to the right, go back to the head of bowing mat, and facing the altar three lateral steps to the left and gassho. You may do sanpai then.
            When finish, go to your cushion.


            I hope this helps


            Gassho

            Taigu

            Comment

            • Saijun
              Member
              • Jul 2010
              • 667

              #7
              Re: Incense/Ceremony

              Hello friends,

              This is really interesting! Is there perhaps a book or video that goes over the "correct" and "traditional" ways to maintain and open/close an altar?

              Metta,

              Perry
              To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity. --RBB

              Comment

              • Keishin
                Member
                • Jun 2007
                • 471

                #8
                Re: Incense/Ceremony

                Hellos to all posting here

                In my various places of training there are slight variations to these things

                let me add to the above comments what surfaces as appropriate:

                1) when setting up the butsudan, candle(s) may be lit with a match, but the incense stick is not lit with a match, the incense stick is lit from the already lit candle.

                2) you take up the incense stick from where you have placed it on the butsudan, holding it in one hand, (the right), the left hand in one-handed gassho, you light the incense from the candle you have placed on the butsudan

                3) I have seen use of the left hand to run swiftly up the length of the incense stick to put out the flame
                I have also seen the incense stick to be swiftly waved in the air so that the flame at the tip is extinguised

                4) the gashhos are part of lighting and puting the lit incense in its place in the incense bowl

                (as a side note: the lateral movements described by Taigu above were done are done for a reason
                I am assuming, as I have seen in other places I have practiced it is because right in front of the butsudan is the zabuton and zafu of the head priest presiding over the sitting/service

                the priest is standing in front of the butsudan with the zabuton and zafu directly in front of him/her and between him/her and the butsudan

                the priest is not going to step on or over the zabuton/zafu to get to the butsudan, they must walk around it:

                thus the lateral movements to the side, the movements forward, and the lateral movements back to center,
                the priest is now in the same position they were before in relation to the butsudan, only now they are on the other side of the zabuton/zafu

                In other words the side steps aren't a 'do the hokey-pokey, and turn yourself around' there is actually a practical pragmatic logistical situation involved here: how to get to the butsudan without jumping over or stepping on the cushions.


                Me? I have made the butsudan ready (placed flowers on the butsudan and have lit the candles--Candles: I light one candle and place the spent match in small ceramic receptacle used for that purpose, and I then use the lit candle to light the other candle by holding the unlit candle to the lit one) The candles are on either side of the buddha statue on the butsudan. I gassho, and take up the incense stick from the small vase which serves to hold the incense on the butsudan. I extend the incense stick tip into the flame of one of the candles. Sometimes I wave the incense stick to extinquish the flame at the tip (the movement is like shaking down an old fashioned mercury thermometer: one quick movement) Sometimes I run the fingers of my left hand quickly along the the incense stick to the tip to extinguish the flame--this actually flows nicely into the next gashho: the tip now extinguised by the left hand which now cups the glowing tip, palm of left hand facing you. Both left and right hands in unison bring the lit incense stick toward your face, and you move your upper body toward the lit incense stick, (I can feel the heat of the glowing tip with my forehead and with the palm of my left hand. As the hands draw the incense stick toward you, this bending toward the incense (and toward the butsudan) is the second gassho.
                The body then is moved in upright position and at the same time of straightening the posture, the left hand moves from cupping the tip of the incense into one hand gassho position. The right hand is adjusted to a slightly lower position while this happens. The right hand then places the unlit bottom of the incense into the incense burner.
                Both hands are now placed together and this is the third gassho, I then go and sit. (and you already know about the bows for sitting...)


                You know, I could not remember this simple formality without going to the butsudan and lighting a stick of incense to be able to write down the steps.
                Yet, my body doesn't even 'think' about it--just simple ritual 'lighting the incense'

                Comment

                • Onshin
                  Member
                  • Jul 2010
                  • 462

                  #9
                  Re: Incense/Ceremony

                  Hello,
                  in OBC we do it much like the above, angle to Buddha, bows etc, but we touch the incense to the forehead thre times reciting the three treasures as we do so. This is also done when putting solid incense onto a burner, (before it gets hot of course). :wink:

                  Gassho

                  Joe
                  "This traceless enlightenment continues endlessly" (Dogen Zenji)

                  Comment

                  • Shugen
                    Treeleaf Unsui
                    • Nov 2007
                    • 4535

                    #10
                    Re: Incense/Ceremony

                    Thank you again for all the information.

                    Ron
                    Meido Shugen
                    明道 修眼

                    Comment

                    • Ryumon
                      Member
                      • Apr 2007
                      • 1691

                      #11
                      Re: Incense/Ceremony

                      Incense is actually quite unhealthy. There are many articles that discuss a paper published in a journal a couple of years ago. Here's one:

                      http://www.nowpublic.com/health/hippies ... ancer-risk

                      I like the smell, but I only let it burn for a minute or so.
                      ---
                      Ryūmon (Kirk)
                      流文

                      SAT/LAH

                      I know nothing.

                      Comment

                      • murasaki
                        Member
                        • Mar 2009
                        • 473

                        #12
                        Re: Incense/Ceremony

                        Keishin,

                        I like your description, but don't quite understand all of it...would you consider posting a video clip for us?

                        gassho
                        Julia
                        "The Girl Dragon Demon", the random Buddhist name generator calls me....you have been warned.

                        Feed your good wolf.

                        Comment

                        • Jundo
                          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                          • Apr 2006
                          • 39078

                          #13
                          Re: Incense/Ceremony

                          Originally posted by murasaki
                          Keishin,

                          I like your description, but don't quite understand all of it...would you consider posting a video clip for us?

                          gassho
                          Julia
                          Hi Julia,

                          The Norman Fischer video (about the first minute or so) seems rather close to Keishin's description, which is also the way I offer incense during our Zazenkai's here.

                          viewtopic.php?p=43145#p43145

                          You may notice that Norman offers both a stick of incense, and sprinkles powdered incense at the end. It is not necessary to do both.

                          Gassho, J
                          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                          Comment

                          • Ankai
                            Treeleaf Unsui
                            • Nov 2007
                            • 878

                            #14
                            Re: Incense/Ceremony

                            I keep it pretty simple at home. I get up pretty early, I like to sit when it's not quite light out. (And since the Army, I'm usually up before the Sun anyway.) What I like to do is get up and go in and light the candle, place a stick of incense, then leave the room. (Butsudan's in the living room.) Walk the dog, have a cup of tea, breathe, wake up a little. Give the living room a chance to become a Zendo (to me.) When I'm ready, I'll stay in the hall, take a few breaths, fold my hands and then enter, slowly, (left foot first, of course.) I approach, gassho, perform a prostration, gassho, light the incense, gassho with it, light the incense from the candle while holding a single hand in gassho, place the incense, gassho one more time, then go to my cushion, sit properly, and have my morning sit. It sounds like a bunch, definitely seems like more than it is when I see it typed out like this... but it really just takes a minute, and while I don't hold much stock in ritual for its own sake and I'm not superstitious, it definitely gives a little formality and reverence to the space (to me) so that now, for this moment, it's not my living room, but a sacred and special place, which helps me to be mindful.
                            And it beats the hell out of turning on the mindless entertainment we call "morning news" in this country and zoning out with coffee and a pop-tart, which is what I USED to do with my mornings.
                            And naturally, I'm sure it entertains the dog no end.
                            Gassho!
                            護道 安海

                            -Godo Ankai

                            I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

                            Comment

                            • Geika
                              Treeleaf Unsui
                              • Jan 2010
                              • 4971

                              #15
                              Re: Incense/Ceremony

                              The more I worry about ceremony, the more I am disconnected with the actual action.
                              求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
                              I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

                              Comment

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