Ask not what your practice can do for you…
December 03, 2012 by Jokai
Part of living at Yokoji for a long period of time is witnessing the changing residency. At the beginning of fall training period, Yugen introduced the “current crew”. With fall training period now two weeks/many lifetimes behind us, the make-up of the residency has changed a lot. This constant change brings many challenges and opportunities at the Center.
After over a year serving in the position of Tenzo (Head Cook), Aaron Pace left yesterday, heading off on an adventure to Asia. We wish Aaron joy and every success, whatever forms that takes. For those of us living and working here, our attention is on how best to serve as staff positions and residents change. There is more than one way of looking at how to do this. One approach is to look at the skills and capabilities of the current residents and make a decision based solely on those criteria. This is the usual way practiced in everyday society. But as practitioners of Zen Buddhism at a formal training center, and as many of you will have experienced here firsthand, the freedom to meet the demands of changing circumstances and the willingness to take on responsibility is just as important as one’s embodied skills. This is one way how we grow and learn in practice, by being stretched beyond our perceived limitations. These two approaches have intersected perfectly with our current Tenzo team. Yugen has reentered the position of Tenzo and he is training and being ably assisted by long term practitioner and senior priest Antonio Eiju Pérez. Eiju, who will be with us through January, summed up his new role in the traditional way of a zen monk: “he asked me to help cook, so I cook”.
A large part of the practice here is the turnaround from the thinking of “that’s not something I do, I can’t do that” to “he asked me to help cook, so I cook”. Please believe me when I say that anyone can come here to train and study any position. It’s an open system. Those of us in residence love to see what this great unknown brings us in new faces and old familiar faces as cars enter the front gate. Of the twelve residents featured in the “Fall Trainee Line-up” four remain. Several different faces now face into the room during our zazen periods. It is always exactly how it should be.
Please come and join us and if you are far away in miles, let us draw comfort and strength from meeting in this shared life, where there is no separation. In Sesshin, Eishu often quotes Tangen Roshi’s words “always together”. There is no place that practice does not reach.