Rohatsu’s a Bitch

Even a dead tree holds a home - Even failures foster hope.


Every year when December approaches, monks everywhere tremble in anticipation of the arrival of the rohatsu sesshin [intensive meditation retreat]. In Zen dojos [practice halls] everywhere, people intensify their training energy in preparation for this sesshin held from the first to the eighth of December. The rohatsu sesshin is the consummation of a year’s training, a time when everyone faces the final reckoning of a year of practice.

The Buddha was enlightened on the eighth of December when he looked up at the morning star, the planet we call Venus. The brightness of this planet was seen by Buddha from the depths of one week of samadhi [deep awareness]. The Buddha received that brightness with the same eyes of zazen [sitting meditation] that enable us to realize perfect enlightenment.

One week straight of this deepest possible samadhi was burst through by the brilliance of that morning star. A whole week’s experience of that world burst the brightness of the morning star, plunging into the Buddha’s eyes and giving rebirth to the Buddha’s consciousness. from here.

Big deal, I suppose.  I have no large celebration planned outside of sealing my commitment to my practice.  The day of Buddha’s enlightenment is an opportunity to reflect upon your practice during the past year.  It also marks the end of my Ango (three months of intensive practice), of which I am glad.  My intensive practice has been…difficult to accomplish these past three months (for any number of reasons).  I attended both my small sangha’s Ango as well as the one offered by Wild Fox Zen.  Now seems as good a time as any to review my failures and successes.

  • Meditation – My goal was 15 minutes zazen and 45 minutes of kinhin (meditative walking).  Largely a success but as December rolled around, daily life (as well as family) intervened and I was unable to accomplish much at home.  However, my pratice isn’t defined by just myself – it is defined by my surroundings, experience and environment.  I was very happy to attempt this increase and hopefully will continue once my days open up a bit more. 
  • The Precepts – I took my precepts for Ango and followed them for the last 3 months, including the dreaded 5th Precept.  Over all a good experience.  I ended up taking up tea drinking in the evening when I would ordinarily have a beer…I find it a decent substitute but I think I may put up a toast at Dharma Drinks this week – Cheers Don!
  • Engagement – I planned to engage both with my iSangha as well as my Brick and Mortar Sangha.  Easily a success with daily postings as well as sitting with the Laughing Teabowl Sangha at least once a week.  I also planned on attending webinars on the Genkokoan on Wild Fox Zen but my work schedule changed to include Saturdays so the koan goes unanswered.  Bows to all you out there that leave comments here or send me emails or tweets.  All very helpful.  Some take for granted that they have family or friends to communicate with concerning these matters.  I, for the most part don’t, so it means much to my practice to have you along for the ride.
  • Parenting as Practice – Patience, love, compassion and attention.  What more can I say?  Sit with your child as you would a koan.
  • Esoteric/Devotional Exploration – I wanted to gain some more insight into other Buddhist practices.  I went with Shingon and esoteric Buddhism.  It was a very brief exploration (only three months barely scratches the surface).  I read the works of Kukai (founder of Shingon) as well as some explanatory texts on Shingon practice.  Very similar to Tibetan practice with a heavy dose of deity visualization as well as smatterings of mantras and mundras and all that jazz.  From my perspective, this practice is perfect for those that want to approach their practice in a euphoric  and explosive or visual way.  While beautiful and alluring, my mandalas still exist on an empty wall and my mantras are the sounds of my everyday life. 

Thanks for following along.  I’m tired and gearing up for some new realities and big changes.  Might as well sit for 15 minutes tonight to get me ready.

Cheers! I leave you with this dedication from Wild Fox Zen and Dosho Port…

On this, the recognition day of old Shakyamuni Buddha’s
seeing directly the morning star,
We offer flowers, incense, candle light, and tea
as an expression of gratitude for the old teacher.
We have recited “Shakymuni Buddha” from The Record of Transmission of Light. We now dedicate all benefits from this to:

The great teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha
The first master in China, Bodhidharma
The first master in Japan, Eihei Dogen
To Mahaprajapiti and all great practitioners
whose names have been left unsung
To Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, triple treasures in the ten directions and all arahats and bodhisattvas.
May the power of their liberating wisdom direct
the wandering-in-circles world
toward the peaceful Buddha land
And may the power of their inspiration
and their peaceful hearts
lead wandering beings to enter the authentic path.
We aspire to turn the Dharma wheel unceasingly
and to free the world from every tragedy
of war, epidemic, natural disaster and starvation.
Ỡ  All buddhas throughout space and time,
Ỡ  All honored ones, bodhisattvas, mahasattvas
Ỡ  Wisdom beyond wisdom, mahaprajnaparamita.

3 Bows to all you filthy practitioners out there!


4 thoughts on “Rohatsu’s a Bitch

  1. Awesome practice, John! 45 mins kinhin? I can’t even do 10 without hallucinating.

    I should have saved you that bottle of sun-dried tomatoes soaked in bourbon sauce to celebrate your transition from tea to wheee!

    Thanks for being here.

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