Even before the Buddha’s lifetime, Indian spiritual seekers spent their lives wandering the countryside alone or in small groups. Also, individual seekers sometimes lived solitary lives in the forest. Yet, once a year they gathered in larger groups during the three-month-long rainy season.
Because this season’s nonstop rains and floods put travelers in grave danger, settling down made good sense. Crucially, many wanderers feared trampling on and harming or killing insects, small animals, and crops in the rainy season’s mud and floodwaters. In stark contrast to much of the society around them, these spiritual seekers were committed to a life lived in nonviolence and in harmony with nature.
Moving to Higher Ground
So, for the sake of all beings the wonderers moved to higher ground until the rain stopped. Accordingly, these seasonal retreats were marked by a commitment to living harmlessly and harmoniously with nature and all beings. This time of settled group practice is known as the Rains Retreat. In Japanese they’re called Ango. Ango means peaceful dwelling. I like Peaceful Dwelling.
In keeping with the Rains Retreat tradition, large Zen communities in the West conduct one 90-day Ango each year. We at Sweeping Heart Zen are happy. Though we are a small and young sangha, on Saturday, February 24, 2018, we’ll embark on our first, 6-week Peaceful Dwelling Practice Period.
May this practice period be a peaceful dwelling place for all beings.
We are not expecting monsoon rains in Gloucester during the next six or seven weeks. However, I don’t really have to say that these are extremely challenging, confusing, frustrating, and yes I think dangerous times. Therefore, as we enter this practice period let’s reflect on the motivations of the seekers who organized the original Rains Retreats. May we share their intentions. And may their intentions inform everything we do during this time and beyond. May this practice period be a peaceful dwelling place for all beings.
At Sweeping Heart Zen all our events, including our practice period events, are open to everyone. You don’t have to be a Zen Buddhist or a Buddhist to participate with us. In whatever way you identify, we’ll do our best to help you feel at home.
You are welcome to join us for this Peaceful Dwelling Practice Period.
Here’s a link to information about what practice period means and about how you can join in: sweepingheartzen.org/events/peaceful-dwelling-practice-period-sweeping-heart-zen-2018-02-24/
On Saturday, February 24, we will enjoy an afternoon of meditation and ceremony to begin the practice period. Everyone is welcome to attend. Here is a link with details: sweepingheartzen.org/events/a-zen-afternoon/
One of the features of our practice period is a book club discussion of Thich Nhat Hanh’s, The Other Shore. This book contains Thay’s new translation and commentary on the Heart Sutra, a much beloved mainstay of Mahayana Buddhist practice. Here’s a link to the details: sweepingheartzen.org/events/book-club-discussion-shore-2018-03-01/
Another addition to our regular schedule is Introduction to Qi Gong. Sweeping Heart Zen member Linda Hudson will lead this class on Friday mornings at 8:30. Find our more at: sweepingheartzen.org/events/introduction-qi-gong-2018-03-02/
Finally, our practice period ends on Saturday afternoon, April 7. This time will be marked by a Shuso Hossen or Dharma Inquiry Ceremony. During this ceremony everyone in attendance is invited to ask me a question related to Zen practice. I’m really looking forward to it. sweepingheartzen.org/events/peaceful-dwelling-close-afternoon-zen-meditation-ceremony/
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Please visit a Sweeping Heart Zen event. We’re in historic Gloucester on Boston’s North Shore. Here’s a link to our calendar: sweepingheartzen.org/events/
I hope you have a wonderful week!