Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fun day at the zendo

Zazen at Helsinki Zen Center
Zazen at Helsinki Zen Center, Helsinki, 2010

I just got back from my Thursday zazen at the zendo. Olli, one of our senior instructors, had just been given authorization to give daisan. He seemed a bit flustered about it, plus he was in a hurry to set up the daisan room, so things started out a bit excited.

We had just started the second round, and he rang the daisan bell, and the first in line duly marched in. Then the fire bell in the neighboring building went off.

I suddenly got a vivid mental image of Olli sitting in the daisan room, furiously ringing the bell, and ringing, and ringing. I had to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing; I must've sat there for the better part of five minutes shaking (mostly) silently. If the zendo leader saw it, he must've thought I'm having some severely trippy makyos. Which I was, in a way. The image certainly blew my concentration right apart.

To top it off, Olli was still giving daisan when our half-hour was up, but the zendo leader and timekeeper hadn't had time to agree what to do if that happened—continue until daisan finishes, or ring the bell on time and stop, never mind the daisan. We ended up going a bit over, and when they finally rang the bell, they omitted the four vows and three prostrations to save time.

That resulted in a wonderful moment of confusion, as people were wondering what that single ending bell was supposed to mean—whether we were supposed to do kinhin, or go home, or what. For a while, the zendo looked more like a clown car track, as some of us (including yours truly) were solemnly marching around the place with our eyes down, as others were dusting off their zabutons or trying to make their way out past the marchers.

And just this morning, I made fun of my dog when he got confused about getting thrown off routine.

Whoever said zazen was boring?


  1. (1) Thrown of Routine
    I love routines thrown off. I feel so alive. I love transitions to new jobs, new places. The world becomes more colorful. But a disposition to like change or averse to change is a matter of temperament, I think Fun stuff.

    (2) Loud Noises and Satori
    As you know, there are many Zen stories of unexpected mundane noises waking up Zen novices. You may enjoy my Sneeze Post

  2. Yeah, well, maybe it'll work one of these days. I'd hate to have to cut a cat in half. I like that evil little creature.

    Thanks for pointing me to the sneeze post. I did enjoy it, and left a comment!

  3. Seung Sahn Sunim always rolled with laughter whenever there were mistakes at ceremonies. His affection for his students always shone through when they became flustered, afraid to mess up in front of him, and his laugh was contagious. Pretty soon the whole room would be falling about.

  4. Did you know him? I've read a bit about Seung Sahn Sunim, and he seems like a really remarkable character, in the best sense of the word.

  5. Never did any formal study with him, as he was living in Korea most of the time when I started practicing. Before his health really began to decline, he would come and stay with us at the main Zen Center a couple of times a year and he was always fun, even if he spent most of his time with the oldest students.