Sunday, September 19, 2010

Susan's Shuso Blog: Forms & Ceremonies

I love forms and ceremonies: the more bells the better. I love offering incense. I love seeing the purply grey smoke rise and, in my imagination and deep feeling, I see it embrace all beings.

There are four altars in my home. As part of shuso (head student) training, I visit these altars every morning before dawn. I light candles, offer incense, say the refuges and bow to each one three times.

After sitting zazen I say the heart sutra and I offer a prayer for the continuing good health of my teacher, Darlene Cohen.

Last week she came to my home to help me set up the altars. My friends and sangha mates Sarita and Sara came with her.

Each altar was given offerings of candles, flowers, and incense. The main altar, the one I call the heart of the house, was also given an offering of sweet tea and fruit.

We walked slowly from one altar to the next lighting candles and offering incense. In doing this we were setting up the ritual I will follow for the six weeks I am shuso.

Behind me as I write is the creativity altar. It stands at the entrance to my studio where I work in clay. Sometimes other people join me in making clay figures.

When I offer incense at the studio altar I celebrate creativity in all beings. I see the Jizo Bodhisattva figure my friend Peggy made.

Jizo is a buddhist archetype known for helping people in times of transition and change. It is said that Jizo will fearlessly go into the Hell realm with you. This jizo has a smile on its face. It carries a staff of prayer flags. It holds a shining jewel in its left hand. It is able and willing to shine light on all situations.

Today I invite jizo to go with me to Berkeley Zen Center where I will be installed as shuso for a six week practice period. During this time I will be asked to teach, host practice teas, do work practice in the zendo. I so look forward to this time . I look forward to becoming more embedded in my practice and more connected to people in the sangha. I know there will be times of fear and trepidation. I will take Jizo with me. I will hold his smile in my heart.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Susan,
    I have a jizo you made on my altar, too, and will look for her guidance as I take in my big work transition and figure out where it'll lead. Hopefully the Hell realm isn't on the itinerary. Thinking of you all in Berkeley today...xo, Sarah