In December 2013, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to temporarily lead our Village Zendo community as practice leader (shuso) , and then go thought a kind of “Zen graduation” in March. After leading four days of activities and meditation I was able to give my first “Dharma Talk” and then answer questions from the students in an interesting ritual called “Dharma Combat”. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding events in my life, and am forever grateful to my family, freinds and teachers and fellow Zen students for making it happen. Here are a few photo’s from the event:
Photo’s by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis
It looks pretty somber, but actually it is a lively event. The questions I received in the Dharma Combat were wide ranging and interesting, and I answered them the best I could. As part of my new commitment at the Zendo, I will be giving regular Dharma talks, and I intend to post them here on my new blog website. Here is my first talk from my Shuso Hossen ceremony on March 23rd: (16 Minutes)
As part of the event I made four large ink drawings that illustrate the “koan” (Zen story) that I was given to talk about. These drawing will make sense (I hope) after you listen to the talk. Here are the works: Japanese ink on paper 30 x 60 inches:
One question that might arise, if you are not familiar with American Zen is if “Shuso Hossen” is a “graduation” what is it a graduation from or a graduation too? Technically the only difference now is my permission to give talks. Everything else about my participation and duties at the Village Zendo is the same. So very fittingly it is a graduation to the beginning. Just being new to Zen practice again, a little awkward, without expectations. Zen for me is really a process of unlearning. Letting go of ideals of attainment and success, in the service of just being who we are. When we get a glimpse of who we really are, a deep appreciation appears for the messed-up, loving, dysfunctional, joyous, karmic reality of our lives.
I will be writing more about Zen practice on my blog from time to time. If you are inspired by this post, you can find out more about the Village Zendo here, and listen to other Dharma talks by much more experienced teachers. There are also MANY Zen centers with wonderful teachers and practice centers. Do a Google search something like “Zen meditation (name of your town)” and try to find a Zen center near you. Zen practice depends on your participation. Here is the poem from the end of my talk:
In the heart of winter all seems bleak,
Answers are hidden and the light is weak.
Lucky for us things change with time,
Winter is over and so is this rhyme.