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Thread: Post-retreat questions

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Post-retreat questions

    Our retreat was perfectly our retreat, but that doesn't stop me from wondering about it. As a result, I have some questions (and maybe others do too).

    How did the schedule of our retreat differ from a schedule at a live residential retreat, such as if I went to a monastery somewhere? More or fewer breaks? Longer or shorter breaks? Longer or shorter sessions?

    And what do people in those retreats do during their breaks? I can't imagine they sit around and chat or sing camp songs, since there is this focus on silence. At home I mostly rested, slept or ate, but I think that if there were people around I might have behaved differently somehow. I am just imagining going to a retreat somewhere with a bunch of new people and not being "able" or "allowed" to talk with and get to know them. You know, partaking in Buddhist bonding activities. Surely, residential retreats have a way of handling this, right?

    Do other retreats have the same focus on samu activities, or is that unique to here? I enjoyed Aitken's chapter on samu when he said everybody, with no exceptions, top to bottom in the monastery, had to go out and non-do samu.

    I believe you mentioned that you would have other Buddhist priests review this retreat and the whole Jukai process so that they would deem it to be worthy, or something like that. Did this happen, and if so what did they think?

    I can't help but think that a retreat sitting in close physical proximity (even as I drop ideas about physical and proximity) would be even more powerful than doing it in all by myself (OK, in virtual proximity with others). There's power in numbers, power in actual togetherness, so I am considering doing such an event. Thus I wonder.

  2. #2

    Re: Post-retreat questions

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Our retreat was perfectly our retreat, but that doesn't stop me from wondering about it. As a result, I have some questions (and maybe others do too).

    How did the schedule of our retreat differ from a schedule at a live residential retreat, such as if I went to a monastery somewhere? More or fewer breaks? Longer or shorter breaks? Longer or shorter sessions?

    And what do people in those retreats do during their breaks? I can't imagine they sit around and chat or sing camp songs, since there is this focus on silence. At home I mostly rested, slept or ate, but I think that if there were people around I might have behaved differently somehow. I am just imagining going to a retreat somewhere with a bunch of new people and not being "able" or "allowed" to talk with and get to know them. You know, partaking in Buddhist bonding activities. Surely, residential retreats have a way of handling this, right?

    Do other retreats have the same focus on samu activities, or is that unique to here? I enjoyed Aitken's chapter on samu when he said everybody, with no exceptions, top to bottom in the monastery, had to go out and non-do samu.

    I believe you mentioned that you would have other Buddhist priests review this retreat and the whole Jukai process so that they would deem it to be worthy, or something like that. Did this happen, and if so what did they think?

    I can't help but think that a retreat sitting in close physical proximity (even as I drop ideas about physical and proximity) would be even more powerful than doing it in all by myself (OK, in virtual proximity with others). There's power in numbers, power in actual togetherness, so I am considering doing such an event. Thus I wonder.
    Hi Alan,

    The schedule and mix for retreats varies from place to place, but our Rohatsu was a pretty typical two-day Retreat for a Zen Sangha in the West ... and even in Japan. In fact, I kept the schedule a bit on the intense side, as our Retreat was just a short two days. Some Retreats can go on a week or more ...but even so, it is just like that day after day (in fact, if you want, keep replaying the recordings over and over, and our Retreat becomes a 7 day retreat! You just have to listen to my same talks again and again!! :shock: )

    Some places have their own special flavor. At Antaiji in Japan, traditionally, they do NO ceremonies during Sesshin, have NO teaching talks and NO Samu ... and just sit Zazen morning to night, 45 minutes a sitting. That is very atypical and unique. Here is their schedule for Sesshin (very simple):

    Sesshin (Zen retreat) schedule:
    4am to 9am Zazen
    9am Breakfast
    10am to 3pm Zazen
    3pm Lunch
    4pm to 9pm Zazen
    9pm Lights out

    The zazen periods are interrupted by 15 minute intervals of kinhin (walking Zen) every full hour. The sesshin ends at 3pm on the last day. During sesshin no talk is allowed.
    They are VERY VERY unusual, in that they do not do Samu or have any ceremony or teaching talks during the retreat (they do on "regular" sitting days). 'Ol Kodo Sawaki and Uchiyama Roshis' temple is about ZAZEN ZAZEN and more ZAZEN!

    Almost all Zen Sesshin in Japan and the West feature Samu, Talks, Ceremonies ... just as we did. Samu is VERY important, and in fact, special jobs such as Tenzo (the cook for the Retreat, who cooks while others sit) are especially honored positions.

    Almost everywhere, folks are told to maintain silence during Sesshin, to keep communication with others to a minimum and only when needed, even avoid eye contact (in some places), and avoid outside reading materials. During breaks, folks might take a short hike, a nap or such. The Sesshin is not for "bonding", although a certain comradery develops just by being together through the experience. (One weekly Zazenkai I attended in Tokyo had a rule of silence ... I went there ten years with the same folks, and never did more than wink at them or Gassho to say "hello" each time. That was almost all our communication for 10 years). At some retreats, any "bonding" must wait until the little party or final meal after the last day of the Retreat (although not every place does that).

    Every Retreat is different. Ours was a mix of group Retreat and solitary private Retreat, which gave ours its own special flavor and power. But you should try other Zen Retreats when you can. Yes, sitting with others in close proximity has its own power and special flavor. And length changes the flavor too. You should try a week's Sesshin soon. There is an intensity, and special challenges, that build with the added days.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - So far, other teachers looking in on our Jukai think we are doing it pretty much the standard way ... which I take as a big compliment, given our circumstances.

  3. #3

    Re: Post-retreat questions

    Hi.

    The problem with putting up videos on the web is that everybody can see you picking your nose...

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  4. #4

    Re: Post-retreat questions

    Hi Alan

    My experience (limited) of retreats is that they are silent except for the final 'leaving' meal. Every day there were ceremonies, a dharma talk, temple cleaning and samu such as in the kitchen, garden or whatever was needed. Time that was between 'events' was to be spent, resting, reading specific texts, wandering the grounds, or offering to do more samu, not chatting over a coffee

    In gassho, Kev

  5. #5
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Post-retreat questions

    Saying nothing more than hello to the same people for years and years at religious gatherings is beyond amazing. But it all makes sense when I look at it from a Buddhist perspective. I now recognize that my question about social activities was coming from a Westernized individualistic and Christian retreat perspective. Of course there are no external social "bonding" activities because that would detract from the internal personal journeys that people need to go through on the Path. Duh! Just as to be quiet and alone for two days was so powerful, to be in close physical proximity with a group of people also on the same journey yet being silent about that journey must be even more powerful.To be the still point home alone is one thing, but to be that same still point amongst many others being their own still point is ....

    Gassho

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