Rohatsu Sesshin

Here are two wonderful quotes I found about Rohatsu Sesshin that at Clouds starts tonight and ends in a week. We do this every year to acknowledge Buddha’s Enlightenment Day on Dec 8th and someone just emailed me — “What a wonderful antidote to the commercial-overloaded holidays.”

From the e-bulletin from Sanshin Zen Community:

Hakuin Zenji, (1686 – 1768) the great revivor of Japanese Rinzai Zen, gave talks to his monks every evening during Rohatsu to help them fight off the urge to sleep or slack off.

Below is Hakuin’s Rohatsu Jishu, or Rohatsu Exhortation, Fifth Night:

Master Hakuin said, ‘Usually there are three lengths of training periods in the monastery. The longest is one hundred twenty days, the next one is one hundred days, the shortest is ninety days. During these periods, participants strive to clarify THIS MATTER. No one is allowed to leave the monastery and no one speaks unnecessarily.

In the practice of zazen a daring, courageous attitude is essential. Let me tell you a story. There lived a man named Heshiro. He carved a stone Buddha and placed it near a waterfall in the deep mountains. Then he happened to sit down by the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. He noticed a lot of bubbles in the stream. Some of the bubbles disappeared quickly after falling, and some disappeared after floating ten feet or more.

While looking at them, due to his karma, he strongly felt the transiency of life, he realized that all phenomena, good or bad, are just like the bubbles on the surface of the water. The impact of this realization made him feel the worthlessness of just living, just spending his days without understanding the mystery of life.

By chance, he heard someone reading out loud from the sayings of Master Takusui, “The man of sympathy and bravery will find enlightenment in one nen, but for the man of indolence, realization of his True Nature will never come.

Inspired by this saying, Heshiro went into a small room and locked the door. He sat down, erected his spine, clasped his hands in a fist and opened his eyes widely. With a pure straightforward mind, he did zazen. Innumerable thoughts, delusions and hallucinations appeared, but his zazen defeated them all, and he reached a deep and calm state free from thoughts.

He continued to sit through the night. At dawn, when he heard the birds singing outside, he could not find his body. He felt as if his eyes had fallen to the ground. A moment: later, he felt the pain of his fingernails digging into his hands and then realized that his eyes had come back to their usual place. He was able to stand up and walk.

He repeated this kind of zazen for three days and nights. On the morning of the fourth day, after washing his face, be looked at the trees in the garden. They appeared very different. He felt strange.

Heshiro did not understand this, so he visited a neighborhood priest, but the priest himself was helpless to explain. At someone’s suggestion, Heshiro came to see me (Hakuin).

On the way to my monastery, he had to climb to the top of a mountain. Suddenly, he looked at the panoramic view of the seashore. It was at that moment that he thoroughly understood that all beings, grasses, trees, land and birds are primarily Buddha. Excitedly, he came to my dokusan room and immediately passed several important koans.

“Now let us remember that Heshiro was an ordinary man. He did not know anything about Zen nor had he practiced zazen. Nevertheless, through only three days and nights of intensive sitting, he was able to unite his being with all others and to clarify the meaning of his being. It was his motivation and his daring, courageous attitude that had overcome all obstacles. WHERE IS YOUR BRAVE DETERMINATION? BRAVELY WORK HARD!

From the e-bulletin of One Drop Zendo-Urban center:

2011 Excerpt from Harada Roshi Opening Sogenji’s Rohatsu sesshin

“This type of activity, this coming together and supporting each other in the great work of delving into the deepest stratum of our mind to experience the inherent stability and joyfulness of our true base; this is what is most needed, most necessary in the world today.

Everyone gathered here, please understand, you have inherent in your very Mind a huge potential, an incalculable brilliance, an ability to see the reality of this moment clearly. But without taking the time and putting forth the effort to penetrate to this deepest clarity of mind, without that deepest realization of this true Master, we will never be able to actually perceive who we really are, who it is that is actually alive, what are the characteristics of our true self, this boundless brilliance, this constant freedom and joy.

To bring our intensity of focused effort to this most important work. To use this opportunity to not lack in the slightest way for anything, but to bring our hugeness of Vow and deep wish to revitalize all beings, and to continue this effort in every moment without looking away.”