Our First Shuso Ceremony

shuso 5

Andre holding the traditional shuso fan, left, with our teacher Paul Haller, for whom the ceremony was the culmination of many years of guidance at Black Mountain Zen Centre

shuso 1

Back row: Garret, Esther, Deirdre, Pauline, Joe, Djinn, Andre, Mary, Paul, Pat, Billy, Jonny, Jimmy, Tony, and Alastair. Front row: Sean, Eilis, Nuala, Suzan, and Steve

Last weekend, on Sunday, September 1, 2019, the sangha of Black Mountain Zen Centre gathered in the meditation hall at Benburb Priory for our first Shuso Ceremony. This ancient ceremony is also know as “dharma combat”, or “hossen shiki”, a lively question-and-answer between the head student – the shuso – and the assembly that confirms the shuso as being ready to teach the dharma. Kogen Doin Andre Elsen, who has been shuso during the practice period this summer, took the seat and gave a really good series of answers that manifested his thoughtfulness and wisdom and his deep tenderness for the Black Mountain Zen Centre sangha. Despite living in Germany, Andre has been practising as part of our sangha for many years and has been teaching us in many ways, both through his upright practice and his understanding of Zen forms, gained through his time in Tassajara, the monastery in California. The shuso ceremony last week was a confirmation of the position that he has unofficially held for so long, and an official acknowledgement of his role as a teacher and a practice leader. Great congratulations and many deep bows from all of the sangha, far and near.

shuso 3

Visiting teacher Myozan Kodo Ian Kilroy, front, in brown robe, joined us for the ceremony

shuso 4 (2)

Andre celebrates!

Ryushin Paul Haller Autumn Visit 2019

paul 2018Our first practice period, The Path of Liberation, will culminate with a visit from our teacher Ryushin Paul Haller from Wednesday August 21 to Sunday September 1, and there will be many joyful opportunities to experience his wisdom, good humour and insight. Paul will attend morning zazen on Wednesday, August 21, Thursday, August 22,  Friday, August 23, and Monday, August 26, and will lead a sharing circle (with green tea!) in the zendo each morning after service. He will give a dharma talk the evenings of Wednesday, August 21, Thursday, August 22,  and Friday, August 23. On Saturday, August 24, he will offer a morning workshop for beginners (and experienced students interested in the more subtle details of zazen) from 10 am to 1 pm called The Essentials of Zazen and an afternoon workshop from 2 pm to 5 pm on the theme of the practice period, The Path of Liberation. On Sunday, August 25, he will lead morning zazen at 10 am, and then give a dharma talk, followed by an opportunity for discussion over a cup of tea. Sunday afternoon from 1 pm to 4 pm he will offer a half-day workshop, Establishing the Path of Practice. 

All of the suggested donation amounts are to help us to cover Paul’s expenses. You are very welcome to attend even if you can’t support us in this way – your presence is the most important thing. If you can afford to make a larger donation, that will be gratefully received.

Details of the events, including sesshin, are listed below. All events are at Black Mountain Zen Centre, 64 Donegall Street, Belfast, BT1 2GT (press the buzzer marked “ZEN”),  except for sesshin, which will be at Benburb Priory.

Wednesday, August 21
7 am to 8.30 am: Zazen and sharing circle

7 pm: Zazen and Dharma Talk

Thursday, August 22
7 am to 8.30 am: Zazen and sharing circle

7 pm: Zazen and Dharma Talk

Friday, August 23
7 am to 8.30 am: Zazen and sharing circle

7 pm: Zazen and Dharma Talk

Saturday, August 24
10 am to 1 pm: Workshop: The Essentials of Zazen
Suggested donation: £25

2 pm to 5 pm: Workshop: The Path of Liberation
Suggested donation: £25

Sunday, August 25
10 am: Zazen and Dharma Talk

1 pm to 4 pm: Workshop: Establishing the Path of Practice
Suggested donation: £25

Monday, August 26
7 am to 8.30 am: Zazen and sharing circle

Tuesday, August 27 – Sunday, September 1
Sesshin at Benburb Priory.

The sesshin will start Tuesday evening and end on Sunday afternoon. You can either attend for the whole period or for the weekend from Friday evening to Sunday. Please follow the details on the application form in order to apply. An updated application form is available here: Sesshin application