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Thread: Experiences at other Zendos/Monasteries/Retreats?

  1. #1

    Experiences at other Zendos/Monasteries/Retreats?

    Hello Everyone,

    Part of the expectations Taigu laid out last year included attending a live retreat once a year. I'm working towards that- I find myself unbearably shy at times with Zen! For instance, I have yet to join a Tea Party, though I am going to soon...

    Anyways, next week I am going to the Compassionate Dharma Cloud Monastery outside of Denver. ( I've listened to a few teachings from Thay, and their website has a clear description of how their English-Speaking Days of Mindfulness go. I'm pretty excited about going, not as nervous as I thought, and I will write back about my experience there (right now I will just go for a day, I am looking into a full retreat soon too.) It's just about the closest place I can get to, living in the mountains.

    As I was thinking about this, I thought it might be fun for other people to share retreat/zendo experiences and stories in one thread.

    Deep Gassho,

  2. #2
    Dear Seizan,

    This is lovely, and we look forward to hearing your report. The Vietnamese/Thien(Zen)/Pure Land flavor should be interesting too.

    I sometimes write this on Sesshin and Retreats ...


    Let me mention that Taigu and I strongly encourage folks ... if you can find the time ... to go for retreats for a weekend, but better a few days or full Sesshin (even a full week or two if you can) at places, and "traditional" (i.e., very Japanese style) retreats and Sesshin are good experiences. There are several good places to experience that in North America and Europe, and it is good to be in a place where one can rub shoulders with others, living together for a few days. If someone can't go to a bricks and mortar location for such a retreat, we have our Annual "All Online" two-day Retreat too (each December, via live netcast) at Treeleaf Sangha ... traditional (yet "fully online" ... and available to sit any timeless, all year round) ...

    ... but this is a case where it is actually good to go to a retreat center and practice with folks for a time (if at all possible ... which it ain't for everybody).

    Taigu and I strongly encourage folks to go for retreats for intensive sittings, Sesshin, of many days ... even a week or two or longer ... waking early in the morning, sitting late into the evening. All Zen Teachers that I know do. Why? I usually write this:

    Now, someone might ask too, "if each moment is all time and space, and Zazen is 'good for nothing', what is the purpose of an intensive Sesshin?" Well, I often say that, sometimes, we need to practice a bit long and hard, morning to night ... sitting and wrestling with 'me, my self and I' ... all to achieve nothing to attain, and taste the good of 'good for nothing'! Going to Retreats, Sesshin and such is a powerful facet of this Practice and not to be missed.
    At most Zen Sesshin I know, folks sit many times a day, for 30, 40 or 45 minutes at a time, two or three times back to back, in many sets each day. Most intersperse work periods, lecture periods, eating periods, break periods, sleep period, chanting periods ... but all are one, continuous flowing Zazen in its wider meaning. Most still have lots and lots of sitting on the Zafu sitting (especially in Soto Zen).

    It is really not a matter of long or short, start or finish ... and thus it is very good to sometimes sit long. I truly recommend it as integral to this Practice. We sit long and hard sometimes because it truly is not a matter of quantity or the clock or anything to gain!

    Strange, huh!?

    It is also not a matter of place ... and we should "sit Zazen" too in the hospital bed, death bed, nursery room, grocery line, city bus. Nonetheless, we go to the Retreat at the Zen Center or temple or monastery to sit in a room on a Zafu, precisely because it is not a matter of "where" or "place."

    Strange, huh!?

    However, if people can't go to a Sesshin because of a physical limitation or other impossibility, that is okay too! If really it is not possible, sit right where one is (or if in that hospital bed, have one's sesshin reclining right there!)

    Strange, huh!?

    If one sits with greed and desire to attain, than it does not matter if it is 5 seconds or 50 hours or 5000 years ... a waste of time.

    If one sits free of greed and desire to attain, than a second is a second of Buddha, 5000 years just 5000 years of Buddha.

    This we sit each day ... beyond and right through-and-through the ticking clock. If done with greed, 50 minutes 14 times a day is much too long and much too short AT ONCE! ... what Sawaki Roshi called "sitting with a thief's mind".

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-29-2013 at 05:01 PM.

  3. #3
    Yes Seizan,

    This is exciting and look forward to hearing about your experience. Being on an island retreats are rare, also being a student doesn't allow for me to travel to them - one day though. But for now, I will enjoy the stories.


  4. #4
    Bon voyage.

    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  5. #5
    How wonderful that you are challenging yourself and trying new things! I've gone to Deerpark Monastary (which looks very similar to where you are going) several times for the day of mindfulness and enjoyed it very much. I've also done several sesshins at Zen Center of San Diego (which is where I practiced before I got sick). The longest sesshin I did was 6 days (more like 5 days as first day is 1/2 day). I did a couple 6 day-ers and several 4 day-ers (more like 3 days due to first day being 1/2 day). Sesshin was always an incredible experience. Sooooooooo much learning! It's unbelievably valuable to do them. I don't want to say too much about what the experience is like as I know many people haven't had the chance to go yet and I don't want to create any preconceived notions of what sesshin is. Now that sitting in a zendo isn't good for my body I am very interested in trying the online retreat here at Treeleaf!! I know I want to try doing the retreat in December with everyone else, but am lightly debating trying it before then on my own also. When I became ill I thought my days of retreats were behind me, but now with the support of the sangha here I think that I will be able to continue having them as part of my practice-Hooray!
    With Metta

  6. #6
    I did two three day retreats and about 6 one day retreats some of them like zazenkais (all day wall gazing with very few breaks). Sitting in a zazenkai is what has made the difference to me. They have made my regular sittings so easy. If I have to do three or four back to back sittings on weekends, it is not any difficult now. when i started it was difficult.

    i have to try that sawaki style 50 min 14 sittings a day sometime. also i never sat in a retreat longer than 3 days. will have to do a week long retreat.

    Gassho, Sam

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    I did two three day retreats and about 6 one day retreats some of them like zazenkais (all day wall gazing with very few breaks). Sitting in a zazenkai is what has made the difference to me. They have made my regular sittings so easy. If I have to do three or four back to back sittings on weekends, it is not any difficult now. when i started it was difficult.

    i have to try that sawaki style 50 min 14 sittings a day sometime. also i never sat in a retreat longer than 3 days. will have to do a week long retreat.

    Gassho, Sam
    This may be a good time to repost a story about sitting with Kodo's successor Uchiyama Roshi, recalled in Okumura's 'Living By Vow' ... T

    his is the same Okumura Roshi who sometimes leads the "14 periods of 50 minutes each per day" at his own Zen Center, but he says this:

    After graduation l had practiced with Uchiyama Roshi at Antaii-ji until
    1975 when he retired. There our practice was focused on sitting. We sat
    nine Periods daily for more than a year. We had a five-day sesshin each
    month except February and August. During sesshin we sat fourteen
    periods a day for five days. We had no ceremony, no chanting, and no
    lecture. We just sat.

    In 1975 I went to Massachusetts [to build Valley Zendo, a new practice center in the woods
    with two other Japanese monks from Antaiji]. … We sat four periods daily. We had a
    one-day sesshin every Sunday and a five-day sesshin each month.We cut
    trees, pulled out stumps,and made a green garden, all with hand tools.
    We dug a well with shovels. We used a huge amount of firewood for
    cooking and heating. ... After five years, I had pain in
    my neck, shoulders, elbows, and knees from the hard physical labor. I
    couldn't work, and sitting sesshin was very difficult. I had no health
    insurance or money for medical treatment. I had to return to Japan.
    When l got back l was completely alone. My body was half broken.
    I had no money, no job,and no place to live or practice. I stayed at my brother’s
    apartment in Osaka for several months while he traveled in
    the United states. Then l moved to Seitai-an, a small temple in Kyoto
    where I lived as a caretaker for three years. Seitai-an is near Antaiji’s
    original site. There l had a monthly five-day sesshin with one of my
    Dharma brothers and cotranslator, Rev. Daitsu Tom Wright, and a few
    other people. I couldn't practice as l had before because of my physical
    condition. This was the first time l had lived and practiced alone after
    ten years at Antaiji and Valley Zendo. I had to give up medical treat-
    ments. Initially l did takuhatsu (begging) to raise money for them.
    But during takuhatsu, we hang a zudabukuro (a bag) from our necks.
    This aggravted my neck injury and my chiropractor said it wouldn't
    get better if l continued to do takuhatsu. It was a vicious circle. Finally
    I gave up both takuhatsu and the treatments. I did takuhatsu only a
    few times a month to survive. When l had extra income l spent it on

    I had a hard time for several months while l was staying at my broth-
    ers apartment before moving to Seitai-an. I was bewildered and didn't
    know what to do. My biggest problem was that l couldn't practice as
    I had for the last ten years because of my physical condition. In my
    twenties l had committed my entire life-energy to practice. Nothing
    else had seemed important to me. I didn't know how to live outside
    that way of Practice.

    While in this situation, I read a Japanese translation of Buddha-carita,
    a biography of the Buddha written by the famous lndian Buddhist Poet
    Asvaghosa. When describing the Buddha’s experience of seeing the old,
    sick and dead outside the gates of his Palace, the author refers to the
    “arrogance of youth and health.” This expression hit me. I realized that
    my belief that practice was the best and most meaningful waγ of life
    was nothing more than the "arrogance of youth and health." That’s why
    I was at a loss when l could no longer practice that way because of my
    health. My previous practice had been an attempt to satisfy a need for
    status and benefit. I wanted to live a better life than ordinary people.
    Ever since l read Uchiyama Roshi’s book as a high school student and
    began practicing according to Dogen Zenji’s teachings, I knew that I
    should not practice zazen for gain. Sawaki Roshi, Uchiyama Roshi’s
    teacher, said that zazen is good for nothing. Dogen Zenji says that we
    should practice Buddha Dharma only for the sake of Buddha Dharma,
    with no expectations. That is shikantaza, or just sitting. I knew all of
    this and thought l had been practicing with the correct attitude.
    Now, when I found myself unable to continue that practice, I was
    perplexed and depressed. I didn’t know what to do. I discovered that
    I had relied on practice that was possible only for the young and healthy.
    I used the teachings of the Buddha, Dogen Zenji, Sawaki
    Roshi, and Uchiyama Roshi to fulfill my own desires. This discovery
    completely broke my "arrogance of youth and health” I saw cleary that
    my practice had not been for the sake of Buddha Dharma but for
    my own self-satisfaction. I knew l couldn't continue to practice with this
    attitude. Nor could l stop practicing and go back to an ordinary life.
    I was stuck in this situation for some time.

    One day something made me sit on a cushion. I had no desire, no rea-
    son, no need to sit, but found myself sitting at the apartment by myself. It
    was very peaceful. I didn't sit because of the Buddha’s teachings. I
    didn't need a reason to sit; I just sat. There was no need to compete
    with others or with myself. Thereafter, I did not need to sit as often as I
    had before. I could sit just as much as my physical condition allowed.
    Finally, I felt free of my understanding of the Buddhas teachings and
    my desire to be a good monk. I felt free to be myself and nothing more.
    I was still a deluded, ordinary human being with ignorance and desires.
    But when l just sat and let go of thoughts, I was ― or more precisely, my
    zazen was ― free of ignorance and selfish desires.
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-30-2013 at 04:32 AM.

  8. #8
    Have a great Sesshin Seizan. Look forward to hearing about it.

  9. #9
    Well, here I report on my day of mindfulness- from my kitchen. Sitting in a winter jacket. Wood stove burning, snow on our cars and more importantly no safe way to get to the monastery. We had a winter storm blow in Thursday night, which all of us locals were SURE would melt yesterday and we would be back to fall weather. Melt it did- halfway through the afternoon, where it then froze after night fell, creating icy conditions- and then MORE SNOW. When I went to bed Vail pass, the only way East to the Denver area from my house, was closed down. Some friends of mine were trying to come home and were stuck on the east side of the pass for quite a while. This morning I would have had to leave the house when it was still dark and icy to make it down to the monastery.

    It's all okay, I can be mindful and sit right here, but I'm a little sad. This group only has English speaking days of mindfulness once a month. Hopefully November's day will come with better weather. In the meantime I am looking at some places to visit in Crestone- they have a Zendo and many Buddhist institutions. I was really excited to go to CDC, but I will get there. Will post a real report when I do.

    A Very Cold Seizan

  10. #10
    Seizan I feel like I have just read a 'real' report - sharing in sitting with you in your kitchen. But I hope you will be able to attend CDC soon.

    Sam may I respectfully say that you don't have to do anything. Sitting is not an endurance test or something to be conquered and have power over - 'difficult' or 'easy' - are these terms really helpful?



  11. #11
    I believe at DeerPark there are English speaking days once monthly as well. Still, I had no problem going on the non/English days. People were helpful and kind. There were headphones to hear an English version of the talks. So sorry you didn't get to go, but it might be worth considering going on a non-English day. Seems a shame to wait a whole month when you are/were so looking forward to going.

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