Tomorrow starts our last long sesshin in 2014, the week long “Rohatsu”.
This sesshin celebrates the enlightenment of Buddha Shakyamuni, which is said to have taken place on December 8th, 2500 years ago, when he saw the morning star.
We will sit until midnight of the 7th, and when the date changes, read the “Heart Sutra”. After that the wood stove in Antaiji will be lit for the first time, and at the time that the Buddha experienced his liberation from suffering, most of the residents at Antaiji are either drunk or sleeping.
After the sesshin, carrots and Chinese cabbage need to be harvested and preserved, and one of the last jobs will be making miso paste. After December 15th, the snow practice period starts. During the winter months, we mostly stay inside and – apart from practicing zazen – study the sutras. This winter’s topic is the “Dammapada”. All of the residents take turns lacturing and discussing the text, and writing a 50 page report at the end of the winter about their personal studies.
The main event of the winter will be the “dharma combat ceremony”. All residents will challenge the first monk with questions, to which she has to give answers. Although there are still almost 3 months to go, everyone needs to sharpen their weapons already now.