commencing from AUGUST 29th 2009 ...
... AND CULMINATING WITH OUR SPECIAL 2-DAY 'AT HOME' ROHATSU RETREAT (currently scheduled for the weekend of December 5 & 6, via live netcast), our Treeleaf Sangha will hold our first traditional (yet "fully online") ...
--------------------------- 'ANGO' (100 Day Special Practice Season) --------------------------
I hope you will consider to participate.
(One may wish to 'just sit' just ANGO, or may combine participating in ANGO with undertaking preparations for JUKAI ... including Precepts Study and an online Rakusu sewing circle, also all online ... which we will be beginning about the same time at Treeleaf ... details of our Jukai at this LINK)
http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic ... 641#p25641
What is "ANGO"?
Ango, literally "peaceful dwelling", is a period of concentrated and committed Zen practice, usually lasting three-months in the Soto Zen tradition. The roots of Ango arise from the earliest days of the Buddhist monastic community in India, when monks and nuns would cease their wandering and settle together in one place for the rainy season. Even today in Zen monasteries of Japan, Ango is a time of intense and rigorous training, typically including long hours of Zazen, short hours for sleep, formal meals taken in the Zendo (meditation hall), and a structured schedule for the rest of the day comprising periods for work, liturgy, study, rest, and personal needs. In the West, most Zen groups have adapted the form of the three-month practice period to the needs and demands of life in their communities.
In keeping with the philosophy and path of practice here at Treeleaf ("life is our temple"), we will seek to obtain many of the same ... (and, I believe, quite a few additional and very special) ... fruits and lessons of a traditional Ango while sitting within the "monastery" of our day-to-day lives, jobs, problems, unending distractions and family responsibilities.
In doing so, I believe, we will have the opportunity to taste the sweetness (and sometime bitterness ... no one without the other) of concentrated Zen practice ... and learn lessons ... in many ways more poignant, practical, immediate and powerful than what might be known to monks locked away in a sheltered mountain monastery. As always, we will be tasting the power of this practice in the world, in daily life ... and not hidden away from it all.
Zen Sangha around the world have experimented in recent years with various forms of Ango for people who cannot (or do not wish to) isolate themselves from the world for weeks on end, often commuting to practice and with limited time. We will build our Ango learning from their precedents and experiences. As well, there have been a handful of attempts recently at a fully "online" Ango ... including Tricycle Magazine's "Big Sit" of this year ... and our Treeleaf Ango will build upon both the successes, and hurdles, of those efforts.
Now, I believe that "intensity" of practice can best be attained ... not by increasing the raw quantity, bodily discomfort or physical isolation of practice ... but primarily and powerfully by bringing new sincerity, commitment, vigor and seriousness into what we may already do (non-do).
As each person's life situation, family and work responsibilities vary, I will be happy to consult with folks to adjust and design a practice schedule and content to fit those circumstances. However, the most important point to keep in mind is that those work duties at the office, daily problems and family responsibilities ARE THE PRACTICE PLACE as much as the Zafu (sitting cushion). The home kitchen is the temple kitchen, the office, store or factory is the garden when we practice Samu (work practice), etc. Each presents countless opportunities for practice, and for manifesting Wisdom and Compassion.
One can be flexible in designing one's schedule, and flexible in meeting the changing demands of each day ... but commitment to "stick with this" is required. One might change the order of things, even push certain practices back a few days ... but one must also not let things slide, and must somehow promptly find the time to accomplish all that one has committed to do. There is flexibility and moderation ... but not laxity. The purpose is not to overwhelm or "burn us out"; it is to mutually work together through a period of dedicated practice. We will do our best each and every day, and let Zazen soak into our life. But key to that is consistency, not giving up, finding the time and not quitting.
Now, this "First All-Online Treeleaf Ango" (as so many things about Treeleaf) is an experiment ... so many of the following elements may be adjusted as we go along (even in the coming days, as Sangha members provide input). However, I believe that Ango participants should commit to all or most of the following. In all cases, the emphasis will be on increasing ... not raw quantity ... but the sincerity, commitment, vigor and seriousness of what we undertake:
+ Add a minimum of 5 minutes per sitting to however long one's current sitting time, and commit to sit that time - at least daily - without missing a single day. As well, for those who can and whose schedule will realistically allow ... consider adding an additional full sitting period per day to however many times per day one is now sitting Zazen. Whatever your commitment, be realistic about what you can maintain ... and then (absent sheer impossibility) stick with it, without missing a single day
+ Join in each and every 1-hour Saturday Treeleaf Zazenkai, and 4-hour monthly Treeleaf Zazenkai video netcast without fail. However, as always, each will be available in recorded form (so may be joined at a time to fit your schedule). All will be available, together with netcast daily sittings, on our BELIEFNET.COM blog ...
+ Listen, as possible, to each short (usually 5 minutes or so) 'Sit-a-Long' Talk (to be presented by Jundo and Taigu on the Treeleaf "Beliefnet" blog) during the practice period, also all available in recorded form to meet your schedule. A special series of talks will be presented during the Ango period (on a theme still being determined. I am thinking right now that we shall use Dogen's "Instructions for the Cook" Tenzokyoku, although it is subject to change. Necessary materials will be provided).
+ Join frequently in online discussions in our Forum of the content and Ango experiences, sharing the ups and downs and middles.
+ If technically possible, commit to meet with Jundo or Taigu by Skype video at least once per month during the Ango.
+ If simultaneously studying for Jukai, complete and participate in each of the readings and discussions each week regarding the individual Precepts, as well as complete Rakusu sewing.
+ Make formal study on the meaning and philosophy of Samu (work practice, the central theme of Dogen's "Instructions for the Cook"), and apply such perspectives and attitudes in your family and work duties each day.
+ Commit to give up one or two items or passions one truly loves during the Practice period, for example, sweets after meals, luxurious meals, cigarettes, television, consumer purchases of luxury items.
+ Commit to mindful eating, and silently or orally recite one short meal chant (to be provided) before all meals.
+ Commit a portion of your weekly income during the period to extra charitable donations (assuming you have the financial ability). I do not accept any "Dana" financial contributions for Treeleaf, as we now have sufficient resources for what we are doing. However, I do encourage people to make financial donations to charities that help folks, e.g., feeding the poor, finding a cure for a disease. Both donations and Samu work should be a bit beyond the point where it starts to hurt. If you have the time, consider extra volunteer activities in your community as well.
+ Commit to sit our SPECIAL 2-DAY 'AT HOME' ROHATSU RETREAT (to be held online, currently scheduled for netcast the weekend of December 5 & 6) at the culmination of the Ango. Again, it would be good to participate "live", but all will be available in recorded form to fit schedules. The retreat will likely be similar to last year's schedule and content:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2 ... day-j.html
The way to go about registering for this Ango is to post your commitment here in this Forum or at Treeleaf. In the traditional manner, once your commitment is received, your name is entered on a list of ango participants which, at the start of the Ango period, is inscribed on a 'paper scroll' and posted at Treeleaf Zendo in Japan.
All in all, I do not believe that the above demands will unreasonably add to the amount of time people are already dedicating to their Jukai and Rakusu sewing work, or to their existing practices. I believe, if examined closely, the time is manageable. Again, I am flexible to work out a schedule for those with special needs ... commitment and consistency being the most important.
I hope you will join us in this endeavor to manifest Great Non-Doing. How wonderful it will be if you join the Treeleaf community in this commitment to intensive practice for a time, together finding our self where we find ourself!