June Sesshin, June 1-4 featuring Shuso Hossen, June 3 11 AM
June Sesshin takes place from 7:30 PM Thursday evening June 1 to Sunday morning, June 4 at about 7 AM. There will be an informal dinner on Thursday evening June 1 at 5:30 with procedures instruction following for those who would like it. You are invited to attend this first sesshin during the 2023 Summer Ango and enjoy the beauty of late spring at Great Plains Zen Center.
This is a special retreat in multiple ways. First, we have resumed the practice of oryoki, using the ceremonial eating bowls. This is a wonderful practice of taking just the right amount, eating with mindful care and not wasting any food. Oryoki instruction will be available at 6 PM on Thursday, June 1 if you need a refresher or have not done it before.
Second, we have made some important changes to our COVID policy. In general, masks will now be optional for this and future retreats. The only exception to this would be if someone registers who has a high risk condition and needs others around them to also wear masks. In that case, we will ask everyone to wear masks in the presence of that person for their protection. All other COVID guidelines will apply. Of course anyone who would feel more comfortable wearing a mask for any reason is encouraged to do so.
Additionally, although we encourage attendees to follow CDC guidelines, we will no longer be tracking vaccination status. GPZC will continue to re-evaluate policies in times of higher transmission if and when these should occur. If our policies change, future announcements will be made. The current policy can always be found on our website.
Finally, during this sesshin, we will be holding Shuso Hossen for Julie Seido Nelson, Teacher Coordinator and Dharmaholder at Great Boston Zen Center. Julie, who was installed May 21 as our shuso for this ango, will be in attending in person for the sesshin and for Shuso Hossen on Saturday, June 3 at 11 AM.
During Shuso Hossen, Shuso will present Case 38: Rinzai’s True Person. Following her talk, students will have an opportunity to challenge her with pointed questions about the koan, creating a lively interchange. Here is the text of the koan (Yasutani Roshi’s translation) from the Book of Equanimity (Shoyo Roku):
Attention! Rinzai addressed the assembly, saying,”There is a true person of no rank. They are always leaving and entering the gates of your face. You beginners who have not witnessed them: Look! Look!” Thereupon, a monk asked, “How about this true man of no rank?” Rinzai got down from the seat and grabbed him. The monk hesitated, and Rinzai pushed him away, saying, “This true man of no rank, what a shit-stick he is!”
Shuso offers these words of encouragement for us during this 92-day Summer Ango:
“Let me respectfully remind you:
Life and death are of supreme importance,
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken, awaken…
Take heed! Do not squander your life!”
Ango evening gatha
The upcoming GPZC ango is a valuable opportunity for each of us to deepen our practice.
I know that, for myself, introducing any new practice—another sitting period, another study group, a first sesshin—into my life is difficult at first. But then, with time, it gets easier. This ease is, on the one hand, beneficial. It means that I am developing some habits that are healthy (instead of the other kind!). And it also contains a trap. It carries the risk that Zen practice will tend to become another thing I do out of habit. The vibrant, living, growing, surprising edge of practice may go a bit dull. I may begin to take Roshi and sangha(s) for granted, not realizing what a rare opportunity it is to live and learn within such a supportive group.
So the ango period challenges us to try something (or somethings) new, something we haven’t been doing the rest of the year. Perhaps adding a new weekly or daily sitting period. Perhaps participating in one or more sesshin. Perhaps engaging in chanting, work practice, a class series, a creative project, or the other options described in the ango practice commitment form. Any new vow presents a new challenge. It’s one of the ways the universe gives us an opportunity to wake up!
We undertake commitments during ango not just for ourselves, and not even just to support each other in the GPZC community. We undertake it for all beings. We cultivate the empty field that yields liberation for all.
I’ve only met some of you, since so far I’ve only been able to join you online from Boston where I also practice with a different sangha. I am honored to be invited to join you in this ango practice in the role of Shuso. I look forward to serving you in person at the June sesshin, and joining you in this practice as best I can otherwise.
Julie Seido Nelson
Please join us for this sesshin, whether you are able to attend the whole retreat, one day or just for the Shuso Hossen Saturday morning at 11 AM. Help Julie mark this important milestone in her practice.
The following COVID precautions are in effect:
- Anyone attending in person is required to take a rapid antigen test (home test is fine) within 24 hours prior to arriving at this sesshin and only attend in person if the result is negative.
- Vaccinations and boosters as recommended by the CDC are encouraged but will no longer be required or tracked.
- Masks are optional, unless someone attends whose risk status makes masks necessary in which case all participants will be asked to wear masks.
- Social distancing to the extent feasible will continue to be practiced.
- Participants must wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitizer when handling shared equipment and wipe surfaces with disinfectant after use as appropriate.
- Please do not attend the retreat in person if you are ill and/or have any symptoms (COVID-related or not) that indicate a possible contagious illness.
- We will continue to re-evaluate our policies in times of higher transmission rates.
Scholarships are available for any who need them. As always, we encourage those who are able to donate an additional amount for the retreat to help us keep retreats affordable for everyone. Participants will receive instructions, a detailed schedule, and Zoom access information after registering. The cost of full time in person attendance is $150 for members and $170 for others, prorated for part-time attendance. The suggested donation for online participation is $10-30 per night, depending on how much you will be attending. If you do not have your own set of oryoki bowls, you can rent them for $5 by checking that option on the registration form. Please register no later than Tuesday, May 30.