Few questions about monastic life.

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  • Dokan
    Friend of Treeleaf
    • Dec 2010
    • 1222

    Few questions about monastic life.

    I had a few open questions from my weekend and hoped you may all be able to provide some clarity.

    1. Sheer okesa. I noticed that Ryushin Sensei wore a kesa that was made of a material that seemed see through. I believe I had seen something similar on a video with Nishijima Roshi ...but goldish instead of black.

    2. Rakusi ring. I know different schools do the rakusu a bit differently. But is their significance to the ring? Also their broken needle was more of an M with a line through it..at first I had thought it was a mistake but remembered their school is not traditional Soto.

    3. Dharani. I know that this is similar to a mantra, however what is it's purpose and is it not something used in Soto tradition?

    4. Keisaku. How often are these employed in western Zen centres today?

    5. Dokusan. When dokusan is open in the zendo, why do the monks jump over each other and run to the line. Is this unique to ZMM or is it the norm.

    6. Kinhin. The kinhin was fairly fast and somehow found it hard to keep in zazen. Is this also unique or common in today's Zen centres and monasteries?

    I know many of these are probably just their flavour of Zen. But wanted to ask so I could differentiate between ZMM/MRO and Soto style.

    Thanks

    Gassho

    Shawn

    Sent from my I897 using Tapatalk
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Anaïs Nin
  • Taigu
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
    • Aug 2008
    • 2710

    #2
    Re: Few questions about monastic life.

    Hi Shawn,

    A few answers, they may help...
    Japan is a very hot and humid country, so you may find kesa made of very thin material. They sometimes make their way into the West too.
    The ring was originally on the Okesa and the decision was made in the 19th century by Sotoshu officials and two main abbots of Eiheiji and Sojiji to impose its use on the rakusu while taking it off the okesa (for more information dig Diana Riggs work and recent Phd about the okesa). Significance? Make it up. Many and one.
    Keisaku? seen by many as a toy, still reveired by some as a sword of Monju. It tends to disappear.
    Rushing to dokusan ...Sounds like zealous practice to me. Enthusiasm is invited, jumping over each other seems to be...well, you know what I think.
    Zen is zen wherever you are. You are not not going and not coming as Jundo pointed out.
    Flavours are made by palates.Yours. Mine.
    This place you visited (did you?) is great.
    By great understand great.
    Great.
    Big.

    like that.



    gassho


    taigu

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39474

      #3
      Re: Few questions about monastic life.

      Hi Shards,

      I will just add a few possibilities to Taigu's fine comments. I will leave most of the Kesa questions to him, however ...

      Originally posted by shards
      2. ... Also their broken needle was more of an M with a line through it..at first I had thought it was a mistake but remembered their school is not traditional Soto.
      Daido Loori Roshi's Mountains and Rivers Order is in the line of Maezumi Roshi, and is a hybrid of Soto, Rinzai and Sambo Kyodan Lineages. I am guessing that the "M" you saw on the Rakusu is the Rinzai mark ... a mountain, seen here a bit ...

      http://lh4.ggpht.com/-jVuNADTSixA/TaWTf ... Rakusu.jpg

      More information on the Soto "Broken Pine Needles" is here ...

      viewtopic.php?p=18574#p18574

      3. Dharani. I know that this is similar to a mantra, however what is it's purpose and is it not something used in Soto tradition?
      Dharani are chants, sometimes intelligible but often unintelligible as the original Indian meanings have been lost and they are chanting phonetically, often felt to have protective, good fortune bringing or other special powers thought to derive from the power of the sound (more than the lost meaning). Mantra are similar, but typically shorter. Dharani are recited as part of standard Soto rituals, and in most other schools of Buddhism.

      I do not recite many Dharani here at Treeleaf, for I tend to consider them too much "hocus pocus and abracadarba".

      Read a bit more here ... by D.T. Suzuki

      http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/mzb/mzb02.htm

      4. Keisaku. How often are these employed in western Zen centres today?
      The Keisaku is usually used to wake up the dozing or drowsy person in the Zen Hall. It does not really hurt, and the place on the shoulder where it strikes can be very stimulating. Sometimes, one requests to be struck ... sometimes one is struck without requesting. It is not supposed to be used so hard that it hurts someone, but I have seen some cases where the striker went overboard. However, it is now known that it is not traditional ... in old China and India they had more of a long stick with a soft end to gently prod the dozing, though now in China they do use something similar. Now, it is going out of favor in the West as too violent and "Samurai". Nishijima did not favor it, and neither do we at Treeleaf (anyway, we would have to invent an electronic version to strike folks at home! 8) ) I have one in the Zendo, sitting on the Altar, but just to respect tradition. I do not strike anyone with it.

      5. Dokusan. When dokusan is open in the zendo, why do the monks jump over each other and run to the line. Is this unique to ZMM or is it the norm.
      This is a Rinzai thing, but also seen in Soto monasteries during Sesshin. It is simply an expression of enthusiasm.

      Here is an unusual film of a Rinzai style Dokusan (called "Sanzen"), with students presenting the "MU" Koan to Harada Shodo ...

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjyqGnWGftE&feature=related[/video]] ... re=related


      6. Kinhin. The kinhin was fairly fast and somehow found it hard to keep in zazen. Is this also unique or common in today's Zen centres and monasteries?
      This is the Rinzai style. Some Rinzai groups almost run.

      I know many of these are probably just their flavour of Zen. But wanted to ask so I could differentiate between ZMM/MRO and Soto style.
      They are heavily influenced by Sanbokyodan and the Yasutani-Harada Lineage. You may read a little more about that here ...

      http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/publications ... df/456.pdf

      For that reason, they do tend to put "Kan'na" (Koan) Zazen first, and I have always felt that they treat Shikantaza as something secondary and explain it rather strangely. However, Daido was a wonderful wonderful teacher and his many recorded talks are masterly.

      Gassho, Jundo
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Kaishin
        Member
        • Dec 2010
        • 2322

        #4
        Re: Few questions about monastic life.

        Very interesting... thanks for sharing your experiences, Shawn!
        Thanks,
        Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
        Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

        Comment

        • Myozan Kodo
          Friend of Treeleaf
          • May 2010
          • 1901

          #5
          Re: Few questions about monastic life.

          Hi all,
          Just one little note from me: on Paul Haller Roshi (SFZC) retreats here in Ireland, Kinhin was a brisk walk outdoors. A big line of thirty people walking in the open air. It was a real stretch of the legs, great after hours and days of zazen. But when it rained we reverted to slow-mo indoor kinhin. The normal kind.
          Gassho

          Comment

          • Seiryu
            Member
            • Sep 2010
            • 620

            #6
            Re: Few questions about monastic life.

            I wonder about some of those things as well, being that I live not too far from the Fire Lotus Zendo, the local branch of ZMM. And what I found interesting was, being that the fire lotus was the first zendo I have ever been to, when I first did a slow Kinhin it felt different to me...

            I have always wanted to go up to ZMM just for the fun of it...do you think it is an overall worthwhile venture...?
            Humbly,
            清竜 Seiryu

            Comment

            • Tb
              Member
              • Jan 2008
              • 3186

              #7
              Re: Few questions about monastic life.

              Originally posted by Seiryu
              I wonder about some of those things as well, being that I live not too far from the Fire Lotus Zendo, the local branch of ZMM. And what I found interesting was, being that the fire lotus was the first zendo I have ever been to, when I first did a slow Kinhin it felt different to me...

              I have always wanted to go up to ZMM just for the fun of it...do you think it is an overall worthwhile venture...?
              Hi.

              Yes, its all good practice as some old fool around here says...
              But really, i do believe it is good to go see what, and how, other people are doing, gives you a perspective of things.
              And if you don't go, you might miss a gem. And just to be clear that doesn't imply that there aren't any other gems out there...
              But really, don't hesitate.
              If you want to go, if not, don't.

              Mtfbwy
              Fugen
              Life is our temple and its all good practice
              Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

              Comment

              • Hoyu
                Member
                • Nov 2010
                • 2020

                #8
                Re: Few questions about monastic life.

                Hi All,
                Now that we've heard about and seen a video of Rinzai's Dokusan I have a couple of questions.

                1) What is the proper protocol and etiquette for a Sotoshu Dokusan?

                2) What is the proper protocol and etiquette for a Treeleaf Dokusan?

                Gassho,
                John
                Ho (Dharma)
                Yu (Hot Water)

                Comment

                • Dustin
                  Member
                  • Aug 2011
                  • 62

                  #9
                  Re: Few questions about monastic life.

                  I too found this post to be very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

                  Gassho,
                  Dustin
                  ?? (Kosan)

                  Comment

                  • Dokan
                    Friend of Treeleaf
                    • Dec 2010
                    • 1222

                    #10
                    Re: Few questions about monastic life.

                    Thank you Jundo & Taigu for your helpful responses. I'll spend some time looking into the information provided.

                    One comment on the Dokusan protocol for ZMM/MRO. Entering and exiting had a very specific etiquette, the talk was very serious and direct. In the video Jundo provided, the running was very similar except it was only in the zendo and to the back. Something like:

                    - While zendo was in zazen, the monitor came out and announced that the Dokusan line was open and which persons and sides of the zendo could enter.
                    - As soon as he finished speaking, there was a flurry of running to the back of the zendo while those not going to Dokusan stayed in zazen. (Was honestly a bit distracting considering during zazen we were not even to swallow.)
                    - Those going to Dokusan bring their zafu with them to continue meditation while in line.
                    - When in the line, the abbot (Ryushin Sensei) would ring the bell to announce he was ready for next person.
                    - When proceeding into the abbot's room, you would bow in gassho, do a prostration to the altar, gassho again. Then move over to in front of Ryushin Sensei, gassho, full prostration but stay kneeling, slide forward in seiza to the zabuton provided (directly in front of him) and remain in gassho until he acknowledges you. (He is in zazen until this.) Then present your name and practice (counting breaths, koans, or shikantaza). After this there is your question, some very direct dialogue, and it ends with either him feeling it is over by ringing the bell, or you saying "Thank you sensei." and gasshoing.
                    - After this he rings his bell (if he hadn't already) and then the next person comes in, then you both will do another gassho, prostration, gassho to the altar afterwhich you leave.
                    - Finally you return to the zendo, grab your zafu and return to your assigned zabuton in the zendo to resume zazen.

                    Gassho,

                    Shawn
                    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
                    ~Anaïs Nin

                    Comment

                    • Nindo

                      #11
                      Re: Few questions about monastic life.

                      Shawn, you didn't mention this: Thinking about what you are going to say to the n-th degree while waiting in the line, and then entering and raising your head from the prostration with a blank mind and a stupid grin :shock: That was usually my experience with MRO dokusan in New Zealand :wink:

                      Comment

                      • Seiryu
                        Member
                        • Sep 2010
                        • 620

                        #12
                        Re: Few questions about monastic life.

                        Originally posted by Nindo
                        Shawn, you didn't mention this: Thinking about what you are going to say to the n-th degree while waiting in the line, and then entering and raising your head from the prostration with a blank mind and a stupid grin :shock: That was usually my experience with MRO dokusan in New Zealand :wink:
                        I remember that; rehearsing my question in my head, and after all the formalities and bowing, I just stared at Shugen Sensei with a blank face, not even remembering what my question was...awesome indeed...!

                        The funny part was that he kept just stared at me back...

                        the beauty of zen, you jump, push to reach the front of the dokusan line first, only to have a staring contest with a zen teacher...
                        Humbly,
                        清竜 Seiryu

                        Comment

                        • Dokan
                          Friend of Treeleaf
                          • Dec 2010
                          • 1222

                          #13
                          Re: Few questions about monastic life.

                          Thank you Jundo for your reply, was very helpful.

                          Originally posted by Jundo

                          Dharani are chants, sometimes intelligible but often unintelligible as the original Indian meanings have been lost and they are chanting phonetically, often felt to have protective, good fortune bringing or other special powers thought to derive from the power of the sound (more than the lost meaning). Mantra are similar, but typically shorter. Dharani are recited as part of standard Soto rituals, and in most other schools of Buddhism.
                          Yes it definitely felt strange to be chanting something that had no apparent meaning. But then again, I suppose there is meaning in having no meaning.

                          I was able to find the one they chanted called Sho Sai Shu:

                          onedropzendo.org is your first and best source for all of the information you’re looking for. From general topics to more of what you would expect to find here, onedropzendo.org has it all. We hope you find what you are searching for!


                          Originally posted by Jundo
                          The Keisaku is usually used to wake up the dozing or drowsy person in the Zen Hall. It does not really hurt, and the place on the shoulder where it strikes can be very stimulating. Sometimes, one requests to be struck ... sometimes one is struck without requesting. It is not supposed to be used so hard that it hurts someone, but I have seen some cases where the striker went overboard. However, it is now known that it is not traditional ... in old China and India they had more of a long stick with a soft end to gently prod the dozing, though now in China they do use something similar. Now, it is going out of favor in the West as too violent and "Samurai". Nishijima did not favor it, and neither do we at Treeleaf (anyway, we would have to invent an electronic version to strike folks at home! 8) ) I have one in the Zendo, sitting on the Altar, but just to respect tradition. I do not strike anyone with it.
                          At their zendo it is something you request as the monitor walks around the zendo by gasshoing. I did not partake since I felt that I've sat for 6 years without it and to 'try it out' would somehow be touristy and disrespectful. Though hearing the two "thwaps" from neighbouring sitters was enough.

                          Originally posted by Jundo
                          They are heavily influenced by Sanbokyodan and the Yasutani-Harada Lineage. You may read a little more about that here ...

                          http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/publications ... df/456.pdf

                          For that reason, they do tend to put "Kan'na" (Koan) Zazen first, and I have always felt that they treat Shikantaza as something secondary and explain it rather strangely. However, Daido was a wonderful wonderful teacher and his many recorded talks are masterly.
                          What was quite interesting from a lineage perspective was that Daido Roshi had taken the tradition and modified it to be even more American. During a teisho, Ryushin Sensei had talked about how they try to make things more accessible to the western mind and hence their Eight Gates of Zen practice. I was able to talk to Ryushin Sensei and three of the senior monastics about shikantaza practice and it seems that many students will switch back and forth between koan & shikantaza, however most will start with koan as much of the western practitioners like to have goals and a sense of progression. Seems quite different from my practice, but somehow with vague similarities.


                          Thank you once again for your detailed response.

                          Gassho,

                          Shawn
                          We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
                          ~Anaïs Nin

                          Comment

                          • Kaishin
                            Member
                            • Dec 2010
                            • 2322

                            #14
                            RE: Few questions about monastic life.

                            I must say... Sounds very cultish

                            Sent from my SGH-i917 using Board Express
                            Thanks,
                            Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
                            Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

                            Comment

                            • Seiryu
                              Member
                              • Sep 2010
                              • 620

                              #15
                              Re: RE: Few questions about monastic life.

                              Originally posted by Matto
                              I must say... Sounds very cultish

                              Sent from my SGH-i917 using Board Express
                              Sitting in front of a computer, talking to someone across the world while doing zazen on a pillow in the middle of you room...I sure to some can sound...cultish... :shock:

                              Be aware of how you address another's practice...it shows how one is beginning to think that there way is better, (the only way up the mountain... :shock

                              Practice is very personal and intimate. Go with what speaks to you...gassho to those on other paths and styles, realized ultimately that there is no difference...
                              Humbly,
                              清竜 Seiryu

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