Rinzai-ji October Dai-sesshin

Last week the vice-abbess Shuko and I went to participate in a five day retreat at Rinzai-ji Zen Center in Los Angeles.

Joshu Roshi changed the General Sesshin that ran from 10/14 through 10/18 into a Dai-sesshin, meaning that there was full-time sitting schedule with four sanzen and teisho. The numbers were quite impressive, having as many as 37 participants. A large number, almost 20, came all the way from Europe to sit with Roshi. This contingent also included Seiun Genro, Osho from the Bodhidharma Zendo in Vienna – the teacher with whom I first made contact with in 1982 and who started me in formal Zen practice. It was nice to meet many people with whom I go back as far as 27 years of practicing together. It is just amazing to be able to see and appreciate the changes that take place over this amount of time. I feel very fortunate and grateful to have met such outstanding teachers and human beings. A good number of these European practitioners I have not seen since I moved to the US, that means for more than fifteen years. It was nice reconnecting with them.

Joshu Roshi was in good health condition and did not skip a single sanzen. Although he is working slower now than in the past, he saw each of us four times a day. With this number of participants the time elapsed during sanzen varied between four and six or seven sitting periods. This translates to anywhere between two and three and a half hours – which adds a massive amount of sitting to an already tight schedule. Some days we did not close the zendo before 10:45 pm, which pushed the schedule way beyond the 9 pm regular closing. Even with these changes, the 3 am wake-up remains in effect. Altogether this made up for an intense Dai-sesshin that had a quiet and calm overall tone. I had the honor to serve as Jikijitsu and lead the group through most of the retreat. Roshi has moved on to Saisho, Mt. Cobb in northern California, where he is giving a Dai-sesshin starting on the 22nd of October. Mt. Cobb is an evolving center that is aspiring to build Rinzai-ji’s senmon dojo – the monastic training center for future generations of Rinzai-ji monastics, teachers, and leaders. A full plan for all facilities is in development and Gido Osho, who is in charge of Saisho, is working very hard to realize this aspiration on Roshi and his sangha. Many thanks and a deep bow to him and his helpers.

Many thanks also to everyone who helped in making another Dai-sesshin with Roshi possible, and to all who covered for us absentees during that time. We’re back!

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