February 2014 Volume 3, Issue 1
SOJI ZEN CENTER NEWSLETTER Chanting the Sutras and Vows: Breathing Life into the Teachings By: John Ango Gruber, Zen Priest and Soji Student
Inside This Issue Chanting the Sutras and Vows: Breathing Life into the Teachings The Power of the Chant
Chanting: The Ino’s Point of View
Chanting For Those Who Die, Chanting For Ourselves
Soji’s 2013 Winter Retreat
Overview and Upcoming Schedule
When we chant, we are liter-
Practicing this way, we can
vocalization while at the same
ally and figuratively breathing
give our full attention to
time listening carefully to the
life into the words and teach-
each line, to every word;
voices and expression of eve-
ings. Chanting the Heart Su-
we can place our full atten-
ryone else in the zendo. This
tra or the Four Great Vows is
tion on each syllable.
listening side of our chanting,
them or even speaking them.
When we approach our
der, of letting go, of being in
When we chant, we are in
chanting as another part of
tune with what is all around us
fact actualizing the teachings
our mindfulness and focus
brings forth the collective na-
with our very breath and be-
our attention completely on
ture of our sangha in that very
ing. The sutras we chant hold
instant. There is a constant
very profound meaning and
meaning in the words, the
and delicate adjustment of our
each time we chant them, we
chanting works on us just
own voice, fine-tuning our pace
are offered an opportunity to
like our sitting works on us.
and cadence, to allow our
experience and clarify that
There is another aspect of
voice to merge into the larger
meaning in new ways. Even
chanting the sutras as a
chanting sound. When all of us
after we have chanted them
sangha that allows us to
are really awake and open, the
many times and we have
experience the thread that
voices of the many really do
memorized the words and the
connects us all. Harmoniz-
become one voice, one single
rhythm, we can approach
ing and coordinating our
expression. There is no differ-
them as if we are hearing
many voices, we are both
entiation between one voice
them for the very first time.
chanting and putting our
and another as all come to-
individual energy into the
gether as a single sound.
A Note from Shuzen Sensei
the receptive aspect of surren-
very different from reading
The Power of the Chant By: Chris Hakurei Kulp, Mokugyo and Soji Student
“When you chant...just be the sound.”
My first actual in-person practice with other Buddhists lasted about nine months. The group has a very different practice; instead of sitting in silent meditation, they chant with
fervor. Study groups began and ended with chanting. You never heard anything as powerful as the once-amonth meeting of all regional groups, sitting together and chanting (continued on page 4)
Chanting: The Ino’s Point of View By: Linda Shoki Bundick, Ino and Soji Student Chanting melodic sounds is the music
would be appointed as the lead Ino! In
is very easy to remember.
the beginning I tried very hard to stay
It has been some five years now and
on tone and would think about it all
one of the greatest lessons I received
the time. What if I made a mistake or
from being Ino is that the world doesn’t
forgot to start at the right time? I wor-
come to an end when you make a mis-
ried I would ruin everything, not to
take or forget what to do. You are not
When I was asked to be the backup Ino
mention being totally embarrassed.
dumb or worthless, you just made a
at Soji Zen Center several years ago, I
Whenever there was a part of the
mistake. I am learning to feel the fear
was very apprehensive and frightened.
liturgy that I had not performed be-
and do it anyway.
To be the one who leads the sangha in
fore, like at sesshin, I was gripped in
the morning service and other litur-
fear. I don’t know when it happened
gies….me, who was told I was tone
but one morning there was only
deaf and unable to carry a tune. The
chanting. There was not thinking of
fear and doubt in myself was instant
chanting or forgetting the words or
and great. I reluctantly consented not
making a mistake, there was just
knowing that within just two weeks I
chanting. When there is no thinking it
of the zendo and the Ino is the conductor. Chanting can open your heart, help you regain clarity, light, strength and peace.
Chanting for Those Who Die, Chanting for Ourselves By: Craig Shodo Bundick, Jikido and Soji Student
My wife’s brother died not too long
So every day for 49 days straight
ago and we did a memorial service for
we did the “Enmei Jukku Kannon
him. The Tibetan Book of Living and
Gyo” ritual and chant, followed by
Dying says, “The most powerful time
30 minutes of sitting meditation.
to do spiritual practice for someone
During the daily ritual, I performed
who has died is during the 49 days
my regular Jikido duties ringing the
right after their passing. It is during
gong to start our chanting and sit-
those weeks that the dead have a
strong link with this life, which makes
used different incense that burns
them more accessible to our help of
longer. We placed a picture of my
affecting their chances of liberation or
brother-in-law on the altar, which
at least a better rebirth.”
remains there today. Our hope is
We lit our altar candle and
that the chanting helped the dead
as much as it helped us.
My wife’s brother left a message on our answering machine the day before he died saying he was feeling fine after his surgery. My wife saved the message and did not delete it. The message and sound of his voice became a spiritual chant from brother to sister.
Page 33 Page
Soji’s 2013 Winter Retreat
Soji Zen Center’s annual winter ses-
Sesshin has always been kind of a
nothing to accomplish. I had no expec-
shin was held between December 26
rollercoaster for me in the past. I had
tations at all. Just go and sit, that’s all.
and 31, 2013 at the Malvern Retreat
the high of the excitement in anticipa-
It was the most effortless sesshin I ever
House which has a beautiful campus
tion in the prior weeks. To the low of
attended. This was the first sesshin I
in Malvern, PA.
A total of 23 partici-
dread, knowing that painful knees and
felt like I had come home to the true
pants joined in part or all of the six
frustrating boredom would eventually
intimacy of practice.
day retreat led by Shuzen Sensei.
creep in. I had the attitude of wanting
meant I no longer felt the lingering lone-
Each morning we were on the cush-
all the great results without the true
liness and separation that pervaded
ion by 5:20 am followed by sitting,
much of my mind.
services, dokusan, work practice,
sesshin I would have some great spir-
meant that the practice of the sangha
meals, dharma talks and more sitting
itual awakening. Well, to state the obvi-
became my practice as I sat each
until we ended the day at 9:00 pm.
ous, the big enlightenment experience
round of zazen. Each person with their
Sitting together at the end of the year
never happened. Just disappointment. I
wholehearted practice, whether they
provides a special opportunity to go
would then think to myself, “This is
knew it or not, guided me home. Show-
deeper in our practice as expressed
pointless. Why am I doing this?” But yet
ing me I was really never alone to begin
by Soji student Mark Shigen Peterson
here I am doing it again. In hindsight I
with. And all I had to do to see this was
in his reflection of Coming Home.
had the expectation of trying to get
to let go and just be, be present, be
somewhere, of trying to accomplish
here. Just like this.
By: Mark Shigen Peterson, Soji Student
Thinking just because it was
something. It was all self-centered thinking, always living up in my head. Sensei always tells me, “You know what your biggest problem is, you think too much!” And it can be a bit lonely up there. Living in your head makes everything seem so foreign, like there is no home to find rest.
For this support I am deeply grateful for the sangha, knowing that each person is in this journey coming home with me. For showing me that my true home is never that far away.
Thank you for
being my guides. And as Dogen wrote, “If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you ex-
But this sesshin was different, I finally realized there was nowhere to go and
pect to find it?”
Soji Zen Center Newsletter
THE POWER OF THE CHANT (continued from page 1) “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” with unbeliev-
COMMIT TO PARTICIPATE!!!
able speed and intensity.
I found, however, that I missed zazen.
One-Day Retreat at Soji Zen Center—February 15, 2014
Basics of Meditation-February 22, March 1, March 8, 2014
ANGO-March 9, 2014—June 10, 2014
Fusatsu–March 20, 2014
Xing-Yi Qi Gong and Tai Chi Workshop-March 29, 2013
Even though I enjoyed the rhythmic power and human intent behind the chant, I still felt the need to sit silently afterward. When I came to Soji and committed myself to this practice, I hesitated to chant at home.
though we chant in our liturgy, I did not do it much on my own. Little by little, I
Soji Zen Center is a contemporary Buddhist center providing instruction in Zen
was encouraged by fellow students
meditation, philosophy and contemplation techniques for training the mind. We
and Sensei to add chanting to my sit-
are guided by our founding teacher, Sensei Jules Shuzen Harris.
Sensei especially en-
couraged this when my father was
Soji Zen Center is part of the White Plum lineage which brings together elements
back in the hospital. When you chant
of Japanese Soto and Rinzai traditions of Zen Buddhism to teach intensive
for others, you find yourself really put-
awareness sitting practice (Zazen) and koan study to beginners who want to
ting your all into it.
learn about meditation, as well as to experienced practitioners of Zen Buddhism to strengthen their technique.
So when I’m in the car these days,
instead of finding some loud music to blast my ears out like before, I find
Meditation & Dharma Talk
Meditation & Dokusan
myself often taking refuge in the Prajna
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha.
Contact Information Soji Zen Center 2325 W. Marshall Road Lansdowne, PA 19050 www.sojizencenter.com Teacher: Editor: Contributing Editor: Layout & Publisher:
Sensei Shuzen Harris Abby Jingo Lang Michael Daitoku Palumbaro Brenda Jinshin Waters