'Liturgy' means the many acts and rituals by which we manifest (and are manifested by) the beliefs and teachings at the heart of Buddhist Practice. Some we practice as a group together, some at private times (not two, by the way). These various practices can bring the teachings more visibly to life, and our lives into the Teachings.
What are the some of the practices which we recommend or encourage at home and work ... our practice places in this Sangha in which all of life is the temple?
Of course, seated Zazen is our one and only practice, for by the very nature of Shikantaza ... when sitting Zazen, there is nothing more to do, nothing more that need be done, no addition needed nor anything to take away. Zazen is complete and whole. No other place to be in all the world, no other place we must (or can) run to. Nothing lacks, all is sacred, and Zazen is the One Liturgy. It is vital to be sat by Zazen with such attitude. Thus, Zazen is sat each day as the One and Whole Practice.
Yet ... of course ... we do rise up from the Zafu and get on with "the rest of life". Then, ANYTHING and EVERYTHIING can be encountered as Sacred, One, Whole ... as 'Zazen' ... from 'changing a baby's diaper' to 'stapling staples' at work to 'pulling weeds' in the garden ... all a SACRED RITUAL when approached as such.
Thus, I wish to HIGHLY RECOMMEND one of the best little books on the subject of 'liturgy' in our so called 'ordinary' life at home and work ... please read it ...
Bringing the Sacred to Life: The Daily Practice of Zen Ritual by John Daido Loori Roshi
... one of the best 'Zen Books' I have encountered in years, and very unique in its subject matter. Also, very very highly recommended for understanding the significance and origins of some of the traditional chants and practices one will encounter around Treeleaf and most other Soto Zen Sangha is ... Shohaku Okumura's "Living by Vow: A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts"
The sacredness can be brought into everything, even the most ordinary ... even the most ordinary manifests the sacred, is sacred and 'not just ordinary'.
Here are some other rituals that we practice in this Sangha, and that you can adapt for home. REMEMBER: We encourage folks not to be bound by tradition, or overly caught in the 'right, wrong or traditional' way to do things. Instead, please bring traditions to life in ways which express your own heart. There is no need to follow every practice or any practice (besides Zazen, of course! 8) ), and please develop those which complement your life.
On the other hand ... neither reject practices merely because, at first glance, they seem too exotic or hard or you do not understand. I ask everyone to look and listen to this 'sit-a-long' on '(UN)TURNING JAPANESE" ...
It is also vitally important that, in undertaking any practice or ritual, we "NON-DO" the practice ... meaning that we pursue it diligently and sincerely, yet with "nothing to obtain" ... much as washing the windows carefully to remove the grime, getting the job done, all while dropping all thought of "clean and dirty" and a job to achieve. That is another subject we talk about here often.So, must we bow, ring bells, chant (in Japanese, no less), wear traditional robes, have Buddha Statues, burn incense? ... All that stuff besides Zazen. Are they necessary to our Practice?
No, not at all!
On the other hand ...
So, what are some other daily rituals and practices which one can NON-DO?
This is walking Zazen ... step by step, no place to get to, constantly arriving. It can be practiced any time ... between or after seated Zazen or any place ... in the slow postal line or grocery line ...
Although our Buddhist Practice is not limited to any place, and includes the noisy and busy places as well as the quiet ... it is good to set aside a small, still, special place where we can enter the mindset of practice. For some, it need not contain more than a Zafu. Others may wish to make a small altar, featuring incense (if not allergic! ... the incense can be 'lit' invisibly, without a match too!), perhaps flowers ... and a statue of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.
Here is a discussion and some simple instructions for making an altar at home.
However, again, one need not be bound by rules. A simple framed picture, even a picture in your wallet which you pull out to look at, can be equal to the greatest Temple. What is more, my personal opinion is that a "Buddha Statue" is both seen and unseen ... and what is NOT a Buddha Statue? (Here's a little talk on that subject):
ATTENDING OUR WEEKLY AND MONTHLY ZAZENKAI
We have weekly and monthly Zazenkai netcasts, with lots of Zazen, Kinhin, Zazen, Chanting, Bowing, Zazen and ... Zazen ...
Although we can all daily sit at home alone (yet still are 'all together') ... and although it may be strange to some to 'sit over the internet' ... I feel it is vitally important that we make the effort to sit together as a group. I wish that EVERYONE WOULD MAKE THE EFFORT TO JOIN IN OUR ZAZENKAI AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE (it is available 'any place any time' ... so time and place are not an excuse!)
We also have sitting with others via Google+
At the Zazenkai, we always recite various traditional Chants ... and any of these can be undertaken at home. The Verse of Atonement and The Four Vows are especially encouraged to chant each day ... perhaps at the end of your day before bed ...
The Heart Sutra can also be recited any time and place ... perhaps before the home altar or on the Zafu prior to Zazen.
In reciting, we tend to just merge into the sound ... not giving it a thought. However, it is also good at other times to make study of what the chants MEAN (most of them are statements of Zen Buddhist teachings).
Here is our Chant Book ...
Chant Book (PDF)
Chant Book (SHORT VERSION HTML)
Daido's book, above, suggests some other possible chantings too (Such as the powerful Verse of Kannon ... the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo ... ). There is also the traditional Evening Gatha ... time swiftly passes by ...
The Verse of the Kesa, of course, is a daily practice for those who have undertaken Jukai and received a Rakusu (Kesa). Do not place one on oneself without reciting! Taigu discusses the whole manner of wearing and treating a Rakusu here ...Let me respectfully remind you,
life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by,
and opportunity is lost.
Let us awaken,
do not squander your life.
Side Note: I love that Gatha ... so long as we each awaken to the fact that there is no "life and death" ... no me or you for the reminding ... even as time passes by, no time either ... and nothing about life that can be squandered, wasted or lost (SO DON'T KILL TIME, AND DON'T WASTE IT! :shock: )
SEWING A RAKUSU (or Full Kesa) as we do for our Jukai preparations, is also a great Liturgy ...
'Gatha' are short, meaningful little recitation which can be recited before (and/or after) many 'ordinary' daily activities to remind us how sacred they are, and how all support our life and practice ... from eating to work to going to the toilet to washing the face ... Here are some and a discussion ...
Each can be recited out loud or silently within.
A very special 'Meal Gatha' might be recited by oneself or with one's family (much like 'Saying Grace') .. or during lunch breaks at work, etc (in voice or silently). Here is the one we recited during our recent 'Ango' period ...
(Hands in Gassho) This food comes from the efforts
of all sentient beings past and present,
and is medicine for nourishment of our Practice-Life.
We offer this meal of many virtues and tastes
to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,
and to all life in every realm of existence.
May all sentient beings in the universe
be sufficiently nourished.
Daido Roshi's lovely book suggested some other Meal Gatha.
In fact ... one can make their own Gatha for ANYTHING ... which is exactly what Treeleafers did on a recent thread (thank you, Al, for that) ...
Bowing can be a wonderful daily practice of humility and gratitude ... not to a statue or necessarily anyone in particular, but to ALL OF REALITY AND EVERYONE, all supporting our life and practice.
Some Korean Zen (Son) groups engage in the practice of 108 Full Prostrations Daily (also ... good for those Bodhisattva 6-pack Abs 8) )
A lovely tradition of formal meal ritual ... We may hold an online class in that in the near future ...
A daily practice we strongly encourage in this Sangha is the recital of "Metta" ... Loving Kindness expressed to all living beings ... not leaving out even the one we find hard to love ...
SAMU AND DANA
Making all our work (in the factory, office, garden, kitchen and nursery) into a daily sacred act ...
... as well as work and giving to help others in need ...
...is a vital practice in this Sangha, not to be neglected.
A TIME FOR TEXT STUDY
Our way is said to be 'Beyond Words and Letters" ... but that does not mean that we should not also have time to crack the books!
SO, AM I LEAVING ANYTHING OUT? Probably, but that should keep any Bodhisattva busy for awhile! 8)
Anyway, WHAT IS -NOT- A SACRED LITURGY!?!
I would like to close with some very wise words (thank you Cyril)
Gassho Jundo (speaking for Taigu too)There may be a saying and I don't know who said this but the candle that burns brightest has the shortest life. What I mean is that how I practice now is to make it part of my daily life... nothing special. If I make it special it's separate from me, and I don't think that's what this is. If I stay consistent and don't overdo it, then I'll maintain my practice. If I push too hard, I'll burn out and this will just be another phase of my life; something I tried.
But that is not the Way at least from what I've learned. We share in a practice that's come down from generations, and so to honor it I stay consistent.