For this first "sit-a-long" sitting at Shambhala Sunspace ... on this first day of a new year ...
... the sound of a temple bell, ringing in and out - vibrant and clear.
From where does that sound come? To where does it go?
We are sitting today in the cold and dark, a few minutes before midnight, under the bell tower of a small Soto temple here in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. Not much to "see" today, except the shadow of the bell's striker (it really is pitch black out) ... Most days, I hope that we will be able to see each other as we sit Shikantaza Zazen together here in our daily "sit-a-longs" ... but for today, it is enough if we "see" each other just through that deep sound.
... the temple bell near midnight. The bell is typically rung 108 times (sometimes by the temple priests, sometimes by parishioners) to cleanse the listener of the 108 mortal afflictions (bonno ... anger, greed, ignorance, envy, hatred, arrogance and the rest) that, in traditional Buddhist thinking, are the causes of suffering. By ringing out the old year and ringing in the new, each earthly desire will be taken away and therefore we can start the New Year with a pure mind.
Perhaps we might also say that past moments ... the up and downs, happiness and sadness ... are now gone, and a new beginning rings out ... ever new and renewing.
Master Dogen wrote, "Zazen ... is like the hammer striking emptiness, the bell's melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, endlessly before and after. It is not limited to this moment ."
HAPPY NEW NOT JUST THIS MOMENT, EVERYONE!(Oh, and before I forget, to welcome the New Year, we will be having a 4-hour LIVE ZAZENKAI TOMORROW ... commencing 9pm to 1am Japan time (that is New York 7am to 11am, Los Angeles 4am to 8am, London noon to 4pm and Paris 1pm to 5pm, Saturday) ... and available in REAL TIME RECORDED FORM at any time after. THE LINKS TO JOIN THE LIVE OR RECORDED SITTING will be posted on this blog. I hope you will come and "sit-a-long.")