There is a folder on the ino's computer labeled 'irregular ceremonies', and I have made two additions to it in the past week. Last Friday we had a Lay Entrustment ceremony for Bernd, who is heading back to Germany next week to renew his visa; this morning we had a combination of ceremonies that is unlikely to be repeated in many years: an Abbot Seating ceremony for Steve Stucky as the new Zen Center Central Abbot, followed by our monthly Suzuki Roshi memorial ceremony.
Most ceremonies come around at least once a year, so that people are more or less familiar with them. If you stay around Zen Center long enough, you will develop a sense of how a student entering ceremony goes, or a shuso ceremony, and have some idea what you have to do. The Lay Entrustment is a mixture of a jukai and a shuso ceremony. Michael Wenger adapted this one from ceremonies performed at Green Gulch, with the precept-taking part performed privately in the afternoon, and the dharma enquiry part held publicly in the evening. He and I talked it over a few times before Friday, and I had a pretty clear sense of what was going to happen, though we didn't delve into minutiae. After dinner on Friday he came to find me and said he wanted to make a change, and my heart dropped as I thought I would need to rewrite the ceremony and reprint the programs, but in fact all he wanted was for he and Bernd to be in chairs rather than sitting on platforms, which was easily done. Still, during the ceremony there were one or two unscripted things that happened, which, since I both wrote the program and explained the ceremony to the audience before it began, I felt somewhat responsible for, but it all contributed to a tender and moving evening, and since most people were in uncharted ceremonial waters, a little fluidity and improvisation was okay.
For this morning's Seating ceremony, again, we were adapting from similar ceremonies when a newly installed Abbot first arrives at Tassajara, as well as following the lead of Green Gulch, where Steve had vacated his seat as the Green Gulch Abbot. The problem was that I was waiting for input from Paul and Jordan, and they have both been traveling and then were tied up in all-day meetings, so the form was only finalised after dinner last night. Again, the ceremony was similar to a student entering ceremony, although in view of the status of the person entering, it was Jordan as tanto who led Steve around the zendo in the jundo, rather than the ino (remember you can check the glossary); my role was limited to hitting the tsui-ching and making a statement. This one went according to plan, which was nice, and most important, even after going upstairs to make our offerings to Suzuki Roshi, we were on time for soji and breakfast.