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Shuso Hossen (Dharma Combat)

November 15, 2010 by Yugen

Jim Lakey Rev. Jim Yugen Lakey
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Shuso Hossen (Dharma Combat)

Yesterday was the day of reckoning for me as the head trainee of the Fall Training Period here at Yokoji. We held the dharma combat ceremony at 11am which is the most elaborate ceremony that we do, or at least that I have come across so far. There are many things that can go wrong in a ceremony like that as there are so many things happening, and jobs being done by different people, many of whom aren't that familiar with the ceremony. And things did go wrong - not that your average punter would have noticed necessarily, but mistakes were made, and unfortunately, a few of them by me! As I keep telling myself, this is how we learn, how I learn. The more painful the mistake, the deeper the lesson seems to sink. I didn't actually realize I had messed up until after the ceremony when Roshi pointed out the mistakes, and it was frustrating for me as I really tried to follow the instructions to the letter, but I guess even the written instructions aren't quite as comprehensive as they could be. At least now I'll know and can pass it on to other head trainees in the future.

Apart from the mistakes in form, the ceremony went well. Thank you to all of you who came up and supported myself and the other trainees, those who took service positions and those who faced me in dharma combat! Also, thanks to Chosui for taking the photos, a few of which are posted below in a fancy new gallery (click on the thumbnail for a full size image). Last night we started sesshin, our Rohatsu sesshin (Buddha's enlightenment). This is an opportunity to practice deeply - all sesshin are, but this one is a very special sesshin as it marks the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha of 2500 years ago. This is the final push for the Fall Training Period and then next Sunday we are in to the Winter Interim Period where we can all catch our collective breath, at least for a few days as long as the weather holds out!


  • Christian:

    16 Nov 2010 03:22:32

    As one of the punters, I only saw Roshi correct one little thing—the gassho moment—but, and this is pure curiosity, not the morbid kind—what was one other mistake? It looked like a pretty smooth ceremony to me.

  • Yugen:

    16 Nov 2010 17:11:18

    Well if you didn’t notice, I don’t want to point them out! There was more to do with the gassho, some monk-zagu stuff which I should have known any way and then some other shuso related stuff.

  • Lee:

    17 Nov 2010 18:28:37

    What is written on the red poster board thingie? The pic isn’t big enough to allow me to read it. Perhaps this means that if I want to know things like that, I have to make a Drive from Long Beach. :)

  • Yugen:

    17 Nov 2010 18:37:03

    The Red Board has the appreciatory verse for the koan written on it. The benji recites this while the head trainee returns the book containing the koan to the teacher and completes a number of bows, before receiving the shippei and doing dharma combat. The koan was case 18 of the Book of Equanimity, Joshu’s Dog. I’m sure it is online somewhere!

  • Christian:

    18 Nov 2010 05:46:12

    Since I’m lost by the terminology of your non-explanation, you probably made the right choice not to get into it. However, there is probably a great t-shirt lurking somewhere, “If you don’t get the monk-zagu stuff, I’m not going to explain it.”

    P.S. How much longer will you be at ZMC?

  • Yugen:

    18 Nov 2010 17:25:11

    Well when you make your fortune on the t-shirt, be sure to send me one! I’m planning on staying here indefinitely. The only potential problem lurking in the background is if US immigration decide I don’t cut the mustard when applying for a green card which I will have to do soon.

  • Pierre Montebon:

    27 Nov 2010 06:31:49

    Where’s the video man?

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