White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Retreat Schedule for Public Students

by Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho

This page is intended as a general guide for public students sitting retreats at home under the guidance of a practice advisor or Dharma Teacher. Arrangements to sit a retreat should be made a week in advance as telephone or email instruction needs to be scheduled.

Please read through the instructions below and send an email to the practice advisor or Dharma Teacher you are receiving instruction from to confirm your schedule for the day of your retreat and include such details as what you intend to do concerning meals and how you will spend your time during samu (caretaking practice) and free periods. Please note that once you have begun your retreat you should not leave your home.

The following instructions are based on the same format for retreats used at Dainen-ji and include opening and closing a home altar or Butsudan, the chants used and other forms. If you do not have a Butsudan or the other practice materials mentioned, or there are details that will need to be adjusted, changes can be made to the format in consultation with an instructor. But you should inform them in advance of any changes you make to the format.

If you are not familiar with the chants listed below, please just read through them at the appropriate times.

Summary of the Daily Schedule

5:00   Wake up, recite Verse of Waking (see below)
5:40   Open altar shelf or Butsudan
5:45   Begin kinhin 15 minutes before the sitting
6:00   Begin sitting
7:45   End sitting, begin breakfast preparation
8:00   Breakfast eaten on a tray in the practice room
8:30   Wash dishes, free period
9:25   Prepare practice room for the mid-morning sitting
9:30   Resume zazen
11:30   Lunch preparation
12:00   Take lunch tray to practice room
12:30   Kitchen cleanup, free period
1:30   Samu period (food preparation for the next day's meals)
2:40   Free period
2:55   Prepare practice room for the afternoon sitting
3:00   Resume zazen
5:30   Supper preparation
6:00   Take supper tray to practice room to eat
6:30   Kitchen cleanup, free period
7:25   Prepare practice room for evening sitting
7:30   Resume zazen
9:10   Closing Chants
10:15   Lights out

Verse of Waking

As we wake this morning,
May all beings Realize each dharma as it is,
Pervading the ten directions.
SA MAM SA HAM AH

Preparation Prior to Each Block of Sittings

Do “the rounds” to make sure the doors are locked, the answering machine is turned on if you have one – do what you can to ensure that you will not be disturbed while sitting. Dust the altar shelf or Butsudan. Light the candles. Place a stick of incense in front of the incense burner, running horizontally along the front edge of the Butsudan. Make sure that the kaishaku, clock, and gong are placed next to your seat.

Opening the Altar Shelf or Butsudan

Walking clockwise through the room, walk to the Butsudan. Stand in front of it with your feet together and bring your hands to gassho (palm to palm). Without first bowing, lower yourself into a kneeling posture (seiza) and then bow. Straighten, and pick up the stick of incense.

Hold it vertically between the tips of your index fingers, raise your hands and place the knuckles of your thumbs against the centre of your forehead (which will bring the incense stick to an upright and elevated position above your head).

Bow forward, straighten, and lower your hands so that they come to rest in front of the area of the heart. Transfer the incense stick to your right hand, and hold the tip of it over the flame of the left-hand candle. You can keep your left hand in gassho while lighting the incense with your right.

Place the lit stick between the tips of your index fingers, raise your hands and place your thumbs against your forehead to bring the incense stick to an upright and elevated position above your head.

Bow forward, straighten, and lower your hands so that they come to rest in front of the area of the heart. Transfer the incense stick to your right hand and turn the incense stick with a rapid circular motion to extinguish the flame (it is considered ill-mannered to blow out a stick of incense). You can keep your left hand in gassho while you do this.

Place the incense stick in the burner, bring your hands to gassho, and do a kneeling bow. Straighten; place your hands in shashu, rise, and bring your hands to gassho to do a final standing bow before the Butsudan.

Unless you have been given instruction concerning Great Bows by an instructor at Dainen-ji, this is all you need to do to open the Butsudan prior to beginning your sitting round and you can now simply take your seat. The clock should be placed to one side of, or on the zabuton, directly in front of you. Be sure to time all of your sitting rounds. None of your rounds should be less than, or exceed, 30 minutes, with the exception of the last round when you may need to end early to do food preparation.

You should do a round of kinhin between sitting rounds, walking clockwise around the room. Begin the kinhin round at your seat and end it when you again return to your seat. Strike the kaishaku once to signal the beginning of kinhin; twice to end. If you are alone and need to use the washroom, you can leave the room during the kinhin period by walking in kinhin to the rear door. Lay the kaishaku on the zabuton next to the door, retrieve them when you come back, and continue the kinhin round.

Meals

Take your meal tray to the practice room. Place the tray to one side of your seat, and mindfully take your place. Stand the tray in front of you, bring your hands to gassho, do a seated bow and then recite the Meal Chant before beginning to eat. You do not need to use kaishaku or gong as accompaniment as you recite the chant.

Recite the Chant twice without chanting the last line, “Prajnaparamita!” On the third recitation, chant the entire Chant, including the last line. With your hands still in gassho, do a final seated bow before beginning to eat.

Gokan-no-ge (the Five Rememberances)

This meal arises from the labour of all beings,
may we remember their offering.
Delusions are many, attention wanders,
may we justify this offering.
Greed arises from self-cherishing,
may we be free in moderation.
This offering sustains us, gives us strength,
may we be grateful.
We use this strength and attain the Way.
Prajnaparamita!

As you eat, please apply your practice to this activity. Eat mindfully, but at a reasonable speed. Sometimes students confuse mindfulness with doing things more slowly, becoming ponderous. It should not take more than ten minutes at most to eat a bowl of rice with eggs; for larger meals with multiple courses, 20 minutes at most.

After you have finished eating, place utensils neatly on the tray, cover your dishes with the napkin, bring your hands to gassho, and recite The Four Great Vows in English.

The Four Great Vows

All beings without number I vow to liberate.
Endless obsessions I vow to release.
Dharma gates beyond measure I vow to penetrate.
Limitless Awakening I vow to unfold.

Do a seated bow with your hands in gassho at the end of the chant, move the tray to one side of your seat and use the forms to mindfully take care of your zafu and zabuton.

Closing the Butsudan or Altar Shelf

Stand and walk to the Butsudan (clockwise) with your hands in shashu. Facing the Butsudan, feet together, bring your hands into gassho and without bowing, lower yourself into seiza (a kneeling posture).

Using your right hand to cup the back of each candle to prevent wax from being blown on to the lacquered finish, blow them out, extinguishing the left candle first. Having done this, do a seated bow (gassho monjin) to the Butsudan and with your hands still in gassho, rise and do a final standing bow.

With your hands placed in shashu, you can now retrieve your tray. The tray may only be a few feet from the Butsudan, but you should walk clockwise to reach your seat. Pick up the tray and walk to the door. With the tray in your hands, bow into the room before leaving.

Kitchen Cleanup

Wash your dishes and leave the tray on the kitchen counter, ready for the next meal.

Free Periods

Following each meal, after you have finished cleaning your dishes, you will have a free period. This is not a break or recreation period but rather an unstructured time in which to extend your practice.

You can make yourself some tea or coffee if you wish. You can sit outside, or walk about the grounds of your home, but you should not leave the grounds. You should not read anything unless you have been instructed to do so.

If you encounter other people, apply functional talking - meaning that you should only express what really needs to be expressed - for example, to ask or answer a question.

Samu Period

At 1:30, please recite the Samu Chant before beginning the tasks you will be working with.

Samu-no-ge: Verse of Caretaking

Before the Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors,
standing in the midst of all beings,
I vow to dedicate this caretaking practice to the liberation of all beings.
May all beings be happy, may they be peaceful, may they be free.
May all beings be happy, may they be peaceful, may they be free.
May all beings be happy, may they be peaceful, may they be free.

Please be sure to finish samu on time (including putting away any materials associated with the task) by 2:40 to allow a 15-minute free period.

Closing Chants and Lights Out

Your retreat ends with the Closing Chants at the conclusion of the evening sitting (9:10 p.m) unless you are continuing your retreat over a few days.

Shi Gu Sei Gan: the Four Great Vows

SHU JO MU HEN SEI GAN DO
BON NO MU JIN SEI GAN DAN
HO MON MU RYO SEI GAN GAKU
BUTSUDO MU JO SEI GAN JO

All beings without number I vow to liberate.
Endless obsessions I vow to release.
Dharma gates beyond measure I vow to penetrate.
Limitless Awakening I vow to unfold.

If you are planning to continue your retreat the next day, then immediately following the Closing Chants please set up your bedding. If you are sleeping in your practice room you should arrange your bedding so that your head is towards the Butsudan (altar) rather than your feet.

Sit in seiza and with your hands in gassho, recite the Shushin-ge before going to sleep.

Shushin-ge: Closing Chant

As we enter into sleep this night,
may all beings calm all things
and uncover the Stainless mind of clarity.

Makura Om.
Makura Om.
Makura Om.

Lights should be out at 10:15 p.m.