Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Big Do With A Procession

Ahead of the weekend, a few people had asked me what a zen party was like. The answer is, of course, I don't know. But we threw a pretty good one on Saturday night.
I was feeling a little tired after the morning and running some errands in the afternoon, so I didn't rush over to Greens, but by the time I got there, about 6:30 or so, the place was already full, and if you have ever been to Greens, you would know that it takes a couple of hundred people to fill the place. I knew a lot of the people there; the old timers were out in force, with some faces that were unfamiliar to me, but there was also a large contingent from Young Urban Zen as well, some of whom were volunteering at the evening, counterbalancing those who have got us this far with those who are going to take Zen Center through the next fifty years.
It was a very social time, filled with chatting, eating, drinking and dancing, with not just a DJ but a live drum troupe as well, who got a lot of people moving.
The other thing about a zen party is that it won't go on until the small hours; I ducked out at around 9:30 when my energy was starting to flag, and I heard that there was a steady exodus after that.

Robert addresses the room

The room listens to Robert

On the dancefloor

I spent most of Sunday out and about, and when I got back did not feel like doing more than the regular tidy-up, which meant that yesterday morning, instead of sitting zazen, I went up to my office right after the jundo to finish collating all the information and start gathering the things I needed.
There was a lot to do before nine o'clock, when we were supposed to start getting in the shuttle cars to Sokoji - I managed to get the altars set up, but the sound gear was proving elusive - some of it had been at Greens, and some of it had been at Green Gulch - so that part of it was making me stressed; I wasn't going to be running the sound, but I wanted at least to know that everything was in place and ready to go.
Arriving at Sokoji there was still plenty of time; everyone gathered early, and there were not so many things to take care of. I enjoyed a quiet moment downstairs putting on my bessu; otherwise it felt like I was on my feet for about eight hours straight.
None of the ceremonies were complicated or unusual, but the whole set-up was unique. I found myself on the raised area around the altar at Sokoji with Sojun Mel the doshi; four abbots and the four Zen Center officers as the ryoban; the jisha, doan and fukudo. Luckily I could hide behind a pillar while the statements were going on, but as kokyo, I had to step forward for the ekos; Steve had written them in a way that made them very easy to articulate, and my voice felt okay - I got a compliment from Baker Roshi as we made our way out at the end of that ceremony.
I was supposed to be helping marshal the procession into place, but it was always going to be a fairly fluid affair. We filled the sidewalk for a whole block, and once we got going, people were mingling with who they wanted to for much of the time. We intrigued and bemused some of our Western Addition neighbours as we made our way down the hill with a police car and motorbike holding the cross street traffic for us. It was a lovely sunny day, and I think people were enjoying being part of such an unusual spectacle.
The idea was to process straight into the Buddha Hall for the next part of the ceremony, but some of the senior members needed a break after the procession, so we had a few minutes' pause - we were always going to be running behind schedule anyway, and there didn't seem to be any need to hurry.
Again, I was right in the thick of things in my usual ino place in the Buddha Hall. The statements here were perhaps the key moment of the whole day, with Baker Roshi apologising for the pain and suffering he had caused, and Reb responding directly to him - seeing them bow together at that moment was most moving.
The final part was the dedication of the new peace bell, which I hadn't seen until the morning when it was placed on its plinth in the courtyard. I had decided that we wouldn't try to use microphones for this part, but I think parts of the crowd were straining to hear those statements.
We ended up with some final short speeches in the dining room, with a huge spread of Greens food waiting patiently for us to finish. I had arranged to meet a friend in the afternoon, so I took a little break, but then had to clean up all the ceremonial things afterwards, before afternoon zazen and Young Urban Zen in the evening. I was pretty wiped out after all of that, and while zazen was optional for residents this morning, I felt I should get up to make sure the zendo was open, so I am still feeling pretty wiped out. But this has been, I think, my final big hurrah as ino, and I am very glad to have been so involved in it.
I quite often feel that my descriptions of these big events are rather banal, but hopefully the photos will bring it to life a little more. If not, you could always try sitting through the three hours of video footage to see what actually happened.

Nadia hard at work after breakfast

Kogan rings the densho at Sokoji

The crowd at Sokoji - brown robes and dancers

Trying to get everyone in place for a group photo at Sokoji

Marcia and Johan

Lisa Eric and Robert under the parasols

Tim the jisha, Sojun, Blanche and Baker Roshi

You can never have too many parasols. Thilda blew the conch as part of the procession

Gretchen, Steve, Fu and Ed

Crossing Fell Street

Crossing Fell Street. Linda played the drum

Maggie and Lynn from YUZ carried one of the banners

Christina and Sojun

Dennis, David Chadwick, Baker Roshi, Mike Dixon and Steve in the dining room after the speeches

Dennis with Peter Coyote

Linda Ruth with Fran - who was the third tenzo at Tassajara

Rebecca Solnit

Yvonne Rand

P tries the new peace bell

Lunch en plein air


Anonymous said...

thank you ...

as an invisible member of the sangha who has never even been to sfzc, your writings of the goings on are priceless and precious and much appreciated

in the zen vast space of that which cannot be named, I wish that no one need apologize ...

it is wonderful to be welcomed

things are as they are and went as they went and all somehow created that which now is and each is a bright star who plays their role

perhaps apologizing is a kind of mature grace ... in response perhaps they responded with appreciation

thank you for your photos and your writings and your generous giving of your time to share the events with us who only got to participate in the 50th celebration vicariously

it was a great party ...

Shundo said...

Thank you for this lovely comment. Feel free to be less anonymous and invisible if you wish.

Kyeong-I said...

With your writing + the photos + the great livestreams of saturday's and sunday's talks one can sense what a special weekend it was. i could say of course i wish i could have joined you (which is true!), but at the same time I am very grateful for the immense possibilities modern technology offers. It helps remind us that already we are part of it all. Thank you Shundo for your never ceasing effort!

Shundo said...

Thank you Kyeong-I - it is lovely to hear from you. I hope you always feel connected.