HVZC Sesshin Application
HVZC Sesshin Guidelines
Mountain Gate Sesshin Application
Term Intensive Form
CD Order Form
Full Day Workshop Registration Form
Half Day Workshop Registration Form
Oak Tree Subscription Form
Sutra Book (Chanting)
Preface to the Record of Rinzai Esho Zenji
HVZC/MG Guidelines for Residential Training
If one puts one's life on the line, it doesn't matter: age, length of time training. And in the same way, if we've trained for 30 years but haven't put our life on the line, it won't work.
Yearning to push deeper into your practice? Wanting to give some extra energy to it-a "wind sprint" to bring it to a new level? Is the idea of committing to a more intensive schedule long-term too daunting at the moment, or seemingly impossible given your current outside commitments? Then a Term Intensive could be exactly right for you.
To take part in a Term Intensive is to formally commit to an additional level of practice effort during a specified period of time. This is an opportunity for those Sangha members who have work out in the lay world-and also for those in residence at Mountain Gate-to engage in more intense practice, whether it's via additional zazen at home, additional attendance at sittings at Mountain Gate or HVZC, doing prostrations, additional hours of work practice at either Mountain Gate or HVZC, or taking special notice of a specific aspect of our everyday lives: our relationships with our family members, for example, in which we make special efforts to catch our own unskillful behavior and turn it around, working on anger, judgment, or impatience. We can focus on deepening our understanding and manifestation of the Precepts; we can chant daily and learn all the chants by heart. We can do takuhatsu by picking up road trash or offering our services to others who need them, as in tutoring a child after school. We can do community service such as working in a soup kitchen, volunteering in a program that offers respite to caretakers of the disabled or the terminally ill, volunteering in hospice.
Anyone interested in participating, please fill out the downloadable form indicating your specific time commitment to intensifying the forms of practice you choose. Please note the dates, times and locations of the regular meetings with others in the group and with Roshi, announced with each specific Term Intensive. Attending these meetings is also an important part of the program. For those who live out of town, e-mail and phone contact with Roshi on a regular basis is also part of the process.
Please note: The Term Intensive/Personal Term Intensive Form is for use with both regular Term Intensives and Personal Term Intensives. Download here.
Term Intensives have proven to be a heartening and valuable venue for deepening practice, especially for those who live outside the temples.
If there's not one coming up soon on the calendar, then try a Personal Term Intensive: Choose a period of time as short as five days or even just an upcoming weekend, or as long as a month or five or six weeks. Download the form above, fill it out and email or mail it to Roshi well enough in advance to discuss your proposed intensive period with her and make a final commitment by email or telephone or in person, and you're ready to go!
The downloadable form offers the option of entering the data right into it from your computer once you download it, and emailing it to Roshi, or filling it in by hand and snail-mailing it or handing it directly to Roshi.
This, from a Sangha member who has recently completed a week-long Personal Term Intensive with the determination to use it to increase his basic level of practice. Among other things he committed to sitting a whole hour every morning at home rather than the shorter morning period he'd already been sitting:
"I have completed my intensive. And it was intensive. I did a lot more zazen than I signed up for since I went to HVZC both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. It has made a huge difference. I'm planning to continue sitting one hour every morning."
It's especially important to report in to Roshi every few days while doing a Personal Term Intensive; don't let a week go by without making contact unless you know that Roshi is in sesshin. Going it alone as compared to taking part in a group Term Intensive can be more difficult, and sometimes you can get a shot in the arm and renewed determination if your practice is flagging or your commitment wobbling. Despite the fact that a Personal Term Intensive can be more difficult-or perhaps because of it!-it contains the potential for truly taking your practice to a new and deeper level.
When chanting is done wholeheartedly, it can have a profound effect on one's being. The sounds of the chanting reach a place beyond the rational mind, and although this may seem contradictory, the meaning of the chants can be absorbed at a level independent of words. Chanting can be invigorating; it can pick us up, give us a "shot in the arm" when we're dragging. This is why virtually every spiritual practice in the world has its form of chant.
Buddhist chanting arose as a result of the first meeting of Elders following the Buddha's parinirvana, during which his cousin, disciple, and attendant, Ananda, recited verbatim, according to history, all of the Buddha's teachings. This is why the sutras-which are the purported words of the Buddha as recalled by Ananda, who was said to have had perfect recall-all begin with "Thus have I heard." This recitation of Ananda's has been repeated ever since, and continues to this day in virtually all Buddhism, whether of Theravadan, Mahayana, or Vajrayana. Today we do it in Zen temples as "O-kyo" (Honorable Sutras) or "Choka," as it's known in Rinzai temples, or "Service" or "Chanting" as it's known in many temples and Zen centers in the West. Fundamentally, it is the teachings, whether directly from the Buddha's mouth, as in recitation of specific sutras, or the teachings of deeply realized Zen masters such as Torei Enji or Dai E Zenji. And because these are profound teachings they can inform and inspire our practice and our life.
To get the most out of chanting, we need to be concentrated, relaxed yet upright in our body-seated in a formal zazen posture-and to give ourselves completely over to the chanting. A contemporary American Zen teacher actually had his first kensho experience while chanting; this is what is possible when we dive in and forget ourselves completely, not checking to see if we're doing it in a way that might gain us praise or get us noticed, but at the same time, totally aware of and one with the chanting of the whole group. In other words, we're naturally blending in, in rhythm, pace, harmony and strength of sound.
Some of the chants are English translations, some are in Japanese, and some-the dharanis-are transliterations of the sounds of the original Sanskrit chants and not meant to be translated. The best way to learn any chant-particularly the Japanese and Sanskrit chants-is to listen to it and gradually absorb the sounds, chanting here and there when you can. An exception to this is either of the Ancestral Lines: the Teidai Denpo, which is the Rinzai Line, or the Ancestral Line, which is the Soto Line. For these, it can be most helpful to actually read the names being chanted. These are lineages of masters especially relevant to us and are chanted to remember the efforts of all of these people who preceded us in this challenging yet ultimately deeply rewarding work. They, too, struggled for years and sometimes decades in their practice, and like we can as well, they ultimately reached profound levels of awakening and passed these deep teachings on to their students and Dharma heirs.
To help you learn the chants, we offer on this web page actual sound files of many of them, including a chanting service from HVZC, the recitation of the Teidai Denpo from Sogen-ji, and the chanting of the Hannya Shin Gyo-the Prajna Paramita Hridaya-from Sogen-ji. May you deeply realize the meaning of these teachings!