Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Eat Sleep Sit

Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple has had an effect on me. I was feeding the cats, and I wondered if I could be more intensional with it, if I could create a ritual. I made sure to scrape out everything in the cans. Preciousness without waste seems to be part of the ritual. At work I wash my hands and then use to towel to clean the toilet, even though it's not my mess. Ananadi said, "why don't you do that at home?!" We don't have paper towels.

The Vinaya is the part of oral teaching, written down hundreds of years later, that encapsulate all the rules the Buddha came up with to help people live together with mindfulness as the monastic tradition was beginning. Dogen's Shobogenzo is the rules for conduct in the Eihei-ji are derived from this book. Every act seems to be prescribed. In a way that could be comforting to not have to think, but just learn the routines, rituals and manners. They meditate 3x a day for 40 minutes, and there are work periods and study and there are rotating duties, and no duty is considered less, and it's just a matter of taking turns. You can get up at 130am to study, but everyone goes to bed at--I forget, I think it's 9pm. Most get up at 330AM. Each day has a confession of mistakes, and the violence that happens is off putting for Ananadi, and she doesn't buy the justification, but the author seems to feel like it strips away his imperfect outer shell.

There's a brief video on YouTube, of a monk tearing around the monastery ringing a bell, waking everyone up, that stuck in my head.

When someone makes a mistake ringing a bell, everyone knows. One time the bell broke and the guy ran around trying to vocalize the sound. It seems pretty intense. Supposedly you can do a 1 or 3 day retreat, and I've put that on my list of things to do when I win the lottery, which is to say I can't afford to follow my interest unless I get weirdly wealthy suddenly.

The refuge tree of teachers and inspiration for the TBC does not mean we have to sit facing a wall because that is how Dogen does it. It is an option and if you do a retreat in this sect, it helps to know what you're getting into. Dogen's example is an inspiration for us, and helps us to learn the tradition of Buddhist greats. I bet everyone could write a Shobogenzo of sorts for their particular circumstances. The Vinaya is not so much taken literally in the west, and is more about thinking about mindfulness and harmony in your actions. The TBC is working to define the essential elements, but Bhante has often talked in terms of principles, so there's a reluctance to explicitly define actions. I imagine a TBC ceremony looks pretty sloppy to Soto Zen eyes. Or maybe not. I've felt great harmony in being in the shrine room with my dharma brothers, and thought their actions were mindful.

More than other memoirs of zen, this book explicitly shares the nitty gritty of Soto Zen, and is therefore valuable for the praxis information. You learn about Dogen, Japanese culture and a form of practice that stretches back into time, that is strangely attractive to me.

That many of the people who do the 2 year training course at Eihei-ji are the eldest sons of father's who own temples, is not as much to my liking, I prefer choosing, but again, like the rules, having a strict plan in some ways is appealing the way an arranged marriage. All the strum und drang is taken away from choices. But there are people who go who are not eldest sons, and they are valued too. I don't know where they end up, but they are welcome.

Here is another video on this topic.

No comments: