Walking Rain Sesshin 2010
In late September twenty seven people gathered at Mountain Lamp for Three Treasures’ annual Walking Rain sesshin. Students from three countries and many Sanghas traveled far for this week of collective, intensive zazen. This was our second full sesshin up in the valley, and our first since the passing of our Dharma grandfather, Aitken Roshi, in August. His presence was keenly felt, and evoked by a beautiful calligraphy and poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, which adorned the altar.
We convened Friday night, and after introductions did zazen amidst strong mountain winds. I was fortunate to serve as dokusan attendant, or jisha, and my old partner in mischief Nils served as jikijistsu. As we closed up the dojo for that first night, he whispered to me, “doesn’t this seem like Palolo?” In the infinite rustle of trees that night, and with a heightened sense of Aitken Roshi’s presence, I told him that I sensed it too.
Since most of the participants were old hands, our zazen settled quickly. The rains came in, first hard and then soft, and briefly clearing at times in the traveling of days. We inaugurated a new honorific for the recitation of the Ancestral Line. As Jack is Dharma holder of the lay lineage of Aitken Roshi and his teacher Ko’un Yamada Roshi, the epithet “Dai Osho”, associated with the priesthood, was replaced with “Dai Busso”, Great Buddha, a pointer to awakening beyond distinctions of laity and clergy.
Blocks, and days, of zazen passed, and all the while the participants actualized the harmony of shared activity, moving increasingly with grace and precision as the forms of sesshin held us. It seemed to me a great gift to be permitted to escort my Dharma sisters and brothers to dokusan, and I found myself inwardly rooting for the next person to get in before the block of sitting ended.
By Friday, the rains had gone and sun burned hot over the valley mists. Jack presented his last teisho for this sesshin, an exposition of Dogen’s Genjo Koan. Finishing his talk, he quoted our Old Boss :
“The wind of the Buddha House,
the practice of zazen
and going beyond realization
Is altogether in accord
With the wind of the Universe”
As tears welled in my eyes, and in the eyes of others, the vanished wind, unheard since last weekend, at once rose up. The echoing “goRAWK!” of ravens in the valley called us back to our kinhin and cushions. The sesshin moved on, and finished the next day. As usual, I wondered how best to carry forward the sacred intimacy we had diligently cultivated. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t have to be, since I had great companions, good maps of the trail, and a grandfather; a jet-winged, keen eyed Raven calling still through dissolving, and clearing, mountain mist.