Our First Shuso Ceremony

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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

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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.

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

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Andre celebrates!

Saturday Morning Drop-In Group

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Our Saturday morning drop-in study group is continuing to read Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. We have two periods of zazen on Saturday morning, with a break in between for kinhin: 10 am – 10:25, and 10:35 – 11 am. At 11:15 am, we settle down at the table to read a chapter aloud together, and then we discuss how the reading manifests in our daily practice. Some of our group arrive at 11 am for the study group, some arrive at 10 am to include zazen in their morning, and we end at 12:30 pm. The suggested donation is £5, but we are very happy to welcome you whatever your offering!

The chapters we are reading for the next seven weeks are as follows:

  • September 7: Chapter 14, The Love That Will Not Die
  • September 14: Chapter 15, Going Against the Grain
  • September 21: Chapter 16, Servants of Peace
  • September 28: Chapter 17, Opinions
  • October 5: Chapter 18, Secret Oral Instructions
  • October 12: Chapter 19, Three Methods for Working with Chaos
  • October 19: Chapter 20, The Trick of Choicelessness